Never Let Me Down Again
I’m walking hurriedly down the road in a crop top and waist-high jeans, pearlescent lips, in the direction of my best friend’s house. She lives up the road. I’m upset, and I don’t know why; while I want to punch something or somebody, pretty hard too, I also want to cry.
I’m not really looking forward to going back to work either, so I’ll make this a procrastinatey kind of trip.
Pulsing in my ears as loud as the music will go — so loud the volume gauge is warning me I’ll go deaf — is Depeche Mode’s Never Let Me Down Again, a brilliant and glinting, sombre, stomping electronic track about being with your best friend. I’m only faintly aware of the alleged drugs reference, but sombre and stompy is how I feel. I’m heatwave-hot, and I’m singing along.
I want to be only in this moment, and the idea of returning to all the things I have to do and be makes my stomach feel a bit funny. So I push that away.
— — — — — — — — —- —- - — — — —† — — — — — — — — — — — — - — -—
It’s Summer 1987, and it’s Summer 2022. In an emotionally bewildering few moments my stomping propelled me right across a bridge where both sides were the same, but 35 years apart, and I don’t know what to do with myself. In 1987 I was 16. Hormonal and with a steady-ish, slightly nerdy boyfriend, I’d just taken my O levels, and was thinking about what comes next. I sort of knew what would come next, but was by no means certain. I didn’t know how I’d done, and I was nervous, but armed with a brittle confidence that disguised itself with the twin defences of mouthiness and academic ability which I carried like weapons. And in 1987, all the members of Depeche Mode were still alive, the concept of anyone dying then both ridiculous and distant.
And although I couldn’t afford the actual LP, I’ve got a taped-tape of Music For The Masses shoved in my birthday-gift Walkman.
—— — — — — — — — — — — — — — † — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
It’s Summer 2022, and I’m 51. I’m too hot. Hormonal and with a boyfriend that’s hung in there for the last 28 years, I still live just up the road from my best friend, even though we’ve both moved a few times. I’m thinking about what comes next. I actually have no idea what comes next, though I always thought I would. I can’t tell how I’ve done in life, but I know my life doesn’t look the same as other people’s. I’m always nervous, waiting for the day I'm rumbled, but I cover that with a professional confidence and a career record that I deploy like a shield when feeling challenged. Andy Fletcher’s just died, and the extent to which that’s bothered me has kicked my legs out from under me. I’m listening to DM on what is, if I stop to think about it, an overwhelmingly futuristic glass and metal pocket-sized rectangle that also tells me where I am, what the time is, makes phone calls and plays my music. In fact it does more stuff that my ‘87 self would struggle to understand, and get this: the headphones I’ve got on don’t even have any WIRES.
I bought it for myself using my own money.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — † — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Someone told me that the menopause is ‘puberty in reverse’, and they’re not wrong. An over-simplification it might be, but the speed with which the wiring loom installed in the 80s has come to be undone and re-wired has shaken me. I arrived at its almost-imperceptible beginning armed with a toolkit of theoretical knowledge, facts and calmly bookmarked articles, but I can’t fathom the rapidity of time, and the three and a half decades that have whizzed by and which evaporated on that walk to my best mate’s house a few days ago. I began researching and preparing for this as far back as maybe five or six years — when it was still ‘this might happen someday, better be ready’ — and I’ve got off lightly so far with relatively modest changes to my brain and body. I get a bit hot a bit too often, and I get foggy. I do get upset; proper sorrowful and directionless longing for something. But my skin’s in the best shape it’s ever been, and my hair is glossy and healthy; my body still strong from a lifetime in the gym, even if it is bafflingly, emergency-bra-shopping-trip bigger than before.
Which is how, in the middle of June 2022, just as in late summer 1987, I come to be wearing waist-high jeans (‘cut for the shape I am, not the shape I want’), a crop top, and a retro repro of the lipstick shade I was wearing at 16; upset about Andy Fletcher, confused and overwhelmed, desperate to get away from my own house, with its adult responsibilities, work and real life, and into my best friend of 47 years’ house instead.
To be continued.
Write Me A Picture is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.