Pain Management

French Cricket's picture

Pain Management

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Liner Notes: 

I read this horribly tragic story on Twitter this morning, and it felt like a song, told from the psychiatrist's POV over different time periods.

Read it below and feel sad too. The story was on a thread about people who made marriage pacts.

Oh by the way, the piano is a bit lofi because I could only record it on my phone.


Probably too late for this not to get buried, but I have a story about this. We met in college, and were instant best friends. I was 20; she was 18. We spent all our time together, and were briefly lovers, but we never formally dated because both of us were very much into being wild and free and enjoying our youth. We dated other people on and off, but we talked about it and agreed that a committed relationship between the two of us would be an all-or-nothing kind of thing. Since neither of us wanted to give up our hedonistic, promiscuous, irresponsible lifestyle, we made a point of not committing to a relationship. A few years went by that way, and we were very happy, right up until her sisters died.

It was a car accident. They were 16 and 18, and both were killed in the crash. Dead on arrival at the hospital. My friend was utterly, completely devastated. It still hurts me to remember it, even now. Her father, though, was even more devastated, to the point where he was legitimately willing to let himself starve to death rather than try to go on living. She moved home, out of state, to take care of him. She cut ties with everyone for awhile, even me. I didn't see her again for two years. She was so different after that. Before the accident, she'd always been the most joyful, exuberant, positive person I'd ever met. After she came back, she was quieter, sadder, maybe wiser. I wanted to be there for her more than I'd ever wanted anything in the world. Not being able to fix things for her, not being able to make it better, that hurt more than anything I could ever remember. I guess that's when I realized how in love with her I was.

I told her that I loved her, that I wanted to be there with her, and she told me that she couldn't handle the idea of any kind of emotional connection for awhile. Maybe a few years, she said. Maybe never. Maybe she'd never be able to open up emotionally again. She said she needed space from me, particularly from me. She said she needed to figure out what it meant to be alive in a world where her sisters were gone. She asked me to give her time, and I told her that I'd give her anything she wanted. She told me that she'd never been happier than she was when we were together. I told her the same. I told her that I understood, and that's when we made our pact. I was 25 then, and she was 23. We agreed: if she turned 30 and I turned 32, and if she had learned to heal, and if she hadn't fallen in love with someone else, and if I hadn't fallen in love with someone else, then we'd get married. So that's how we parted ways. She moved to Wyoming, to be alone. I moved to Germany, to get as far away from her as I could. We didn't keep in touch at first, but over the next few years we built up a correspondence. We wrote letters because we both liked writing letters. We emailed now and then. Sometimes we'd mail each other books that we thought the other would like. Years went on, and we became closer and closer. When I turned 30, I half-jokingly brought up our marriage pact. I told her that I hadn't ever fallen for anyone else. (I didn't mention this, but I couldn't have fallen for anyone else. I always compared every other woman to her, and in my memory she was perfect.) She replied that she was still very serious about our agreement, and that she'd never fallen in love with anyone else either. I asked her if she thought she had begun to heal, and she said she had, as much as a person could ever heal from something like that. A year later, she told me she'd like us to meet and spend some time together, to see if the spark was still there. It was. She was living in California at that time, and I found a job there. I'd always wanted to live in California anyway. I proposed to her six months later, and she smiled and told me "no fair", that I had to wait another few months, when she'd be turning 30. I thought it was silly, but at that point things were going so well that a few months didn't seem like they could matter at all. But I'm crying now, so I'll have to wrap this up quickly.

She died. That's how the story ends. She was hit by a drunk driver and spent 2 days in the ICU before her body gave out. I went to her funeral. I spoke to her father but I barely remember what we said. I've never spoken to him since. I don't have the willpower to make myself find out how he's doing. That will be four years ago this November. I'm in therapy and trying to learn how to have feelings again, other than blank, mindless, miserable rage. I often wonder if this is what it felt like for her. She made progress. She learned to feel again. That thought is what keeps me going. She did it. She'd want me to do it.
That's it. That's the story. It's a shitty story, and I hate it.

EDIT: This is very difficult for me, in that I didn't expect to go back and re-read this, but all the replies dinging on my phone were too much to ignore. It's hard to explain what it's like to only have two emotional states - anger and nothing. Someone said this reminded them of a Nicholas Sparks story and...
Here's the difference between life and a love story: in a book, she'd have regained consciousness before she died. In a movie, she'd have opened her eyes and looked at me one last time. I wouldn't have had to see her all smashed up with tubes in her throat. I'd have had a chance to tell her how much I loved her instead of the last words I said to her being, "Don't forget to pick up Scout's flea medicine." I'd be noble and tragic now, instead of a miserable shell of a person just trying and failing to believe that anything could ever be worth anything ever again.

I'm sorry. I'm so angry. I want to delete this post but my therapist would tell me that this is progress, somehow. Thank you all for your kind words. If I have any advice to give, it's to go hold the people you love while there's still time. I have to go take some medicine now. Please have a very nice night. Thank you again for being kind.



This new reality
Which you explained to me
Was your epiphany
In the last session we had
Would you like to talk a little more?
Cut ties, and a move to the city
when you're feeling so shitty
Then you put up a wall

So you can't call Alexander
Though you leave him hanging
On the receiver
That's you
Always running on fumes
Well, who is supposed to take care of you?
If you've not processed your sisters' deaths
You're covering up the rear-view

If there's no space in my brain
And I don't know
If he feels the same
We can't go back
The mind finds ways of dealing
With the pain

So you were saying, you'd got back together
Though it had seemed like
It had taken forever
Alex - I can see you don't wanna talk
Is there anything more
That you'd like to explore?
I'm sorry - but I can't say
She is an ex-patient
And that still holds sway

I'm so sorry Alexander
There's nothing I can say
This just isn't fair
My boss will be unhappy I'm sure
But I'll clear my afternoon
And come with you to the morgue

Though there's no space in my brain
I am quite sure
She felt the same
We can't go back
The mind finds ways of dealing
With the pain

Please keep your comments respectful, honest, and constructive. Please focus on the song and not the demo.


3tdoan's picture

What a wallop of a story. I dig the arrangement on this one, the layering of horns and drums, and where it all cuts back. The piano line is ace.

Stephen Wordsmith's picture

It's a fraught and difficult thing, singing the tragedy of another. But you have done it with sensitivity, insight, thoughtfulness, and a degree of technical skill that only becomes apparent on the fifth and subsequent listens when the heart is done and the head is enjoying the effort and talent that has gone into the piece.

tcelliott's picture

The story is heartbreaking and this song is like a salve on the still smouldering remains. It's very well written, arranged and performed, but it's hard to separate the "like" I feel for the song with the anger and sadness from the liner notes. Still, you've written one of the songs I'm sure to remember from this 50/90 for quite a while.

Vom Vorton's picture

Absolutely wonderful! I was a bit scared of how this story would translate to song but you've done it with such a delicate touch. The lo-fi piano sounds great, and I love the layers of other instruments - the glockenspiel / toy piano (?) reminds me of Balance Lost a bit, and the strings and horn swells are beautiful.

Valerie Cox's picture

Oh my god, your story just made me cry. I'm so sorry this happened. It's just awful. How you make such a wonderful sounding song from this I just don't know, but it is great. The music is so deceptively upbeat and positive, with just a little melancholiness to hint at the lyrics.

expendable friend's picture

Ouch at that story...what a kick to the guts. It's inspired something quite wonderful here, though. The music is rather uplifting, despite the crushing tale behind the lyrics.

You're finishing 50/90 with some really strong vocal melodies. Sure you want to stop at 50?

Rob From Amersfoort's picture

That's a very sad story. Real life is not like the movies indeed. Interesting drum pattern!