Drowning – Out the World

The music came again, reaching a crescendo as I saw the therapist’s lips moving – I could have guessed what she was saying if I’d had the motivation to try, even though the music made it impossible to hear her words. In her clinically jovial tone she was telling me I had relapsed, that I had disconnected again. We had traced a familiar route through the hospital, that, if not for the music getting in the way, would almost been a nostalgic trip down – as Myles na Gopaleen would have put it – that cliche of a tourist trap that is memory lane, but we found no trace of the familiar waiting room at the end of the emotionally-vacant journey, and only then was it that my mother must have fumbled hurriedly for the letter as I watched on indifferently. The clinic had moved to the other side of the hospital, it transpired. My mother’s apologies would have been met with an ever-cheerful facade of small talk and smiles, masking the therapist’s minor irritation at our late-coming. I tried responding to her, resisting for a moment against the pull, but it was hard to talk over the music, which surged every time I opened my mouth – it was easier to comply. It had been ever-present over recent months, and I had lost the will to overcome it – lectures, television, headlines, documentaries, deadlines, a friend’s painful break-up, the death of a family friend – it all sank into meaninglessness beneath the powerful beat – that limbo-like grip that the music held over me. Had I been able to think over the music, I might have remembered again with bitterness the way the therapist had once poked at a tightly held secret of mine, suggesting that others who heard the music tended to be feel more effeminate, asking me if I identified more with women than with men, if I had ever had feelings for other boys. This had not been out of concern for me, but rather she had simply been helping out a student conducting a study on the effects of the music on gender identity – to me as a patient who had always performed like an eager circus animal for all the doctors, the disinterest and scrutiny in an area out of my comfort zone had left me feeling betrayed and had simply buried my secret deeper – her lack of praise for my answers had stung, and belied her previous lip-service praise of my progress. When I had gone into recovery, I sometimes believed her apparent hypothesis – as it had been around puberty that the music had first contained me – although it didn’t feel like containment… or rather it only felt like containment when one struggled against it, like the background music turned up too loud in the pub, so that it drowned out the voice of the person talking to you across the table. So that their concerns, their joy, their character became simply a few snippets of different sentences from an amusingly animated face, the snippets that could be understood were mostly pronouns and those that could be guessed by the shape of the mouth – that was when the disinterest had started to accompany the music. People no longer kept my attention with their “He… it… and… he…. “, “What… me… the…” – and the music became stronger when I tried to concentrate, weakening my resolve to attempt to understand. Without the music, I might have questioned this again now, as I had come out and had lived happily with my identity for a long time before the music’s return – but as it was I would have found it hard to have any thoughts, let alone these ones. The things I had been so concerned with now inspired nothing in me, my mother’s concern, a need to please the people around me, the need to argue, the need to please both strangers and friends, political indignation, lust – all things were now drowned  – leaving me out of the world.