First breath after coma

“After all: who doesn’t wish to make a spectacle of his loneliness?”
(N. Krauss, The History of Love)

I have 18 songs by Explosions in the Sky on my playlist.

It was a friend in high school who introduced me to post-rock and ambient. On my 20th birthday, he sent me a piece composed by himself, called “lunatic experience”.

There was no story, nothing special between us. I remember us standing once on the balcony outside our classes, gazing over the courtyard and talking about things people like us talked about. I don’t know what “people like us” actually are like. I just know we’re alike.

When we went off to university, we caught up once or twice about our lives abroad. Stuff that mattered. Questions that kept us wonder. About our place in this world. And how to live without being crushed by it.

The last time we talked was one year ago. He told me about a Korean post-rock band that was opening a show in Tilburg. Although I didn’t know them, I immediately booked the ticket.

The rest was beyond words.

Now that I has mentioned the Tilburg show. It was only when I moved to the Netherlands that post-rock became my full-time companion. It fit perfectly into the kind of life that was offered to me there: open space, solitude, and freedom. It was the music for being alive. Even though I don’t really like the word “music”, since it fails to evoke the physical/corporal experience of sound.

Back then, I travelled around by train a lot. Especially in winter. The whole country was sunk in gray, which was the color of the sky, the air, and nature. I remember looking out the train window on a foggy day of March. As my vision blurred, I anticipated the end of my journey, pretending I was sitting on the train that would take me away from that land forever. And that was exactly how I would like to remember it. Those moments in transit, from nowhere to nowhere, the melancholic excitement of going somewhere while never reaching it, with Brian Eno and Explosions in the Sky enveloping it all.

The piece I listen to the most is “First Breath after Coma”.

That spring, I often forgot to breathe. I would hold my breath for a long time, and then when my dried lungs cried for air, it would feel like recovering from death all over again. It was the spring that saw a love blooming. Love took my breath away by too many sleepless nights. But, love also brought the first breath after coma.

Now and then when I listen to Explosions in the Sky, I see myself cycling along the canal and the empty fields on the outskirts of Tilburg. The memory was as fragile as what ties us to this life. And, within a blink of an eye, or perhaps less, I am reminded of all that has made me alive.


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