7 Years and 7 Books
It was December of 2012, almost a full year after I had lost my Mom.
I had been numbing out on a steady diet of cheese fries, video games, beer, and weed… not to mention obsessively listening to Harry Potter on audio book.
One of those not so fun facts many people don’t know is that my fascination with Harry Potter saw a huge uptick when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer and I could no longer handle silence when trying to sleep.
I had always hated silence, but it’d gotten significantly worse.
I’d spent every night with headphones in my ears, slowly making my way through the seven books.
It’d been quite a shock to my system when I traveled to Sweden to visit my friend Martin, suddenly devoid of all of my vices.
Well, most of them. I still had the audio books, but Swedes don’t eat heavily and Martin only gets drunk or high on life. Here we are…
I’d gone there to speak at his YouTube gathering…
Pretty sure I winged it completely, seems like a very me thing to do. I was touched at the end of the event when Martin spontaneously suggested that people come up on stage and perform something. Expecting there to be a unanimous refusal, I was shocked when people began jumping up to offer their music, dancing, weird talents, etc…
Martin even got up and did something hilarious and/or moving, and I recall it involved dancing but I honestly can’t remember if it was meant to be funny or sincere. Probably funny. Martin is funny.
Then, someone asked for the piano to be pulled out, and a girl sang an original song.
My heart started pounding. I’m a singer but I didn’t have any original songs to sing, so I instantly started to panic.
Her song was REALLY good. I was so moved and impressed.
Martin knew I sang, so eventually he suggested that I go next and everyone cheered the suggestion. It seemed like a silly thing to try and refuse to do when everyone else had been so generous.
I’d been listening to a new album obsessively that week, and so I picked my favorite song and went up to sing it along with the recording.
I was much more nervous to sing than I had been to speak.
I got through it, not as perfect or polished as I would have liked. Then again, there’s no pleasing me.
People whooped and clapped and the night continued on with people sharing so openly. It was really lovely, and there wasn’t even alcohol involved.
Martin’s friends were high on life too.
We were staying at Martin’s Mother’s home in Malmö, and my sleeping spot was on the living room couch. Later that night after the event, I got all tucked in and searched my iTunes for the hacked version of Stephen Fry reading the 7th Harry Potter book (the one I was on at the moment) and then found my place in it and hit play.
I tried to sleep, but a sinking feeling came over me when I realized that we were almost at the one year anniversary of my Mom’s passing, and this read-through of the Potter books had begun when she was still alive.
The significance of the ending of this book as well as this particular read-through washed over me, and I found myself laying there, in a strange dark room in another country, terrified of hearing it end.
Frantically, I searched my phone for book one. I could just start from the beginning once it was over.
Nope, it wasn’t there. I had deleted it to make room for the others.
Damn 2012 iPhones and their lack of storage space.
I lay there listening to the Battle of Hogwarts play out.
Neville killed the snake.
“Not my daughter you bitch.”
Harry and Voldemort circled each other. Harry called him Tom. I’d always adored that detail.
“Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality.” What an epic line.
The epilogue sounded like a death march. I was all at once listening with rapt attention and trying not to hear the details at all.
What are their kid’s names again? Who cares.
“The scar hadn’t pained Harry in 19 years.”
“All was well.”
Unlike the American version, this one isn’t followed by music and credits, it just ends.
I sat in the silence, paralyzed with fear.
“What do I do now?” I actually mumbled aloud.
Grasping for my phone, I decided to listen to that album I’d been on all week. I hit play on the first song and felt a rush of relief.
This was nice. This would do. I would just enjoy the whole album as many times as it took to fall asleep.
It was all going to plan, until I hit the song I’d sang at the event. Track four.
As the first notes played, I felt shame rush into my neck and shoulders, and down to my stomach.
I had not done the song justice at all.
It had been a stupid idea to sing it.
I hit that one note totally wrong!
I screwed up that lyric!
I should never have-
“You did great.”
Wait, that wasn’t my voice.
That was my Mom.
I actually turned my head to the right to look for her, having simultaneously felt the sensation of her putting her hand on my shoulder and hearing her speak.
Placing my own hand there as if searching for hers, I began to sob.
Every negative thought about my performance flew away from me, and for the first time since she had died one year prior, I had heard my Mom’s voice.
I sat in contemplation for a while, wondering whether I had heard it in the room or in my head.
Then, a line from one of the chapters I had just read came back to me.
Harry is in that limbo/purgatory type place talking to Dumbledore and at the end of it he asks if it’s real or happening inside his head.
Dumbledore says, “of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why should that mean it isn’t real?”
I sobbed harder, and listened to the rest of the album play out before falling into the most contented sleep I’d had in three years.
All was well.