ME: ...I’m not sure how to put it. I get songs stuck in my head. Not exactly songs but three-second riffs. They play back over and over and over like a skipping record. Like right now I’ve got The Cruel Sea song “I Feel,” the part where it goes “I feel/Like nobody knows or cares how/I feel/Like I’m going to be kind of sick now/I feel…”, then it goes back to the beginning and plays in a loop over and over and fucking over!
DR. ROGER STEEN, ADDICTION SPECIALIST ($190/HR): How long has this been going on?
ME: Since as long as I can remember. Kindergarten. Nursery rhymes. Hanna-Barbera cartoons. “Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer.” “They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning.” The opening tune from “Good Times” tortured me through most of junior high.
DR. STEEN: Have you discussed this with anyone?
ME: No. I mean, yes, jokingly, like in a ‘shitty top 40 songs that got stuck in your head’ kinda way. You know, we all get songs stuck in our head, Doc, I know that. But for the last ten years or so, they’ve been non-stop. And LOUDER. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to take a pee and BOOM, the disc starts playing, and I’m up for hours.
DR. STEEN: Have you tried mind-calming exercises? Counting sheep, this kind of thing.
ME: I don’t think you’re hearing me, Doc. This is my counting sheep. My nervous tick. All my life, whenever I get into an uncomfortable social situation, the song starts playing on a loop, like a security blanket. It’s not a bad thing. Or, it wasn’t a bad thing in P.E. in 11th grade. But for fuck’s sake it tortures me now. It starts with a song I like and then it persists and persists and persists. Fucking Bright Eyes! “Cleanse Song,” that bit “So I muffled my scream on an Oxnard beach/Full of fever dreams that scare you sober/Into saltless dinners” lodged into my head in Sao Paulo, Christmas 2007 and stayed well into March, New York, with relapses over the last four years. “Amateurs, dilettantes, hacks, cowboys, clones/The streets groan with little Caesars, Napoleons and cunts/With their building blocks and their tiny plastic phones/Counting on their fingers, with crumbs down their fronts,” that Nick Cave song—it’s been fucking hounding me for five years. Last week it was the Sunnyboys, week before that it was Iron and Wine. Doc, I know exactly what serial killers mean when they talk about hearing voices. It’s like I’ve got a long residency hotel in my brain, and the guests all overstay their welcome. In fact I’d even say my pot addiction and now my drinking and even that whole Internet porn thing was really just a subconscious effort to turn off the FUCKING RADIO!
I pause. Stand. Address the empty theater.
ME: See, just this very conversation, just this whole, ‘Doc, you gotta help me’ scene has done it. In my head, right this second, Mick Jagger: “Dear doctor, please help me, I’m damaged/There’s a pain where there once was a heart . . .” And I know he ain’t leaving any time soon.