I found out it was over second-hand – from Josh, who I wasn’t sure if you knew personally or not. “Did you hear?” I hadn’t, as it turned out. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. Still, I opened my phone to the corresponding story; and there it was. The end, in plain text; accompanied by a really lovely recent photo of you. It was clearly taken in happier times. It managed to somehow soften the blow, even though I knew what I was reading would leave an indelible mark that not even endless plays of the songs we sang together would mend.
In truth, I knew you weren’t really gone. I’d still see you around. We’d still go to the same shows. End up in the same pubs, cornering the same back tables to talk obscure grindcore and our friends’ bands. Even so, I knew from that moment things wouldn’t be the same. They couldn’t. When you extract something that has clearly meant so much to so many people, it’s not as easy as arriving at acceptance and awaiting what comes next. The truth is there’s a lot more to it than that.
The first few times I saw you sing, I felt like I was intruding somehow. I wish I could properly explain why. As many times as I’ve stood between the bear claws or made my presence felt in any sort of similar space, I’ve always felt as though I needed to justify being there. That I deserved to be there. The others could just walk in and make it their own. Not me. I spent my teens trying to figure out where I belonged, and I’ve spent most of my twenties trying to hold onto it. Not just to be tolerated, but to be accepted.
You made me feel accepted every time we were together, and I will never forget that. You will never know how much that meant to me. I can’t even begin to describe it myself. You could have asked anyone to sing with you, to travel with you and to share in your greatest moments. The times that you chose me are some of the greatest times of my entire life. You opened yourself up to me. You made time for me. You treated me as a peer. As an equal. It validated my core belief that we are all in this together.
I saw you sing a total of 30 times. Every time we reached a milestone – the sweet 16th, the 20th – you always made a point of it. You told everyone in the room and called for a round of applause. Even done ironically, it still made me feel that every waking hour I had spent travelling to be with you was worth it. I wouldn’t trade in a single one of those moments for anything else.
The first few times I saw you, I nodded along and kept to myself. I learnt some words and mouthed along to them for the next few after that. Soon, I was singing along. By the time the second album was launched, I had turned your songs into full-body experiences. I still have that photo of you and I, side by side. You playing your song, me screaming into the ether. Zach took it. He always caught our best moments together.
People might have been confused by the guy up the front, yelling angrily at people that were presumably his friends. I was past the point of caring. Nobody made me want to be myself the way that you did. No-one helped me to make sense of me and my condition and the way that I am the way that you did. You allowed my inhibitions to come out. You provided a space for me to be me, and to share that with people I love. Again, I tell you: I will never forget that. You will never know how much that meant to me.
I’ve spent the majority of my life as an outlier. I am Autistic. I am a large mass of a being – six foot tall and 300 pounds, if we’re using that system of measurement. I was never in any cool punk bands. I didn’t have a circle of friends when I started coming to these kinds of shows. I still don’t really feel as though I do. All I do is look in. I go and I stand on my own, and I leave on my own. As any self-respecting indie tragic knows, that cycle is completed by going home, crying and wanting to die. Thanks, Moz. Because of what you gave to me, however, you broke that cycle. You dismantled it and destroyed it beyond any possible repair. You made me want to survive.
I haven’t spoken to you since I found out it was over. I’m sorry I didn’t reach out. I hope you read this. I hope you know I meant every single word of it.
Thank you for being patient with me.
Thank you for taking care of me.
Thank you for inviting me into your little world.