I think it’s safe to say I needed to cry. It’s the only explanation for the fact I sat there in the front row, face streaming by the time the first song had finished. It must have already been there, waiting to spring out at the slightest provocation. There was a time when I was permanently primed to sob at anything; Eastenders, a nice dinner lady dropping a ladle and looking dead embarrassed, dead bees. The embarrassing list is embarrassingly endless. But I cry less quickly now. Age, I think. Perhaps my hormones govern me differently, perhaps I’m just a bit more used to the world being a difficult beast to wrangle with, but though I cry less often, when I cry I really like to get it all out. And it all comes out of those tiny little orifices we call tear ducts. How strange that those tiny channels through which our pain rages, small as pin-pricks, can stretch wide as a river-mouth to purge our souls.
It’s unfortunate, though, when it happens at a friend’s gig, in the front row, with no tissue and only a sleeve to dispose of the mess. My friend Ross was doing a big gorgeous gig in an old church under his musical guise Blue Rose Code, up here in his native Edinburgh, or Edina as he calls it. He’s a superlatively lush singer-songwriter who’s got Ewan McGregor and Ian Rankin banging on about how they can’t stop listening to him, which is pretty cool.
I don’t suppose it helped that I had had a glass of white wine beforehand. It is the demon juice. I don’t know why I do it. It is tantamount to standing naked on a cliff, screaming at the gods to smite me. But in a glass. (Self-destruction tastes sweet sometimes, doesn’t it.)
I also don’t suppose it helped that I was teetering at the emotional end of the spectrum anyway. The Edinburgh Festival is a glorious privilege, but you fucking pay for it by being dragged to the city limits of your vulnerability, draped in the torn flag of neurosis, swigging 100% proof doubt from a hipflask. But it also didn’t help that Ross, that beautiful tyke, writes songs deliberately designed to make a mess of you.
So let’s blame him. As he played, singing songs about love – old love, new love, Edinburgh, London, running away, coming home, breaking things, being broken, mending, loving again, all accompanied by wondrous musicians – those tiny little pin-pricks in the corners of my eyes dawned open and it all came tumbling out. Everything. And I did it in silence, but for two loud humiliating honking sniffs. The moment Ross finished playing I legged it to the loos to sort my face out. I straightened myself up like a Picasso on the wonk. Then I went out to tell him he was wonderful and I hated him.
As I sat talking to the musicians who had played that night, I realised why I had been rendered such a mess. The songs had coaxed out old things. I think it was the first time I had cried for my marriage. That silly too-brief thing that should never have happened in the first place. I had walked away from it and barely looked back and I had certainly never mourned it or missed him. Isn’t that dreadful. I found instead that rather rude alternative; happiness. But of course those songs should have born a spike up here in Edinburgh. I had performed up here for years with my ex, and then once we broke up Edinburgh became a new place altogether, of my own work, my own fun, my own self. It occurred to me I had never looked back and been outwardly thankful or sad for the nice things we had had together briefly at the start, because I was so focused on looking forward and finding myself after having felt like I’d been in a pocket for years. Ross’s music, so exquisitely bare and open about love, made me see I rarely talk about love. I think I’m still figuring bits out. Perhaps I will write a big book about it in a couple of decades time when I’ve let my hair grow out grey and I walk in total candour. But Ross provoked a response in me that I was not expecting. I’m not sure if I was given a time machine whether I would erase my marriage altogether because you can’t ever really want to be rid of the things that teach you about yourself and life, but I do think I would erase certain things. Even though we are better apart, even though it feels like another life, a forgotten page in a book I’ve not read for years, it turns out that some part of me – perhaps the quietly toiling archivist in my heart – needed to honour the time we were together – just for an hour, with tears, before forgetting again. Because that was my life then, and by wiping things from our minds we shorten our lives. It takes courage to live unabridged.
Add some Blue Rose Code to your life: http://bluerosecode.com