There are events in life that you associate with certain music.
And some songs can trigger a strong enough emotional response that you feel transported back to the moment when that particular song made a real impact upon your psyche. Such is the case for me with The Sound of Silence.
Like many people of my generation I often heard Simon and Garfunkel on the radio while growing up.
And although I’ve never really been a fan, I’ve always respected Paul Simon as a songwriter (even though You Can Call Me Al is easily in the running for the most annoying song of the 1980s), and I like his work on Bookends. They never wrote music that was really relevant to my life; they’ve always just kind of been there.
In 1999 at the age of 30 I was finally able to afford health insurance through my employer. My wife and I didn’t want children, so we were thrilled to discover that the policy covered vasectomies.
On the fateful day of the surgery I arrived at the doctor’s office a little nervous,but elated at the prospect of never having to worry about birth control again. After signing the release forms and a pre-op briefing by the doctor, and assuring him that my wife and I really didn’t want children (we thought the world was already overpopulated) I was ready.
As I entered the operating room I recognized the familiar and soothing music of Simon and Garfunkel being piped in. Apparently my doctor was a big fan, because that’s all I heard during my visit that afternoon.
The whole procedure was 45 teeth grinding minutes of poking, cutting, and bleeding to a Simon and Garfunkel greatest hits record all the way through and back to the beginning again. The local anesthetic worked just fine, so there was no pain involved, but I’ll never forget hearing The Sound of Silence while lying on an operating table, and looking down to see smoke rising as the doctor was cauterizing my vas deferens in order to render me permanently sterile.
But the thing that sticks in my mind the most is the smell of my own burning flesh. And to this day whenever I hear The Sound of Silence I’m instantly transported back to that operating room, and I recall that smell.
Smelled kind of like Fritos, actually.
—KEITH E. LEE