Earworm. I’ve got a song stuck in my head, spiraling its way into my brain. The National: The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness. (Click this page’s background to hear it for yourself) Twenty-four hours in my head. I wonder if: (a) I’m going crazy, or (b) there’s a reason for it. While ‘a’ is the most probable answer, I’m game to explore option ‘b’.

My brain is no stranger to The National, a band that Jasper and I enjoyed singing along to. This new song opens with an angelic background harmony. It sounds so much like him. I can hear him playing along to the piano riff. I can see his slender fingers dance over the keys. Maybe he’s channeling through The National. Stranger things have happened. I look closer at the lyrics.


I thought that this would all work out after a while


I dissect them and find Easter eggs of Jasper. I find obscure and secret references to him and I. Perhaps it’s reaching a bit, or I’m trying too hard to see something that’s not necessarily there. Could be I’m just desperate for contact from him. 


Why are you hiding from me?


I find myself asking him. “Are you out there somewhere?” 


Maybe I listen more than you think


This song is also triggering hints of symptoms associated to grief. Sorrow builds slowly around me like an incoming tide. I suppress it. I push it down and bury it. I refuse to cry. A couple of hours pass by, and it hits again. Twenty hours ago it was a mere wash at my feet, a cold familiar lapping against my ankles. I suppress it. I jump away from it. I push it down and back, doing whatever I can to stay dry. It keeps splashing up at me – higher and higher. I refuse to cry. I busy myself with some remedial task. I know what’s coming. Eventually it will submerge me completely. I’ll drown in that murky water. Then the plug will get pulled and it’ll all wash away so quickly. At least there’s some relief in knowing that there’s an end to it. I might not see that water again for a week or two. As for now though, I continue to fight it. I resist because I know the amount of energy it robs from me. The aftermath leaves me high and dry. I’ll be finished for the rest of the day if I let it go forth. So I bottle it up and keep moving. I cram some more in there. Just keep moving. Avoid it at all costs. Any other way than allowing it to visit me.


Any other, any other way


Sometimes a song grabs me so hard and doesn’t let go. I’m laying in bed, wide awake at two in the morning. The song generates a euphoric state for me; a moment when my reality and the world somehow intensify – a flash where everything becomes mind-blowingly vivid.


I can’t explain it


Time slows to a snail’s pace. Perhaps this is some type of enlightenment or awakening I’m experiencing? Too long I’ve been in ‘The Matrix’ of life. Head down, plodding along like a zombie. I recall driving through downtown Vancouver with Jasper. “Look at all the zombies, Papa.“ The city’s core was block after block of unhappy looking people mindlessly slogging along the sidewalk. No one was smiling. No one was looking around. Eyes forward, seeking a prize further upstream, swimming mindlessly: lost in the Matrix. Were those people even alive? There must be some other way to live:


Any other way


I’m wide awake. I scan Facebook for signs of life. Nope. Everyone is asleep, save for a friend posting from the other side of the world in Australia. I look at The National’s website. Hmmmm, they’re playing the Hollywood Bowl in October… I play the song in my headphones. I watch the accompanying video.

Is that what reality is? Is it just a veil before a system of test pattern blocks and grids and code? And if so, maybe I can still be in touch with Jasper in some form. Maybe I can learn the intricacies of the veil and reach him beyond it? This vivid moment I’m experiencing where I’m shaken free of the grid and everything becomes so very raw and real: it’s an awakening. Is it part of the route to where he is?

Maybe you’ve decided to go with option ‘a’: that I’m bat-crap crazy. It’s just a song, Stephen. People don’t try to contact us after they’re dead, Stephen; they just disappear out of our lives forever and that’s that. Dust. Go back to the comfort of the Matrix, Stephen. Bury your feelings and put on a content face and plod along with the masses. Just keep swimming upstream. Just keep moving.

The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We’re in a different kind of thing now
All night you’re talking to God
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way

I get up to get a glass of water. Again, I hear him in the backdrop of that song singing the harmony. And then it all hits me at once. My mind is ill at ease; pondering existentialism, over tired, and restless. I’m confronted with the epiphany of what I’ve lost. The big tidal surge of grief has come at last, and I collapse in a heap on the kitchen floor and I cry, and I cry…