The hero who squinted not to see but to absolve his shadow, who was serene about dirt and for whom the dust bowl was confidant, I copied him like a child. Copied his face and adapted it to my every twitch. That face meant the latent upside-up world I sought, and wearing it meant no more shameful recesses; no more disintegration, repeating words. Still awkwardness prevailed, and eventually the bone-knowing face wore off, otherwise I wore it out. Again I became my milieu; the words unruly.
Who am I? Over time the question cut wells in me, provoked whispering — you aren’t you aren’t you aren’t — until I told myself lies to deaden the pain of owning a body. Inventing stories became my second skin. I ignored the sandlot and the rainbow chalk lines, perceiving in them stipulation, and hung alone around the compact earth instead. I crumbled slate with my feet and made it into ant-countries. Inwardly I wrote families, heroes and betrayers of blood. I favored the ants with the big red bellies because, like jugglers on stilts, they were bound to generate the most noise.
David Bowie was the first star I saw who effused no fixed identity, and the movie he starred in was our lives. On Ashes to Ashes, when he re-assumed the Major Tom persona in the face of every “no” he’d ever received, trouncing through the desert with his freak-cortege and plastic soul, crooning about addiction and paranoia, I felt like I could be any damn thing I wanted. I felt again like the kid who had climbed half a vertiginous mountain assuredly springing up stone-steps when it was advisable to watch your feet. I heard “the shrieking of nothing is killing” like a knife, because I’d known that line to be true.
Bowie helped me see, through his exhilarating wayward world, that alienation, while an inconvenience, holds potential to embolden. He proved that identity had been a construction all along; that we can be the architects of our own selves; that being an uncertain creator was never regrettable. His was the secret of the mime, and if I could I’d thank him — for letting it slowly burn.
(Song recommendation by Tomasz W. Wiszniewski)