Asleep in Perfection – A Memory Lane Moment, 29/07/2010
It’s a wondrous thing, how one particular song can cause a surge of memories, sometimes simply because it was a song that you listened to a lot at a particular stage in your life.
I was on the train home from work, Mantova to Cerea, with my MP3 player earphones wedged into my ears, primarily to drown out the terrible music blaring from another commuter’s cell phone.
‘Asleep in Perfection’ by Augie March started to play…
This song, this very MP3 file that I was listening to, was sent to me in 1999 via the internet, through the old ICQ chat program, (does anyone use that anymore? It’s like msn…) by a friend from Uni, first Uni… back in the good ol’ days of Latrobe.
This friend introduced me to a lot of new music – The Cure, Augie March, Joy Division – yes, he was I suppose what I like to call a ‘Classic Goth’, of the Goths that were before any of the ‘Emo’s’ that plagued the genre a decade or so later.
We went to a Goth club once, called ‘Abyss’, one of the best clubs I’ve ever been to – I loved to watch the crowd in all their glorious style, their hand-sewn or hand-picked, fished from various Op Shops and matched with expensive stylized garments inspired and blended from various eras of Gothic, Baroque and Victorian – they were then referred to as the ‘Classical’ or ‘Elegant’ Goths, then you had your ‘Bondage’ and ‘Punk’ Goths, names purely given for the amount of spikes, chains and PVC they wore, combining black with splashes of hot pink or red. It was truly a visual feast for any appreciator of interesting and original style.
It was from that night onwards that my wardrobe began to transform into a mass of black attire – I fell in love with the Goth image, adhering more to the ‘Classical’ Gothic look; even though my clothing was always much less subdued than some of the more extreme Goths, and I never wore the extreme Gothic make up – just ivory foundation and dark yet subtle, (in comparison) eye makeup.
At Latrobe University, we would hang out in the main square, during our long, drawn out two to three hour breaks, (typical for an Arts Degree,) and talk about music, movies and the like. Friends from other classes would come and go and we would linger, until the close of Uni that year and, upon the realization that my friend would never return to finish the course as he had completed little to no assignments, (even though he was capable of doing very well,) we exchanged contact details and arranged to meet up over the summer.
Over the next few months our friendship became this strange, indifferent interaction where we would hang out at his house, listening to music, watching MTV and barely talking, as we were both painfully shy at the time. Then I would go home. He would never offer me any food or drink, even if I stayed there all day, yet he would comment on the loud noises rumbling from my belly with an odd tone in his voice. Albeit, an odd friendship. Albeit – that’s a word I learnt from him also, as we shared all of the same classes at Uni and this word came up in one of his stories that we work shopped in the class ‘Writing Your Life’. It seemed a rare occasion to have both chosen the exact same subjects within the hundreds to choose from in an Arts Degree, which is how we began talking, (however sporadically,) in the first place.
Though, now looking back, perhaps there was reason to our strange, virtually wordless interaction. Both of our parents – his mother, my father – were very sick …and had little time left.
We were numb.
Our long, drawn out silences were not so awkward. Perhaps because we shared something – that there were no words to articulate how we were feeling. And sometimes when the weight of it all overwhelms you… talking, even small chit chat, seems useless and unnecessary in light of things to come.
His mother died on my 20th birthday and my father followed ten months and eleven days later.
I went to his mother’s funeral. He explained it was too painful for him to then come to my father’s funeral months later. “Not another funeral of a parent...” He said.
We lived an hour’s drive away from each other and shared the same dislike for phone conversations; so keeping in touch, especially at the time, was becoming taxing. Our friendship lulled and came to a close soon after, of its own momentum.
Life, as it was, shifted – like pulling a block out from the bottom of a child’s toy block tower. That’s how it is. A cliché’ phrase: “World crumbles…” but it does truly and then you have to rebuild.
Although, for the first year of Dad not being there, I was not rebuilding. I don’t think anyone was. I stood back from the collapsed tower and turned my back on it. ‘Dad must be here somewhere...’ It seemed impossible for someone to just disappear.
I had been living in my sister’s apartment with my other sister, up until he passed. Then, I moved back into my parent’s house… my mother’s house.
For the first few weeks of being back at home, my double bed mattress lay on the floor. I don’t know why, I can’t remember the reason. Maybe no-one could get it together to bring the base over.
My belongings remained in boxes lining the walls. I lit candles and incense and heard my father’s footsteps down the corridor. I smoked cigarettes and the occasional mix of green with tobacco from broken cigarettes, stuffed into a little pipe that my sister bought for my father from Thailand the year before.
I stayed up until sunrise and only slept one or two hours in the morning, eyes stinging from utter exhaustion. Every time I closed my eyes, I dreamt of my Dad: sometimes young and healthy, other times thin and frail. Sometimes lying in his hospital bed, other times in his coffin; sometimes I dreamt of decaying bones and once I dreamt that Dad was right there in the room with me, but he was a mere cloud of dark grey smoke and I cried as I tried to clutch and hold on to it as it spread thin in the air and disappeared.
That’s why (, I told myself) I ‘smoked’. Not every day and hardly a pinch, but enough to make the nightmares go away and allow me to achieve a few hours of sleep.
Some two months after he died, I turned 21 and had a small gathering of friends and family at home. My family bought me a new computer with internet, my first home connection.
It became my new vice. I stayed up all night and only exited my room during the day to use the bathroom and for meals in the kitchen, though I often brought my plate back into my bedroom to eat. I scanned chat rooms and talked about death. Everyone had a sad story to share. I found comfort in that.
Soon it was March – time to start my third and final year of my Arts Degree. Time to stop ‘smoking’ – knowing that my brain is my one tool to do something with my life – I didn’t want to jeopardize that any longer.
I recommenced my part time job at Toyworld and a kind work colleague gave me a C.D of relaxing, soothing music with subliminal sleep messages. I started buying herbal Valerian (sleep) tablets and drank peppermint and other herbal teas.
The nightmares became less frequent, slowly transforming into mere dreams – no longer horrific. Though they usually contained a plotline as follows: [“Dad’s alive, he didn’t really die!” Enter Dad, glowing, with a healthy smile. Conclude the dream with Dad getting sick and dying – for a second time. ]
Not pleasant, but eventually I got used to them. They lessened over time, slowly to once a week, then once a month – until now I might have that dream once or twice a year.
And now… I look at Valentino and I see glimpses of my father. I feel like I have a little piece of him back forever.
Asleep in Perfection.
The song has since finished, on to the third or fourth song on shuffle, as I sit here and write. I examine my MP3 Player for a moment, considering skipping back to listen to Asleep in Perfection once more. I hesitate, and let it rest on my lap again as Led Zeppelin plays. I stare out of the window, smiling, the sun warming the window glass, as the train rushes me home.