Spirits of Dead Rock Stars
Crisp early evening of a late winter, the snow and ice all finally melted away, but the air still bitingly brisk. I leave the heat of the house clad in track pants, two shirts and a jacket, and heavy work gloves. I am headed to the school playground nearby, where a jungle gym awaits.
I hang from a bar, arms fully extended, then slowly and exactingly pull myself up, taking care to mind my newly-healed wrist, ready for the twinge or the ache.
I dip down from other bars, descending as low as possible, then push back up to lock my elbows.
I put my feet up on a bench and lower my chest to the ground, then thrust my torso off the ground, straighten arms, then bend them again to kiss the dirt. The smell of the grass and soil fills my nostrils.
Between sets, I run sprints up a small hill nearby, then return to the bars and the bench.
The fire of pain welcomes me to the threshold. That, and the vague anxiety that this time that traditional payment will not be accepted, is the tariff that must be paid to make it across, into that other space.
No way except through it, straight through. And thus has it always been.
This is a form of torture, an affliction sought, pursued, a scourging that could easily be avoided but that I purposefully bring on myself through this deliberate action.
Here is what it is not, what it cannot be, what I must assiduously work to prevent myself from ever imagining it could be: it is not some vain project in self-cultivation, in the effort to preserve health and to push back aging, decrepitude, and death, though it perhaps will contribute to those ends. These are not the reasons I chase this pain.
This is a very exact and exacting form of self-mortification. It is the agony of the piacular rite, the self-inflicted suffering that witnesses one’s madness at the loss of the clan member taken away from the ranks by death.
That is the pain I want, the pain I need, the pain that is my one true love, the companion of my deepest desire, as it floods through my body. It is at once a testament to one’s brotherly affection for the lost one, torn from us by fate, and the payment exacted for his entry into the realm of the dead.
But what dead?
The dead whose voices I hear shrieking to me from somewhere beyond this place. The plastic devices planted firmly in my ears are now the window into the world of souls.
For our fathers, there was no possibility of hearing the dead after death, short of visitation from beyond. Now, thanks to the accomplishments of our modern wizards, we can daily experience the verbal presence of those who are physically removed from our world.
In my ears proliferate the primal growls and screams of men dead young, still bursting with life. All of their heat, their anger, their fear, their angst, their love, all of it is here, in my ears, inside my head through the magic of the physics of bodily membranes set vibrating by waves in a gas, which then are transferred along to bones inside the head and a fluid-filled structure and microscopic hair-like projections that open up pores in which chemicals produce electric charges that then travel along the auditory nerve and incite neurons in the brain to turn these waves become chemicals become electricity into the indescribable feeling that I will never, ever die.
I do this work for them, these deceased men, these souls disembodied and now left to roam ghostly here through the ears and cochleae and neurons of those like me who yet live, who yet for a moment can push past the pain of exertion to someplace higher.
Every word I said is what I mean…
Out in the sunshine, the sun is mine…
I am smellin’ like the rose that somebody gave me on my birthday deathbed…
He who tries, will be wasted…
You told me I’m the only one…
Thus do the voices of men my own age, born in the same year I was born or a year before or a year after or otherwise very close to the time that I too began my sojourn on this globe, men who were born with me and who are no longer here, thus do their voices echo in my haunted brain yet another time, in the interim, in anticipation of the time when I too will be gone to that place that has become their home.
Night has fully fallen during my ordeal. The sky above is now the black of frozen, timeless space, the nothing that engulfs us, punctuated with little scintillating dots of diamond dust, sparkling, brilliant, penetrating though the size only of grains of sand, indicating innumerable distant worlds larger by far than the one on which I stand, galaxies of expanse so vast that they cannot even be imagined in the same thought as something as inconsequential as the rock on which I stand.
A pregnant moon glows warmly, tempering the chill night air, embracing me in the hope that what I do here allows my dead brothers to live again, in some vicarious, illogical, spiritually insane, delirious and weeping manner that eludes all the true things.
The merely true things, those that we praise overmuch and that should now, as we look up at that void, appear as nothing, those things that are of no use whatever here. All that emptiness in the firmament of heaven is my home, and I am here, and they too.
For no one has left. That is the magic I accomplish with the torture I inflict on my body.
No one has left.
All these dead, whose voices ring in my ears, are still here, right here, with me as I grip the bars and pull myself up, away from the earth, toward that swirling sea of opacity.
Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.