In 1983 I played Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes over and over, wearing out the cassette tape on the drive into work, pushing the back button again and again. The song flipped a switch in my brain. It teleported me leagues away from who, where and what I was, to a place where anything seemed possible, a fragile, illusory world where life was magical, if not for ever and ever, then just for one day, or at least in increments the length of a song.
I’d recently left my husband. Our son, not yet two, was in daycare for the first time, after being home with his dad all day while I worked. He'd never been around other kids. We had both lived in a bubble, our lives circumscribed by his father’s personal manifesto on the right way to live, volubly expressed. What we ate, wore, read, watched, where we went and the few people we socialized with, were all dictated by my husband’s allergies, aversions and opinions.
I’d moved in with Mom, back into the bedroom where I’d lived my last two years of college. My son had the spare room.
He-Man was his Superhero, Masters of the Universe his fantasy kingdom. David Bowie was mine. With the music, alone in the car, or in my room while my son slept, I wasn’t a single mom, almost thirty with a failed marriage, no boyfriend and a crap job. I was writer, dancer, actress and model. I travelled exotic places. I was admired and desired.
The world knew my name.
Those first few years on my own were a second adolescence. For a brief while it seemed the shackles were off and anything was possible.
I’m now past sixty. My mother once said she remained sixteen on the inside no matter the face in the mirror, and I know what she meant. My dreams are still my dreams. More tempered, more grounded in the remotely possible perhaps. I no longer imagine I might be a model or a dancer one day. And I do work at things I want rather than just dream about them to a favorite song.
I write. The words make it out of my head and onto the page or the computer screen. They fill the hole they were always meant to fill, though the hole remains. I imagine it always will.
Ashes to Ashes still has the power to take me places. Only the destination is less a wide-open expanse, not the far reaches of outer space or my infinite imagination but rather inner space, the realm of memory, of images, especially faces, and moments captured like movies, the high and low points of sixty plus years, frozen in time, as they were (or at least as I chose to remember them), locked inside my brain, a reflection, I suppose, of having lived more than half a life.
"I’m happy. Hope you’re happy too."
David Bowie 1947 - 2016