Dying from grief. Now that I'm fully acquainted with the despicable bottom that is grief. I see how romantic the notion is that one can die from the feeling. You feel so low and empty, as if you've finally reached the worst of all possible emotional pain, that the next increment of downward thrust must lead to death.

Imagine scales where one side (The one you're on) is microscopically above the table. One feather dropped on the other side, and you've hit absolute bottom. Therapists say, "once you've bottomed out, you realize the only place to go is up." Incorrect. Once you've bottomed out, you're dead.

That's why it's romantic to believe you can die from grief--where the loss of a loved one is so terrible that it causes the loss of your life. Or, like Romeo and Juliet, the supposed loss of one becomes unbearable and causes the other to commit suicide. There are folkish stories circulating of dogs who, once their owner died, refused to eat and waited in the owner's favorite room until he himself died. Or couples of multiple decades dying from heartache after the partner passed away first.

This is most certainly not far from complete malarky. Since people can suffer indefinately, the heart can ache more than poetry and prose can express, but the beating goes on.


Tracy Chapman - Fast Car

you got a fast car
and I want a ticket to anywhere
maybe we make a deal
maybe together we can get somewhere

any place is better
starting from zero got nothing to lose
maybe we'll make something
but me myself I got nothing to prove

you got a fast car
and I got a plan to get us outta here
I been working at the convenience store
managed to save a little bit of money
we won't have to drive too far
just cross the border and into the city
you and I can both get jobs
and finally see what it means to be living

you see my old man's got a problem
he lives with the bottle that's the way it is
he says his body's to old for working
his body's young to look like his
my mama went off and left him
she wanted more to life than he could give
I said somebody's got to take care of him
so I quit school and that's what I did

you got a fast car
but is it fast enough so we can fly away we gotta make a decision
we leave tonight or live and die this way

I remember we were driving driving in your car
the speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
city lights lay out before us
and your arm felt nice wrapped round my shoulder
and I had a feeling that I belonged
and I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

you got a fast car
and we go cruising to entertain ourselves
you still ain't got a job
and I work in a market as a check out girl
I know things will get better
you'll find work and I'll get promoted
we'll move out of the shelter
buy a big house and live in the suburbs
you got a fast car
and I got a job that pays all our bills
you stay out drinking late at the bar
see more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
thought maybe together you and me would find it
I got no plans I ain't going nowhere
so take your fast car and keep on driving

you got a fast car
but is it fast enough so you could fly away
you gotta make a decision
you leave tonight or live and die this way


The song is a decrescendo. It starts with a vision of a hopeful escape from poverty, by the end, half a lifetime has elapsed and we've witnessed an atypical impoverished life. The protagonist is in the same place at the end as in the beginning--having repeated her parents' mistakes and she is now middle aged. The protagonist's mother left her father, as told in the beginning of the song "my mama went off and left him/she wanted more to life than he could give". The final reoccurence of her mother's life is that the protagonist leaves her male counterpart for the same reasons--"I got no plans I ain't going nowhere/so take your fast car and keep on driving."

The title of the song, "Fast Car" reveals its thematic focus. The tempo and instrumentation increases dramatically during and throughout the chorus, giving the sense of speed, inertia, and the excitement that rapid change often brings. The volume of her voice increases, especially on the emphatic "I-I". Just speeding in the car gives her a high like drunkeness (another theme), a sense of belonging and importance (she could "be" someone). Such is a common problem among the impoverished: simple highs ("speed so fast...") garnered through sports are rarely realized and thus lacking. Belonging and being someone, just basic self-esteem, are virtually non existent. This is proved by the fact that something mundane like driving fast elicits these feelings. They come out because they need to be expressed somewhere, somehow for our protagonist. Whereas she's inspired to hope for a better future by these feelings, the male in the poem goes nowhere with them.

It's clear that our archetypal female character loves the archetypal poor drunk male. She falls for the unemployed fast driving alcoholic and leaves school (her only ticket out of poverty) for her father, the same guy basically thirty years older.