Monday, January 11, 2016

Cymbal #50:: David Bowie (1947 -2016)

I didn’t know you could feel this bad about something so distant; I was taken aback by the extent of my sadness. David Bowie’s death left a hole in the walls of my mind the size of the 20th century, the same place as JFK and Gandhi, Muhammad Ali and John Lennon’s glasses. When you’re don’t look straight at a thing, you don’t realise how much you took for granted. I guess I had always thought he was immortal, made of the same tough fabric as Keith Richards or Bob Dylan or Old Man Cohen, and it is with further shock that I realise they may not be immortal either. And if they are not, then maybe one day I will die, and everyone I have ever loved will die, and there’s less time than I thought there was.


He said, listen to Heroes. Listen to Bowie sing Heroes, and then listen to the Wallflowers cover. They didn’t get it. Listen to the Man who Sold the World, and then listen to Kurt Cobain in his cardigan. They all missed the trick.

David Bowie - Heroes - 2002

No one understood that he was joking. We can’t be heroes. We’ll just tell ourselves a beautiful lie. No one understood that he never meant a word he said, but he meant a lot of things he never said. He meant the spaces between the words. He meant his arch intonations and meant his dancing and his mismatched eyes were telling a truth. But he was lying through his teeth.

The best kids, the really smart ones, the ones who can be anything they want and do everything and get away with murder – they all have no great adherence to the truth. He didn’t know that when he said it, but he was one of those too. Just like David Bowie, too big to pour into truthful words. He told beautiful lies, the bastard. The poor sad bastard.   


You put your hands on top of mine, and mine were very large and yours were very small, almost boyish. You smiled shyly and I hadn’t realised till then that you were actually a shy person. We got the bill and left the bar, down the stairs, past the aquarium. We kissed in the car, at the red lights. At your place, your room mate waved distantly. I wasn’t the first, and I wasn’t going to be the last. You locked the door, standing on tiptoes to get to the latch.  You turned on your laptop and played Hunky Dory and we turned down the lights. The light from your screen washed across your chest. Your body was so spare, and I thought of David Bowie, and how appropriate everything was.

David Bowie - Oh! You Pretty Things! - 1972

Then there was a knock on the door, and your neighbour needed me to move my car. I jumped into my pants and cursed and ran downstairs with your sheet wrapped around my chest. My car wouldn’t start. I pushed it across the street and ran back upstairs. To hell with the car and your neighbours. All I wanted right then was to perfect myself against your thin back, your shoulderblades so sharp.

Afterwards, you told me I was beautiful in a strange and unusual way, that I was ugly in photographs but beautiful in the flesh. I was so gratified by that description – it fitted into whom I thought I was, and whom I thought I was that night. You lay on me, and I strummed on your back. You told me not to think of you as a new car, a thing you buy and show off, and I laughed. It amused me to be accused of the wrong crime.

David Bowie - China Girl - 2002

When I left, you wrapped yourself in the same sheet and came down to the car. It still wouldn’t start, but I gave it a push and jammed it into second gear and it coughed to life. That night, I felt like my life was sliced from a great story just being written.

The Future

This is the world I was dreaming of with her.

The flat where we could finally put out plants on the balcony. The yellow walls with the monochrome posters. The cramped little house where we were going to raise our kid, cramped because I never wanted to be too far from her. 

David Bowie - Kooks - 1971

The small table where our friends bring a bottle and we potluck. The guitar by the couch. The posters on the wall. The unmade bed. This is the kitchen where I was going to make eggs and brew coffee for her. This was what could have been, if she had only listened. But she would have had to listen to the things I had never said.  

David Bowie - Lazarus -2016

I’m glad that she quit smoking, but sometimes I think I’d like to come out onto the balcony and see her leaning into the street, smoke curling above her shoulder, into the weekend sun, my love.  

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