In The FleshMature

In the summer of 1977, Connor Brown is preparing himself for a spontaneous trip of a lifetime. Crossing the Atlantic, along with a close friend, he puts his demons behind him and travels to North America to see Pink Floyd on their In The Flesh tour. After missing the European leg, Connor decides he must see them for the first time, to experience the full impact of the band that has had an unusual effect on his life.

He thought this would be great. He thought this would be one of those moments in life that you never forget, one of those moments you could brag about until your dying day. However, the retelling of this particular moment was one that he was struggling to remember the details to, even as it unfolded in front of him at that very...well, moment. Richard didn't seem to be enjoying himself that much. He wondered why, assuming that Richard did this kind of thing all the time; surely there was a reason? Because he wasn't enjoying this at all. His hands felt like two balloons, his head felt like an empty vacuum, yet he had the unmistakable surge of energy that he would've logically expected from inhaling such a drug. The alcohol swirling through his blood seemed to be constricting everything inside himself, his chest was growing tighter, his body growing number. He had to get out of here, and fast. A few hours ago he would have found this situation to be unbelievable, a dream come true. Now he was hoping, almost begging to some higher power that he knew didn't exist, to give him an out. That this was all some part of a flash forward in some kind of story, that would surely stop very soon and relieve him of this feeling of absolute fear that he was going to die.
   Stumbling to his feet, he swayed and tried to get his balance. He managed that okay, now the walking part. Richard didn't seem to notice, lounging back on the sofa, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Moving slowly towards the door, with images of reception, phonecalls, ambulances, tears, apologies and recovery running through his head, he suddenly felt his legs give way. Like they weren't even a part of his body and had disappeared. He fell very slowly like a tree and collapsed onto the floor, hardly breaking the fall with his inflatable limbs. His nose felt very warm and wet, but the only thing he was the most conscious about was all the other people in the room. It seemed like they had all suddenly appeared there, for it seemed before that it was only himself and Richard in the room, taking part in such a wonderful, exciting and decidedly one sided conversation. They did in fact notice that he'd fallen over in such a pathetic state. They did not however, care in the slightest.

   She thought this would be the most amazing night of her life. It already had been a contender to take the top spot before she had reached this holy grail. She was nervous, excited, tentative and almost delirious with anticipation. David was staring at the wall vacantly, is eyes fixed on a particularly blank part of the particularly blank wallpaper, unwavering as he brought a bottle of beer to his lips and gingerly sipped. Was he trying to work himself up? Was she perhaps, not good enough? Without the aid of more alcohol and a bit of imagination, would he have given her a second glance? Does it even matter? She tried to look as cool and innocent as she could, which was some mean feat considering it was all she could do to stop her hands and legs from visibly shaking. It was unreal and surreal to even be here. The thought of what would happen next was almost too much to think about.
   A small thought of him clawed at the back of her very busy subconscious. A pang of guilt and shame seemed to twang and reverberate through her whole body. It wasn't enough to deter her from this though. This was as once in a lifetime as it gets. Although it totally wasn't her style, or way, it would be something to truly tell for years to come. David massaged his chin absent-mindedly, stroking the light stubble and bringing his hand up to slowly squeeze his forehead. His hair fell to past his shoulders, perhaps a little greasy, almost inviting her to come over. She built up the courage to ask him what he felt like doing before he cut her off mid-word, standing up suddenly and walking towards the bathroom as he spoke.
   "I'm afraid it's never quite what you imagine, in the flesh."

Chapter I
Speak to Me

It was the summer of 1975, when Connor Townsend discovered music. It was a true turning point in his life. At the ripe young age of 20, Connor had never really been interested in music. His childhood had been dominated by hearing The Beatles from every direction, from every friend, from every parent. He hated them. No, I don't only need love, he used to bitterly think. What about money? You can't buy a house with love can you? Money can't buy you love, either. He hated that one too. He was a very conscientious young boy, amusing his parents and moreso his relatives with how old he acted sometimes. Connor was the typical Welsh boy growing up. Well, the typical Western boy anyway.
   Nice, shy, well mannered, caring and like any normal boy, hopelessly depressed. Okay, so maybe he wasn't that normal. His parents split up when he was 14, which would be reason enough given the aggressive and distressing manner in which it took place. Yet his depression stemmed back even before his parents marital woes. Over the smallest of things, Connor would find himself becoming very sad. For reasons he didn't understand, he was very "deep" as his Grandmother had once put it, and he was very susceptable to becoming attached to things. Possessions such as his snow white teddy bear, or simply people he didn't know, like movie stars.                  Though he never did admit it to himself, it was simply because he would rather put more faith in something that deep down he knew wouldn't be able to let him down.
 Through his later teen years, he let his school work suffer as he began to mix in with the rougher crowd in school, growing his hair like the older boys and picking on the simpler kids. After seeing one of those kids he had pointed and laughed at cry one day, he suddenly realised that he was in fact making life miserable for someone just like he had used to be. That night he cried more than that one boy had, and withdrew into himself for months, ashamed.It took another few years for him to gain more confidence to use in a more positive way, and soon he had met his first girlfriend. Her name was Cassandra, and she was perfect. After months of befriending her, he had surprised himself and asked her out. She agreed and they shared a beautiful six months together, as happy as happy could possibly ever be.       Of course things didn't pan out the way Connor had not so much hoped, as he did assume without any thought. He never once thought that things would end, and that was what truly crushed him. She wanted other things, and by things of course she meant boys. His heart was broken. Or at least dented a little. They remained friends for a while, and he insisted hearing of her continuing conquests with other guys "was fine". Which crushed him even further, untill he felt like he was being squashed in a vice by depression and decided to take a midnight stroll. In the rain. This is where this particular story truly starts.

   He trudged through the puddle-ridden roads for hours, allowing every thought he'd tried to block out over the year of separation with Cassandra back into his head. He cried untill he couldn't physically cry anymore. The rain masked it, which spurred him on to really let loose. By 2am he was utterly drained and couldn't face going back home to his Mother in this state. He wandered across town to his Brother's new place and knocked the door. Andrew answered, slowly pulling the door back of his 2nd floor flat.
   "Jesus, you look like a drowned rat mate, what're you doing? Get in." He said with a hint of amused surprise.
   "I...don't even know," Connot mumbled, shuffling inside, feeling immediately more conscious of how wet he was.
   "For God's sake...I'll get you a dressing gown, hang on." Andrew replied, dashing down the corridor into his bedroom. Connor shivered.
   "Here you are mate, I'm not gonna ask. Just go into the spare room, chill out, get warm, and get some sleep. Mum'd throw a fit if she saw you like this. Did she see you leave?"
   "No," Connor quickly stripped down to his boxers and wrapped the huge brown gown around himself gratefully. "She was asleep when I left."
   "Alright, well go on mate, I've gotta get some sleep, I've got work in the morning."
   "Ok...thanks bro," Connor choked, almost crying again, hating that burning sensation in his throat with a passion beyond belief. Andrew nodded compassionately, gripped his brother's shoulder for a moment and retired to his bedroom. Connor slipped into the spare room at the end of the corridor. It was dark and he didn't bother to turn on the light. The room was bathed in a blueness from the moon and its distant reflection from the sea. He'd loved the view from here when Andrew first moved in and didn't understand why he hadn't chosen it as his bedroom. He sighed, trying to suck his emotion back, as if he could swallow it and digest it into nothing. Sinking down onto the double bed Andrew had put there for such an occasion as this, he laid back and curled into a ball, trying to warm himself with his own body heat.
   The door edged open and he looked up as a thin line of light from the hall grew larger.
   "If you can't sleep, listen to some of my records mate. Let your mind drift off somewhere else," Andrew said, throwing a headset over to him. They plopped down next to him on the duvet and he nodded to his older brother. "Alright, night mate." Andrew shut the door quietly. Connor was always knocked down by how nice his sibling could be sometimes. This was almost just what he needed. He felt a little better and easily found the slot in the record player next to the bed, plugging in the big headset. A bit of pot luck was in order as he reached down to the stack of records behind the bedside table, picking out one from the middle of the stack. The sound of them sliding over across the floor grated on him, but he perservered and without looking at the cover of the one he had chosen, he slipped the vinyl out and placed it on the turntable.
   Headset on, he turned on the player and placed the needle on the outer rim of the record, lying back, pulling the covers around himself and closing his eyes. A strange noise started to build. Changing from left to right, giving Connor the illusion that the sound was all around him. Something that sounded like a pulsing heartbeat; a cash register ringing to a beat; some man speaking words he couldn't hear, and some crazed laughter. Before a woman suddenly cried out and all the noises grew louder untill gliding into a quieter, chilled melody that made his hair stand on end. What was this? It sounded unlike anything he had ever heard before. The song continued on, grabbing a hold of his senses and making him feel like he was the only person alive. The only person awake in the world, listening to something that was unexplicably moving him. Then words were sung: Breathe, breathe in the air, don't be afraid to care.
   He fought back tears and felt immediately foolish for being affected in such a way. Yet he would go on feeling this way for the next 40 or so minutes. Gradually feeling more unashamed and embracing the emotions this record was elicitiing from him. It made him feel sad, hopeful, scared and invigorated. On The Run seemed to be carrying him towards a new part of his life, Time made him realise what he was wasting this past year, whereas The Great Gig in the Sky just made him think of Cassandra and furthermore, lonely. The rest of this majestic album seemed to, well, speak to him.

   He awoke in the morning at about eight a.m, and Andrew had already left for work. He'd fallen asleep with the headset and dressing gown still on. Feeling suddenly very hot, he kicked the duvet off irritably and yanked off the headset. He gazed out through the window, to the blue sky outside, before getting up and opening the window. The sea outside glistened in the morning sun, a cool breeze washing through the room. He looked over at the record cover on the floor past the bedside the table. The one that laid a little further away from the stack that had slipped over. It was almost all black, with a dispersive prism in the middle, a white line of light coming towards the prism from the left, and a spectrum of colors leaving it to the right. The cover bore no name, no title.
   Connor went to the turntable itself and inspected the vinyl itself to find the details he'd be itching to find out. In the middle of the record, the name Pink Floyd, and underneath the album's title: The Dark Side of the Moon. He almost laughed to himself, thinking that the name was almost too appropriate. He briefly considered the notion that the way this record had moved him the night before was purely circumstantial. Yet music had never made him feel like that. He spent the next few hours flicking through the big stack of records, putting on a few that caught his eye.    By the time he had put Dark Side of the Moon back on, to see if it really was as amazing as he felt it had been, he had listened to snippets of three albums that he would later cite as being among his favourites of all time. Revolver by The Beatles(surprising himself), Argus by Wishbone Ash and Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon(which proved to be immensely relatable, if a bit too raw for his current state of mind). The rest didn't really catch his attention, and neither had the others to the degree of the Pink Floyd tour de force.
   Once again he listened to Dark Side from start to finish, lying down again in just his boxers on top of the covers, legs crossed comfortably as the cool air waved over him. By the closing line of lyrics at the end(The Sun is in tune, but the Sun is eclipsed by the Moon), he felt a surge of excitement as the hair on his arms and neck stood on end. He felt depressed yet uplifted. Hopeless yet determined. As he left Andrew's flat, he walked down the two flights of stairs straight onto the seafront, and strolled along the promenade. Connor couldn't help but feel like this was a turning point in his life. He'd loved, he'd lost, but was everything really over? He felt silly to even think of the idea that an album of music had changed him. It just seemed to resonate with him more than anything anyone had said over the past few months. All the words of comfort, all the concerned looks and all the sympathetic ways seemed to come second place to him now.
   This album, of art, had given him more solice than his closet of family and friends had. The sense of despair and sadness it made him feel, also made him feel that it was okay. He was feeling, he was alive. Again, he felt silly, but knew then and there, that his future, his life, lay in his own mind and actions. This music had saved him from spiralling out of control, and that was that. In the coming weeks he would bug Andrew about Pink Floyd. He seeked out more and more music, which interested him more than it ever had. Yet none of it came close to giving him that feeling. He needed to hear more Pink Floyd.
   "Do you have anymore Pink Floyd records bro?" He had first asked, as Andrew laughed.
   "Well no actually, but I'm surprised you listened to that one, didn't strike me as your kind of thing." He replied, eyebrows furrowing a little as if realising it was as troubling as it was amusing.
   "Neither did I but, man, it really is great. I want to hear more of them, I want to know more about them." Connor replied, looking past Andrew, imagining more life changing nights, more epiphanies and goosebump-inducing music.
   "Well, I've never really been a huge fan of them myself, though I quite like Dark Side. You can have it if you want."
   "I can? Really?" Connor almost gushed, the idea not occuring to him before that he could listen to it at home too, let alone owning it himself.
   "Suuure," Andrew replied, waving a hand as if it was no big deal, though to Connor it really was. "I never listen to it these days anyway. I was going to say aswell, Rick's younger brother Ben loves them, he probably has every album. I could see if he wouldn't mind showing you them?"
   "Uh, yeah," Connor stopped and started, thinking it through quickly to seem as nonchalant as possible. Interacting with new people wasn't so easy to him, and the idea of going to someone's place to see what they had because he liked it, seemed alien to him. He didn't think he could get through it without a lot of awkwardness. However, he felt like he should push himself a little. His life was after all, changing. Why the hell not? He at least owed it to Pink Floyd, whoever they were.
   "Sure, that'd be great bro, thanks." Connor smiled, causing Andrew to laugh again shaking his head.
   "Man, I don't know what it is, but you've almost changed back into yourself again, if that makes sense. I'm glad you're feeling better, we've missed you." He smiled at Connor's new attitude and left him to take Dark Side of the Moon home, where he would no doubt contemplate meeting someone who could tell him all he wanted to know.

The End

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