Mind Games

The song: ‘Love Sick’
The album: ‘Time Out of Mind,’ (1997)

Another really bad day. The baby was terribly tired and started to make odd requests and couldn’t find a comfortable position or figure out how to sleep, and he knocked on the door instead of using his key, wearing loose pants, his thin ankles encased in plastic shoes, and immediately started talking to her.

dylan - Reuters - April 10 2011

“Maybe you’ll give me your doll,” “Maybe I’ll drink your bottle,” “Maybe I’ll put on your bib,” and she didn’t understand why she had to give her bottle now and what the game he was playing meant, and she burst into tears. “Vuvuzela,” he said, as though he had just coined a really smart word, and when he got no reply, said he couldn’t stand the shrillness of her voice and asked why she was crying and said he should have stayed at work but had come home early, and now she was shouting, and lay down on the big sofa in the living room and shut his eyes, pain on his face, and covered it with his hand and said she was giving him a hole in the head.

The baby asked for a hug and begged to be held in her arms; Iris picked her up and caressed her back and her head sank into the hollow of her shoulder. She had already packed the baby's pail in a transparent bag along with a few very small rakes, and was already wearing a bathing suit under her clothes; she said too loudly, “Here we go! Let’s go!” And inwardly added, it’ll be all right, baby, we need to go out now, even though you want to sleep, because I promised you we would go to the beach, all of us, and he got back early even though he’s angry, I suggested it myself, because I thought we should do something together, because there’s no way he can be angry at me all the time.

When they walked down the stairs, his back to her, she admitted to herself that he hadn’t looked her in the eye even once since coming in.

• • •

On the way back from the beach, in the street, he said that thick wet hair reminds him of dog fur. At home he shook out the sand in the bathroom and the baby fell asleep in her clothes and he lay down on the sofa and asked Iris to speak quietly. Iris stuck her head into the refrigerator to find the tomatoes he had asked her to buy, and said, “Let’s listen to some music, and if there’s too much noise we’ll turn it down,” and tried to weed out all irony and every sort of tone from her voice, so he wouldn’t think she was complaining.

From the CDs they had united when they started living together, she chose “Time Out of Mind,”* which was hers, and thought that maybe they should buy a squeeze box, but that he wouldn’t want to, and put on the first song, “Love Sick.”** The beats she knew came on, tum, tum, tum, in a uniform rhythm, and dark walls of sound rose in the room, and Dylan’s voice was a musical instrument, like a harmonica, rich and full, not in the front and not in the back but amid the sea of music, tum, tum, tum, “I’m walking through streets that are dead / Walking, walking with you in my head / My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired / And the clouds are weeping.”

She wanted to tell him that she liked every song that starts with going out into the street, but said, “Listen to his sincerity,” and through the black speakers she heard, “I’m sick of love but I’m in the thick of it / This kind of love, I’m so sick of it.”

The guitars sounded blues, blues, blues, even an Eric Clapton sound, and she felt everything that had happened in the year she heard it for the first time. She felt the things that had happened in her life then, what she had lost, the person who had been inside her head then, who had killed her. Dylan reached the last line. Iris knew the shift and was ready for it, and heard his voice crack, “Just don’t know what to do / I’d give anything to be with you.” And it occurred to her that these were the simplest words Dylan had ever written.

• • •

She tilted her head slightly toward the speakers and noticed that he hadn’t yet looked into her eyes since getting back. Iris looked at him, at his thin ankles, at his covered face, and thought about his nonsense, about the noises that bothered him, about the sea and the dogs, and she thought to herself, as though thought could do it instead of her: Get up, get up, man on the sofa, get up and get out of my home now.

* “Time Out of Mind” was released in 1997 and is considered Bob Dylan’s big comeback album − it also won him a Grammy award for Album of the Year. The album was produced by Daniel Lanois, who was known for his quality production work, and provided Dylan with a very rich musical environment, especially on the guitars. Despite the album’s artistic and commercial success, which was very pronounced after the dry decade of the 1980s, Dylan did not work with Lanois again.

** “Love Sick” was released as a single in June 1998. When Dylan performed it at the Grammy awards ceremony, one of the extras who had been hired to dance behind Dylan and the band ran amok. Dylan continued to sing while the security people removed the man from the stage.