Lessons From a Starman

Last year I wrote this when I thought I couldn’t speak at all.
I posted something else instead, but today, I’m going to share this.
Because if I was taught anything by the first man I ever loved, it was to never edit yourself. And today, beneath the halcyon glow of the office lights, I find myself listening to the ever comforting trill of my favourite musician and needing to share:
“A few days ago it was David Bowie’s Birthday and I opted out of posting something in celebration on social media. I tried, but couldn’t put in to words how much I celebrate his life and how grateful I am for his art and influence.
I decided silence was the better tribute.
little starman
When you’re a little kid and you deal with darkness it’s hard to reconcile hope as a possibility. You’re small, insignificant, and any sadness or pain you might feel is dismissed as unrealistic because your lack of life experience can’t possibly manifest itself in any jadedness just yet. It’s lonely and we forget just how lonely it is: you don’t count. Maybe that’s why you’re early appreciations in art will stick with you forever.
Because they’ve imprinted on you and shown the sound your soul makes before you could identify it yourself.

When I was very little and sad there was none of this pulling myself up by my bootstraps business that I’m told to do now. One of the things we mourn as grownups is that childhood ability to not be culpable for your emotions. To let other people be responsible for your cheering up and eye drying. The tears themselves were no more than the fault of something external and easily remedied with a trip to Mum’s lap or the grocery store candy aisle. When you grow up (more or less) you’re expected to get up of your own volition. Go to work, or wherever else, and deal with it.
Because there are student loans to be paid off and drug dealers to employ.
You must buy the pizza or your partner will leave.
You must wash your hair or your colleague will complain.
On and on. Adults, or whatever large version of a baby we become, lament the days when we were not held responsible.
But not me.

What I miss about the innocent sadness of my youth was the way in which I could deal with it.
Instead of looking in the mirror and telling myself I had to keep it together, I could look in the mirror and invoke an incantation sending away my fictional baby brother and transporting me to an underground maze with David Bowie at the center.
say the words
If I felt that I was powerless, I could simply take down a colossus wielding an axe with the help of my best friends.
When no one wanted to talk to me, I could be the girl the king fought for because of her mysterious and beautiful hair.
sarah lab
I can’t believe I’m a ginger, damn it.

I miss being able to escape from reality and be the me version with the most cake.

Fuck invisibility. Fuck insignificance.
I was wanted by The Goblin King, Queen of the Underground, Hero of the Puppet Puppies and I would turn it all down for my good conscience.
Perhaps this would explain why later in life whenever I felt a particularly bad decision coming on, I heard Jareth, clear as day, the wind in his voice and the purse in his lips shake his head and say ‘Turn back Sarah, turn back before it’s too late.” Like Sarah before me, I never listened. But I always felt it was more of a challenge anyway, a flirtation. A dare. Turn back he may have said aloud but deep down I knew he’d be disappointed if I did.
The scene in which he took away several hours of time from Sarah’s quest and she shouted ‘It’s not fair!’ and he leaned against the damp brick outside the oubliette and said softly ‘You say that so often I wonder what your basis for comparison is.’ Sent a lightning bolt up my spine. I didn’t recognize what it was at the time, I only hugged the pillow closer to my chest and began to feel a longing that wouldn’t fully hit me for ten more years.
But as my obsession grew and I began to beg for and purchase David Bowie’s albums, I wasn’t confronted with just this manifestation, I found a man that had existed throughout time as different versions of himself.
Red haired and glittery, white suited and pale, long blonde and turtlenecked, yellow eyed and mysterious, blood drinking, ballroom dancing, one eyed, whispy, wondrous and always, always rock and roll.
This didn’t stop my projection of fantasy, my perfect man, this gave my perfect man ten, twelve different incarnations. ‘And how perfect,’ I thought, ‘because there are twelve different me’s for us to share.’
I had been acting for a while at this point and not unlike the tingle in my dungarees I’d felt all those years ago, I didn’t understand what it meant. I just knew it was happening.
It took me ages of Ziggy Stardust makeup practice and raiding my father’s tie collection to confront that why I loved David Bowie so much was because I too contained multitudes and would never be content with masquerading as a singular entity.
I would hop from character to character, in real life and out, from forensics investigator to barista, to ichthyologist to journalist.
In the meantime, on stage; a murderous wife, a magical fairy, a man.
Here I saw an adult who was dealing with this world the way I wanted to, by becoming the fantasy version of himself that could take it all on. The cowboy, the astronaut, the vampire, none ever lonely without poetry nor lively without love.
Neither feminine nor masculine, nor questioned or clear.
It’s okay, he was saying, to be everything at once, to fight the fear of being nothing.
It’s okay to be the odd one out.
These are wands and weapons.
Through that one distended pupil I studied and allowed myself to be all the women and men and boys and girls and aliens I felt at once. Spoiled for choice was no reason to be decisive but rather, an opportunity. Take it all, wear it all, be it all, and you open your art to the impossible, and you open yourself to the real.
Then when I was in my early twenties I met a real world man man who moonlit as a mistake.
In a graveyard he’d found me and dared me right away to turn back or follow.
I went with and found myself in world’s I hadn’t known existed, art, artists and the realism they dwelt in were suddenly open to me at a level I had yet to work to on my own. I fell in to the masquerade quickly, ignoring all signs of sabotage.
It wasn’t too long before I was abandoned for Iceland by this (actual) puppeteer who overshot his importance and my disappointment at being kept by an older seductive man had manifested,  it wasn’t as fun as the film had made it seem. In fact it was awful. I was left owl-less and angry. Made to feel like a fool in a room full of staircases. What had I been thinking? I had been out of my depth since my eyes first lay on those knee high leather boots and whatever was above them, what had made me think it would be different now?
A year and a half later when that gentleman reared his head again and begged apology I realized what scene in the movie this was, and like Sarah before me I didn’t fuck up the line this time.
He told me he loved me, he had made a mistake but that he was powerful and powerfully fucked up. He had known better and yet couldn’t help himself.
I said:
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You have no power over me.
And just like that, David Bowie had taught me to stand up to the seduction of someone who gives you your dreams.
All they are, are salesmen with nothing of their own to spend.
Because Jareth’s final lesson was to teach me to turn him down and let him go.
I woke up this morning to the vibration of my phone on the eye level altar table by my bed. I ignored it.
A half hour later when I begrudgingly looked at the message I realized what had happened. The labyrinth had closed forever; David Bowie was dead.
I cried, hot tears, I had to furiously command to cease because work was waiting. I had no time to mourn, no time to mope, none to play the songs I wanted and watch the performances that changed my perceptions of self and stardom. I couldn’t lie back down. Instead I walked head first in to the cold and biting day, brutally thrashed by the realization that the man I had fallen in love with over and over through the years was not coming back another colour.
He was not the immortal we had all hoped, but a man whose body could give up as easily as anyone else.
I thought that since I heard his alien soul sing to me that planet earth was blue, that he had been here before me and would be here long after.
An element. A filament.
A meteor that hit us and had headed back home.

The fact that I had to sit behind a computer screen and play my latest incarnation to a packed house, felt cruel. I had nothing to look forward to but memory. Memories of the standard I’d held all men and mirrors to since I was able to register what magic was. I wanted more, more examples of how to escape, more examples of how to work with dignity and individualism. More lyrics sang with the passionate crack of wanting. I wanted him as immortal in reality as he is in concept.

I wanted to tell him what he had meant to me.

The injustice of this hit me like a shooting star and rendered childlike again but this time with no escape;
‘It’s not fair’ I cried aloud in the bathroom.

And just like that; I heard his reply:

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‘You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is.’
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