After a few minutes, Dave said, “I think we need to start getting serious.” He reached into a briefcase and placed three spiral notebooks on the table with band names and logos scrawled into the covers.
“Hey, my notebooks!” I’d forgotten them in the rush to get out the door when the social workers picked us up.
Dave spread them out on the table and flipped through the pages. “What were you trying to express in this song, ‘Fade to Black’?”
“That’s a Metallica song.”
“Yes, I see you have that written underneath. You have a whole section devoted to what you call your favorite rockers: ‘Mommy’s Little Monster,’ ‘Suicide’s An Alternative,’ ‘Annihilate This Week.’ What is it about these songs that made you want to write them out in your notebook?”
“I wanna be a songwriter, so I write out lyrics as practice. I study how the verses, bridges and choruses work together. Most of the songs in there I wrote.”
“I see that…” Dave flipped through the pages. “This is one of yours: ‘If telling you would kill you, to realize would be suicide.’ What did you mean by that?”
“It just, you know, sounded cool.”
Dave turned the page. “Here you have, ‘One of these days when I have the guts, I’m gonna jump right in front of a pick-up truck.’ Another one goes, ‘Sometimes I just wanna blow it all away. Light a fuse and watch the world go up in flames.’ That one you titled ‘Hate Bomb’.”
“They’re just songs,” I said with an awkward chuckle. “They aren’t supposed to mean anything.”
“What kind of songwriter would you be if you wrote songs that had no meaning?”
“I mean, yeah, sure… they have some meaning. But you’re reading them all wrong. I’m just trying to come up with songs that rock, you know?”
“You don’t think this subject matter reflects your true feelings?”
“No. I’m not afraid to say what I want.” I laughed to show how good-natured I was. “Look, you’re totally judging these songs based on the words. But that’s only part of it. My songs are about the music as much as the lyrics. These are just words on paper, so you have to imagine the rest of the song… the power of the music.” I reached for one of the notebooks and flipped to a particular page. “Take this song right here, ‘Prisoner of Time.’ This one I just wrote. It starts out real mellow, almost a ballad—but once the verses start, it gets fast, but not too fast. It’s still slowly building up to the bridge. Then it’s like—” I replicated the sounds of the instruments with my mouth, blowing out air rapidly through parsed lips: “Dun dundun! Dun dundun! Dun dundun! Dun dundun! Then it goes back into the verses again. But after the second bridge it keeps building to the chorus where the guitars go, Chuga chuga chuga chuga. Chuga chuga chuga chuga. The double bass kicks in and it’s getting faster…” I tapped my feet rapidly against the floor. “Then the lead guitar starts to wail.” I pantomimed playing a guitar. “Right, and then it’s like, ‘I’m a prisoner! Prisoner! Prisoner of time! And he walls! The walls! They’re all in my mind!’” I covered my mouth to replicate the background vocals. “Then it just goes totally insane, the drumbeat is all over the place as the bass follows the lead guitar: ‘Prisoner! Prisoner! Break free!’” I leaned back in the chair and folded my arms across my chest.
“So you see, that song’s really about freedom, you know? I wasn’t trying to be negative or anything.”
Dave smiled at my performance. “I can see you are very enthusiastic about your music.”
Just when I thought we were getting somewhere and Dave would realize I didn’t need his help, he pushed the notebook with the plain green cover across the table. “What about this one?”
The green notebook was my journal. My mind raced as I tried to remember all the crazy stuff I’d written. I knew there were detailed descriptions of my trysts with Missy, commemorated in case I forgot any of the details. But there were also death fantasies, the pros and cons of suicide
As Dave stared at me, I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there, trying to not look crazy.
“I think we need to start talking about why you’re here,” Dave finally said.
— from A Masque of Infamy