Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Even classic rock stations don't play The Cars' You Might Think as often as they used to, and that's good.  Not for aesthetic reasons, but because as soon as I hear the very eighties keyboard riff that kicks it off, I'm immediately transported to the day room of the psych ward at University Hospitals in Iowa City, where I half-glimpsed the video for the song in one of my few forays out to mingle with my fellow inmates.

I couldn't even tell you when this was, exactly.  '85, I remember, probably late summer or early fall.  You Might Think was no longer a new song, it had been released much earlier, probably around the time of my first suicide attempt.  Evidently it was still popular enough to see airplay on MTV, because it is the only concrete memory I have of my time there. 

Oh, there are other memories, but they've become so vague.  There was a cute girl who actually tried to talk to me a few times, though I was too messed up to respond, but I don't remember her name, or what she looked like, or anything about her, really.  There was a brooding Sean Penn-in-Bad Boys type, who seemed to have been there awhile.  There was my assigned counselor, most likely a grad student, who was so fucking earnest I found myself making  stuff up just to get more sympathy from her.

And there were windows, which offered views of not much, but beyond the trees and institutional buildings of the immediate area there was much more out there, I just knew it.  I didn't know Iowa City, had never been there, but as Mom drove me to the hospital I caught glimpses of restaurants and book stores and record stores, and I thought if I could just move into one of those, if I could stay there and never leave, I wouldn't have to be making this trip.  My life would be magically better somehow, somehow.

Those windows were temptations, a possible exit, a way out.  And if instead I cut myself on the glass, if I bled and died, well, hey, that would have been okay, too.  I didn't want to be there, in the hospital or in my skin, or anywhere, really.

I was utterly, unbearably miserable, and yet when I heard You Might Think on the radio the other day, I found myself overwhelmed with nostalgia for a time I barely remember.  It seemed at the time that life was a constant downward drift, misery endured only to be ultimately, blessedly ended.  But now it seems my lost years were some sort of necessary crucible, forming me into the whatever-it-is I'd become.  I didn't know it then, but a future awaited, experiences wonderful and terrible, and very soon I'd learn to live.