We were eating sushi the other night. Two bites into my roll, I heard these lyrical phrases pour out through the restaurant speakers above my head. “Where did all the people go? They got scared when the lights went low.” I repeated it again and again in my head, until I had a chance to pull out my phone and Google to find out what the song was and who was singing it.
This is how songs come to me these days, carried on wings by my own carrier owl, delivered at just the right time. And so when this one came, I tucked it into my mental library, and continued on with our family supper, complete with a potent bite of wasabi that numbed my lips, fortune cookies with a fortune that made me smile and a cup of cold water that accidentally got dumped into my lap by the exuberant 4-year-old.
Walking out into the cold with a wet skirt sent goosebumps down my legs, and for some reason the goosebump trail triggered the mental library doors to swing open and the lyrics came rushing back. “Where did all the people go? They got scared…”
It was later that night that I finally got a chance to sit with the song. I played it on repeat through my earbuds while sitting out under the Moon and Jupiter. (I only know that other bright light was Jupiter because my friends tells me these wonderful sorts of things.) The song made me think of May Sarton. Good old May, who had the audacity to say to her journal,
“I hate small talk with a passionate hatred. Why? I suppose because any meeting with another human being is collision for me now. It is always expensive, and I will not waste my time…it is a waste of time to see people who have only a social surface to show.”
People whose bodies are all they have to show for their existence, vacant bodies whose souls have gone on vacation, accustomed to pleasing and impressing and settling. People that have gotten good at doing the same ol’ same ol’ because to do anything else would constitute an exploration of the dark, and who wants to do that willingly when one can get so “scraped” and “bruised.” Those stone-like People like Mrs. Wayne Wilmot and Mr. Mundy in the book The Fountainhead that I am slowly taking bites of like a rich custard.
“He tried to explain and to convince. He knew, while he spoke that it was useless, because his words sounded as if they were hitting a vacuum. There was no such person as Mrs. Wayne Wilmot; there was only a shell containing the opinions of her friends the picture post cards she had seen, the novels of country squires she had read; it was this that he had to address, this immateriality which could not hear him or answer, deaf and impersonal like a wad of cotton.”
* * *
“There was no such person as Mr. Mundy; there were only the remnants, long dead…one could not plead with remnants or convince them.”
As the song goes onto say, “You could beg, but what’s the use.”
I detached myself from the need to pressure, to persuade, to arm-twist. All those missing people? Why, they’ll get here when they can. We aren’t in a rush.
So I hung a hammock with my heartstrings between Jupiter and the Moon, and I swung there, suspended by words that told me I could go on searching even if others don’t yet see it. I could go on pouring out my raindrops even if others don’t yet recognize they are thirsty. That I could do it on behalf of us all or I could do it solely for myself. Regardless, I could do it.
I shivered in the below freezing temperatures, exposed to the bone by Someone that held the Moon and Jupiter and my hammock in place and told me, “I’ll get you through it nice and slow when the world’s spinning out of control.”
It was my left earbud that kept picking up that one random place in the song where a man yells out “Woo!” I kid you not, the first three times it happened, I looked over my left shoulder, the voice was so clear, so distinct, I thought a man had come to join me in the backyard. The first time it made me jump, made the roots of my dreads tingle. The jumping and the double-takes over my shoulder and the tingling dreads made the experience all the more endearing. As though something wild had leaped out of my chest and taken on this outer-entity so I could have a voice whooping and hollering in my corner.
When I walked back inside that night, Tony asked me, “How was that?”
“Invigorating!” I said and no sooner did I say it, I swear I heard a distant “Woo!” somewhere off to the left of me.