Can’t stand when you’re not close to me
Damn, can’t believe you notice me, notice me
– Role Model (Notice Me)
There are memories grasped within the lyrics of a song. Every time that song is played, it’s as though someone has pulled a trigger. Triggering a reminder of those memories which define an experience that has shaped you, changed you. It rips right through you rattling your bones. A sea of emotions pours out of you. The memory, drenched in the blood of a trauma, it peacefully drowns you. Melancholic comfort.
Trauma can be embedded within a song, and though each time the song plays it brings you back to that moment of trauma, sometimes there’s a comfort in reliving it. A stability in a memory of a pain – particularly in an unstable world. We seek out stability in whatever venue it might have existed.
A Memory Captured Within a Song
When Covid-19 first became known, I was living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Working as an English teacher, I had built my life around a consistent routine where I found myself thriving. As fear and alarm grew over the virus, my consistent routine was broken and dismantled. The school at which I worked had closed. My friends had hidden themselves away in isolation. Loneliness took hold and fear of all the new uncertainty, the new unknown, paralyzed me. Music became my support. My solace and escape from the world around me became woven within the lyrics of the same five songs I played on repeat over and over again.
Every word in every song was cast onto a distinct image of the world I had shrunken around myself. The beats of these songs mimicked the beats of my heart. After a while, I almost thought that I could carve out a space to call home within the songs that had become a part of myself. There was a comfort I felt within my own skin that I couldn’t – wouldn’t – find just past the threshold of my front door. There were days when I didn’t feel like a human. I only felt like a calm, steady rhythm. A poltergeist dancing hauntingly amongst the remnants of what I once was.
Despite having forgotten myself, I don’t recall a deeper sense of peace than when I didn’t believe that I was of this existence.
Now, there is no denying that I am in fact alive and human. Even still, I no longer am myself. I am… I don’t know what I am. I just know that there has been an unending gnawing under my skin. My arms and hands still shake. My brain, everyday, is on the verge of imploding from everything. Literally, everything.
I’m slowly building a new routine around myself in which I can feel at home. There is a part of me that wants to go back to Vietnam. To the days when I was a haunting. I had checked out and now that I’ve checked back in I can’t decide if I want to stay. All I know is that when I had poured so much of myself into the lyrics of a song, as long as I could keep the song playing, I could feel safe. When all there was, was a song, I knew what was coming. I was ready for it because there was nothing else to be ready for.
I know that better days are coming. I know that I want to persevere and that I will. Music has a healing property which is only magnified in times of trauma. These songs have become a part of how I view myself. Whenever I hear them, I am lulled back into a dissociative state. I go back in my mind to that apartment which had, for a while, become my whole world. I ache for my life in Vietnam because it wasn’t one. To live is much harder than to not.
I didn’t realize how affected by all of this I was until I heard that song again. Now, I don’t ever want it to end.