Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits
May 11 ● BY Candice May
Rock. 1972. Side One:
When you’re an older woman, you’ll see photographs of yourself as a child, hair in pigtails, skipping through the yard. What’s hidden in the pockets of your dress? Handfuls of stones, with painted eyes. All your secrets. There you are, little girl. Kneeling on the pantry floor. You’re inhaling the stale air—packaged cupcakes, cookies, and crumbs. In the living room, your parents may have overturned the sofa. Their shouting nearly drowns out your whisper, praying for the first time. God bless them, please, you say, imagining Jesus can hear you. Hey hey hey! is the last thing your father screams, as the front door slams. You don’t know where to look. What’s that? You hear it. Your mother has left and gone away.
“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” (Live)—2:25
Every night, you dream of her. You sketch plans in your diary: elaborate escape routes. You will ride your bicycle through the night, through the empty streets, a crimson cape on your shoulders. You will take the ferry, cross bridges, run through fields and forests with your flashlight on. She will be there in the rain, her arms outstretched. My little girl, she says. You found me. She’s holding your hand, kissing your blonde hair and flushed face. Oh, I love you, she says, walking on. When you wake up, you are holding your own hand.
Still just a girl, you leave home at seventeen. The road opens before you like an empty page in your notebook. You travel by train, by bus, finding sleep in hostels, parking lots, airports. Your steely eyes attract the beds and wallets of lonely men, but you lay low, walk alone, packing and repacking your bags. Some days, you roam the city in circles, slamming any door that opens for you. You throw rocks at mirrors, watch your reflection crack and splinter. You write poems on bus station walls, apply to universities and burn their acceptance letters. Each night you sleep alone, wrapped in the blankets of your stifling loneliness. You lead yourself back home, sometimes, but turn around. A stranger to everyone, you hunt for what you cannot have, fists ready to fight. Lie, lie, lie, you reply, to any lover or would-be friend who says, Stay with me. I love you.
“The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” (Live)—1:50
New York to New Mexico. The Greyhound bus rocks you to sleep as you cross the country in the dark, seeking the light. A long gravel road winds up a mountain overlooking the Rio Grande. The air is so thin you grow dizzy trying to breathe. Prayer flags flap in the wind. A commune of free spirits welcomes you, bowing in greeting. Signs on the footpaths: Slow Down. Be Here Now. You learn how to pray properly, passing a tobacco pipe and sprinkling cedar onto steaming rocks inside a tipi. Elders sing songs to the ancestors, to the plants and stones. Hands pound the water drum: Ba da-da da-da da-da. You drink medicine from the earth, surrender yourself to flowers, to petals. In the morning, you emerge naked and reborn. Dappled sunlight, all your senses reawakened. Here, you can love life.
“The Sound of Silence” (Acoustic version with electric overdubs)—3:05
But nothing is to last. The echo in your soul might kill you. The sound of a ripple; a stone hitting the still surface of water. Nothing has yet touched this darkness. In dreams, you wander, following footprints that belong to no animal you have known. India, you are told, is the motherland of longing. Go, go. In Varanasi, city of light, you are greeted like an old friend. Ten thousand people walk the narrow streets and fill the temples, ushering you along with them. And there you are again, kneeling on the floor. Bronze statues of the monkey god loom above you. Marble and gold replicas of gurus long gone. Blue Krishnas with silk scarves and flashing neon eyes. Bells, chanting, harmonium, drums, conch shells trumpeting. Amid the chaos and the noise, underneath the blare of sirens and horns, the faintest whisper, almost silent: You will not find me here.
“I Am a Rock”—2:52
The Canadian winter becomes your favorite season. You rent a cabin in the woods. Forge-gray ocean, mist draped like a blanket over the shoreline. An island walled off by storms and mountains. Desolation Sound. You keep a fire going in the wood stove, books piled around you. Old friends call; you don’t answer. You curl on the couch, wrapped in wool sweaters, and get drunk on poems and philosophy. Ink leaks down your hands. You walk the low tide and throw stones into pounding waves, sea spray on your cheeks, skin gone numb. Just you and the hermit crabs, the gulls. You become hardened and gray, and you like it that way.
Rahu, says the Vedic astrologer. Ruler of darkness and separation. He looks at your chart, your palms, your irises. He shows you the aspects, the conjunctions and through lines. Problems with the mother, he says. He prescribes frankincense for your palms, and a mantra made of seed sounds for your weary mind. Find the moon snail at low tide. It resembles the breast. Tears stream down your cheeks. The planets are turning, he tells you. True love will not escape you.
“Homeward Bound” (Live)—2:42
Where is home? It isn’t the address you memorized as a child, that house swallowed by the rearview mirror years ago. It isn’t the nameless towns you passed in the night, memories of cities and countries fading like a train through a tunnel. You buy a used guitar in Albuquerque. The lacquered wood reflects a polished blue sky as you walk the sidewalk, plucking the strings. You practice where to place your fingers—G, D, A, Am—and strum the chords, over and over. Playing your songs becomes a place you come back to. A home, at least for now. Your own voice, however warbled, is the only comfort that seems to last, that waits for your return.
“Bridge over Troubled Water”—4:52
When you meet him, you’ve still got two fists up. You’re still throwing stones at mirrors, slamming doors, trying to drown out the voices in your head. You run, run away—hide out in the pantry. Your old stomping grounds. When you return, he is laying on the sofa. I knew you’d be back, he says. Where have you been? He replaces the broken mirrors and fixes the door hinges. He says, You can sing. You can shine. Please stay. His bones are bricks, his eyes a calm sea. I love you, girl. You aren’t used to this kind of steadiness, but you take a step. Cross over. At night, you dream of Jupiter. Of sailboats and silver galaxies.
Lovers, never married. Old friends, best friends. Ten years pass like scenery out of a window. Several houses rented, bought, and sold. You drive across the country together, taking turns at the wheel. Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg. Rural towns, passing billboards: “For Sale,” “Help Wanted.” You trace your fingers across the map, along the smaller roads that lead you lost. The cities are far behind you now. You settle where the moonlight is the brightest, where there are no streetlights, no stoplights, no freeways. Days go by. The world tilts on its axis. Everyone is searching for what you’ve finally found, together.
“Kathy’s Song” (Live)—3:23
Now everyone is growing older. Your heart is a clock ticking backwards. It still throbs in the places you left pieces of it behind—those frosted fields, those railway stations. Years ago, you drove through the rain-soaked streets of Ireland with your mother in a rental car. She was still smoking, back then. You traversed the roundabouts, windshield wipers on high, laughing. Exit! you yelled, pointing out the window. Later, you took shelter in a noisy pub with a folk band and the smell of stout. She sipped Bacardi and smoked, tapping her feet to the music. Between you, miles. At last call, she leaned over. I regret leaving, she said. I always have. You nodded, vision blurring with tears, scribbling ink on a napkin: Maybe leaving is a kind of loving. A song lyric, perhaps, that you’d finish later.
“El Condor Pasa (If I Could)”—3:07
You wandered for years, looking for a new face. You’d rather be alone than lonely, if you could. But now all the seeds you’ve planted are coming up. All those prayers you left on the mountain, in the desert, years ago. You sat by a fire, the tipi behind you lit up like a spaceship. Above you, eagles circled. In the valley below: sage brush and flowering juniper, vultures on the far horizon. Today is a good day to die, the world seemed to say. And could this be enough? That day, you planted your prayers into the earth beneath your feet. Mmm, mmm, you replied. Yes, it could.
You’ve carried stones with you all this time, each with a memory of what was long ago. The photographs of your life are fading. And who have you told your secrets to? What is left, now that they’re out? It’s time to drop them, to let them sink in water, and let the ripples blur your reflection.
These days, you don’t get down on your knees that often. If you pray to anyone, it’s to the patron saint of musicians, the one who might blow into your ears, your lips. Goddess, bless me, please, you’ll say, tuning your guitar. You are a busker in your own bedroom, tightening the strings. When she loves you, all the pain in the world has been worth this joy. But if she doesn’t come, or leaves you again, your heart can survive this kind of breakage. Whoah-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! you will sing. You will sing loudly, anyway.