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I was there with friends. It was an outdoor concert, my first ever, and the sun had finally set after quite a long day. No longer were we all beaten down by the intense heat. The cool night air was making all of the secondhand smoke more tolerable, and as the Stone Temple Pilots warmed up on stage, I looked around at the mass of people. I looked at my friends from school, at the random strangers, all here for a purpose. I saw the couples making out, saw those normally invisible bonds strung like steel spiderwebs between certain pairs of people, about some groups. Almost everyone was in attendance with others they knew, others whose friendship and company they treasured.

The show started, and we turned our attention to the huge stage, shining bright as day in the dark like some flesh-and-blood movie screen. As the various melodies floated out above the crowd I started helping body surfers over my head, watching people go nuts in the mosh pits and trying unsuccesfully not to get knocked in the head by a wayward shoe. I was getting so into everything, hands in the air, swaying and nodding my head with the lifting and sometimes haunting songs, when I noticed her. Off to the side of the stage, her eyes closed, leaning comfortably against a tree. She was all alone, physically, and presumably had been all day. Kind of pretty, but looking weathered and sunburned like the rest of us were, I wondered what she was doing. A song ended and her eyes opened. She looked disappointed. I saw her look longingly at some couple all over each other, and then look sadly away. The next song started up. She breathed deeply as if trying to take in the very music in the air, and sustain her happiness, her life, her place in everything. I saw her there, lonely, trying to fill herself with the concert, and felt for her. I had been there before, seeking solace in music, trying to stop thinking about how lonely I was in a place filled with those who weren't. I felt for her, but at the same time, I envied her.

Somehow, it's easier to feel the music when you've got no attachments to cloud your vision. Gut-wrenching sappy love songs and bitter anti-ex ranting songs hold their own special meaning. I couldn't help but wonder how she came to be that way. I didn't have the courage or the initiative to fight through the crowd and then disturb her, just to get in on what had happened. I'll never know.

My eyes were not closed. How would I see the music moving if they were shut? Did not need forced darkness. I kept the eyes open, drinking like thirsty dying, liquid smooth sliding into silence.

I was not alone, but here is how I slid carefully (purposely) into lonely, deeper darker deeper darker smooth:

Easy easy does it. Slowly let go of his hand, slowly edged forward in my seat so there was no flesh heat on my thigh. Eased out of contact, opened eyes wider.

Breathed in the music. Lungs hurting, like I had never inhaled before, like every wisp of air that ever inflated my lungs was just to tease the alveoli. Bigger, painful. Feel that throbbing? It is my heart, synchronizing with the bass. In my chest. Thumping slow and steady, life confirming life.

Eyes wider. Did not blink - brimming with tears or dirt or music - no difference.

Did not know how far I could remove myself. Had to test it. Had to confirm absolute detatchment, absolute sinking. Could I drown in this blue? Slowly, carefully, into lonely; deeper darker smooth. Yes. Yes I can.

. .

.

 

sunk

She stood and closed her eyes, it was good.  

There was the music, there was the sound, there was the smell of the smoke falling around her.  She knew the lights and the feel of the beat as it hammered into her chest and out... she was full of it, the song, the flash, the stench.  
It was full of her and she felt the pounds of flesh in her hands - smooth and hard - under her fingers.  She was engorged with it, full and aware.  They were inside her - her elbows pressed against the walls, fully aware that she was no longer standing...  no longer aware.  

Bodies stroked the inside her arms, they tickled her, ground out cigarettes on her thighs and spilled drinks on her bare feet - her toes were wet and sticky.  They swelled forward- beneath her chin- to the stage and she could feel the mass pressing against her breasts, hands on her back, the feel of slick sweat from bare chests and shoulders against her face.  The taste in her mouth was sweet with sweat. 

Her eyes were closed, it was good. 

Bright light pulsed red into her eyes,  the heat lit her face -made wet trickles that ran down the side of her face.  She licked her lips and the arms that pressed against her mouth.  Fingertips brushed against her thighs and lifted her, filled, swooning, forgetful of her skin pressing down on curious fingers. Her back pressed against upturned faces, the brush of lips and hair, the scruff of faces, the barest tickle of eyelashes blinking in the drops from her shoulders.  These hands turned her and she stared wide eyed at the floor and the faces, flat palms against her nipples, her stomach, brief wet kisses against her neck and mouth- moving lips that were mute against the volume of the music.  Angry looking faces in her shadow,  they passed her among them and she was relieved in this...  faceless and nameless she felt them enter and shy away, rushes of blood in her face -  flushed - her heart pounded in time with the sound. 
On the stage she was ignored and adored.  No one made a sound but her.  Her voice rising over the mass as a single drawn note that ached in her throat - a scream, a taste of night, a sigh in her body as moved into her and she was passed back...

    back to the floor, 

She stood and opened her eyes, it was good.

I remember there were two of them, or at least I was told there were two of them. They are still around.

They were my first teachers. I would do something I thought was fun and laugh, and they would decide whether it was appropriate or not. If it was judged appropriate, I would be allowed to continue. If not, I would be forcibly prevented from doing it, sometimes with a pain response. In time, I began to associate pain with the inappropriate actions, and stopped myself without needing my trainers to stop me.

Eventually I learned their language. As a result, training based on physical pain could be replaced with training based on emotional pain. If I continued to behave in ways judged inappropriate, I would then be trained to associate those behaviors with emotional pain.

And thus I was prepared for their world.

I entered it and found that it stretched far beyond the two teachers I knew. There were billions and billions of them, packed together, continuously trained to do what their world wanted them to do, sometimes with physical pain but usually with emotional pain. We were herded in one direction or another, depending on the commands of the day, never quite safe, always fearing retribution for doing the wrong thing.

We were never alone. There were billions of us after all, but we were never quite together. Someone always wanted us, wanted me, to do something differently. I never quite fit anywhere. As soon as I got close, they would raise the expectations, and herd us in yet new directions. A mass of gray figures, blowing back and forth like waves on an unsatisfied ocean.

One day, I heard a different song in that sea.

There were no daggers in it. It was light and warm, something I was drawn to. It was so different from the rest of the ocean, packed with its billions of swarming masses. Here was one voice that felt like a refuge, a home I wanted to create that I never had.

There were many blissful days I spent with that voice. But my luck did not hold out. The world outside our home continued to be a harsh teacher, a storm that never died despite the shelter I had found. It had poisoned my mind. I could not keep it outside and away. Soon the storm was raging inside, and the light dimmed. At first.

Eventually it went out.

The shelter fell apart and I found myself alone in the storm again, with the billions of other shifting bodies. The song of the storm was a different one. It had its own purpose. We were driven to sustain it, our lives belonged to it, our minds were taught to feed it. We were instruments in someone else's hand, and we were being played. The song was not for us, it was for the storm itself.

Occasionally, a few of us would attempt to play for a different audience, but it never lasted long. Their lights would be quickly poisoned by those around them and the storm would rage again. This was our place, escape was only temporary. But that didn't stop us from trying, despite the fact that most of our bodies were now made of poison, and we were building shelters we ourselves would destroy.

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