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on the music goes

By Matt Brown

Matt is second year studying English in the College of Arts and Sciences at UVa, hoping to transfer to the School of Nursing in his third year. He hopes to specialize in Adult Psychiatric and Addiction Care. Matt is interested in continuing to explore the relationship between mental health and addiction, as well as the treatment of mental illness in cultures around the world. 

The following narrative was inspired by my readings and experiences this summer. Among the books I read, Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar' stood above the rest. This piece is a fictitious, semi-autobiographical take on what my life would be in Esther Greenwood's shoes.


My sister’s record player drones on in the living room. Quite a complex instrument if you take the time to think about it. A whole collaboration of coils and magnets, amplifiers and preamplifiers, grooves and cartridges work harmoniously together to produce the music I’m hearing at this moment. If even one piece is damaged, the whole carnival breaks down. But luckily, as if by design, the careful listener can simply replace the busted member, and on the music goes.


I like to sometimes think of my mind as a record player, only one that doesn’t play such sweet sounds. No, my record player has more than a few pieces damaged. Ones that I’m starting to think can’t be replaced.


The background piano makes my apartment almost bearable. I can hardly stand being in here another minute longer, but I know I can’t bring myself to leave.

I look out at the clouds and feel detached, so detached that I should feel something: something sad, something deep. But of course I don’t. So I put on a record. Wait for another sleepless night. That’s been my routine for a few months now.


I guess it all started when I heard the news. Some guy in Orlando brought a gun to a night club. Somewhere people go to lose themselves. Fifty people are lost as a result. Lives were ended as the speakers danced to the beat.


I couldn’t bring myself to face a society that breeds such inhumanity. Because that’s what the Orlando incident was for me -  a loss of humanity. I couldn’t understand it; it was too tragic, too foreign to understand. So, I didn’t try to understand. I just sat and listened to the music. And I began to write.

“Thoughts & Wisdoms,” the front of my journal proclaims. Something like that.  It’s not even half filled. Guess I don’t have so many wisdoms to share. I date all my entries without knowing why; I’ve never gone back to read what I have written.


Writing is the one activity I haven’t completely lost interest in yet. I know you expect me to now expound upon how writing takes me to Another Place so I can forget about the numbness or how writing allows me to create worlds that mean something when I can’t find any meaning in this one, but it doesn’t. At least not anymore. I write to pass the time. Usually just phrases here and there, nothing ground breaking. Whatever thoughts that do pop into my head get written down.


If I did go back to read the entries in my journal, I think I would find song lyrics, beginnings of poems, memoirs and biographies of lives I’ve never lived. These biographies have beginnings and endings in a few short words, maybe a couple lines (never more than three) sharing tales of adventure and mystery and excitement and of places where shootings don’t happen but are worlds away. These moments fill the pages of my Journal, well not exactly fill - they litter the almost empty lines with stories that were written to cover the true story, the one that’s really happening. This story is about a cold and empty person with a broken mind who desperately wants to breathe, but he can’t. He wants to shout, but he can’t. He wants to cry, to feel, to dream, to even sleep - but he can’t. This story is about a boy who, despite all the love in the world, wasn’t able to love anything: not himself, not another. So he spends all day at the bottom of a bottle alone in his apartment instead of facing the evil in the world. He is numb and cold, thinking that maybe tonight will be the night. He is not hoping, not praying - just thinking that it might finally happen...maybe he finally would wake up and actually be bigger than the numbness and the emptiness. Maybe he would be himself again instead of the stone figure that only looks like him, taking up the space where he is, slowly choking him out of everything in his life. Choking him out of every joy, every pain, every feeling. Replacing him with listless gray rock.


For that boy, needless to say, last night was not that night.


And so the music went on.

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