Thursday, January 14, 2016

All summer long Mom and Dad fought upstairs in the big old house in Woodstock, England, while we waited out the storm in the living room, drawing pictures, watching TV. One day a music video came on that I’d never seen before. The bass had this rubber-band thing going, mesmerizing. Electrifying. Suddenly we’re in some kind of make-believe landscape in pink and blue. A sad, boy-girly clown who appears to have a scar on his forehead sings plaintively. He’s joined by a chorus in vaguely religious garb, like Eastern Orthodox maybe, not Catholic. But they're weird. And boy-girly too. Like eunuchs in the court of an alien king. The clown shows us a picture of himself as a man trapped in a padded cell and suddenly there he is, sunlight streaming through the window bars. The chorus is murmuring something. It sounds reproachful, judgmental. He’s shivering and freaking out. Kicking, though I had no idea what that meant at the time. But I knew what it meant to be shivering in a padded room. Because all of us are kicking, all the time. Then he’s the clown again with the chorus of weirdos beside him, walking ahead of an earth mover, and a couple of them on each end are doing this asynchronous dance where they swoop down and touch the ground. It’s awful beautiful, what they’re doing. And when he sings “all time low” the person on the left of the screen, a female—maybe?—comes around and touches down in time to the music, indicating “low,” but like a princess picking a flower, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, the way she did that, and got right back up again, an indifferent gesture, but so graceful. Poignant. Then the clown’s on the beach and something’s wrong with his hand. He’s back in the padded room again. He’s waist-deep in the lake, his arms outstretched, singing, “I’ve never done good things, I’ve never done bad things, I never did anything out of the blue.” Out of the blue? And he sinks. And then the chorus comes around again and there they are all in a line, the bulldozer looming, and please do it again, please, and right on cue she does it again. All. Time. Low. He’s back on the beach, releasing a bird. Then he’s cowering in the corner of the padded cell again, singing something about his mother. Something she warned him about. And suddenly there she is walking with him on the beach, imploring him, trying to reason with him. But it’s too late. He just stares off into space.