The Marie bit is easy enough to understand, then. The Laura thing takes a bit more explaining, but what it is, I think, is this: sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. Marie’s the hopeful, forward part of it – maybe not her, necessarily, but somebody like her, somebody who can turn things around for me. (Exactly that: I always think that women are going to save me, lead me through to a better life, that they can change and redeem me.) And Laura’s the backward part, the last person I loved, and when I hear those sweet, sticky acoustic guitar chords I reinvent our time together, and, before I know it, we’re in the car trying to sing the harmonies on “Sloop John B” and getting it wrong and laughing. We never did that in real life. We never sang in the car, and we certainly never laughed when we got something wrong. This is why I shouldn’t be listening to pop music at the moment.
Do you need someone to talk to?" she said gently. "Oh. Thank you. No, no, I'm fine." He touched his face? he'd been crying harder than he'd realized. "You sure? You don't look fine." "No, really. I've just . . . I've just had a very intense emotional experience." He held out one of his iPod headphones, as if that would explain it. "On here." "You're crying about music?" The woman looked at him as if he were some kind of pervert. "Well," said Duncan. "I'm not crying about it. I'm not sure that's the right preposition." She shook her head and walked off.
Marcus couldn't believe it. Dead. A dead duck. OK, he'd been trying to hit it on the head with a piece of sandwich, but he tried to do all sorts of things, and none of them had ever happened before. He'd tried to get the highest score on the Stargazer machine in the kabab shop on Hornsey road - nothing. He'd tried to read Nicky's thoughts by staring at the back of his head every maths lesson for a week - nothing. It really annoyed him that the only thing he'd ever achieved through trying was something he hadn't really wanted to do that much in the first place. And anyway, since when did hitting a bird with a sandwich ever kill it? People spend half their lives throwing things at the ducks in Regent's Park. How come he managed to pick a duck that pathetic?
Have you got any soul?" a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I've got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can't seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn't be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.