The sun is warm on my bare shoulders, my legs feel hot in black jeans and my feet are dirty in thongs. It’s Spring! I climb the stairs and push my library book in the return slot and turn to head across the grass towards my car and home…
My earphones squish into my ears and I flick the radio on in time to hear the end of a live set from N.E.R.D. touring Australia in 2002. I wish I’d been there to watch them perform this song – it sounds like it was fun. I think of Pharrell and his beautiful, arrogant cat-like face, his clothes than seem to leak self-confidence and his skinny legs that stick out of his always long shorts. I imagine him jumping around the stage to the delight of thousands of screaming women…
I jump with fright as a friend catches my arm as I walk – I hadn’t noticed him as he yelled out to me, but he just wanted to say hi. Nice.
He kisses my cheek and we part ways for the day, I push the earphones back in place in time to hear a Sigur Ros song begin. Their music starts so gently that it’s almost hard to hear, but I know this song and I know that in a few moments it will be exploding and wheeling. They are from Iceland and my friend told me that they sometimes sing in a made-up language that is called, without a hint of cynicism or irony, Hopelandish. I like to believe that and it makes me want to be their friend! I didn’t understand their sound until I saw them play a few months ago in a performance that I’ll never forget. It was music as I had never heard it before, never seen it played, never imagined it. It was music that played at a level that was more than sound, more than human. Or maybe not? Maybe it was just simply human – soft, loud, pain, stretch, movement, still, silence, sound, pluck, bend, sway, solo, together, moustaches, feathers, voices, fingers, hands, bodies, eyes, sad, sad, sad, but underneath it all love. Is that corny? Well, that’s what I saw. Heard. Felt. And here it is on an October afternoon, pulsing through my ears and connecting me back to that concert once more.
The music coming out of the radio moves through me, through my chest and down my arms. I’ve had a good day and the sun is out and this song is one of my favourites. My mind floats and there is nothing to do but feel. My cheeks strain with a smile half-repressed and the day begins to swell inside my chest until I feel my diaphragm push against my heart. That’s what joy feels like in my body. My mind feels light, but my chest feels full, so full that sometimes the feeling strains up into my throat until I have to open my mouth so I can breathe and I feel like I might burst… Oh no, another cliché! But that’s how it is.
I must look funny as I stride along the road to the music, smiling, with my arms free and swinging, looking people in the eye and feeling, all alone, so buoyant.
And then the song ends and is replaced with Blue King Brown or Cat Empire or something else equally irritating and everything drains away. Happy, light, yes, but joyful? No. That’s gone. The fullness is replaced by whatever it is that I usually feel when I walk to my car in the sun, listening to music. Something less physical and much less consuming. And that’s not so bad either.