“Take my hand, come back to the land – where everything’s ours… for a few hours.”
Who could have ever resisted such an invitation?
Who wouldn’t want to escape to this mysterious place in the trees… ?
Although I honestly had no idea what all this was supposed to be about;
Aged 10, I just knew that to get to this land, all I had to do was turn off all the lights in my bedroom, set the volume up to the point of distortion and press play.
I would slowly, sadly, painfully be lolled to a sharp edge by the thunderous rolling bass-line which seemed to ebb and flow like crashing waves, accompanied by synth strings which waled to the most vulnerable lament.
I was a modern day Lucy traversing into Narnia. My portal to escapism, the spiritual and the bizarre.
It was the year 1987, Dave Gahan was wearing studded leather and lip gloss. He was awkward and was trying to look the part. As it happens, so was I, and to prove it, had just recently lopped off all my long hair and opted for the same short spiky style in some kind of ritualistic coming-of-age homage.
I was now “Depeche Moody”. A nickname given to me by the only gay couple I had ever met. The name stuck. It was probably meant as a term of endearment; in any event, I chose to wear it as a badge of honour.
Living in France at the time, a sulky pout came quite naturally, the furrowed brow was my personal added touch; side-eye and a look of disgust all part of the ensemble…
All an attempt to deflect attention. Naïve, yet effective gimmicks to avoid intimacy of any kind. To avoid been seen at any cost. Better to masquerade as a ghost and skulk in the shadows, than to suffer the burning sensation of recognition.
“Words are meaningless and forgettable”
By 1989 I had had my fluorescent yellow earphones stuck to my head for a couple of years now. I had a very reliable soundtrack to my arthouse movie / dumpster fire of a life. I had commiserated with Dave over his pleading with his best friend to never let him down again. And like him, I too was yearning for someone with a [heart of gold …] to bare witness to the goodness within. Wondering when they would show up? Instead I would find nothing but a vast wasteland, littered with cruel grins and cold comfort. Empty promises and cigarettes.
My hair was now platinum blonde and still spiky. I must have forgotten to hide.
I had also forgotten to eat that year. Being solid was for losers. I was flirting with ghosts, holograms, nightmares.
Any minute now Violator would be released with its blood-red rose and pitch black background. And he would mutter the words “someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares”
“Like a halo in reverse”
It was important to smell good at the school gates, as everyone, every morning, would be kissing each other’s cheeks multiple times.
It was a strange waltz where the subtlest of micro-expressions would give the game away. Whose pining and whose heartbreak would be betrayed by the slightest hesitation, by the slightest downward stare.
I would watch on from the sidelines in my ever ephemeral state. Camel between my lips, the games they played looked dangerous. Dangerous and delightful.
Later in class, written messages would be exchanged in secret diaries. Tales of woe and pity. Graphic in their content and vacuous in their meaning. Bitter-sweet prose. Sometimes names were carved into the desks, sometimes into flesh. Jewellery returned to sender.
My best subject was always maths. Top of the class. Maths were reliable. No matter how many times you multiplied the same numbers together you would always get the same result. Detached anonymous and soulless. Maths were comforting. Maths were safe.
But my favourite subject was always literature. Literature was thorny and wicked. Telling you what you already knew, but with different words. Words that twisted and threatened… Promised too. Deceived more often. Literature knew me and I knew it. We had sparred a few times, lifetimes ago.
“When our worlds, they fall apart”
One day she came in, and although on the surface, her skin was just as beautiful as ever, we could tell she was badly bruised inside. Her heart had taken a beating, and she walked as if she had an invisible limp. Her eyes were vacant. She didn’t try to smile, she didn’t want to reassure us. She was resigned to be seen in all her wretchedness.
It was such a cold day. We sat in the cafe in silence. Black coffees undrunk. The sound of the pinball machine in the back. Why did it hurt so much? No one had answers, at least none that could be spoken.
Weeks passed, her hair had lost its shine and she would sit in the back of classes quietly pushing her thumbnail into the side of her forefinger.
It was ok. Because …
“then we realise it doesn’t matter”
all italics = lyrics by M.L. Gore from Depeche Mode