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Monday, June 17, 2013

That Chilling Moment When a Song’s Lyrics Smack You Right in the Feelings

Posted by on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 3:22 PM

“I never learned to swim, and I’m tired of holding my breath.”“Monster in Montauk,” Hounds of the Wild Hunt

Several months ago I watched a woman end her life. Sort of. Maybe. It’s still unclear what exactly happened. See, back in October my husband and I were in New York City—visiting friends, eating everything on Momofuku Milk Bar's menu, and riding public transportation that isn't worthless—and one night we decided to take the Roosevelt Island Tramway over the East River to Roosevelt Island to gaze at the city’s skyline from across the water. It was a dark, chilly October night, the perfect fall night for a walk. It was just a few days before Halloween and, no fucking joke, we saw a person in a Grim Reaper costume walk past us and disappear down an escalator to get on the subway. The Grim Reaper had a scythe. It was spooky and funny at the time, but now it's just spooky.

While strolling down the sidewalk that follows along the river, a man who we didn't know was behind us, started yelling at us. He was shouting something about the police and a woman and the river. He ran towards us, he didn’t speak English very well, and kept insisting we call the police. After 15 seconds, maybe 30, I don't know, we realized what was happening.

A woman had climbed over the walkway’s railing. She walked over the few feet of large rocks that lined the shore and slipped into the water. I saw her seconds after she had pushed off of the rocks—I saw the back of her head, her blonde or grey hair. She swam out to the center of the river and then stopped swimming. She just floated—she wasn't struggling, she wasn't yelling for help. With her head still above water, the current quickly carried her out of sight while the reflection of the city’s lights flickered on the water's surface.

It was surreal and confusing and, at the time, not at all morbid. I grew up here in the Northwest where people go swimming in rivers all the time. I didn't assume she was killing herself, I thought she was just going for a swim. At night. In the East River. I didn't know better!

We called the police but they were already there, and more were on the way. Someone else had called them, too. Next came the boats and the helicopters and the divers. They all searched the water, except for the divers, who, they said, would only go in if they did, in fact, spot evidence of a body. But a body was never found. One cop, who stayed with us for the couple of hours his colleagues searched, said that there's a hospital on Roosevelt Island and it’s not unheard of for a patient to leave the hospital, walk to the river, and give up. He said most people usually jump from one of the bridges, though.

Fast forward to today, when I heard that line in “Monster of Montauk," a song I've heard literally a hundred times before—“I never learned to swim and I’m tired of holding my breath." It hit me right in my brain, where I store that weird, unpleasant shit that usually only haunts me when I'm trying to get to sleep or when I forget to take my anti-depressant for a few days. As the band chanted that line, gruffly, with the same amount of exhaustion you might yell something when you're on the verge of giving up, I thought of that woman. I wondered if she knew how to swim, and how long she was able to hold her breath before getting too tired to fight it. Did she die in the river? Did she make it to the ocean before drowning? Did she die at all?

Just a couple days after that woman walked into the East River, Hurricane Sandy hit New York. My husband and I were still on the East Coast, trapped in a Connecticut hotel room after they had closed all the highways and shut down all the trains. While we tensely watched news reports and ate a dinner comprised of carbohydrates from the hotel's vending machine, we were both sort of convinced that the woman's body, dragged back from sea in Sandy’s record-breaking winds, was going to knock into a newscasters’ legs as they reported live while standing in the knee-deep water that covered Manhattan.

Her body never did.

 

Comments (12) RSS

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1
"I've been too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning"
Posted by EFB on June 17, 2013 at 5:01 PM · Report this
2
Hounds rock!
Posted by BusyB on June 17, 2013 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 3
Shallow heart, shallow water
Push off the bottom
Float to each other
Shallow heart, shallow water
The years run dry

You can swim but she can fly
As your ship goes sailing by
She’ll be floating in the air
Will she notice you down there?

Empty head, empty bottle
Tip it back
She won’t follow
Shallow heart, shallow water
The years run dry

So learn to swim while you are young
Old men can’t tread water
She’ll be floating by one day
And you’ll be missing each other

Let the water wash you clean
For the years have left you fearful
Two as one can float on air
One alone’s a sinking vessel

Shallow heart, shallow water
Earth is dry
Grave’s are hollow
Shallow heart, shallow water
The years run dry

You can rise to the surface
Love can never hurt us
You can see the shore from here swim
And you rise to the surface
Love can never hurt us
Trade the water for the air
Keep her safe—hold her near

Shallow heart, shallow water
Push of the bottom, float to each other
Shallow heart, shallow water
Dive in first, she will follow
Shallow heart, shallow water
Push off the bottom
Float to each other
Shallow heart, shallow water
Years run dry

"Shallow Heart, Shallow Water" --Caitlin Cary
Posted by Dr_Awesome on June 17, 2013 at 5:35 PM · Report this
tainte 4
Hank Williams Sr. Long gone lonesome blues:

I went down to the river to watch the fish swim by;
But I got to the river so lonesome I wanted to die..., Oh Lord!
And then I jumped in the river, but the doggone river was dry.
She's long gone, and now I'm lonesome blue.

I had me a woman who couldn't be true.
She made me for my money and she made me blue.
A man needs a woman that he can lean on,
But my leanin' post is done left and gone.
She's long gone, and now I'm lonesome blue.

I'm gonna find me a river, one that's cold as ice.
And when I find me that river, Lord I'm gonna pay the price, Oh Lord!
I'm goin' down in it three times, but Lord I'm only comin up twice.
She's long gone, and now I'm lonesome blue.

She told me on Sunday she was checkin' me out;
Long about Monday she was nowhere about.
And here it is Tuesday, ain't had no news.
I got them gone but not forgotten blues.
She's long gone, and now I'm lonesome blue.
Posted by tainte on June 17, 2013 at 6:13 PM · Report this
gttrgst 5
No Mermaid by Sinead Lohan

We went down to the edge of the water
You were afraid to go in
You said there might be sharks out there in the ocean
And I said i'm only going for a swim

I was swimming around in a circle
I wasn't always in view
You said we might get into red flag danger
And I am alone when i'm not with you

But I am no mermaid
I am no mermaid
And I am no fisherman's slave
I am no mermaid
I am no mermaid
I keep my head above the waves

We were swinging from the centre of the ceiling
You were afraid to give in
I said I know i'll always live for this feeling
And you closed your eyes you said never again

We were dancing in the middle of the desert
You said we'll burn under the hot sun
I said i'd rather be the colour of pleasure
Than watch like you from under the thumb

But I am no mermaid
I am no mermaid
And I am no fisherman's slave
I am no mermaid
I am no mermaid
I keep my head above the waves

We went down to the edge of the water
You were afraid to go in
You said there might be sharks out there in the ocean
And I said i'm only going for a swim

I was living around in a circle
I wasn't always in view
You said we might get into red flag danger
And I am alone when i'm not with you

But I am no mermaid
I am no mermaid
And I am no fisherman's slave
I am no mermaid
I am no mermaid
I keep my head above the waves
Posted by gttrgst on June 17, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
yelahneb 6
The phone calls
Always left me unsure
They'd never say things of their own accord
I am preoccupied
I can't get them out of my mind
They are terrified

And if you said jump in the river I would because
It would probably be a good idea

You're not supposed to be here at all now
It's all been a gorgeous mistake
Sick one or clean one
The best one
That God ever made

When I kissed you
You didn't mind
I thought I tasted of too many cigarettes
But you tasted like wine

And I'm not going to change my mind
Just because of what they said
The worm has laid eggs in their hearts
But not in my head

And if you said jump in the river I would because
It would probably be a good idea

You're not supposed to be here at all now
It's all been a gorgeous mistake
Sick one or clean one
The best one
That God ever made

There's been days like this before you know
And I liked it all
Like the times we did it so hard
There was blood on the wall

And if you said jump in the river I would because
It would probably be a good idea

- Sinead O'Connor, Jump In The River
Posted by yelahneb http://www.strangebutharmless.com on June 17, 2013 at 10:23 PM · Report this
7
Thick fog rolls in waves
On the Golden Gate
I was checking my watch
With 7 minutes in my shift

When I spot a black skirt on the rail
Straddling the bar like it's a quater a ride
She's scared to jump but terrified to stay
Walk to her slow extend my hand with a smile and say

"Ma'am how was your day?
Keep your eyes on my face
I want to help you
if you'll let me"

She's startled, I look forward
Wrap my arms 'round her legs
Pull her down to the sidewalk
We're both heaving for air and I say

"Ma'am how was your day?
Keep your eyes on my face
I want to help you
if you'll let me"

Most folks think they'll hit the surface
And never, fell no pain
Water pulls you under
Back to the womb once again

Bodies float to the shore
Bloated purple and blue
If sharks won't get you first
Crabs will have their way with you.

"Golden Gate Jumpers" -Cold War Kids
Posted by Bored@School on June 17, 2013 at 10:25 PM · Report this
schmacky 8
This thread, though still short, is nourishing. ;)
Posted by schmacky on June 17, 2013 at 11:32 PM · Report this
Animal 9
You got me sweating
Shaking in my skin
I know it's nice to find
beginnings and ends

As sad as it seems
You're turning blue in my dreams

Oh look at you
You've got nothing to do
Don't run around
Trying to run this town

As sad as it seems
You're turning blue in my dreams

"Turning Blue" Jay Reatard.
Posted by Animal on June 18, 2013 at 1:36 AM · Report this
10
Don't know if "cool" is the right word to describe being mentioned in the same post as these other lyrics, but, for what it's worth, we are certainly humbled. And for anyone interested, here's our lyrics...
"Monster in Montauk" by Hounds of the Wild Hunt
The aether is glowing, he's grown tired of his knowing
He wants now to reap, wants now to reap what he's sown
Well they've seen darker things in Baltimore
Then what's washed up here upon this shore
A monster in Montauk, your house all in flames
That settles in embers before it is tamed
To crawl from the tide takes an old type of pride
To give your demise, to give your demise
To tomorrow's headlines
They've seen darker things in Baltimore
Then what's washed up here upon this shore
A monster in Montauk, your house all in flames
That settles in embers before it is tamed
As he crawls to moonlit sandy shores
He sings himself to sleep
I never learned to swim
And I'm tired of holding my breath
You've got small fish to fry
But like a white whale I sing
Of a life lived forever
Diving deep in your dreams
I'm a monster in Montauk
Your house all in flames
And I'll settle in embers
But I'll never be tamed

Megan Seling, we're not entirely sure of the proper way to express our gratitude/understanding/blown-away-ness...but please do believe that we feel all of the aforementioned. Much love and respect.
Cheers and love,
the hounds
Posted by Hounds on June 18, 2013 at 5:27 AM · Report this
11
When I think of suicide by drowning, i always think of "How to Draw a Bunny" - the amazing documentary on the great artist, Ray Johnson...
Posted by rascal yammers on June 18, 2013 at 8:25 AM · Report this
Megan Seling 12
@8 I totally agree. It's creepy to read these lyrics in this context, but also really cool. Thanks for sharing, everyone! And especially thanks to Hounds of the Wild Hunt for not getting mad that I now equate their song with watching a woman end her life (it's still a great, great song).
Posted by Megan Seling on June 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM · Report this

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