The Vinyl Diaries: Last Thoughts (for Lou Reed)
A journal entry, October 28, 2013, evening (later amended).
It figured, the last sound you made for others would be a drone, 20 minutes of drone and guitar and poetry (half spoken, half somewhat sung), after 70 minutes before that of misshapen sound, noise and words that never quite melded, barely even intersected, your compatriots in the endeavor just as confused about your intentions as anyone who would, in the ensuing months, stumble into listening to the mess. The mess you made, the mess you made them make. Dissonance, without being dissonant.
The poetry made sense to you, though. The poetry in the words, yes, but also the poetry in the drone, in the sound, in frequency and volume, in the ability to resonate. To make sound, to sympathetically vibrate and cause others to vibrate as well. You did this and it all made sense to you. The poetry of resonance. The poetry within the resonance.
It moved through you, moved through your body, your bruised, shrinking body, eaten from within by parts of itself that had rotted away, that kept rotting, a rot that ate everything around it. Nothing could cure you, not even taking out the offending part, the part that caused the rot and the devouring presence of it all, not even letting someone cut open your skin and reach inside you and cut you, slice you, make a mockery of what lay inside your flesh, a space filled with nested vipers and slithering boomslangs.
Maybe the offending part of you tried to take the surgeon’s hand, tried to attach its rot to a new host, having had enough of you. But the hand that held the scalpel was safe and true and it cut you and kept cutting you and cut through you and took out the decaying thing and put a new healthy thing in, in its place, but it was no use. The decay took the healthy organ; the rot sucked the life out of it. The decay did this because it knew that the healthy thing was only there because it, itself, had been removed from something dead. Taken out from the husk of a dead man, placed into the decaying remnants of another dying man. It was no good at all. No resonance could cure you. You were beyond its help.
Your skin yellowed. It bruised and bled more easily, and it did so more and more as they hooked you up to tubes, hooked into machines that fed you, that gave you blood and their drugs and some nourishment. You eyes sank in, slightly at first, then more pronounced, and your gums receded and bled. Blood came out of you, sometimes as quickly as they could put it back into you. You craved salt, craved a sandwich, your tongue becoming another dying thing on its own—one that could not be sated.
You dreamt at night, and then woke up and were still inside the dream, even as the light came into the room, even as the trees autumned outside, even as people came and went, even as you tried and tried to wake up, you were still in it, cocooned tightly, awake but not awake.
In those moments you were someone else. You were many someones, divided and multiplied, divided and multiplied, and then you were one single someone, not yourself. One who had heard you, heard you many times.
You were him, one who lived but didn’t want to, one whose brain brewed with vile potions and acids, one who heard stories and met characters and resonated, who thrummed with the vibration and the tone and the noise. One who lived a life not entirely truthfully, stained by guilt and wracked with fears of demons both real and imagined, one who collected many things but owned none, one who felt hunted, one who ran, one who hid in plain sight, one at whom others pointed and laughed, because they could see him—he was hiding and they could see him, and they mocked him because he was so unaware, so very unaware.
And he felt so dumb, like he would never get smarter.
And he felt so dead inside—
It should have been easy. Bullet in the chamber; barrel in the mouth; finger on the trigger. But the dream-you never did it. He never did it. He wanted to do it. But he never, ever did it. He thought about what he’d leave in his wake, not just in the mess someone would have to clean, but in the silence.
In the silence. In the silence of his absence. In the absence of his presence. In the silence he’d leave, he’d leave more heartbreak than he could ever bear to consider. And he hated himself more, for fooling the people closest to him, these people who did nothing but love him and care for him and his well-being. Dream-you treated them like hangers-on. But he loved them. It might have been his one redeeming quality—the capacity to love, the desire to protect. The desire to not leave them with the mess, the bits of him, the bits that were once him. He loved them.
But he never loved anything or anyone nearly as much as he hated himself. It was not even close.
Still, there were sounds to hear and stories to read and women and men and chemicals and fluids and sensations, things that seemed so distant sometimes, sometimes felt an eternity away, other times as close as a breath. Was he saved by these things? Can anyone be saved by these things?
No. See, there’s one inalienable truth.
We begin dying as soon as we are born.
You began dying as soon as you were born.
You began dying.
And you slid out of this someone, this resonant other, back into your body, your jaundiced, dying body, sliding out of the dream that surrounded you. You felt tired; you wanted to look around, to see what the room looked like, see if it had changed. The sounds had changed. The beeping and whirring and humming had ceased. There was no chattering. No conversation.
Birdsong. There were birds nearby, maybe getting closer, lighting down to meet you. You smelled autumn through an open window nearby, the scent chill and damp, but wonderful. Comforting. There was comfort in the dying outside.
You couldn’t open your eyes, so you sunk into where you lay, and you listened. You raised your arms up, weakly, rotated your wrists, then lowered your arms and brought them back toward your chest.
And the last sound you had made for others no longer mattered.
All that mattered was the next sound you heard—a celesta, playing a music box melody, and a bass and a viola and a voice, a voice that whispered, resonating through you, a voice that you recognized, forming words that let you think you might once again wake up: