Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore. Phil Collins. Of all people.
Once he had become appalling passe someone told me I dressed like him. How insulted was I? They said it twenty years ago and it stills smarts a little bit. The most irritating thing about Phil Collins is that he has written some incredibly good music, and then made it hard to like him by writing some really terrible music. It’s tough to enjoy some of his incredibly good music without being aware that I Can’t Dance exists.
Other people’s break ups make me unhappy.
That’s why I’ve been singing the chorus of this song by Phil over and over in my head this long weekend: another person’s breakup.
I don’t like the verses of Phil’s song but I love the chorus so it’s an unsatisfying song which suits my unsatisfied feeling. The answer to Phil’s question is: “no, not as much as they used to”. The reason being better divorce laws. It’s better that people who hate each other separate rather than not. On the other hand: children. I’m not talking about domestic violence or addictions or matters of endangerment that rightly end a relationship, I’m not even talking hate, or anger, I’m thinking more of malaise.
Still, you can’t really judge anything like a marriage from the outside. What does anyone know of anyone else? The modern infection of depression runs like a cancer through society. A quiet, epidemic. A darkening of the horizon line. Depression is a point of view; a conspiracy theory that interprets everything to fit its non-ness. That’s not the sun coming up, brother; that’s the sun setting.
So I listen to music. I try to listen to it without complications: without categories, adverts, videos and reviewers in the know. Freed from all those things you can get through to the music. With my i-phone and Apple Music it is possible to listen to almost anything instantly and own nothing. I am living a personal music fantasy. The only thing I wish is that I could lend things to people, so that’s why the mix tape at the bottom. I gift to whoever stumbles across this. A gift to no one, then. No old music. No living in the past. The present is teeming with life like a pre-industrial age ocean.
When I walk about with my headphones in it can be like I am an observer of my life and not a participant.
Today I dropped the car off at the garage, I went to the hospital, I came back from the hospital, I went and picked the car up from the garage. Sitting in the waiting room at the eye clinic with about twenty other people is a together alone experience. We are all lost in our own thoughts, and those thoughts are private, teeming, the hundred inconsequential refrains that always cycle though my brain: about the day’s plans, the week, the meaning of life, the brevity of existence, the wrinkle in my undies. Walking with a soundtrack that mixes my usual emotional suspects: melancholy, funk, sadness and anger (yes, funk is an emotion) – throws the ordinary into new forms. The birds, depending on the music, can perch [insert adverb: wistfully, cheerily, glumly, testily] on the power lines. It’s like pulling down backdrops in a photo booth behind you. Do I look happy against an azure sky?
Your self is inescapable. My self too. Somehow not able to shift myself to the next thing. To stop having a drink. To stop tapping at a keyboard. To stop looking for a new song, one that will hit something in the head, the heart, or the gut like nicotine in the bloodstream after eating too much: softening and killing you. But of course there are all the sweet spots in life, all the time, unexpected; a honey thread in too bitter chocolate: sneaking back to bed at 7am this morning to lie down in the warm fug of Rosamund’s bed with her, or holding Eleanor’s hand on our walk down to the Newtown. How big her hand is now; the hand that once wrapped itself whole around my little finger. It’s just a reflex some arsehole tells you, that baby’s hand curling around your finger. Very well, it’s a reflex. Love is a reflex.
What do the middle-aged mean when they talk about love? Something to do with endurance, and compromise and reciprocity. Words that make teenage lovers want to be sick in their mouths. But, you know, living life is a lot like endlessly horse trading the latest reconfiguration of all the relationships you have with yourself and everyone you know, have known and want to know against the context of both an ever-changing and unchanging environment. It’s complicated. I need to stop comparing myself to the ideals of my 19 year old self (the one who knew, frankly, nothing), and be present. Which isn’t likely to happen, but is nice to write.
43 year old me is pragmatic most of the time. Despite the routine failure of idealism to deliver anything except misery and frustration, pragmatism remains a dirty word for many. For me. Most of the time.
We met in 1995. It’s both a long time, and a blink of the eye. In 1995 my ability to accurately predict ourselves in 2016 would be exactly zero percent. Here we are anyway. Masters of our own destiny and products of circumstance.
I love you. You know who you are.