I’m out on a smoke break at work (shocker). Seriously, I must have PLEASE TALK TO ME written across my forehead. I thought I had a pretty solid resting bitch face, but it just doesn’t stop people from inviting themselves into my quiet time. Quite often I try to bury myself into my phone, looking busy “texting” my friends, sometimes literally holding a dead phone up to my ear to pretend I’m listening to a very intense voicemail (facial expressions included), which is conveniently the length of time it takes to smoke my cigarette.
“What’s that tattoo on your forearm?” says a gentleman standing next to me with a smoke in hand.
“Oh, this old thing? This is Coldplay’s album art for one of their very first albums”, I reply with pride.
“Huh”, he laughs flippantly, “well I guess that’s permanently going be YOUR favorite album for the rest of your life then.”
Well I guess that’s going to be your permanent, asshole face for the rest of your life, douchebag.
I have a forearm tattoo. And it’s from Coldplay’s album, A Rush of Blood to the Head. Why am I advertising an album cover on my forearm that others assume I will regret when I’m old, wrinkly and senile? Because it has sentimental value. It signifies where I’ve come from. It’s my battle scar.
I’ve got lists and lists of songs that if you played them for me, I could immediately tell you where they take me.
I’ve always been intrigued by the human brain and its ability to recall memories when reintroduced to pieces of music (or a smell or just a “feel” with a certain kind of weather). Our senses are engaged and particular events or timeframes come flooding back to us with powerful force. And I gravitate towards the songs that encase me in a melancholy fog. I listen to them over and over again. WHY do I do this to myself? Hmmm, know what would be fun today? Purposefully putting myself into an insta-depression! I’ve been questioning this for years. I finally got the answer I was looking for from a close friend; she theorizes that our brains push us to re-experience the moments/trauma that pop up so we can make sense of all of it. So we can close the case and put it in a neat little box on the shelf. We long for answers and order.
Any song from A Rush of Blood to the Head will immediately teleport me back to 2003 -2005 in a matter of seconds. I’m on my way to an away basketball game and I’m also on my way to a dark, depressing decade; I am sitting by myself, pink disc-man in hand, listening to Amsterdam and staring out the window longingly – like I’m in some sad, sappy movie. Flash forward to 2005. I’ve recently been labeled with a handful of diagnoses, I’m in my father’s van on the way to my very first treatment program; the weather is frigid, the ground is snow-covered and the chorus of the song Politik is dancing around in my head. It was a painful time. I associate that art, a man wearing a cape with half of a face, with a cloud of darkness. It’s not just A Rush of Blood to the Head that conjures up those memories.
‘Hungry for the kill, but this hunger, it isn’t you
Voices disappear when you are speaking, in sombre tunes
I will be the wolf and when you’re starving, you’ll need it too
Hungry for the kill, but this hunger, it isn’t you
It isn’t you, it isn’t’
THIS song. “Hunger” by Of Monsters and Men. This song transports me back to the fall of 2015. To my darkest of dark times. My body and brain were grossly malnourished, I was just a shell of myself and was no longer motivated to keep my head in this game called life. This song spoke to me for obvious reasons. “This hunger it isn’t you.” Sure wasn’t! When I got back from the Eating Recovery Center in January, this album was still residing in my car’s CD player (yes, I still have a “CD” player, for those of you with your fancy aux cords, you rich bastards). I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t listen to this CD for months. And then one day I did – on a long drive, as I let some tears fall from my eyeballs – wait, has anybody ever tried driving through tears? That shit is super dangerous. You know what else is dangerous? Driving while crying, when it’s raining and your wiper blades clear the windshield about once every 7 minutes. Those songs, those memories emerging from the deep caverns of my brain are piercing. I think the tears represented pain, shame, fear and also a sense of overwhelming gratitude. I’m alive. There was no hope. It was time to go. But I stayed. And I’m alive.
And so I’ve inked Coldplay into my skin, because it tells a story. And this album was the prologue of my story. Hearing any of these songs has conditioned me to look in the rearview mirror and see that outdated version of Abby. There is a long stretch of road between her and the me in this present moment. But I kind of want to keep each version with me. I need the complete story, both the painful and joyful parts.
Now as for my other tattoo? While well intentioned, that’s a story better left untold. Don’t ever get the word Overcome tattooed in cursive font. Why? Because it closely resembles the word Welcome. More importantly, don’t get it tattooed above your hip bone. I’ll let you do the math…