You know the feeling when a song hits you in the chest, cracking open the thin shell that separates you from the past? When you hear a snatch of music from a passing car radio or in line at the store, the ground opens up beneath you, and you’re plunged into a former life?
I’m 29 years old and I’ve escaped from the East Coast, first to the Utah desert, and then to the mountains of Colorado. But home still pulls at me, and I’m back visiting friends in Washington DC, riding the escalator up from the subway when I hear a busker singing the opening lyrics to The Mountain Goat’s, “No Children” a throat-punch of an ode to dysfunctional relationships.
I hope that our few remaining friends / Give up on trying to save us…
Years shake loose and I’m 20 years old in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the tail end of an all-night party, sinking deep and deeper into a sofa that smells like smoke, everyone around me belting out the chorus. I hope you die / I hope we both die! Someone slams the door closed, and baby dolls with blacked out eyes, hung from the ceiling like some kind of crazy mobile, tremble in the gust.
I hope it stays dark forever / I hope the worst isn’t over….
I’m young and fearless, lost in the woods after stumbling away from a bonfire. I’m wandering through a dark labyrinth of trees, vaguely hoping I’m going in the right direction, but I’m not afraid, not even a little.
I’m waving to my friend John across a crowded room, a party in full swing between us, people dancing and painting the walls, and he mouths something unintelligible. I shrug and turn to leave, careful to avoid the broken stair at the top of the porch, not knowing that several days later police will search his house and John will flee the country forever. I’m embracing tumult and transcendence, doing things that I know are bad for me just to expand my horizons.
I pass the busker as I leave the subway station for the tumult of Chinatown. He looks like a boy I would have hung out with back in those days, with tangled blond hair and a guitar covered in stickers.
I am drowning / There is no sign of land / You are coming down with me / Hand in unlovable hand…
I’m 21, squatting in a house without electricity or beds with my musician boyfriend, his four-year old daughter Lucy, and Jane, the nicest crack addict you’ll ever meet, a girl with hair dyed the pale blue of cotton candy. Lucy wakes me in the morning, forcing my eyelids open with her fingers, failing to stifle her laughter.
I stop to listen to the rest of the song, the city crowd flowing around me like I’m a rock in a river. I cringe and laugh, joy and pain filling me. I put a dollar in the busker’s upturned hat and walk on.
Adriane Hanson is a writer, artist, and sometimes teacher. She grew up by the river in Richmond, VA and went to school at the oldest college in America, Willam and Mary, where she sadly did not meet any ghosts, at least not the dead kind. She has spent the past five years living and working in Colorado, Utah, and now Montana. She lives just outside Billings, in the aggressively normal town of Laurel. Random snippets of poetry and links to her work can be found on her Twitter page.