Now you’re broken and you don’t understand

Emily stopped flicking the CD cases forwards and looked up, inclining her head slightly to listen. She gripped the last album she’d reached in her idle browsing. It was that Fleet Foxes record she’d read about; another folk record about family and death. Like she needed another one of those. The song that was playing over the shop’s PA had just been part of the background noise until its chorus had cut through into her consciousness. She glanced up and down the aisles of the shop, the tips of her fingers whitening as she clenched harder on the CD. That chorus was so direct and she knew that voice. There was an honest simplicity to it, a yearning ache that spoke to her. Who was it ? What was this ?

Something’s mixed up and something’s gone

She couldn’t catch all of the lyrics but some of the phrases stuck. Some of them were like salt water washing out an open wound. Into the second verse she realised that it must be the new Tift Merritt album, Dad had played the first two so often that her voice was like an old friend. Or a ghost. It wasn’t a voice she’d heard for a couple of years; it had been consigned to a small stack of his vinyl that she hadn’t been able to face yet. Her mum had wanted to clear them out but she’d begged her to keep them and now they gathered dust next to his old record player in the spare bedroom. Sometimes she’d thumbed through them and once she’d pulled one from its sleeve but the warm, rich smell of the wax had brought too many memories flooding back. There was nothing in that pile of records past 2006. Tift was still singing. He definitely would have bought this one.

And it’s these most loved losses are the hardest to carry…

The song was reaching its finish but Emily wouldn’t hear it. She felt a tightness in her chest and was suddenly short of breath. The strip lighting in the store was too bright and the D-E-F section in front of her blurred as she blinked back tears. The shelves and shelves of CDs that had initially welcomed her in now felt cold, all hard edges and smelling of cellophane wrapped plastic. Feeling sick Emily turned for the exit.

She stumbled out into the shopping centre and an alarm sounded behind her, red lights flashing on top of the tagging gates either side of the doors. She was still holding the Fleet Foxes album. Heart racing she ran back into the shop and replaced the CD on the first rack she came to. Her hands were shaking and she managed to disturb the fragile equilibrium of the display, four or five CDs and a piece of moulded plastic proclaiming ‘sale’ clattered to the floor. Emily fled not hearing either the continuing echo of the alarm nor the quietly optimistic final line of the song:

I think I will break but I mend


This is story 29 in a series of 42 to raise money and awareness for the mental health charity Mind. My fundraising page is here and all donations, however small, are really welcome:

This picks up Emily’s story (from previous post, Concrete Cowgirl) a bit further down the track. The lyrics are from Tift Merritt’s song “Broken” and no copyright infringement is intended: in the unlikely event that Tift or anyone from Fantasy Records a) reads this and b) objects then I’ll happily alter it. And I’ll double my total fundraising take for Mind. I am a massive fan and only borrowed the words because they help me tell fictional Emily’s story.


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