The Night Madonna Saved My Life

{This is a repost of something I wrote in October of 2008, but given the news of late it seems a good time to resurrect it.}

I feel it
It’s coming…

Sixteen years ago I did not have my driver’s license. I was old enough to drive, I just hadn’t gotten around to making it officially legal, mostly because I didn’t care. Still, I loved sneaking out at night when my parents had gone to bed, putting the car in reverse, and starting it as the wheels eased out of the driveway.

That Fall was difficult for me on a number of levels. It’s not worth going into depth about it – it was simply a lonely time, and the onslaught of dreary gray weather did nothing to abate my melancholy. As a cold rain began to come down, I drove out of the small city and onto the back roads of upstate New York.

Rain – feel it on my fingertips, hear it on my windowpane,
Your love’s coming down like rain,
Wash away my sorrow, take away my pain.

The rain was tearing the leaves from the trees. Dark brown oak leaves were driven down by the wind. The car sped along the messy road. Back in my bedroom, a plastic bag, a large rubber band, and a bottle of sleeping pills awaited my return. A page of Final Exit was marked, its instructions strangely void of emotion, no guidance on what to feel.

I know it’s real, rain is what the thunder brings
For the first time I can hear my heart sing,
Call me a fool but I know I’m not
I’m gonna stand out here on the mountaintop
Until I feel your rain…

The road turned, twisting itself along a line of trees. Rain pelted the windshield, a curtain of falling leaves parted for the car, and my sweaty palms and wet eyes glazed the glass between us. On the radio they were playing an as-yet-unreleased Madonna album, Erotica. I would never get to hear it in its entirety, not if everything went according to plan. It was the one drawback to ending it that night. I could bitterly rejoice at skipping all my homework due the next day, and defiantly put off cleaning my room – add it to the mess I was leaving – but I would not be able to hear the rest of Madonna’s music, not if I left tonight.

Waiting is the hardest thing,
I tell myself if I believe in you, in the dream of you,
with all my heart and all my soul,
that by sheer force of will, I could raise you from the ground,
and without a sound you would appear, and surrender to me, to love.

It was a simple ballad with a simple chord progression and a simple resounding theme of yearning, and if Madonna was having a rough go of it then how could anyone, much less myself, be expected to do any better?
So I decided to wait, at least until the album came out and I could get a proper listen, promising myself that I could always come back to where my head was at and do it right then.

I feel it,
It’s coming,
Your love’s coming down like…

There would be other attempts at self-annihilation, and there will always be that part of me that sometimes wishes to go away, but for that moment, that night, the simple promise of a Madonna song was enough to bring me to another day.

– Alan Ilagan, 2008


This week I’ve pondered how I made it through, what it was that saved me all those times, and more often than not it was something as simple as a new Madonna album. I made it through the week waiting for that CD, and after dancing around the bedroom to “Deeper and Deeper” I realized that if I could make it through a week, I could make it through a month, and if I could make it through a month, I could last a year, and by then I would be out of high school, and maybe things would be better. And they were.

If you’re contemplating suicide, if you think you just cannot go on, please stop and wait a moment. Think it over for a day, for a week – it is never as bad as you think it is. And I don’t care if it’s Madonna, or Lady Gaga, or Justin Freaking Bieber, find something to hold onto. If you still feel alone, call someone. The Trevor Project is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide hotline for gay youth – there will always be someone there to listen. It may seem silly, but it’s not.

I grew up without The Trevor Project, but on another dark night when the world closed up around me I had the strength to call a local suicide hotline, and as foolish as I felt (and as sure as I was that they knew who my parents were) I poured my heart out to the woman on the other end, and it was all I needed to make it through that night.

There is always someone somewhere willing to listen to you, and though you may feel like there is nothing to live for, you have no idea what the next day or year will bring. Don’t deprive the world of everything you might one day become. You are not alone, so if you need to talk just call The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

If you need inspiration, check out Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project on YouTube. It’s fun to see the various celebrities on there, but it’s the personal, private stories of people you may not know that moved me the most.

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