I just came home from a Sting concert, part of the Symphonicity tour. It was a display of fantastic musicianship, beautifully arranged orchestral hybrids of Sting’s songs. An inspiring event, then, and one that once during the show reminded me of the history I have with Sting’s music.

For a long time, I was unable to listen to his music, despite liking it a lot. You know how, when you listen to certain music a lot while doing something else, one starts reminding you of the other? The mind anchors things together, making one a way to quick access of the memory of the other. I have certain albums that remind me of certain computer games, some music that reminds me of some people or events in my life, even music that immediately makes me think of painting walls.

And Sting, sadly, once became a psychological minefield. It is a story I have all but forgotten, locked away safely deep inside myself in a place where it has surely shaped who I am but that I do not really think of much anymore, nor is it something I regularly talk to others about. Perhaps that then is a good reason to dig it out, and share it here, because while it is not part of my daily life, it can never be completely forgotten.

Rewind time a slight bit past a decade. The Internet has just started making its way into the life of normal people at a scale. For me, I ended up spending a large part of my time on the IRC chat network EFnet through my late teens. I met a lot of fantastic people there, most of whom I have sadly lost contact with today.

On IRC, I found friendship that I was in part lacking away from keyboard. In school, I had been the odd kid, subject to harsh words and always the one not quite welcome. Online, I was a popular guy — more popular than even I realized myself at first. “You were all that and a bag of crisps”, a friend once explained to me, as I had failed to understand just how some people saw me.

In that environment, there was also stronger feelings. I fell for a woman called Sneaky. She was, in reality, Carolyn — an American from outside of Houston, Texas. She was older than me, 30-something, but behind a text interface age didn’t matter much. We connected, and whatever superficial attributes would have stopped us from talking had we met in flesh never stopped two aliases from chatting on the ‘net.

That started what can be described as an online distance relationship. It worked for a fair while, and we had a blast together online… but then she started acting distant. We fought, and eventually she said she was leaving me for my own sake. I wasn’t satisfied with this though — I felt that we should solve things for real, and that I should be the judge of what was best for me. So I borrowed money from my grandparents, booked a ticket and left a note on the hallway floor for my parents who I knew would never understand or let me go, as I headed out on quite an adventure.

Another online friend from Texas had helped me out with directions. I flew into Houston, had a close call with customs, caught a local bus to the middle of nowhere where I managed to catch a Greyhound bus to the small town where she lived. I stepped off and it drove off. I don’t think I ever considered what could have happened if something went wrong at that point.

I did manage to find her house, which looked like it was about to collapse. As I knocked on the door, a woman opened that I did not recognize. She was certainly 20 years older than the Carolyn I knew from pictures online and certainly several times her weight. I am, understandably, fairly upset at this point.

She tells me she is really just helping hide the real Carolyn, who is under FBI protection from an ex-husband trying to kill her, and then stashes me away at a cheap motel in the middle of nowhere. This then begins a week with phone calls and the hope of meeting her in an ever more elaborate tale of extraordinary events, expertly spun.

I spent a week isolated in that motel, unable to get anywhere (since Texas is a state where walking is an unheard of and unsupported mode of transportation). The TV had a porn channel which was uninteresting to me at that time, a local news channel and the God channel. The radio had several God channels that only played Christian songs about God and Jesus. I got my fair share of local news and advertisement that week.

I wrote down things in my notebook as I tend to do when I am creative away from computers… poetry, lyrics, stories, as I gradually slipped into what I can only call insanity. My one companion was my portable CD player, and a copy of Sting’s Fields of Gold collection.

This, then, is how I came to associate Sting with the pain and near-insanity of being in love with a woman who did not exist. The music probably kept me alive through that dreadful week full of lies, but it also anchored itself to a desperate feeling of pain.

At the end of the week, she drove me to the airport and told me the FBI had an agent on the flight, so I better not think of trying to avoid going home. The whole thing came apart soon after I came home as I was left untangling the threads of lies. I later discovered how she had had several boyfriends online simultaneously all the time, playing each one in the same manner in a long series of expert serial deception. I was, of course, unable to help any of them as they would not believe me.

It took me a long time to bounce back from that ordeal. Among ways to learn of the evil people can do, this was a harsh one. Of course I heard the songs from time to time, but each time they would call up the feelings from that motel room, threatening to suffocate me.

A few years down the line, however, I heard Fields of Gold again, and at that time I was in a new relationship. And as the emotions came rushing, I thought “No. These are too beautiful to be eternally bound to this pain.” I wanted the songs to be there to mean things of beauty again as they had been, that they were too good to be sacrificed to such an evil.

After that insight had hit me, I simply listened to the songs in the context of my new situation, refusing to let the old emotions grab hold. That attitude was enough to break the anchor.

Since then, I keep coming back. Music has always been my gate to poetry and way of finding deeper meaning. I very much live by the music I listen too, finding lyrical quotes that serve as milestones for my walk through life. And I really am grateful that these ones stayed with me.

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star,
Like tears from a star

On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are,
How fragile we are