“My whole life I’ve just felt a bit off. I find myself getting into these patterns of behavior and thought- especially when I’m stuck up here (in my head). I’d like to say that, “This is a bad neighborhood, and I should not go walking alone.” – Chester Bennington
Five year ago, Linking Park announced a concert in South Africa at the Johannesburg FNB stadium. Tickets were at a premium and sold out quickly. I bought my ticket 2 months in advance.
I remember the day I bought the tickets distinctly. I remember because I took a shower that day. I also remember that I had to leave the confines of my student residency at the University of Witwatersrand and walk the few kilometers to the Computicket at Park Station. I remember wearing a hoodie to shield myself from the sun. And to hide my face. I remember feeling joy when I bought those tickets.
It sounds mundane, but I distinctly remember these things because they were unusual in my depressed state of mind. In my depressed existence. In my reclusive life of addiction, isolation, anxiety and loneliness. To do the mundane was hard, and to live a life in the “real world” was impossible. I couldn’t handle being there. So, I hid in my student apartment and escaped into the world of music that kept me alive.
Linkin Park was an essential part of that escapism. Living things, A Thousand Suns, Minutes to Midnight and Hybrid Theory were key elements of my daily tonic. Eat, sleep, abuse substances and listen to music to get the energy to do it all again. This was not living life in Technicolor. This was a dark, dark existence and Chester Bennington’s strained vocals and visuals reflected my mood perfectly. He knew it. He got it. I didn’t want to stay in South Africa. I wanted to escape to the dystopian universe of “The Catalyst.”
Two months after buying the tickets, I flunked out of University, switched to a Zimbabwean institution and moved in with my uncle. Into his single room cottage. I began a new life in Bulawayo. I didn’t. I was the same conflicted mess. I ate. I slept. I abused myself. And I listened to music until I could do it all over again. I did not miss any friends, by the time I moved I had not kept any. Nor did I make new ones. I couldn’t. I spent a lot of time in my head. Or in the Dystopian world of “Lost in the Echo.”
So, by the time the show arrived, I was anxious. Who would trust me? Why was I going? Why was I bothering with a Linkin Park concert? I could barely explain it to myself, so I did not even try to explain it to everyone else. I did call my brother in Gweru, asked him to provide an alibi hen hitched an 11 hour bus ride to Johannesburg, crossing the border in rebellious excitement.
I barely knew my way around Soweto. Or around an international concert. I was black, everyone around me was white. I did not have a fancy iPhone for selfies. I did not go with friends or a loved one. I did not tweet about it. I wore a random pair of jeans and a hoodie to hide my face. I remember these things because I felt these things. Even in a sea of 90 000 Linkin Park fans, as I entered those gates, I felt alone.
And then, the music played. The vocal cords filled the night air. The energy was contagious. Chester screamed, jumped, swiveled and poured his soul into the words. He performed with heart. We sang every syllable back. I formed a one man most pit in a corridor of seats in the furthest part of the stadium. From the opening of “A place for my Head” to the last chord of “One step Closer”, I felt good. I felt Alive.
I took a train back to the floor of a student residence I crashed on and called my family, excusing myself for not being available. I took an 11 hour bus ride home. Where I continued to eat, sleep, abuse myself and listen to Linkin Park until I had the energy to do it again.
I am better now. I’m not perfect, but I am better now. Chester Bennington isn’t. He is gone. It hurts, it hurts so bad. Because, like him, my mind is a horrible neighborhood when I walk alone. In those moments when I would listen to linking Park, I was not alone.
I miss you. I love you. I thank you. I pray your soul may find peace, jus as you gave me some when I had none.