Melancholia II - William Basinski
I wrote this because a song made me sad today.
Yesterday I heard a song that felt familiar. Irregular gentle sounds that made me think of bells, maybe a muffled piano(?) - a beautiful, yearning softness. It was called ‘Melancholia II’. I guess that’s what happens when you’re too melancholy for just one song ha ha, the roman numerals start lining up. ‘Does what it says on the tin’ I thought to myself, and added it to a playlist about how it feels when the leaves start falling. The playlist only had 2 songs in it, there was another one I wanted to add but I couldn’t remember what it was called.
Today I listened to ‘Melancholia II’ again. I don’t know why I didn’t recognise it before, I guess Dave has ‘banned’ the ‘Baby’ and ‘Happy Baby’ playlists for a long time at this point. He still can’t listen to the music. The songs make him feel anxious, hypervigilant, like Our Boy will suddenly cry out infant-sharp again, like Our Boy will scream all night again, like his knees will be bruised again from dark hours of patting Our Boy’s tiny, restless body relentlessly to sleep. Recognition- and then memory washed over me, bled into me like layers of watercolour, pigmented veins blossoming into an unpredictable bloom of time-stamped vignettes all at once. My chest tightened like a fist, tears suddenly in my eyes as my brain soft-teleported, time travelled blearily into nights like purgatory, days that ached.
Remember I had a pen-pal in New Zealand? Their baby was named Ochre, it made me think about leaves falling. Commiserations from the Other Side, they tapped them only slightly less groggily into their screen, onto my screen, held tight to my face to protect Our Boy from the light. Keeping awake so I don’t smother him with my breast, I was thinking about the Judgement of Solomon. I wished someone else would wrongfully claim Our Boy. I thought of me crowing ‘cut the baby in half!’, half-asleep, half-alive, smothering on my own swollen breasts. I had become too heavy for me to carry. I don’t think Solomon knew what it feels like to be a mother.
That time, I think about balling it up and trading it in, peeling it off my back, raw and worn from carrying it. I was a bun in the oven. Like- you know when you pull a fresh baked roll away from its batch-mate? A raw bread-edge border, equal and opposite shapes where they grew into each other only to be torn apart. Now I call it my bread dough- my stomach, scarred and mottled, stares back at me, not fully cooked yet. ‘You’re still so young!’
Oven stands impervious ‘look on my works ye mighty and despair’, a lot of hot air!
When I vomited so hard it came out of my nose, when I vomited so hard I peed myself, when the smell of the nose vomit made me vomit, when waking up made me vomit, when I vomited in every bathroom in Berlin. At least seven to nine times a day my oven sat mocking me.
The oven is still here, so is Our Boy, and so am I (miraculously) but I think I’m a new one I hadn’t seen before.
Years before, I remember laying on my boyfriend’s floor. Beautiful wooden tenement boards- I let my stomach drop, pushed it down into the boards. I traced my hands over the hollow of my belly, the sharp bones of my hips, my ribs, I remember this unbaked body. I was a fantasy, pointing forward with the urgency of a sword raised in battle, a hardened nipple, a jutting bone. Somewhere an echo rings out- ‘cut the baby in half!’, but it was only a twinkle in my eye.
I think all the time about if I had just gotten therapy before I decided, ha ha.
Laying on the couch nestled into each other (yes it used to fit both of us!) we would listen to a whole album, sometimes twice. Everything was all fire and ache and burst and potential, and I was always hungry. Later I would work through a 3rd pack of gum and think about filling the nice empty space I had made with a baby, while I counted my steps. I counted everything.
Now I like to check my bank accounts every day. First Paypal then Nationwide, I have to do the adding in the calculator app because my mind plays with the numbers, I can almost see him (of course my mind is a ‘him’) cartoonish, shuffling the numbers, adding extra zeros from up his sleeve like a card shark. Most days I also check my sales, I count knitted rows, a constant stream of data, a rope for mooring a restless mind. Ideas all half-baked, half-cocked- I should start writing again! When we listened to ‘Baby’ and ‘Happy Baby’ every night I was counting weeks, feeds, naps, nappies. I wasn’t hungry anymore, I have found new ways of being empty.
I can see you on Tuesdays and Thursdays before Our Boy comes home- would that work? The rest of my time is accounted for.
Leaves are falling and it feels like ‘Melancholia II’. Too much melancholy for one song.