"Sing Me to Sleep"
I didn’t always hate flying. For years, I could comfortably settle into the cramped seats, fold myself into my own lap and promptly fall asleep. Soon, the plane would touch down, and I’d be wherever else, without a second thought about the bumps that shook us all on the way there. As I’ve gotten older, however, all those bumps—those cracks, those dings, those changes in force and pressure, all those potential problems and hypothetical omens of danger—have started to make me panic. Now, when I fly to and from college, I grip the arm rest, inhale sharply and feel the rush of fear slide down my spine any time the plane’s inner workings aren’t fully silent. And they’re never silent.
Cue The Smiths.
“Asleep,” from The Smiths’ 1987 record Louder Than Bombs, is my melancholy lullaby. The moment I put my phone on airplane mode, I open iTunes where “Asleep” awaits, ready at any moment’s notice to soothe the child I quietly become when I’m alone and afraid on a plane. So, the plane departs, the anxiety rises and I listen. I listen over and over and over again. I listen for as many times as it takes for the wheels to skid back onto the pavement, and I listen to nothing else. Morrissey sings to me in a whisper, his rhythm slow and sleepy like he’s recounting a story with eyes closed after a long day. He tells me to shut everything out and spend my time in the sky in “another world, a better world,” and I know that if I listen, that’s where I’ll be.
The opening few seconds of “Asleep” sounds somewhere between a quiet howl of wind and an exhale of relief. Then, the hypnotic piano riff wraps me up, it’s cadence and volume leaning back and forth into and out of my ears. Every measure of chords, every line of lyrics echoes out to infinity, becoming the most hauntingly beautiful white noise I’ve ever heard. Gradually, I can focus on nothing else, not even the sounds of the airplane that were once deafening. My breath evens out, my eyelids slip closed, and my body rocks along as it would during a lazy wade in the ocean.
At the beginning of every verse, he asks me to sing him to sleep while doing just so to me. Soon, my plane touches down, and I am wherever else—in another world, a better world. –Cydney Hayes
A. Cydney Hayes '19 studies journalism, political science and Mandarin Chinese at Northwestern University. She is an AEMJC award winner and has written for Curiosity, Unite 4 Goodmagazine, The Daily Northwestern and more. You can find more of her work and Bitters, her weekly blog about different coffee shops around Chicago and Los Angeles, at cydneyhayes.weebly.com.
By: The Smiths
Album: Louder Than Bombs (1987)