I can taste the viscous blood leaking into my mouth. The pain spreads throughout my face, radiating from my throbbing nose. But I throw myself back in eagerly, ignoring the breaths that cannot catch up with my heart. Beer, blood, spit, sweat, and smoke fill my senses. I am propelled by the deafening sound grinding into my ears. Without it the violent pounding of my heart urges my lungs faster, gasping for more air. I feel the heat of fire and movement surrounding me but I can only focus on the presence before me. The man on stage forces his voice into the microphone, casting his full self upon the crowd. His message takes over the spectators and pushes them forward, swelling and crashing against one another. But this man's voice does not reach my ears and it does not move my body. Silence takes me and I am only a forgotten wooden piling in a sea full of people, left without any purpose. I realize that I want his place in front of all those people.
He has the freedom that I so desperately want.
Winter in the Midwest, especially Iowa, can beat the hell out of anyone. It is drab, boring, cold, and any other melancholic word you can think of. But you don't really have any other option but to live with it.
About a year ago–which would have been around late November–I was starting to become acquainted with a group of guys that I had been hanging out with for about 2 to 3 months. With all of us being musicians, we would form our first sort of “band,” if you could even call it that. We shared music tastes and wanted to make something of it. Being an aspiring musician in a small Iowa town gives you about zero chances to ever get where you want to be. But we tried the best that broke high school students could.
Most of us were either depressed, angry, lonely, or a combination of each one; unstable and unable to control corrosive thoughts and emotions. Our productivity matched our lowered spirits, drained by cold winds that cut through our layers and stole our body heat. However, December and the following January would be the last fairly normal months for me and the rest of the guys.
My friend's car grudgingly pulled its battered and dented self along the highway. The dusty aged interior hummed and vibrated with more life than I had left. “What did you do, why did she leave, why is she saying these things,” the questions repeated themselves endlessly in my headspace. “I am useless, I do not deserve anyone, I–” “Let's go, we’re heading inside,” my friend had opened the passenger door, patiently waiting for me to exit. The familiar interior of the record store absorbed my aching mind with its soft lighting and the quiet jazz playing in the background. But with my departure from the store also came the departure of that calm feeling; no matter how much I tried it always came back.
At this point in my life, I had no strategies to deal with my emotions. I turned to quick fixes, the main one being alcohol. There's a month or so where my memories are fuzzy because it went by in a blur. I was struggling a lot with my self-esteem and wanted to do just about anything that would make me feel better. “Hey there's nothing better to do than get fucked up I guess,” I told my friend. The handle of vodka measured out shot after shot until its opening met my lips, flooding my mouth with undetermined amounts of the liquid.
Me and the guys were hanging out like usual, practicing instruments and talking about school when three of them sat me down on the couch. “We are pretty damn concerned about you and we are afraid that you are gonna do something,” they said to me. One of my friends looked at me straight in the eyes, “I can’t keep offering help if you never try to improve yourself, all you fucking do is get drunk and I have had enough of your bullshit.” “I want my friend back, I want you back.”
Hearing one of my closest friends say that I didn’t feel like the person he knew tore my guts out and drained the blood from my face. His words were like a hot iron of reality, piercing my skin to burn away the dark veil that had covered my vision.
“I want my friend back.”
Even though I was still depressed, lonely, and feeling hopeless I knew I could not lose my friends. They made me who I was, they stayed there for me and never left me alone in my struggle.
All the times I had drank myself to sleep or needed someone to be with, they were there. Another one of my friends told me “I would rather talk to you as many times as it takes than you hurting yourself or worse.” “If you were to kill yourself I would wake up every day knowing that my friend is gone; I would never be able to forgive myself.” At that moment I felt like I had a place, I had a community with my friends. Being so close to them gave me something to be there for.
I tasted the blood in my mouth once again and felt the heat from the stage lights holding me in place. But I needed to continue, just like how the guys taught me a month or two before this concert. The mosh pit enveloped me once again and I punched, kicked, and fought for the freedom of my mind. Living in the moment and not caring what those around me thought.
Finding my friends and accepting what they had to offer saved me. Our common bond through music gave us that community we needed and that I needed to find myself.