Music as a Lifeline

What Music Speaks, part two

Tracy Lynne Oliver
Gay Mag
Published in
4 min readJun 5, 2019


Illustration by Louisa Bertman

WWas music your escape too? A hatch­–neither rusted nor heavy, no struggle or strength needed to achieve egress. This hatch, a beauty-opening. Danced into. An easy sliding until your surface became soaked, the beat synchronizing with yours until there was nothing else. An overt hiding place, taking you in one inch of skin at a time until it wrapped you, completely. When your walls closed in, is that where you went? I know the three of us were a lot — boy, girl, boy — a constant chaos of cruelty. When our screaming felt like your sacrifice, is that when you turned it up, closed the door to the downstairs discord and danced?

You can tell me because I think I know.

TThere’s a moment after daughters become mothers when their mother falls from the pedestal, wings shatter, glow dims. My moment came when my daughter was six months old and I was a twenty-four-year-old new mom, living a waking nightmare of inadequacy and worry. I heard the crash. Saw the glitter of my mother’s pieces, her shine. Watched as she walked toward me instead of floating; skin tinged sallow, eyes level with mine. After I collected every shard and swallowed them, creating my own, I wrote my mother a two-page letter in part telling her, “I get it now. You were just a girl trying to do her best. Just like me.”

I heard the crash. Saw the glitter of my mother’s pieces, her shine

When I wailed in your arms, did you sing to me as I sang to her? Did the music calm? Is it the memory of your songs to me that prompted mine to her? Or is it simply what all mothers know — give a child the comfort of your voice, the rhythm of your rock and it will soothe. Or is it what we know about the magic of music?

I’m getting your hands. I see the veins on the tops of them lifting, the skin that holds them thinning. I don’t like how it looks and what it means. I remember turning your hands over and tracing your raised veins with my fingers. So delicate. Pushing the pulse of them down as if I was trying to flatten your skin, but really I just loved holding your hands warm in mine, knowing you loved it too. Maybe I knew I was looking into my future. You are waiting for me to step into the place you leave.