The Sound of Mandolins
Mom sat on my bed, her eyes glassy, her breath drunk. She was smoking a cigarette and her body swayed to David Bowie’s Wild is the Wind.
Love me, love me, love me, love me, say you do.
Her voice hummed the melody, her eyes closed, her mind drifted, she was no longer sitting on the bed. I stared at her with my own glassy eyes, uncomfortable, wondering where she had disappeared. The cigarette was wasting away between her fingers, the smoke invaded my room.
Let the wind blow through your heart.
Mom cried. She was the wild in the wind, my father was dead air. Her voice added subscripts to Bowie’s lyrics: love me, take me, come back. Mom’s voice was the sound of mandolins. Mom’s voice gave me shivers. I raised the volume. Bowie filled the room, a duet with my mom. Her singing called my sister who leaned on the door frame. She closed her eyes, and hummed and sang. The smallest possible smile on my mom’s face.
For we’re like creatures of the wind.
In my crowded room, among the cigarette smoke and the drugs and the beer bottles and my mom’s heavy sorrow, I loved her and her scorched soul. She was beautiful. And when the melody was about to peak, when Bowie’s voice was about to let it all out, when we all grasped for the crescendo in unison, my father entered the room. Wherever my mom had disappeared, my father was there with her.
Wild is the wind.
Lennon’s on Sale Again
In 1984, my freshman year of high school, I found myself sitting at my bedroom window every morning from Monday through Friday. I was waiting – he would cut through the wash behind my house and walk down my driveway on his way to the bus stop. He was tall, blond, skinny, his homely-cute person swathed in combat boots, camouflage pants and a Clash tee shirt. I’d count to 60 and then make my way to the same bus stop – sneaking shy glances towards him as he sat away from everyone with a bit of a sneer. He was also in my German class.
He talked to me – but he was stealing shy glances at someone else. She sat in front of me. I convinced myself I hated her. She was exotic and weird. I wore jeans and sweat shirts – hiding my 42 DD chest as best I could. It is ironic how the world works – to this day, she means the world to me; he means nothing. I don’t know how or why we started to talk but she invited me over to her house.
I remember walking into her living room hearing this:
It’s on Amerika’s tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
Now the workers have struck for fame
Because Lennon’s on sale again
See the mice in their million hordes
From Ibiza to the Norfolk broads
Rule Britannia is out of bounds
To my mother, my dog, and clowns
On the wall was a picture of Mickey Mouse giving everyone ‘the finger’ and my first thought was that I’d just heard the words “Mickey Mouse” in the background. My second thought was that my parents were far too conservative to ever have a picture like that. My third thought was ‘should I admit I don’t know what I’m listening to?”. I was so nervous- so was very cool.
I asked her what was playing – she told me David Bowie’s Life on Mars. She showed me the album– Hunky Dory and we listened to it in her bedroom. I was transfixed. From that first moment I stepped into her living room, I began my metamorphosis.
Featured image: “David Bowie in Space”, by Cassia Lupo. Used with the expressed consent of the artist.