In the park, I close my eyes and imagine myself as a wolf returning the cave that shelters her pups. It's been another day with no game, no blood in my stomach. I lay my body before them, they press their furry little mouths against my chest. I have less and less to give them every day.
My daydream transforms the litter into a human child, sucking at my human nipple. I fear as much as the wolf mother my inability to provide. I'm imprisoned by my physicality. I become a flower. My worth becomes limited to what my body can produce, but I still feel compelled to give all I can. A bee lands on me. It's quivering with anticipation for my nectar. It's anxious body rattles my petals, my stem, until I'm quivering, too.
I first heard Radiohead coming from my older brother James' room. He had a few friends over and they were listening to Hail To The Thief. "We Suck Young Blood" came on, and I thought it was about vampires. I was into vampires at thirteen, so I started listening to the album. James and I used to freak out to the hypnotic dance breakdown at the end of "Sit Down, Stand Up." He'd jump up and down on the couch and I'd flop around on the ground like I was having a seizure.
I listened to Pablo Honey in my CD player as I walked to school, as seasons changed, as I gradually wore less and less black. I transitioned into a world of grey areas, singing for a minute there I lost myself, while trying to capture the essence of Johnny Greenwood's hair with a pencil and paper.
Then there was the boy I gave my virginity to, not too long before my fourteenth birthday. His feet smelled when he took his socks off. For the first few seconds, I forgot how to breathe. I tried to figure out how I should be reacting. It felt tingly down there, I got the sensation of pins and needles, but not much of any other feeling.
"Don't girls usually make like, a noise?" he asked.
"I dunno," I said.
"It's usually like, 'uh,' 'uh,' or something like that," he said. "I like it when girls make that sound."
So I made the noise, corresponding with each thrust. Uh. Uh. The hollow utterances feeling as empty as the amen I'd say before dinner. Each a hidden wish for it all to be over.
I didn't have to say it too many times, though. I could've counted them on my fingers, before he started sucking air in through his teeth. I had to ask him if he was okay, it sounded like he stubbed his toe or hit his funny bone. He said he was coming. I didn't ask what that meant, I had a year or so to find out.
I walked home that night, after he fell asleep. The streets were quiet as a tundra. No cars drove past me. I got home and found my CD player and listened to "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" as the morning's first light came to haunt my bedroom windows.
Mom grounded me when she found out I had walked home alone at night. She thought I was at a girlfriend's house. I wanted to tell her what really happened, so she would ground me forever. Of course, I didn't. I instead took the month to fully melt into my adolescent chrysalis. Radiohead was there for me in that cocoon.
I walk back home from the park. I put my headphones on and cue up A Moon Shaped Pool. I close my eyes to listen. As Thom Yorke sings "burn the witch," all I can see are naked bodies, men and women, young and old, as if in a film projector, with a different naked body for each frame. I can keep up for a minute, distinguishing each as individual people, but gradually they converge to make one body that gently pulsates with each change in form, like something is underneath it's skin struggling to break free.
It reminds me of this time my friend Julian and I were talking about Johnny Greenwood, incidentally. Specifically, we unpacked a moment in his score for There Will Be Blood.
"It's that part where they first strike oil, and he blows his eardrum out," said Julian. "The score is just percussion, but not any recognizable instruments, just the sound of things hitting each other. Eventually it blurs together to make this one big sound."
Seconds blur together this way. Then there's Cthulhu sitting on the shore hugging his knees and weeping over the devastation he's wrought. Maybe it's just the smoke from the flames beneath him, stinging his eyes. I watch the smoke wash over him like a coastal fog. Then my own tears come and I'm smiling. It's track two, "Daydreaming."
I can't shake the naked people. They return, doing their weird dance. I feel ashamed, exhausted, defeated, frustrated that I can't stop envisioning people float by me as mere images, profile pics, scrolling up and down in a catalog of souls, feeling everything for each one of them, and at the same time nothing, barreling through a tunnel of arms and torsos and asses and legs, hair and teeth. Feet.
I pull out my veins and plug them into the USB dock in my computer and let my naked body join the fleshy stream, now flooding over, blasting out of the ground like the blown oil rig in There Will Be Blood. All darkens into oil, still pulsating, until all is a beating black heart. The back of my eyelids.
"True Love Waits" began. Thom Yorke is playing the piano at my grandma's house. Then he stands up and leaves the house, into a taxi. They drive off as the sun sets over the suburbs, the strip malls, the fields of corn and grapes. He's singing "just don't leave" in the backseat.
Here's my review of A Moon Shaped Pool. A Radiohead album takes time. It takes a lot time to make, and more time to fully appreciate. When I found out at the tender age of thirteen that "We Suck Young Blood" wasn't a vampire romance anthem, I had to re-adjust. I found myself in a strange land, one that I feared, but didn't want to leave. Today, the landscape is as abstract and mysterious as it was then.
So, I dunno. Sorry if this is not helpful. Talk to me in ten years, and I'll tell you what I think of the album. I guess I just wanted to write this to remember where I was when it first hit me. Thanks for reading.