Ashes to Ashes

Editor Fiona George, Music, January 13th, 2016

"...the request sheet is full of David Bowie."

david bowie elegy memorial essay
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

 

“Is David Bowie dead?”

It’s not something I have to think about. It’s a truth taken for granted. He just put a new album out. A masterpiece of a ten minute single. He’d only begun using jazz influences in his work.

“No.” What an absurd question.

“It’s just, that group of people is talking about it.” My best friend, she points to the group circled around the fire pit.

Everyone’s wearing black, like a funeral. But it’s not a funeral, it’s goth night.

I pull out my tablet and google faster than I ever have. Article after article, Bowie dead at 69. Articles from a half hour ago, forty-five minutes ago, an hour ago. An 18 month battle with cancer. I didn’t even know.

 +

Inside the club, it’s a slow night. More people outside around the fire pit than on the dance floor. Inside my chest, I’m too aware of my heart—its beat, its tight dark ache. I can’t help but feel like the world is a little less mine, belongs a little less to the freaks.

The dark, green and red laser lights hit the ceiling, break through the fog coming off the stage in front of the DJ. A blank request sheet at the edge of the stage.

I write BOWIE in all caps, some of my favorite tracks. “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “Rock n’ Roll Suicide,” I’m the first, but not the last.

The DJ is one of those goth DJs who plays a bunch of modern industrial and won’t throw on some Sisters of Mercy, no matter how many songs you request. My dance is half-assed. Nothing but a little sway. I want to hear Bowie, goddamn it.

+

Crying and curled up on my twin mattress, I wanted to kill myself. This is one of many times. I hadn’t made any cuts on my skin yet, but I wanted to. I turned to music. To Bowie.

“Rock n’ Roll Suicide” to keep myself from wanting to commit suicide. Oh no, love, you’re not alone. At the height of the song, those words, his voice. He was out there, and I wasn’t alone, his music could hold me.

 +

Within minutes, the request sheet is full of David Bowie. Everyone has their favorite song. RIP written all over. Another DJ is taking over.

I feel hollow. Something I’ve always known to be true, will never be true again. Someone who I look to for hope, gone.

At the end of some modern goth song I’m not into, the place goes silent. The DJ, backlit behind a table full of equipment—computers and shit, no one’s used turn tables in this city since before my time—her silhouette a corset and long dark hair.

“We just got the news that David Bowie died,”she says.

“This one is for him,” she says.

“Heroes,” it’s perfect. It’s on everyone’s favorites list, it has the power to transcend, make us more than we are. More than a handful of freaks in all black, spending our Sunday in the dark hollow of a dance club, the smell of man-made fog seeping into our clothes.

My face to the ceiling, green lasers dancing up there in the dark. My feet underneath me, spinning me in dreamy circles. My whole torso bends back and forth to the music. My hands hold each other on my chest, the hollow inside me fills.

 +

The first time I heard “Heroes,” I was in a car on the windy road up to the hot springs near my city. In the car, were four other people I hardly know anymore, people who I’m barely on speaking terms with anymore.

Car sickness hit me hard on that trip. Soon as we got to a rest stop, I pulled out the tiny broken pipe I had at the time, smoked a bowl and felt my stomach begin to settle.

Back in the car, I laid across the back seat, still a little nauseous. It was a grey night sky of overcast clouds, the tops of the evergreens through the window cut silhouettes.

Someones iPod plugged in, and a song I never heard. “Heroes.” Music winding like the road, the ever-familiar voice of Bowie—a promise.

We could be heroes.

 +

After “Heroes,” she plays “Ashes to Ashes.” It fits so much it hurts. The previously abandoned dance floor is full. Some people, I think they knew. One guy, he’s dressed like David Bowie in Labyrinth. Another couple guys, they’re dressed like Bowie. Not from a costume or movie or album cover I can place, just similar to him.

Or maybe they were just celebrating his birthday. He just had a birthday.

+

David Bowie was from another world. Whether you take that literally or figuratively is up to you. Either way, one thing I know, is that he knew his time was coming. If you watch his last video—the ten minute title track of his new album, Blackstar—it is nothing if not a goodbye.

You can see it in the skeletal remains of Major Tom.

You can hear it in the lyrics.

 +

Something happened on the day he died

Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside

Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried

 + + +

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Fiona George

Fiona George was born and raised in Portland, OR, where she's been lucky to have the chance to work with authors like Tom Spanbauer and Lidia Yuknavitch. She writes a monthly column "In This Body" for NAILED Magazine, and has also been published on The Manifest-Station, and in Witchcraft Magazine.