I’ve been waking up at 4:45 a.m. It’s been a few months now. I’ve heard it takes 28 days to form a habit, and that seems about right. You get used to things. I started a job near Downtown Dallas and I want to beat the traffic. The roads, at 5 a.m., are empty in every direction. They’ll be empty for hours. I am barely awake. I drive to Starbucks near Love Field Airport and watch the planes land. I am twenty-six years old, a fact you should keep in mind.
Who are you by the way? Tell me things about yourself. It’s only fair.
I told my wife I needed to see a counselor, but I didn’t tell her that I know exactly how much Tylenol it takes to kill a man. The other night I found hydrocodone in our medicine cabinet and I poured the pills into my hand.
Nick Drake’s last album was called Pink Moon and I listen to it every morning while I drive down the pitch-black interstate.
It’s not exactly clear if Nick Drake killed himself on purpose or on accident, but it doesn’t seem to matter. By then he had given up on life. Sophia Ryde said she needed some space, and she never saw him again. He swallowed a fistful of anti-depressants and fell asleep. He didn’t leave a suicide note, but he wrote Sophia a letter. He was in his parent’s house and he was twenty-six years old.
The first song on Pink Moon is called “Pink Moon,” and it is the only song with more than just vocal and guitar. Nick drake overdubbed piano, a sparkling little melody that repeats twice and then disappears. The song is only two minutes long, two minutes and three seconds, but it feels, somehow, complete. Some things are meant to be brief.
He hadn’t been happy with his previous albums. He didn’t like the layers, the horns, the cello. He wanted to strip things down. He was living in London at the time and becoming more and more isolated. He walked around in a pot-induced haze. I imagine him in a pea coat, stumbling down alleyways. Pink Moon was recorded in two midnight sessions and then delivered to his label in a plastic bag without explanation. He handed it to the receptionist and then walked away.
I have listened to “Pink Moon” more than any other song in my entire life. I must be reaching two thousand plays. I discovered it when I was twenty-two and working at my first advertising agency. I was on the 9th floor of a high-rise, and I would watch the sun go down with my feet on the windowsill.
It’s not true, of course, that Nick Drake delivered Pink Moon to his record label in plastic bag without explanation. That’s a myth, but I prefer it anyway. They hadn’t asked for the album, and they didn’t really want it. He’d signed his contract at twenty years old but his work wasn’t catching on. He wouldn’t do interviews or promotions. Six years in, and they were losing money. Pink Moon would be his worst selling album yet.
I’ve been looking up the names of counselors but it’s hard to tell why one is better than another. It’s hard to imagine them taking me seriously. When I was six years old I pressed a butter knife into my chest until my skin turned purple. Any good counselor will see that I don’t actually want to die, I just want to feel special.
After Pink Moon, Nick Drake moved into his parent’s house and began a slow, controlled free fall. He talked about quitting music and joining the army. He stopped washing his hair. Sometimes he would drive his mother’s car until it ran out of gas and then someone would have to come pick him up. One morning he swallowed too much amitriptyline and his heart stopped beating. He was laying diagonally across his bed. One friend said he preferred to think Nick was making one final, desperate attempt at life. Maybe a few extra pills were all he needed to snap out of it. Nick’s sister said she preferred to think he killed himself like any other normal person who kills themselves. She couldn’t stand the thought that it was an accident.
“Pink Moon” might be the closest thing we have to a suicide note. All these years I’ve been listening to a man saying goodbye. I would sit at my 9th floor desk with my feet on the windowsill and imagine everything ahead of me. Now I play the piano part on my steering wheel in the pitch dark. If I don’t do something drastic, I might not survive my twenties. Some things are meant to be brief, but am I one of those things? I held the hydrocodone in my hand for a minute but then poured the pills back into their bottle. When I got into bed my wife put her hand on my chest and said we’re going to figure this out, mister. Maybe I’ll quit my job. Maybe I’ll drive as far as I can get on a tank of gas. Maybe I’ll make one last desperate attempt at life because it’s possible that, at twenty-six, I still don’t know shit about life.
Pink moon gonna get you all, Nick Drake says, and I think he’s right, but maybe there’s something to be said for putting off the inevitable.
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