Music Saved My Life, Literally

Fair warning: this is a bit of a dark one….

One night in December, totally freezing cold, I was at my friend Leanna’s house. Leanna and I had dated on and off throughout high school, but always made better friends than lovers. Leanna called me up after she learned I was back in town, and had offered to share a smoke with me.

We were lighting up in Leanna’s apartment listening to some oldies-but-goodies. Stuff like the Grateful Dead, The Who, and of course, The Beatles. Leanna stumbled over to the record player to change the record.

“Shit, I’m stoned,” she cackled.

I’d never seen Leanna like this. It wasn’t by any means the first time we smoked together, but in my experience she’d always had a higher tolerance for the stuff. She took another hit of the bong as she returned back to her seat. Before I knew it, her arm was around me as the sounds of “Electric Funeral” poured into the room.

I laughed a little in an awkward way. Leanna bit her lip and looked at the record player suddenly.

“Oh, God, I hate this song! It’s the first one I ever heard when–”

She stopped abruptly, looking at the four walls. The first thing I noticed was that Leanna wasn’t getting up to change the song. She was just looking around like nothing had happened.

“Leanna?”

Her eyes darted to me quickly as if she hadn’t noticed I was there before. I tried to stand slowly, my knees wobbly. The whole room felt as if it were spinning, but I knew I wasn’t moving. Leanna glanced over at me. She appeared to be in another world, as if nothing on this plane mattered or was even going through her brain.

Then it happened.

Her indifference turned to tears suddenly, a flood I neither expected nor knew how to control. She was crying hysterically, and I had no idea why.

“Leanna? What’s wrong?”

I wondered at first if she was having one of those psychotic breakdowns you hear about when people have been using too much. I tried gently shaking her, but she kept sobbing.

“Leanna?!”

I don’t know if it was the alarm in my voice or something inside her, but I’ll be darned if Leanna didn’t come to that moment. Her sobbing stopped, and she looked at me with a clarity I hadn’t seen in her all night.

“Are you ok?”

She looked shocked for a moment, like I’d just asked her a riddle. Then, her gaze softened and she frowned a little.

“Sorry. It’s just–this was the song I listened to the night I almost tried to kill myself.”

My face turned completely pale. I almost wondered whether this might be a sick joke Leanna had played. This would be her sort of humor. But when I looked at my friend and once-girlfriend, Leanna was anything but laughing.

“You’re serious. How come you never told me this when we were dating?”

I wanted to take the words back almost as soon as they came from my mouth. Why did I sound so judgemental? I hoped they came off as concern, and not judgement.

“I-I didn’t want to bother you or anyone. I just wanted to stop being a burden.”

I turned away and glanced at the ground for a long moment. How do you explain to someone who thinks you’ll be better off without them that’s not the case? What do you say to someone when they just shattered the entirety of what you thought of them?

It wasn’t like I was judging Leanna, of course, but things suddenly felt surreal. Like I didn’t even know the girl I took to Junior Prom or who I picked up drunk from a bar countless rainy nights.

I took a deep breath before saying anything. Without realizing how or why, I found myself gently touching her arm.

“Leanna, you are not a burden. At all. You can always talk to me.”

She sniffled a little, and I could see her smiling through the tears. I brushed her hair back out of her face a little.

“Do you want to talk about that night? It’s okay if you don’t.”

There was a long silence. I don’t think either of us knew what to say for a while. Finally, she broke the silence.

“It was three years ago. Just after Jeremy dumped me. I was alone, stupid, and feeling like crap.”

I listened as she told me the story, about how after Jeremy dumped her she’d gotten in with the wrong crowd. Said wrong crowd also encouraged her to stop going to school, drink, and smoke. Leanna then told me after her escape into drugs and alcohol, she realized they didn’t solve her problems.

“…and that was when I locked myself in the garage and tried to….to.”

She began breaking into tears again suddenly. I hugged her, half because I wanted to comfort her, and half because I had no words. I tried to stop my imagination from filling in the horrible blanks.

“It’s okay. We all make mistakes. I’m just–I’m really glad you’re here.”

Leanna smiled through her tears and nodded a little.

“I am too. Thanks for listening. Thank you so much.”

I smiled a bit. I have “Electric Funeral” by the Grateful Dead to thank for that night, and every other one since.

 

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