Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Somewhere over the rainbow

I was standing in the hut that you called your music studio. Usually, you came to my house on a Saturday but you'd been working on your new studio for weeks and I asked you if you'd like me to come and see it before we went out for the day. 

You were exuberant on the days when you'd been building, sending me little updates by Messenger, lots of smiley faces: you were always so happy when you were making. I don't really remember how you built it, not being one for details, but you had been hammering pieces of wood and reshaping doors. I think you'd even put the roof on it, fashioning something akin to an animal pen, but soundproofed with carpet tiles and housing synthesisers instead of pigs. I was amazed to see it, so impressed that you could create something so solid with your own bare hands; all I can create are flimsy words from flighty thoughts, pinning sensations with fingertips that dance intuitively across the keys. 

When I arrived you had a heater blasting in anticipation of my presence and the synthesisers and microphones were set up ready; I'd asked you to play me something, intrigued to see in action what I'd only heard recorded. When I got there, I was irritable though. I was tired and grieving for my mum and, in spite of the heater, I was feeling the cold, the kind of cold that feels bone deep in spite of hats and gloves and fleeces. There was snow on the ground out in the Peak District and it was a grey day. I would really rather have been at home. 'Will it take long?' I asked, rather churlishly. 'Three hours,' you said, with a straight face. 'Didn't you get the programme?' You made me laugh, took me out of myself for a moment, as only you could. 

And then you played, although I'm not sure played is even the right word. You described it as 'twiddling some knobs'. You didn't have much faith in having any kind of ability with music but you loved it, really loved it. And as I watched you stroking pads and tweaking dials, there seemed to be something intuitive in your movements and there was beauty in the sounds that filled the air that day. The dance of fingertips on keyboards, feeling their way into something intangible.

Afterwards, you handed me the microphone. 'Sing to me, please,' you said. Maybe you were auditioning me for this band that you wanted to create. You had me down as lead singer even though I had less confidence in my singing than you had in your music. I sang to you anyway, 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' because it's the only song I feel I sing well having crooned it almost every night to my children for the last eight years. I perfected it in the wee small hours while I rocked infants in my arms, imagining I was Judy Garland in Kansas, with ruby slippers on my feet.

When I'd finished singing, you locked up and we went out into the snow for a walk. There was something wrong with you that day, something really wrong. I knew it intuitively but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. The day was clouded in unease.

The next time I sang to you, you were in your coffin at the undertakers a few weeks later. I hadn't seen your body since I first discovered you lying dead on your bed and we weren't allowed to see you again after the post-mortem. But I rested my head on your coffin and sang, trying somehow to soothe both of us, like I was rocking our distressed souls with my voice.

I sang the song again as I scattered your ashes over the heather and gorse above Redmires, where we first walked together, first touched hands, first felt the possibility in the air. Where we dared to dream dreams that almost came true. 

I think of you now every night as I smooth my little boy's curls with my hand, lying next to him on the bed, holding onto him too tightly, lonely for your touch. I sing those words and understand why they play it at funerals. I wonder if, one day, I will wake up where these clouds are far behind me. And I wonder if there's a place that one day I will find you again. Somewhere over the rainbow. 

One thing is for sure. I'm not in Kansas any more. And there is no way home.