One rainy evening in the hospital, they decided to bring him the Gossip Girl soundtrack. There was nothing much wrong with it. What could he expect? A TV show soundtrack that was original? Perhaps. Before the system’s collapse, this is what the decadent youth listened to.
At first, “Crimewave” by the Crystal Castles was heard booming from his ward in the early hours of the morning, but it didn’t matter much because the small hospital had only a night porter who slept in his box under a dingy light. The warped blips would sometimes disturb the neighbors from their sleep, but they would often start dancing along to the rhythm to the background of shelling. He found something to connect with in its jerky dance rhythms, some perception of reality that had been electronically skewed out of proportion.
How did certain songs from the Gossip Girl soundtrack grow on him? He was shell-shocked, recovering from a shrapnel wound in the leg, but Nadiah Oh’s “Got Your Number” sent him back to the fast life in New York, buzzing around the Uptown nightmare, unsure what song to play next, which nightclub for which they were on the guest list.
Every morning he would smoke a cigarette, think about the front, what had come to pass in his life, and then listen to the Gossip Girl soundtrack. The nurses would talk to each other about how a man of 25 could lie with his leg bandaged, smoking and listening to “Cities In Dust” by Junkie XL, framed by the late fall sunlight streaming through the window. “Oh-oh-oh, all your cities lie in dust,” he was reminded of the old days, schemers, pettiness. All that had been shattered. The smoke from the battlefield was still heavy upon his lapel pins, and he couldn’t remember what he had done back home. But some sort of aesthetic remained.
He would skip past certain tracks like “Do You Wanna.” The nurses whispered that he felt “so fed up of the same old mood.” A younger nurse said to the head nurse that she remembered the Kooks; they had been part of the indie sellout in the U.K. The record companies had co-opted a young, “hip” band to reap the profits. But it must have been pretty obvious that they weren’t the real deal, the head nurse interjected. The young nurse replied that this obviously must have not translated across the Atlantic.
The music seemed young to him, although it was sometimes too abrasive. But the show was abrasive, he remembered, and some songs — from “Sour Cherry” by The Kills to “We Started Nothing” by The Ting Tings — would grate on his ears at times. They reminded him of the doctor’s saw he feared on his leg. He thought The Ting Tings had recorded better songs.
The nurses would sometimes dance for him to “Do The Panic” by Phantom Planet. Although he didn’t like the band much and knew that they had been used by the O.C. — Gossip Girl’s duskier California predecessor — he had to admit that sometimes the vague scents of rock ‘n roll below the clanging of guitar rhythms was what he enjoyed most about the track.
As the gangrene grew on his leg, he started to fear more and more. Soon he had turned to the bottles of sweet wine that the porter would hide under his coat for him. Memories took more and more time to go away. Pretty girls, teenage stress, brightly colored styles. It seemed they were returning. He would listen to “Hard to Live (in The City)” between drunken nights and not “let anybody know that it’s hard to live in the city.”
The sounds crystallized over him on his bed, almost a diamond web, he reckoned, rough worn. He tried to listen to other music, but he revisited, revisited, could not leave.