Music to Die for by Adele Evershed

I obsessively think about 'the incident'; well, it's not like I have much else to occupy me. My parents tried, but they always were a pale presence in my life, and that night hasn't changed anything. Of course, I've always loved them, but I also resented them. They never let my mini-rebellions rattle them--what good was wearing skimpy skirts so that my thighs turn blue in winter if your Mam never comments and worse your Da says, "You look nice." Now they are behaving like cheerleaders at a pep rally for one, and I'm not sure if I resent their manic cheerfulness even more than their tepid approval. 

On the night in question, I was sprawling my reinvented self over the cramped back seat of Alan's Beetle. I'd been at University for a term, but I bore no resemblance to the shy, straight-haired girlfriend Alan had gone out with throughout the sixth form. I thought I'd come home with a new boyfriend and have to 'screw my courage to the sticking place' and break up with lovely, unambitious Alan. And yes, I really did think and often spoke in quotations from Shakespeare or Austen. Bobby, Alan's best friend, called it pretentious; I called it 'being educated.' Anyway, the boys I had met so far at Exeter University all spoke like they were auditioning to read the news on the BBC, probably on the radio, so that no one could fixate on their acne or bad teeth. Not precisely Mr. Darcy, more like Mr. Collins, 'conceited, pompous and narrow-minded.' So when Alan rolled up on my first day back home to show off his new car, I let him take me down the pub, and we had pretty much picked up from where we left off. But back to that night. We were going to a Christmas party in the next town; I had thrown my jeans away and was decked out in my new look. I teased my nails through my lacquered helmet of hair, piled into a candy-floss confection that I imagined emulated Madonna in 'Desperately Seeking Susan.' "Music?" Alan asked. "Sure" I lowered my voice and pursued my lips at him in the rearview mirror. "Bobby, chuck on that cassette, mate," Alan said because, of course, Bobby was already sitting shotgun when they'd come to pick me up. And, of course, he'd made no effort to move. So I had to squash my black tulle skirt into the back seat, huffing like a dying swan. 

Bobby hit the play button, and Morrissey's miserable whine rang out even more nasally due to the poor quality speakers. "You gotta love The Smiths," Bobby said. "Do you?" I thought but said, "Yeah, what's not to love about a man who sings with flowers coming out of his arse." Bobby flicked me the Vs and turned up the volume. 

It had started to rain, and condensation dripped onto the shoulder of my military jacket. I flicked the drops like dandruff towards the back of Bobby's head. When the cassette ended, I said, "How about some Madonna?" Bobby ignored me. Again Morrissey wobbled out, and this time Bobby and Alan sang along. 

I looked at the back of their heads, nodding like dashboard dogs wondering how anyone could love a song called 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now.' To me, it seemed like good music to cut your wrists to. "Can we change the band?' I shouted. "God, I can't believe you don't get it," Bobby snapped, "They are so much more than a band. Their songs are real, not trite material girl stuff". 

Picking up the cross dangling on a chain around my neck, I ran it back and forth, so it sounded like a slow fart; I snapped back, "I suppose that's a dig at Madonna? Did you know 'Live To Tell' is about violence against women—how real do you want it?" Bobby turned around; his face was glistening with sweat, and I could see he was contemplating violence towards me as he snarled, "Oh, why don't you just fuck-off back to your stuck-up friends? We were doing fine without you." Tucking the cross between my breasts, I appealed to my boyfriend. "Alan," I said plaintively. Alan turned his head to look at me, his beautiful profile briefly illuminated by headlights from an oncoming car. I think he smiled at me, or maybe I just wanted to believe that. I was pulled out of my revelry of what my parents call 'the incident' by Mam's voice, "Katy--Bobby's here, love. How lovely to see you. Can I get you a coffee?" Somewhere I heard Bobby say, "That would be lovely, Mrs. H. I've got a few things here for Katy." I opened my mouth, intending to tell him to fuck off, but Bobby plonked down a cassette player and pulled the curtains around us, "I know you never really appreciated Morrissey, Katy." He pressed a button, and 'The Smiths' filled my cubicle. The heavy beat pounded behind my eyes, bringing back that night in torrid Technicolor; the screaking metal, someone crying my name, and above the noise of the sirens, the unmistakable breathy voice of Morrissey slurred and slowed but still singing. Bobby loomed over my head, jaundiced in the hospital lights, "The doctor said he's not sure how responsive you are, but maybe you can hear what is being said around you. He was the one who suggested playing meaningful music, so I've made you a mixed tape. Alan came to see you a lot when you were first here, but he's in bits, cried every time he saw you just lying there, so your Dad suggested he stopped visiting for a while. Rest assured, I'm doing my best to console him and take his mind off you". 

And with that, he left, and I was left alone with Morrissey. Then, 'Girlfriend in a Coma' started, and as I listened, the song told me that my situation was serious. "No shit Sherlock" I wanted to shout, but of course, I couldn't. 

Published in Issue #19

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