Dear Chris:

It’s been five years now but the feeling remains the same. Whenever I play Audioslave or Soundgarden or your solo records, the same melancholy taints the melodies and, despite my best intentions to sing loud and turn up the volume to drown it out, it rests on the timbre of every word you sing.

Most would tell you I’m not an empathic or overly emotive person but your loss hit me in the gut. Perhaps something about the news triggered the fresh wounds of a friend who preceded your choice a year earlier a few days before Thanksgiving. The residue still stuck to my spirit and, when the news broke, it sent me back to that place, in the same chair reading the same messages on Facebook. Sitting in the pew of a small, Mexican church and hearing the tears of a broken family while Mother Mary looked down upon them. Same pain, different name.

Your catalog holds endless songs that have acted as a soundtrack for phases of my life. My wife and I, on most road trips, have made it a necessity to play Getaway Car on the open highway with the windows down as we strain our voices into the violent wind. But the one that haunts me, weakens my eyes to near tears when driving to the grocery store or picking up my daughters from school, is Sweet Euphoria.

Just your voice, your words, your heart and an acoustic guitar.

Euphoria and suicide don’t seem synonymous but there relationship coincides in some bitter way. Perhaps it speaks of the complexities of depression and the emotions of an afflicted mind. An idea of a mind like a battlefield where conscious moments are victimized in the daze of a thousand yawns and the subconscious struggles to find rest when sleeping on land mine pillows.

I wonder if my friend had wrestled with sweet euphoria. Smiles and laughter that concealed a piercing darkness. A conundrum of joy and sorrow where touched and broken are the things you love. The sobering power of your song seeps into my marrow in a way I can’t comprehend. In all candor, I’m unsure if I want to understand those depths where time wilts like flowers for fear I may never return.

Perhaps your song spoke to a million others even though it merely acted as a confessional for you. The what-ifs can be a curse sometimes. In another life, if somehow, my friend had heard Sweet Euphoria and the boldness of your confession, the darkness would not have had such a tight grasp on his vision. Fragments of light may have worked their way into his pupils and allowed him to see a beautiful world, to see the people who loved him, to feel euphoria without the duality. For him, he could have seen a world where his dandelions were not gone but growing all around him.

Wherever you are now and in whatever form you’ve taken in the ether, I hope you have found euphoria for what it was intended to be. Free of double entendres and complication. Maybe you’ll find my friend, wrap your arms around him and sing a new song where sweet euphoria is pure and simple and the smile and laughter no longer serves as a mask but rather a testimony.


StereoStory # 684

See also:
Jesus Christ Pose. Story by Imogen Knight
Like A Slave. Story by Ali Sipahi

More stories by N.T. McQueen

Seek help if you are troubled by depression and anxiety.

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Lifeline                13 11 14 (Australia)

N.T. McQueen is the author of The Blood of Bones, Between Lions and Lambs, The Disciple, and the children's book, Moses Jones and the Case of the Missing Sneaker. He received his MA in Creative Writing from CSU-Sacramento and his work has appeared in issues of Fiction Southeast, The Kentucky Review, The Grief Diaries, Gold Man Review, Camas: Nature of the West, Transition Magazine, West Trade Review, The Sunlight Press, and others.