The Untimeliness of Personal Epiphanies Forgotten and Misremembered
By Ian Cooke-Tapia
Started in late-2015, finished on the second day of 2019
It was a flurry of caffeine overdose as I went from one YouTube song to the next, searching, looking, discovering, quickly downloading what I could
As I sat there, 100mp/h bound to Plymouth on the Bristol-Exeter line, listening to a song that replaced my childhood anxieties with the mythical wonders spoken of in melodic metal, the dull monotony of the English countryside as seen from a laminated window forces stray thoughts to halt so suddenly they slam into one another like a car subjected to the implausible friction of another car. The result crash: unwanted epiphanies, seven years too late (And as I sit here, typing in finality, ten full years have expired.) Delayed they may be, but such moments of nostalgic selfnauting can be great tools to figure out the me that was, the me that is, and the me that will be. Rides I would rather never miss.
The song is Colder (published fifteen years ago), by Finnish metal band Charon (now disbanded seven years), and I remember discovering it during a very hectic night. It was a flurry of caffeine overdose as I went from one YouTube song to the next, searching, looking, discovering, quickly downloading what I could, while in the other end of the room I desperately tried to update my PS3 so it could read my copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Sometimes I would remember to go to my room and haphazardly put clothes and toiletries and the low-key type of kink gear “borrowed” from girl friends a sixteen-year-old could have access too.
I was excited, wanting to capture as much of the things I would soon not have access to; for the very next morning I would find myself bound to a place where I would be secluded not just from the tools that allowed my understanding of my sense of self, but away from a way of life that defined my being nine out of twelve months a year. As I write this in reminiscence, exactly ten years later to the week, I shake my head at the boy I was, needing metaphorical crutches cast in digital media to keep myself upright. I am jolted upright by the callousness of my words. Hypocritical, as I’ve just spent a couple of days battling the funks of emotional seesawing with melodic death metal and videogames, aided by the psychological lubricant of Brandy on the rocks.
We are all have our coping mechanisms, young or old or in-between.
The years between 2001 and 2009 were all sliced up for me; there was the time I spent in Panama City, in school but rarely engaging with; close to computers and the worlds beyond they offered and secluded without the endorphins and active life bestow upon us like some holy wandering prophet healing the destitute. Then there were the austral summers I spent tucked away at my mother’s farm, with all the tropical farm labour, river and sun a growing boy needed. As well as all the social isolation from my peers to temper one’s personality into something both hermetic and waterproof. I have the inkling feeling that it was those months swimming and walking on my own that gave me the tools that let me tolerate my tri-trimestral context. A whole school year spent pretending to fit into an Episcopalian school that, as the years went on, showed little respect for the man I wanted to become. A whole year spent not unlike I spent it ten years later: in front of a computer, in leisure and in labour. Towards the end of my time in that education center, I would start having friendships that have been forged into true, lifelong companionships that defy grand distances. But those only truly ever developed outside of school. And as much as I disliked it all, it was still the routine of the world I knew and (thought I) understood.
Come mid-December, when kids would run away from school and hope the moths would’ve gotten to the uniforms next they emerged from the depths of cabinets, I would travel to my mum’s farm in the country side. With this change I would have to adapt my life; from a lonely kid with no true friends living inside but not really interacting with the capital, yet slowly developing an affair with the possibilities of post-modernity (fantasy, sci-fi, video games, Internet Communities); into daydreamer with cuts and scars on hands that knew some manual work. Some, because I could always sneak away or avoid it all.
My days during that 2008-2009 summer were defined by schedules. Feed the chickens, prepare breakfast, rake the leaves and help around, come 11am when the sun was hardest and the solar batteries charged, I would play Oblivion or MGS4 for a little too long. I had to be careful, you see, for the original PS3 would drain those batteries too easily. Lunch would follow, made by myself or my mother, and then I would do some other job around the property before retiring to the river. There I would swim a little, but mostly ponder the imaginary lives of tiny characters living in the landscape before me. They had adventures involving desert worlds and floating continents whose shadow made life bearable in those planets of sand dunes. That idleness of mind characterized many moments in the farm. My mind would wander, my iPod playing music in my ear creating, perhaps, the first real attention bubble I was subject to.
How I now long for those hours of idle thinking. Of coming out of the water and immediately deciding to wander around the farm, a stick in my hand, dogs by my side. In time I became semi-competent with the wooden staffs, to the point that I still wonder what could’ve been had I had the chance to train in bo staff martial arts.
What comes most vividly is the feeling of a wooden stick in my hand, the vibrations of the thin metal tines as they scratched dried leaves off the baked-clay coloured soil.
Ah, the lives yet unlived.
Nowdays, it is such walks that, if they don’t outright sort me out, they at least help me get out of the hellscape of an oversaturated mind. I crave them in a way I never did when secluded away in that property with cattle and flock. Back then, it was the musical drug of Charon that helped me journey beyond my geographic prison and experience cultures beyond. Curious, that now that I live beyond that continent, I have fewer music-hours than ever before, though I have much more (access to) of it to enjoy, both in breadth and sheer amount.
Whatever thought I had on that train bound to Plymouth has faded with time. Fragmented epiphanies, as they’re picked up and dropped as-of-when. Writing this is a self-reflecting exercise in temporal experience, much more than a piece of writing itself. How many places are we in at the same time? Memories are faulty, but do they not let us do the Time Lord thing of “experiencing the whole of your time at once”? Faulty, faulty.
I decided to put on Colder on one more time. It brings back the moment I first listened to it, but that memory is blurry and corrupted by photographs and this very navel gazing exercise. It definitively doesn’t help me remember when I started writing this. What comes most vividly is the feeling of a wooden stick in my hand, the vibrations of the thin metal tines as they scratched dried leaves off the baked-clay coloured soil. Behind me there is a column decorated by stones rolled smooth by the river; a red ’97 Toyota Hilux is there too. If I focus, I can make up the smells, the feel of the purple iPod in my pocket, how the earphone cable would get tangled on the rake before I would weave the earphones under my shirt and into my ears.
Looking at who we were to try to understand who we are so we can become who we will be.
And now I laugh: aware of the irony of a time-based epiphany, considering the infamous untimeliness of British rail transport.