CAPTION: Alex and I having a photo shoot outside of my Dad’s house. She’s wearing my ten year old sister’s princess costume and my Little Red Riding Hood jacket. I’m wearing a really cheap wig.
In fall of 2006 Rolling Stone published a paragraph about a little known “British superstar” who had announced the date of her first US performance, a show in February 2007 at a two-hundred person venue in New York City. Rolling Stone placed an image of a large breasted, tiny, black haired bar maiden type sitting on a stage above the short write up. These were the first words I read about Amy Winehouse.
Half Australian (meaning half depressive English trash), I had always dug the British music scene—Spice Girls for kindergarten, the Beatles for middle school; so I kept tabs on Winehouse. Suffering from a nasty five year state of depression and OCD, I obsessively googled any celebrity or writer whose work related to my problems or that could give me hope. I’m a Catholic and millennial in the twenty-first century; saints heal my problems, and TMZ and art history dictates my saints. ( Just from that picture and description, I knew Winehouse was the perfect match on the exterior: she was British, dark, and a European icon. When you’re fifteen and a crying everyday mess from a Catholic family, you really relate to girls with fake black hair. They’re like, indie or something.)
But it was music that made her more than just a pop culture one night stand. Amy’s first single underwhelmed me (“You Know I’m No Good” is no “Rehab”), but I purchased Back to Black at Target on its day of release. Intuition made me, and thank God it did: for the next two months I blasted “Tears Dry On Their Own,” in my garage (aka my bedroom) as I bounced a bouncy ball and felt all my worries—why did my mother breast fed me till I was eight?; why did my family members abuse drugs; why do I wash my hands to solve my problems?—as I felt all my worries disappear for three minutes and six seconds a day. Everything will go away on its own, Amy seemed to sing, and that’s what I wanted to think as my personal world collapsed. And I felt safe, because I thought I would heal eventually and for a while nobody could steal my savior away from me the way my mother ruined my family: Amy was all mine. (Today Winehouse seems like an instant sensation, but it took six months for “Rehab” to catch on.)
During this time, I ate lunch in Mrs. Garcia’s classroom and I wanted my friend Amy to become a legend. One day, while dancing to the song by myself in the middle of the room to show my peers my friend Amy, I met an equally lanky and awkward girl named Alex, who knew Amy too. Alex approached me, dancing.
I learnt she was a talented comedian, and I started to look up to her. Since she had a sarcastic bite, I thought she would never be my friend. So I praised her; the praise worked: a month later we were best friends dressed in costumes causing a scene at a ghetto movie theatre called Flippers. That night I had no awareness of my depression for a good hour; it felt like heaven.
But none of this pleasure could last. That’s the issue with saints and prayer and friends and songs: we need healing from more than idols and stain glass windows. As time went on, I watched Amy unravel on Perez Hilton and Alex and I became the Sid and Nancy of fags and hags, with each of us playing both Sid and Nancy. Young, I didn’t realize that Amy’s songs and Alex’s talent came from something as dark as my household’s secrets. Young, I resented them both.
Eventually, I parted ways with both friends: Amy clearly had no future, and Alex and I decided we would be healthier and happier without each other. To heal, I needed to surround myself with positivity.
None of that has erased the memories, the feelings, or facebook photos from this time. Although the fun and music stemmed from a lot of pain, the sad ending of Amy’s life and Alex and I’s second attempt at friendship* can never erase the happiness that runs through my memories and facebook photos. Even learning of Amy’s death mixed glee and grief.
While waiting for The Muppet Movie today at the MOMI, I logged onto Twitter, and in the most twenty-first century of ways, I read about Amy death. While devastated by this loss, I remained optimistic ten minutes later because Kermit was singing about rainbows and trying to make sure all his friends’ dreams came true. Half my heart lifted, as my other half fell.
I wish my heart could have stayed either high or low. Bitter sweet’s an intense emotion. I wish Amy never experienced what she experienced, Blake and drugs. I wish my happy memories of her were not filled with such sadness; but it’s impossible for her and me to have had both. The sadness fueled the music. Irony fueled my three minutes and six seconds of happiness: my compulsions and depression stemmed from my family’s drug use and destructive habits; Amy, who made me feel better, and Alex, who I shared these experiences with, were destructive themselves. Without the destruction, the art would have never existed and I would never have been able to relate to Amy and Alex.
We were all doomed to meet. Our friendships were all doomed to end. It breaks my heart. I’m mourning. I’m a fan at a lost. And yet I wouldn’t nor couldn’t have it any other way.
I love you both.
*Alex and I are trying again. Like Sid and Nancy, we can’t get enough of each other! Luckily, both of us have grown up. So this time it should work.