You can listen to the audio version of “Sunrise / Sunset” read by Ryan Heller or check out the entry below!
It starts with Bright Eyes’ song, “Sunrise, Sunset”, as I drive up I95. The visual is a pale pink ribbon pirouetting through a black sky, a silk streamer twirling as if guided by a baton. The veil of nineteen-year-old Ryan hangs over my eyes, clouds the horizon like peering through smoky gossamer. Yellow line after yellow line in the express lane, they disappear. Cars around me vanish. The sun shrouded by familiar haze.
Remember when this song was on repeat for days. Locked in a bedroom littered with dismembered doll parts, stitched mouths, Francis Bacon, Jim Morrison, a black mesh net that hung over my bed like a tent. Black lights and body parts, bottles and cigarettes. Remember when I played this song in a therapy session to explain how the lyrics applied to my life, to how I felt. The sun rises, the sun sets, day in and day out – the same routine, the same cycle. I was so depressed. That kind of depressed where lying in bed for days becomes unmanageable because the self-hate for being unproductive only intensifies the suffocating sadness. Madness. A rapid decent.
That kind of depressed when you’re carted through the motions of life on autopilot, detached and oblivious. That kind of depressed when suddenly you’re in a therapists office talking about lyrics to a song you’ve been listening to over and over, when suddenly you’re back in your bedroom trying to find something to numb the void, suddenly in class at college having no idea what anyone is talking about because you’re falling apart, suddenly nose deep in a bag of cocaine. Suddenly –
Voice cracks, strains.
He cries and it is beautiful.
I’d immortalize those moments if I could. Visit them like a lion in a cage if I knew how to live free of time. The limited brain. The sunrise and sunset. The tick of a clock, the tock of fading life. Passing me by.
Remember when it hurt so much that it feels so good now. To close my eyes and find that shadow inside.
Much of this probably doesn’t make sense. It’s like crossed wires sending off electric impulse, triggering moments in a stream of consciousness. But I don’t want to talk about sadness, had no intention to write about depression. I guess that’s how it works. Close your eyes and see what comes out. Because the word vomit is here for a reason, memories come to play for a purpose I’ll maybe understand later.
The next visual is a boy standing at the edge of a cliff. An infinite landscape, endless mountain peaks surrounded by thin layers of cloud. He stands as the only boy, the only man left in the world. In his world. Left alone, isolated. Until the cliff isn’t a cliff and the mountains are no longer mountains. Until cardboard cutouts are pulled away to reveal a lush jungle, pulled away to reveal a cityscape of skyscrapers and bustling streets, pulled away to reveal a white picket fence surrounding a one-story home as family eats around the dinner table, pulled away to reveal prehistoric land of raw earth and pure ocean water, pulled away to dazzling stars and endless black nothingness.
I silence the music because my head scrambles. Eyes burn.
A small bottle of Pellegrino lay empty on gray shag next to me.
Every so often we’re given bits of information that wipes shade from our eyes. Information that instantly changes how we see the world and we know, we know so profoundly that things will never be the same. Our perspective is changed in an instant and there is no going back. Like watching a movie focused solely on one character while missing the viewpoint from another. Santa Claus isn’t real. My parents are the tooth fairy. Earth is round. Or maybe, maybe it’s simple as realizing my hero is not so heroic, my right has really been my wrong, and there is no true end or beginning.
I can accept something, someone as fact; or allow for the variable of dynamic evolution. Nothing is static and things always change, including our perspective on everything. What was once my greatest asset could easily become my greatest flaw could easily become irrelevant. I like structure and balance, to see what lies ahead and be prepared. I like to paint my life in a specific shade and no longer have to think about it. I like to surround myself with people who I deem as good. I don’t want to reexamine, don’t want the walls to crack or leaves to fall. I plant a tree and expect it to stay alive, to thrive and shine green.
I can say there are always two sides. There is life and death, good and bad, right and wrong. These things, these people, they fall into either category and that great shift is truly between the two.
But I’m not sure anymore.
I’m not sure it’s so simple anymore.
A human being is not good or bad. We are multi-dimensional prisms acting on infinite levels throughout our lifetime. I can take a person at face value, understand their influence in my life – accept or reject their impact. I can see them as friend or foe, mother or father, teacher or student. Good or bad, happy or sad, black or white. Or instead I can see them as spectrums. As limitless hues of color and frequency. As beings beyond body and action, beyond physical and mental comprehension. Close my eyes and erase the manual of who’s who; start fresh with feeling, not with sight. Allow intuition to guide, assumption and judgment aside.
But I see with three-dimensional eyes, feel with intuition clouded by emotion and question.
Those gifts of clarity help to shatter molds and free the spirit to elevate.
I remember listening to “Sunrise, Sunset” in college thinking life would never change. Lonely, scared, hopeless, wanting to evaporate. Knowing there was something greater in me but too beaten down to see it. Being so acutely aware I was wasting my life caught in a fishing net of my making. I can hear the song today and immediately be brought back, like part of me still lives as that nineteen-year-old. The emotions so real I’m left sullen, driving up I95 dazed while the album plays.
My initial instinct is to say those feelings remind me where I came from. Say I’ve shed that part of myself. Can look back and realize how much has changed, how happy I am today. Say that while sometimes things seem bleak in the moment, there is always a reason to push through. Which is all very true, very corny and very limited. Because to look back is to say that time is linear and the past no longer exists. It is past. Gone.
But maybe it’s not so black and white, maybe it all still exists in some form. Maybe that stitch in my fabric crosses through the entire blanket, pierces the thin sheath of muslin to another side. Maybe all our stitching weaves in and out of each other in one continuous tangled knot.
I don’t know.
I’m not sure where this is going.
If I close my eyes and concentrate, which I just did, if I close my eyes and concentrate I think it’s all really saying: open your mind.
Open your mind.
I think it’s the slow fall of old ideas and hopefully the evolution of new ones. To connect with those feelings again is to connect with myself, a part of me I don’t ever want to lose. The part labeled sad or dark. The part that both rounds my heart and crushes my chest, the part that holds space for others who understand it.
We base time on the sunrise and the sunset, we base our worth on what we do with those hours in between.
But there is so much more.
And I’d like to feel it. Whatever it is. Whatever else there is.
Once the walls come down, the hieroglyphics erased. Once those seeds of insight sprout and the change embraced. Once I see not as I’ve always seen, once I’ve felt not as I’ve always felt. Once I say what I need to say, maybe the ache will stop. The bough will break. The growth will start. Maybe then this will make sense and I’ll exist without limits, expand exponentially.
But I’m not ready.
Not ready to say it yet.
Not able to see it yet.
To feel it yet.
Not entirely ready yet.
To give her up just yet.
Give her up.
But there it is.
Really powerful Ryan. I opted to listen for the first time. I just was able to, had the space to. This is a brilliant piece of prose. Like the weaving in the not enough all the people, and memories, and songs the piece describes, it follows the same fantastic and colorful pattern. Loved it.