Years before studies proclaiming the benefits of a good walk for one’s mental health, country music legend Patsy Cline was singing about it.
Walkin’ After Midnight is a bluesy, upbeat number that belies its existential sadness. The singer is out walking after midnight, searching for “you”, but it’s never made clear in the song whether the “you” is a real person that actually exists.
We may not know what she’s searching for, but it’s clear in the final couplet that she’s hoping her wandering will enable her to find it:
I go out walking after midnight, out in the starlight
Just hoping you maybe somewhere a’walking, after midnight, searching for me
When I last left you, I’d hit the middle of the week with an unshiftable block of melancholy. Things didn’t get much better after the writing of that piece. I went to a social function in the evening where my efforts to remain cheerful and break beyond the glass cage of fakery inside were even more laboured.
It was beareoke night, an event that last year I enjoyed and wrote about. When I first arrived, I was caught up vicariously in the excitement of the (mostly) younger men poring through song catalogues and shortlisting their favourites on their iPhones. My stereotyping about the younger generation surprised when I discovered that men under 25 do actually know songs recorded before 2011, and I gave myself a mental slap over the wrist.
The evening wore on, and paradoxically, as more people I knew arrived – many visitors from New Zealand turned up yesterday – the further away from planet Earth I felt my essence being drawn.
At the relatively early hour of around 10pm, I was screaming inside to get out, and abruptly left. I got back to my host’s place, closed the spare room door just in time to stop being embarrassed by the flood of uncontrollable, shaking tears that followed, lasting about an hour.
The violence of it surprised me, and just as a wave subsided and I got my breath back, another would come crashing over me and I thought it wouldn’t stop. The blackest of black thoughts exploded inside me, and I wished at that instant I was dead.
I took my night medication and laid down, some relaxing music on the iPod, and eventually drifted off to sleep.
The following morning, I woke very early – around 5am – and the blackness had cleared like an overnight storm. It had been replaced by a leaden numbness, and it’s then that I knew I had to get out for the day.
Much like Patsy Cline, I went out walking, though not after midnight. I headed on the train into town for the morning and aimlessly meandered the CBD, in and out of stores, my iPod attached to my ears, breathing the fresh air and drinking in the random sights of unfamiliar streets.
At times, the lyrics of Patsy’s song returned to me:
“And as the skies turn gloomy, night winds whisper to me
I’m lonesome as I can be”
I felt alone, in a place where I shouldn’t be. I know any number of people at the other end of a phone line. But I kept walking, just hoping that whatever I was looking for would be out there searching for me as well.