Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Our Darkest Hour

I woke up this morning with a clear, concise and powerful urge to listen to a song that I probably haven't heard since 2003 - Phantom Planet's "In Our Darkest Hour". Back then, I was 19, living with two of my best friends downtown. I'd been depressed for ages. I'd dropped out of school and was hemorrhaging my parents' money. I was smoking two packs a day, drinking every night; I was stalking the guy I'd lost my virginity to. The eight months I spent in that apartment were some of the darkest in my life.

 I don't remember where I was going with this. I'm sure I had something important to say about how music ties into memory, or hipster culture, or the Jason Schwartzmann/Phantom Planet "He is an actor but makes music as well, he is two things holy crap" novelty (astonishing then, but obvious now - creative people create)... but really, I'm just amazed at how clear the urge was. I woke up with the song in my head, with no ambiguity or confusion, no "ba da ba da, BA da ba da... what's that from again? This will bug me all day."

It's not even the most important song from back then; that honour goes to The Delgados' "Accused of Stealing", which was the last song I listened to as a tenant of that apartment. My best friend had kicked me out, forcing me to move back in with my parents in the suburbs - still the best thing she's ever done for me - and all my belongings were packed in the truck. At my request, she put on the song, a shared favourite, and I went into the empty room and cried quietly for a minute; it was an overture for tears that would later that night explode in a breakdown with my parents about how badly I'd failed, how sorry I was, how ruined and stupid and useless I felt.

Catharsis means "a purging". My best friend forced me out of a poisonous pit, and my body and mind began the slow process of expelling that vitriol, that self-hatred, that infection from my system. That breakdown blew open the places where the poison had leached in and began a cleansing ritual that's still going on. Most of it's gone now, but I'm still finding that poison hiding in crevasses, carved in my bones, stored in fat cells and false life lessons (an idea I will probably devote a whole later entry to, because it's a doozy).

I still feel the little pricklings of the poison when my apartment gets as messy as it is now; I haven't done dishes in weeks, I'm throwing garbage on the floor, I'm letting stains set in the carpet because I can't be bothered. I remember that I never cleaned back then, though I repeatedly promised I would, because fuck it, that's why. There's a part of me that is on constant alert for the switch between "can't be bothered" and "fuck it, that's why", an alarm that goes off when I'm near that particular threshold, and then I either pare the mess back from "filth" to "clutter" or, if I was dangerously near the edge, I recoil with a day of furious cleaning and get my place as close as possible to spotless. (Yesterday I bought a SteamVac. Coffee stain on my carpet, you are going DOWN.)

My time at the apartment is the phantom limb of my life story - gone now, long gone, forcibly amputated to stop the spread of necrosis, but still sending out little shards of pain to remind me it was once there. I wouldn't trade it, but man... sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to never have had to lose the limb at all.

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