5. I do not know yet what a panic attack is but I am definitely having one. It’s a humid summer night, thick with cloud cover. I am in the car with the windows down; it’s too much wind but I can’t feel enough. There’s a lightning strike coming. My voice is anything but thunder as I scream. I play the song four more times before I pull into my driveway.
4. It comes at me, furtive, a cat burglar. Chorus and bridge, intro and outro, each undoes a twist in the lock. Furious and bitter and miserable, but also relief and contentment and kindness. In the middle of it all, I recognize myself. I start to remember how to be awake.
3. The music is turned up and the pit is stirred up and I clutch at my friend, who clutches back at me, as the disconsolate notes that open the song ring through the speakers, through our chests. In the tender space at the end of the set but before the encore, we are told, if this was the last time we all meet, to keep ourselves alive. I receive it like a benediction, and a promise.
2. Struggling, hands over my ears, useless against a voice from the inside that I do not know how to make stop. I’m crying half a line into the bridge. I thought it would be easier to recover, but I am afraid. I say the words over and over, until the emphasis shifts from something I am hearing to something I am declaring. Speaking the way to safety into existence. 1. There is an outstretched hand, through the ether of this sleepless night. I am sung to through the darkness, over and over, by a song about living at the end of an album about death. I’ll tell you as I am told: survive. Hold on to me; listen with me. Everything you’ve lived through gets you here, and here, you are alive.
Jerica Taylor is a neurodivergent queer cook, birder, and chicken herder. She lives with her wife and young daughter in Western Massachusetts.