mad world

We had a video night last night, just like when we were kids, except that dinner was rack of lamb and apple pie instead of beer and pizza, because we have learned to cook. And it was a DVD, not a dumb old analog magnetic tape. Actually it sucks trying to rewind a DVD, so plus ca change.

The film was Donnie Darko, which was brilliant and amazing and beautiful and gorgeously acted and moving and engrossing with many unforgettably vivid and lovely scenes and a wondrous soundtrack. It depressed the shit out of me. Reading up on IMDB afterwards I realized it was the jet-engine-falls-on-a-house film that I opted not to see in the horrible weeks after September 11. Maybe I should have seen it then, maybe Donnie’s weirdly redemptive smile in the final scene might actually have cheered me up. But I feel much better generally now, so the film made me feel worse.

It solved a mystery, anyway; in a thrift store in Brisbane I heard a haunting song about how completely awful it is to be a child, but I couldn’t remember enough of the lyrics to Google it and find out who it was. Turns out it was Gary Jules’ cover of the Tears for Fears song Mad World, and it plays over the shattering conclusion of the movie and tears your heart into bite-sized shreds suitable for a nourishing salad.

Combined with the gut-wrenching end of The Towers of Trebizond, an otherwise extraordinarily funny Barbara Pym-ish picaresque novel about Anglicans in Anatolia in the 1950s, and a haunting scene a friend described in which her three-year-old daugher told her parents to Go away! then sat alone and wept silently, it has all tended to undermine my always-precarious confidence in the future. You worry throughout even the healthiest pregnancy that you will miscarry, that the baby will be stillborn or will strangle on the cord. Until they’re seven months old you watch over them obsessively while they’re sleeping, making sure they remember to keep breathing. Until they’re twelve months old the spectre of cot death remains in the back of your mind. And then, just in case you’re tempted to breathe a sigh of relief, you realize that they’re off and sailing, launched on their own lives into a world of unimaginable sorrow and danger as well as adventure and delight.

Donnie Darko sees people travelling into the future on worms of ectoplasm projecting out of their chests. Elizabeth Stone says having children is letting your heart walk around outside your body. One night on the beach at Santa Cruz Tina told me how she’d looked at Noelle on her sixteenth birthday and realized that at any moment, if anything happened to her daughter, her life could turn into a nightmare.

Knowing what I know would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Ouch, though.

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