At a Massive Attack concert, almost a year ago, I saw a girl in a Coil T-shirt. Given the distance between us, that observation alone was already impressive, but as she walked away my attention shifted to the widening gap between us, and the spatial quality of time I somehow associate with Coil. From a fixed position in the past I was looking at the future over an expanding state called present.
Why Coil, why is this band so strongly connected with time and the way I experience past, present and future? It has everything to do with coinciding timelines; Coil were founded when I started to develop my own musical taste, released their most important work between my early teens and mid thirties, and ceased to exist around my 40th birthday, at the same moment the future stopped being an experienceable reality for me. Like me, Coil became a thing of the past that could only be observed from the present moving forward.
And then I saw that girl wrapped in Coil, young enough to have a future, unaware of the time-related motions she made me go through, unaware of my existence. All future dressed up like the past, a mirror to absorb rather than reflect my own private existence.
We really see ourselves in the actions of others. In one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking scenes of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Richie finally sees his (adopted) sister again after many years in exile. They obviously love each other, but what breaks my heart is the realisation that their future will always be overshadowed by the failures of the past. A series of missed chances, amplified by the accompanying music:
I’ve been out walking
I don’t do too much talking
These days, these days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to.
(Nico, These Days, 1967)