This week I found myself in the cd store, looking for this album. I didn’t bother asking the clerks if they had it. They never have anything I ask for. I feel like I’m not cool enough or young enough for the cd store….even though a woman my age is the vestigial buyer of cd’s, and my survivor status should galvanize me to be a kick-ass woman, and an unintimidated customer, no less. No bother, they didn’t have it, so I bought a used Dar Williams cd. I downloaded Spotify and have since been listening to the Into the Wild soundtrack, over and over.
Last spring, I taught an evening course that had a very small enrollment. Because of the small size and the late hour and the personal subject matter and the fact that we often moved our class meeting to a large table on the back porch of the building, the class got pretty intimate. I learned more about my students’ personal lives than I usually do. One bright student suffered from mental health issues. One had a friend who committed suicide that term. His eyes welled up with tears when he told me why he missed class. I shepherded these young people as best I could.
Toward the end of the term, we watched the film, Into the Wild, together. It’s the story of an idealistic young adult who starves to death while trying to camp out alone and unprepared, in the Alaskan wilderness. The masculine-identified adolescents found the main character to be a hero. The rest politely shared their discomfort with his rejection of society and community. Me, I found it to be a cautionary tale. I was so moved by a not very macho male student who was ticked at the protagonist because he broke Hal Holbrooks’ heart. Holbrook’s character bonded with the young man, who similarly connected but nevertheless moved on. He was young, idealistic, following an inner demon. In rejecting society and middle class conventions, he broke people’s hearts.
I loved this class, I adored these students. After that class meeting (or maybe the class after; the mind plays tricks) Pseudonymous Friend–who also taught an evening class–and I got together at the pub after teaching, a welcome new ritual we’d just made up. She gave me a ride home. I told her I couldn’t meet the next week because it was my son’s birthday, as well as his 8th grade graduation. We shared a heartfelt goodbye. I remember that because it’s about the last normal thing I remember about my old life. I got out of her car, looking forward to getting home, seeing the family after a long day, wrapping up the term, collapsing into the new bed that had been delivered that day. My husband had texted me a picture of the freshly-delivered bed that afternoon and we shared a funny exchange about our relief at having something really nice.
Two days later, my husband hung himself in the basement.
I can’t stop thinking about that week as I listen to this soundtrack, over and over. I’ve gleaned two things.
First, I crave new music. I’m in the car a lot, doing errands, shuttling kids. Listening to music helps, but I can’t listen to the music that husband and I shared. The new normal may well start with a new soundtrack of our lives.
Second, I don’t think I’ll ever teach that class again. I don’t think I could bear it.