the things that Elvis Costello did for me
Laid out, flat out, the distinction between not moving because I didn’t want to and not moving because I wasn’t able to were mercifully blurred. Another abstraction: I unfocused my eyes with the help of the whorls and swirls in plaster patterns above me, unblinking as dust settled and raised unbidden tears to protect my sclerae. Tracks from a playlist made for days like that; made in reaction to days like that, made in anticipation of days like that, cycled past almost unheard. They were, are, just a compilation of noise to block out the whispers and recriminations anyway and, in that regard, they were fit for purpose. The light outside got bright and dimmed again, clouds, I assumed, rather than the passage of the sun. But no; it grew darker and the music carried on and, although I waited for my unconscious to drag me down into unconsciousness, it seemed that sleep didn’t want me.
I woke up nonetheless; the crepuscular streams of light illuminating the council of devils and demons offering counsel to one another as they held their infernal assembly in carved avatars across my chest. Then I woke again, the dawn still the same but occupied by a much smaller portion of perdition, still numb and unmoved from my unnatural cruciform. The music must have looped by this point, it must have, but I don’t know if I was aware of that at the time. But as it did again, and again, and again and again, I started to recognise one voice. It recurred more often than any of the others, but it wasn’t singing anything I knew. The sky had turned slate in my negligence but that voice, Elvis Costello (you must have realised by now), was the only thing I could focus on, still not moving, but waiting patiently for his songs to come around again.
I heard them so many times; So Like Candy, (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea, Pills and Soap, Veronica and New Amsterdam. That second, the best, spinning off into a future I was, to whatever extent, living in. (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea started again and I heard a tap, rhythmic and vaguely in-time with the song, somewhere to my right. I wouldn’t (couldn’t?) turn my head to check on the source of this disturbance, but I realised I could feel something cold and firm, intermittently, against the tip of my finger. It was me, my body, it was playing out an approximation of the song. It was a success, a slight success, the smallest shred of difference between something and nothing, but my immobility was, it appeared much more likely a matter of choice than a psychic retreat into the centre of a hollow shell. If I concentrated, I could almost feel one corner of a mouth twitching into a something somewhat similar to a smile.
I still wish I liked Everyday I Write the Book better…