Seven hundred miles away, on the other end of the series of repeaters and cell towers and routed fiber lines, my brother by choice, brittle by the wash of alcohol in his system, is trying very hard to tell me what's happening, is asking me how we ended up where we ended up, how we ended up being. We're talking, and I'm trying to find any toe hold to latch on and hopefully anchor him to a point of hope. I tell him, you control your body. It's the one thing we own, our bodies. You control your hands, your arms...he says, maybe I should take the bullets out of the gun then?
I stammer a few things out, free fall plunge, trying to sort out what my next step needs to be, and I come up empty. I ask if I can have a friend call him, a therapist friend. He agrees. I arrange the call, then quietly stand in the relative calm of the UT campus, breathing. Trying not to think of the way a body tenses, shaking, then goes slack when it gets shot in the head.
Back in the concert hall, Conor Oberst is into his second song, the very first strains of First Day of My Life. I sit next to my wife, and slowly count my breaths from ten to one, then back again, and try to ignore the noises in my head for a second.
Not sure what you know of Bright Eyes tunes, but Conor is playing stripped down acoustic versions of those and some Monsters of Folk. None of his songs are particularly happy. But when this song started, something odd happened.
I'm not a fan boy, I don't carry on about lyrical content and etc etc about any group but TOOL. I'm a casual fan. This show, though, every single song...every single lyric...every little piece of information presented was pertinent. Even the stuff that wasn't pertinent carried so much extra meaning. The texture of the air in the room changed.
My vision narrowed. I had that odd pain in my throat like I was about to cry, hard. The music was so perfectly in tune with my head and my heart, so tragically crushingly depressingly perfect, that it was beautiful. The universe was suddenly in tune. It rang like a bell.
All the ugly or bad things I'd been through, and the very much more ugly and bad things the people around me were going through, it all sang. In harmony, huge and full and tragic.
In that couple of hours I felt like the tail end of a tuning fork plugged into the dark matter of the universe. There was such gigantic beauty there. Every one and zero fitting perfectly, synchronized.
When we left, I had an odd grin on my face. My head was as empty as it's ever been. I can't describe the feeling any better than this: coming off of a day of LSD, three days into a hiking trip, just setting foot on the long trail back to the car, the sky a pale white blue, a hanging moment where no brain chemistry is left; all you are is all you see, and you've got a long way home.
It wasn't the music. The show wasn't particularly good, due to the overwhelmingly obnoxious Austin college crowd. The mix, though, of pattern recognition and brain chemistry being filtered by a steady stream of tragedy (real and imagined) made me suddenly understand church.
We drove home. I had a text message that everything would probably be OK. I told my wife, alright then, I can break now.
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