I recently listened to a vocals-only recording of the Beach Boys song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
This is several weeks after listening to the isolated vocal track of the Nirvana song “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
It took a tremendous amount of effort to sit through both of these songs without their backing instrumentals. Kurt Cobain’s voice is harsh and loud and you can feel the energy in his throat while you listen to him singing. The entire track is haunting. Without instruments it’s empty, and the dead space is vibrating with anxiety. His voice, his words, and the presence of nothing behind them leaves me feeling so eerie and apprehensive.
The Beach Boys song is less difficult to get through on a sound level; the vocals and the harmonies are pleasant and charming. The silences are less nervous, and are just a pause of time rather than an invitation to sit on the edge of your seat and make fists with your hands. The distressing part of the Beach Boys song is the lyrics.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice to live together in a world where we belong.”
I thought immediately about Tyler, and how much older he will never be. He is 23 forever, while I’ll continue to age. How impossible it is for me to think about my 20’s without him there, and I’ve already passed 23. How selfish of me, to continue existing. How could I just give him a bit of my life?
Tyler and I both feel more at home in Europe, but we don’t get to live together anymore. How angry I was at this music; I wanted to look at the Beach Boys and scream at them in the face. It would be nice, if Tyler were not dead, if he could grow older, if he could live where he wanted to live.
I had to pause the song. I got caught up in all the “would-be’s” of Tyler’s life, and of my life. There are so many things that would be nice, but that will not be, that cannot be. There are so many things I will have to find another way to enjoy, to feel remotely happy, to harness some kind of point out of.
I keep using the present tense; I don’t know which verb tense is appropriate for the dead. The past, because they are gone? The present, because they just stopped where they were? Where did they go? A question I’ve asked myself since I lost my grandmother, and for each subsequent loss since. Where have they gone? I struggle to understand where I am, here on this planet. I can barely fathom what happens to the deceased, and why the holes they leave feel so impossible to close.
Tyler took so many of my memories with him; I can hardly recall an event that occurred between September and May. I don’t know if this is some psychological defense mechanism against feeling emotional pain, or if I have legitimately forgotten everything. I hope not. I want to remember; I want to remember everything good and hilarious and meaningful that happened in our lives, in our apartment.
I want to remember, and I want all of these would-be’s to feel less horrific. I want to turn them into “wasn’t it nice.” I want to turn it all into a jubilant celebration of a beautiful life; but my heart twinges.