What would you do if you were dying? Really dying. If you knew that it wouldn’t be long; that you needed to prepare for afterwards?
In the last couple of weeks she’s begun to think about this despite the fact that there isn’t really anyone else. Yet the backdrop of bookshelves stuffed full of records, the posters and pictures on the walls crinkled in the heat of the South Australian summer and all those notes pressed into vinyl, remain important to her.
On Wednesday, under the shade of a not-quite-grown tree in Rundle Mall, she decides to sit down and find the one. She knows she will know when she sees them but for now the crowds bear only teens in crop tops and hurried office workers on their lunch break. She isn’t worried though. She is sure they will come.
In the beginning she didn’t think about dying either. For a while she dutifully continued to eat sandwiches in the staff room at lunchtime and tried to ignore the tumour she knew was growing inside her. When it spread to her bones she knew she had to come home for good.
At home she started to listen to her records again and think about what the ending might look like. She felt like she was walking in a tunnel but the light was behind her. There were only a few meters in front of her now and in the dark she could never quite make out where the path ended. The music helped with that.
She listened to the Beatles and remembered seeing them play in Adelaide in 1964 when she had a bowl haircut and long white socks and was barely a person yet. She remembered screaming so much that she couldn’t speak for days afterwards even though she wanted to tell the poster of Ringo on her wall how terribly beautiful he was to her (then and always).
She listened to Bowie and remembered painting her face like Ziggy Stardust and teasing her hair as high as it would go and then having to scrub the red remnants from her skin (her face was red for days). She remembers the air thick with weed and sweat and how she felt so compelled to move in a way that her body will not let her now.
In amongst thoughts of dying she also thinks a lot about how music stops time and that when she closes her eyes she can still feel his breath on her skin and what it was like to be 19 and unsure (and also full of hope). Occasionally she thinks about those that have grown old with her until they too have dropped off one by one leaving her wondering what any of this was for.
But in the mall, under this baby tree she knows that it means something.
Three hours into avoiding the sun she notices a girl with purple hair, Doc Martens and a picture of David Bowie on her t-shirt. She calls out to the girl and asks her to come over. Patting the seat next to her she asks the girl if she likes music. The girl is unsure at first.
But then the girl starts to talk and her eyes sparkle when she starts to speak about how much music matters to her and how it makes her feel like anything is possible. The girl tells her about Bowie and what he means to her (he is gone now too) and tells her how he always made her feel like it was perfectly ok to be not like the others. The girl explains how music makes her feel better and safer and bolder and connected and able to be.
She gives the girl a small piece of paper with a phone number and address and tells her to get in touch.
Over the next two weeks she packs up her collection of vinyl and books and posters and puts them in boxes. She carefully pulls her frames from the walls and wraps them in bubble wrap. She pats each book lovingly as she stacks them in cardboard, remembering how she saved for the excitement of opening each one and breathing in the scent of their pages.
When the girl arrives she is with her mother. She takes them to the boxes neatly stacked in the corner, their content catalogued and labeled and tells the girl that she wants her to have all of it.The girl and her mother are both awkward and the girl keeps smoothing her skirt over her knees and asking whether she is sure.
But she has been thinking about dying a lot. She knows her memories belong there. That this is where they will be loved like she loved them. She tells the girl ‘of course’ and not to worry because she knew the minute she saw her that she was the one.