When Dillon and I met, I only listened to a certain type of music. I was confined to the slow stuff. Every other kind of music was too heavy for my small ears. I was uncomfortable. I distinguished myself as being sensitive to sound, and I still claimed that diagnosis when I was eighteen. I was sensitive to sound when I was five.
When your mother spends her free time diagnosing you with things, being sensitive to sound is as real as diabetes. She bought me earplugs and we treated it like medication from then on. They were stored in the junk drawer, where old batteries and magnets that will never go on our refrigerator went. I only used the plugs for the Fireman’s Carnival that happened every July, a family outing with all five of us. But by then, my sisters peeled off my father’s hands and I was the only one left. Childhood was slow like honey but I had a better awareness each year. I stared at the people next to me more and shrugged when my mom squeezed my little body into hers. There were little girls that looked like me (daintier, maybe), fiddling with their ears as well. I slowly removed myself like a garter from my mother’s leg. I said I didn’t need the earplugs anymore, and even if I did, I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t feel special anymore. I told her I was Christly cured.
The first time I saw Dillon was at his show at ‘Elephant Graveyard,’ a garage with an attic that a mother spared for young musicians. My best friends and I hadn’t dipped our tiny toes in the toxicity of emotionally guarded artists yet, so we felt equally scared and aroused. We took account of them watching us as we walked up. I hid in the back, covering my smile with my hair and trying to flush the red out of my cheeks by focusing on gravel. His band painted the letters on an old bed sheet and hung it on the top of the garage. We went for Dan, our friend who was in a folk band that all shareda common interest in religion. It was his first gig, so it was a big deal. I don’t know how Dan’s band got in there, but they opened for Dillon’s.
You started out talking because everyone came here for you. Maybe you knew that we were all hanging on every word you said, but maybe you didn’t. I wonder if anyone cared to tell you, if anyone was that valiant here. When you sang, all your best friends moshed from one side of the small attic to the other. They hurdled each other’s bodies like lions, and I was squeamish watching them like someone had just stripped me down at nine in the morning. The sweat permeated the sides of your shirt and dripped into your mouth. I was in the back, nowhere to be touched, and anxiously shrugged when my friends would look at me to check in. I stood there, digging my sharp fingernails into my wet palms and crossing my legs to decrease the circumference of my body. I watched through my wet bangs and uncertainty, thinking about what kind of girls you had sex with. I guess the better word would be ‘fuck’ for you–sex seems too delicate. Your friends praised you after each song, and they would squeeze your small body because some of your songs were about them. I wondered how your friends would describe you when you weren’t around. I wonder how I would.
I don’t want to talk about the way you died anymore. I have written too many pieces about it and I think people get tired of grief even if they won’t say it. When they put you in the ground, I listened to my first song with screaming. It wasn’t hard like your music, I wasn’t to that place yet, but it was my feeding tube for the time following January. My roommates grew to like it too but they knew I couldn’t just listen to it with them so they would skip it. I don’t know if they knew it was because of you but they didn’t ask questions. One day one of them was making friendship bracelets, so I asked for Car Radio.
I started listening to more of that music. The last song you recorded before you died was called Death Bed. Everyone talked about how fucked up that was. They wondered if you knew that you were dying soon, too, if that’s why you did it. Dillon would do something like that, they’d say. I’ve never listened to it. I wind up shutting it off the moment you start screaming. So I go and find more artists instead. I try to talk to people that like the same music you did. It makes up for the shit I will never get back. I went to the festival your band was performing in but they had to replace the singer. He’s good, clean-cut, and he probably doesn’t do the things you used to do. But I think you know all of that.
If I could go to Elephant Graveyard again I would run around with all your dumb friends. They had it figured it out sooner than I did, and I’m sorry. I’m not sensitive to sound anymore.