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blues, grays, and permutations thereof

The first time I heard this song in a TV show, a teenager who suffered a heart attack is being resuscitated, a man who murdered his brother is in prison for killing someone else, a fetus' heartbeat is heard for the first time after its pregnant high school mother wakes up from a coma, a heartbroken ex-girlfriend comes to terms with her great love and best friend being together.

Such incredible recovery from dire circumstances. I was fifteen years old, bawling my eyes out, completely alien to losses of this magnitude, but nonetheless affected by it. That episode hit me hard, but for reasons that don't really go beyond the show. Like a dutiful fan, I took that song with me - I found a copy on Limewire, put it on my iPod, and had it filed under my 'One Tree Hill mix.' And life went on as usual.



Peyton walks into the record store, looking for nothing in particular through the shelves of vinyl. Max, the record store owner, sees her, and smiles - the kind that tells the audience these two have known each other for a long time. He tells him he's heard about the accident and asks her how her friends are doing.

Not so good. Nobody's good. I guess I should be in church or something, 
but, somehow I ended up here.

Hey. First time you came here, remember what you were looking for? 
Like A Stone by Audioslave. At least that's what you said you were looking for. 
But I kind of always thought you were looking for a little faith. 
Most days, I think you still are.

Max walks towards the counter.

MAX (cont'd)
But then again, I'm 32, I live with my parents. What the hell do I know?

At this point, Peyton begins to cry.

Then, I heard it again, after a very long time. I was waking up from a long, deep sleep, with my throat itchy from tracheal intubation. There were lights above my head but they were too bright, too blurry. I heard someone whisper, "You're alright, you did good." I remember thinking I have to reach out for his hand, but when I glanced on my wrist it was still beside me. The room smelled of latex and bleach. It took the longest four seconds for me to lift it above the cold, metal bed rail and reach out again. He saw it and squeezed my fingers as they wheeled me into another room. I never saw his face again, but his voice is as crystal clear as the coda of a song.

The other night I had a surprisingly great talk with a friend from college, while I tried to study and she tried to let off some steam from work. For the first time, we did not do a lot of catching up. Instead, we talked about how we had a conversation like this six years ago, as college juniors who imagined for ourselves a life beyond the rules and expectations people have set for us. We were such good girls - so good at being good, so good at pretending to be okay with it. We'll earn our freedom one day, we thought.

We think about how okay we actually turned out. But then we also realized how far it was from what we imagined. By then we'd be this, we once said. We're sure to be freer, we hypothesized. But we didn't know any better then. And now here we are, half a decade later. Good girls, with a solid paycheck for her and another degree soon for me. And we're not any different.

But we're not sad about it. It's just not what we expected.

I gave up on reading the news. I don't even click headlines anymore. I should, I really should, but I'm taking a break. I just find myself asking more and more, what's the point of even studying all this? When out there the world refuses to listen?

But that's the point, Karla, you all say. You have to learn all these things so you can stand by what is right.

I try to find some sort of redemption in fighting back, but it gets lost in a cesspool of stupidity and idiocy - and I am left with more hatred and frustration than compassion. Which is not a good place to be in.

So I took a step back. It's me mentally walking out on a fight and shutting a door to their face.

But at least that's still there right? Better than apathy.

I've been going to church every week since I was in the womb, but lately I realized how much I appreciate the ritual more when I'm alone. Sometimes though I still find myself lost when praying. Like, what do I still need to pray for, I'm probably part of the statistic categorized as "luckier than most people." So I just keep thanking, and thanking, and thanking. Thankful for their health, thankful for their patience, thankful for His kindness. Thankful for every act of divinity that makes me sleep soundly and wakes me up alright. Then, it's when the Mass is finished, during my walks back to my condo that I realize I forgot to ask, to request. I keep forgetting.

It's like I feel like I've run out of things to ask for, because they've been given without me ever considering them. How blessed, some will unironically say. How undeserving, says the voice inside my head.

So I keep thanking, thanking, and thanking nonetheless.

I've been hearing "Non-Believer" again, and again, in loud crescendos or faint whispers, at random intervals. Do you take the non-believer? the song asks. What is there to hold onto? Maybe this is the 20's, maybe this is just life. Maybe this is just that point in time where we realize certain parts of us have been shed, and shed for good. It's like taking off a layer of you just for the meantime, hoping to put it back on again - only to realize later that it no longer fits.

Sadness is too big a word to label it. It is not this sweeping, disintegrating wave; it is not crippling misery. When someone asks me, "Are you sad?" and I say, "No, I'm not," it wouldn't be a lie. In fact, I'm actually happy and content. I'm excited about this semester ending; I'm thrilled to finally be concluding an important chapter of my life and beginning a new one. I have made mistakes, and recovered. I had my confidence shattered, but found pieces of it in parts of me I didn't know I had. I have learned to appreciate what I do. I have come to terms with my past, how it makes whole my present, and how it will help propel me in the future.

I have loved, so much, and I have been loved back, in an even greater magnitude.

So, in many ways, I am not sad. I am not lonely. I am not... in despair. I don't need help. I don't need checking up on. I don't need people fussing over me like I'm a helpless newborn animal. Am I whining over nothing?

I guess I'm just at this point where I have more questions than answers, more doubts than certainties. 

I wouldn't even know if there is a name to this, this, this feeling of blue. Or gray. Blues and grays. Blues and grays that come in fragments and leave a small trace of their hues.

Maybe this is just the 20's. The quarter-life finally hitting me?


I just want to believe everything will be okay. I just really, 
really want to believe that it's going to be okay.

I know. Tell you what. Middle bin, four albums in. 
That's where your answers are.

La Toya Jackson?

Alright, five albums in.

La Rocca.

Track 10. It's on me.

Peyton, with tears still in her eyes, smiles at him, grateful. She starts to leave, and as she steps out the door, Max calls to her.

And Peyton? You're way too young to believe it's not gonna be okay.

It gets better, I suppose.

In the meantime, here's to the songs that pull us out from the rubble. To the songs we find, and love, and live with, and die by.