A sunny day, his bedroom, age 11. Lying on his stomach after school, he is listening to an old Bob Dylan record, propped up on his elbows. The carpet is musty with forgotten laundry, cookie crumbs, dust, modelling clay. Downstairs, the clink of dishes and fizz of butter in a pan, the preparation of dinner. The cyclical whir of the washing machine turns into a drone, accompanying the acoustic chords. He has homework to do, but it doesn’t matter yet. He will spend the whole afternoon like this, not feeling the pressure of the floor on his stomach, carefully placing the needle back at the beginning when the cycle ends. The sun glows gently in, sticking his t-shirt to his back. When he hears this record today, the smell of the carpet comes rushing back.
Overcast, in the studio, age 18. They’re recording the song his father wrote, finally following through on a plan from many years before. He didn’t sleep much last night — eyes rimmed red, tousle-haired, but too young to be hung over, he stumbled out of bed and rushed out to Burnaby, warming up his voice to familiar tunes on the radio as he drove. In the studio he tries to put on a show of confidence — shakes the hands of the techs, puts on his headphones like he’s used to it. But the timing keeps jarring, and his voice sounds tentative. Seated at the piano, his father starts again and again — the quiet, confident cadence of a man who is used to playing a supporting role. He has the sudden urge to rip off the headphones and throw them to the floor, hard. If his father can tell, he isn’t showing it.
Cold and clear, Music History 220, age 21. She isn’t answering her phone, and not sure what else to do, he has gone to class. Hours of broken conversation, half-asleep, telling her he loves her, trying to persuade her to get help, have petered out into silence. It was 3am on Sunday night when she finally hung up, and she has not picked up since. When he woke up he scrawled a couple lines — heard the birds singing/ and wondered if you killed yourself last night — and got on the bus. He doesn’t know if he should tell someone, talk to someone. He feels oddly light and hollow. He has turned the Mozart Requiem up as loud as his iPod will allow and waits to drown in the music.
Light rain, her bedroom, age 22. They lie wrapped in each other and the darkness. The window is open, the same window she once threatened to throw herself out of, and the smell of sweet box wafts up unexpectedly from the garden below. He strokes her back cautiously, and she does not pull away. Her demons have gone quiet. He begins to hum in her ear, a song he wrote for her. She softens, and pulls a little closer.