Life on Mars

Bowie memory #1

Sophomore year of high school and flailing between versions of myself. Putting on black stockings and ripping them immediately. This wasn’t the plan. Auditorium decked out in heavy curtains, December on everyone’s lips; lights dim in a room of expectations and it becomes a room of throwing back your head.

Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen

The girl who was supposed to sing lost her voice, so the girl with the inky, homemade haircut steps up to the mic. She is liquid silver. She is the scraped-elbow ringmaster. This wasn’t the plan. She squints into the spotlight, sighs, and lets her electric guitar strap roll down her shoulder. For a moment, I swear she looks directly at me, and I lean over the edge of my seat. She knew this would happen all along. The whole room french exhales and she starts to sing.

But the film is a saddening bore
For she’s lived it ten times or more

I’d caught myself before, staring at her in class and noticing the sideways curve of her walk. Crooked queen of hushed voices. This wasn’t the plan. I’d fallen for girls before, but quietly. One toe in and both eyes closed, always in the background. I had heard this song so many times before, but it was always in the background.

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show

Four minutes spill across the floor and it’s everything I can do to keep from slipping away in it. The whole room turns upside down and I wonder if anyone notices me, eyes wide open, dizzy with clarity. It’s her circus, I’m just living in it.

Oh man wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

There is water on Mars. There is deep blue lust in me that I didn’t know existed. There is this song, stuck in my head for months to come. There is her voice, recorded in the purple notebook. There is the purple notebook, shoved under my bed and reserved for thoughts that move against the plan and haunt me into the sweet, liquid night. There is a hand with long, black fingernails holding the steering wheel. The hand keeps getting ink blots all over the plan. The plan will never stop unfurling, twisting, burning at the edges and getting stitched back together. There is water on Mars but I don’t want to put the fire out.

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