It was 1994 and the voice coming from my headphones stopped me. I don’t remember much else, what I was doing, where I was. The voice. I knew that voice, I had never heard it before but it palpitated inside of me as if it was formed from my own blood.
There’s a passage in the Book of Luke, Luke 1:41. Mary is knocked up by God and goes to visit her cousin, my namesake, Elizabeth. Elizabeth too is knocked up by God. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. I’m not Christian. I never was. But I read the bible growing up, the Jehovah’s Witness version. That passage always was a yes in my heart and still is.
Music has been a constant river in my life, one that sated my thirst, cleansed me, carried me through awe and devastation. My father plays guitar. When I was a little girl there were mornings he would wake my sisters and me up with serenades, singing in Spanish. We grew up singing along, love songs from Mexico. Our mother sang to us daily, everything from The Carpenters to Gloria Estefan. I hold sacred the memory of her arms around me when I was small and just beginning to form memories, singing me to comfort with The Rainbow Connection.
- The voice was dark honey, was the night sky over a desert. The voice was women, sacred women, woman from the heart of survival. She wanted to hold the hand inside me, I reached back. She was Mazzy Star. I watched MTV until the video for Fade into You finally showed me her face and the holy spirit leaped inside of me again, that recognition. She was a brown girl, skinny like me, hair as black. In the video she was shy, tambourine in hand. I knew that collapsed shoulder posture, I lived in it. She crossed her arms over her tender middle, as I did. I loved how she parted her hair in the and went to the mirror and parted my hair the same. I had my grandfather drive me to the mall and I bought the album So That Tonight I May See. I learned each song by heart, every chord change, every vocal intonation.
I went to see her in concert. I had a boyfriend, my first love, who was a few years older than me. He got us tickets. My mom drove us in her Ford Aerostar and dropped us off. I was such a wreck. I felt like a kid in the room, I was one of the youngest. I remember cowering into my boyfriend’s side his arm around me. I hadn’t been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder back then, I came off as incredibly insecure. When the lights dimmed and Hope came on stage with her tambourine, the violet stage lights casting a halo over her, I melted. I fell in love. I swayed and felt her voice enter me the way the holy spirit enters a body, transforming it. I knew the ache in her as if were a part of me. A little voice in me said yes, this is what I want. A voice in me reminded me that this was what I wanted to offer the world. I wanted to hold the hand inside them.
In the story collection I’m finishing, music is key. Almost every story in the collection started off with a song, or a lyric, or a chord change. I mention music and musicians in almost every story. There is even a story I wrote based on a Heart song I fucking love, All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You. Another story is based on a song I heard an uncle singing when he was in his cups and melancholy. My characters talk about music, they sing to each other the way my family sings to each other. Music is in our blood as surely as athleticism runs in the bloodline of athletes.
I’ve been listening to Mazzy Star quite often these melancholy days. Even though I live in Southern California and as I write this I’m in a tank top, windows open to the sunshine and ocean breeze, winter of the soul is real. We are in winter in more than one way. I look at the world, I read the news, I see the fear and terror in the eyes of my people. When I listen to Mazzy Star, the music reminds me of something eternal.