This week Emily requested we write about the soundtrack of our lives. Little did she know I had a post already written, in drafts, that was a soundtrack moment. She may have been startled by my quick agreement---or not. The fact that I already had something written wasn't the real cause of my complicity.
It's because I love music and I constantly have a life soundtrack queued up. I even used to---jokingly, mostly---have a personal "theme" song. It was The Honeymoon from Prelude to a Kiss. Anyone who knows me well and who knows that song has always agreed it was a great pick. It's not so much because of a "theme" as it is a sound...it sounds like I'd sound if I were music.
But I'm not music so I have loads of it, on, always. I like the radio because I like to be surprised, but often I'm in a particular mood or engaged in a certain activity and I like to pick. For example, cleaning often begs for the electric blues so I frequently clean to the tunes of Stevie Ray (God rest his soul). I'm likely to have John Legend on in the evening...he's very mellow and soothing to me.
Music is a sound of the soul of the moment for me, so certain songs can flash me into a specific point in time as vividly as a smell might.
The Doobie Brothers always puts me in a red station wagon with faux wood paneling, happily singing along with my mother and sister. Debbie Boone puts me back in Washington D.C. singing from a balcony off base. Another One Bites the Dust puts me in a roller rink, and a school cafeteria for the Day Police Came to Scare Us Straight about Drugs (back then it was stories about teens on LSD who leapt out of windows and kids who forgot their own names due to pot). Andy Gibb is the painful moment of slow skate, ladies' choice at the roller rink.
Too Shy by Kajagoogoo is me and a group of teens on a beach in Monaco at night, having a spontaneous "boum." The Tubes' She's a Beauty is my trip by "silver bullet" (old style RVs) to California and Oregon. Bobby McFarin is waterskiing on a lake in Arkansas. Howard Jones is high school, a particular group, my sort of New Wave phase group. Any John Hughes soundtrack and Tears for Fears is high school, too. Elton John reminds me of my insane first roommate, the one fresh out of rehab who had a psychotic breakdown; she played Yellow Brick Road obsessively. Bizarre Love Triangle is dancing at a club with friends. The Cult's Fire Woman takes me to my old "Melrose Place" style apartment.
And on and on it goes.
I can track decades, remember a timeline, and remember something I filed away to mostly forgotten when I hear a song.
They were in her car; she was in the driver's seat, he was in the front passenger's seat. He'd been in the back because shotgun in her car was usually saved for someone else, but they'd had to go back to the theater because someone else forgot some things in the excited chaos of a successful opening night.
He'd remained buckled in the back for a minute, but then laughed, called her James, and climbed over the seat to the front.
Now they sat silently in the car and waited. It was winter and cold so she kept the car running, the heater blasting warm air. The windows fogged up and he idly drew random shapes on the glass. She switched on the radio while they sat, even though neither was restless and both seemed glad of the chance to sit and wait.
"It's nice to just sit quietly for a minute," he said.
"Yeah," she said.
"It's been so busy and loud all day. I feel like I haven't been able to think in a week."
"I know. The big build-up to a show. Crazy running around, all the spazzing out. I'm not sorry it's over, for now, though," she said, trusting him to understand.
"Me neither," he said, "It was fun but now I'm tired."
"I think we're the only ones," she said, pointing to the friend they were waiting for, who had run into some friendly stragglers, others from the show. All were talking animatedly, clearly reliving moments from the night----mocking mistakes to make them funny instead of humiliating, and highlighting moments when it all ran perfectly with a good audience reaction.
They sat silently for a bit, again, a comfortable silence. Watching. These two weren't performers, and they often sat and watched. The friends outside the car puffed breath into the cold as they talked and laughed. They appeared like a pantomime, their conversation silent to the two in the car. Their hands waved to add weight to words unheard, laughs were exaggerated by excited bodies bending back. It suddenly struck her as funny and she laughed.
"What?" he asked, leaning up from the seat.
"It's just funny to watch them when you can't hear what they say," she explained.
He remained forward for a minute, watching. Then he laughed too, when their friend hopped in the air. The group outside began stamping their feet and clapping their gloved hands together to stave off the cold that seeped in, past their warm layers and shield of thrilled happiness. The tone changed, and the two in the car knew the outside conversation would end soon. A restlessness tinged the air in the car, now.
Cherry Bomb came on the radio, and he leaned forward to turn it up.
"I really like this song," he said, "Great lyrics."
"Hmm," she said, leaning her head against the headrest. She closed her eyes, and listened for a minute.
That's when a sport was a sport
And groovin' was groovin'
And dancin' meant everything
We were young and we were improvin'
Laughin', laughin' with our friends
Holdin' hands meant somethin', baby
Outside the club"Cherry Bomb"
Our hearts were really thumpin'
Say yeah yeah yeah
Say yeah yeah yeah
He suddenly banged his hands on the dashboard. She startled, eyes flying open.
"What, oh my God, what?"
"Why can't it still be like that? God, why does it have to be so complicated," he asked vehemently.
Her mind rolled, trying to find the point from which this outburst came, but failed.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
He settled back, passion spent. "Just, you know, it'd be nice if sometimes holding hands was enough, really did still mean something."
She understood what he meant, but didn't know who, where, when or why. So she remained silent for a minute.
"Did someone say something to you, something happened?" she finally asked.
"Yes. No. Never mind, I don't want to talk about it."
She looked at him, this friend who'd become like a brother, and she wanted to understand, to give what he needed, guidance or wisdom. Their group was a little wild, dramatic. She tried to think, decide whether this was specific or general, about him, or someone else.
"There's a lot of pressure," she began, slowly, stumbling a little for how to say what she wanted to say, "A lot of pairing up. But I guess not everyone really wants that, either at the same time or at all sometimes, for whatever reason."
Her words were vague and clumsy but he turned to her, his eyes vivid in the faint light, his face open and trusting, "Yes, that's it," he said, grateful, "I don't know why we can't just all hang out, why does everything have to turn into a flirt fest, and why is it always about the next step."
She knew his questions were rhetorical, and complex. She tried hard to ignore what lay under them, the faint thread she thought she'd began seeing woven into their interactions. She glanced back to the group outside. They'd huddled closer together, were looking at a program, maybe; they seemed to be planning.
"Holding hands does still mean something," she said carefully, "And it can be enough. But right now, sometimes...umm..." she trailed off, stared out her window into the dark for a minute, "The feelings, the excitement, it's...it's like being an adrenaline junkie. You just, you want that high, you feel this tornado inside and I don't know, sometimes you get that other people feel it too, and you just...you just act crazy with it. It's just all in fun."
He stared at her. She dropped her eyes to her hands, and fiddled with the bangle bracelets on her wrist.
"It's not fun for everyone," he said, a hint of anger or maybe annoyance coloring his words. For a minute, she stepped into his shoes, saw it through his eyes. She felt a sense of disappointment with maybe a bit of disgust aimed at her, them.
She sighed. "You just have to take life at your own pace, and you can't get your panties in a wad when other people are at a different pace." She sensed his protest bubbling up before he even opened his mouth, so she held up a hand. He waited. She thought for a minute, tried to understand how much of it was her, how much was getting caught up in the flow, and where her ideas ended, her empathy began and his ideas started. "It's okay," she told him, "It's okay to have different ideas, not like some things. It's okay to think differently. Just...just be true to you, you know."
It was silent.
"Nobody has the right to ask for more from you than you can give," she added.
She had the feeling that she'd both succeeded and failed. They watched the outside group wave goodbye and disperse.
He climbed back into the backseat, and they watched their friend jog across the parking lot. He leaned forward and said quickly, urgently, "So, like, thanks for getting it, and talking, you know."
She twisted in her seat to look at him, "Sure. Anytime. I'm, like, open for a real conversation about whatever, too." She realized the wrongness, the misinterpretation of her words as soon as she said them, but it was too late. The car door opened, and someone else hopped in. She turned around quickly.
"God, it's freezing out there, warm in here, though, what've you guys been doing?" the new passenger said.
"Nothing," they both said quickly.
Seventeen has turned thirty-five (plus)
I'm surprised that we're still livin'
If we've done any wrong
I hope that we're forgiven
Got a few kids of my own
And some days I still don't know what to do
I hope that they're not laughing too loud
When they hear me talkin'
Like this to you
What's your music story?
Next week's topic: the gossip game. Talk about how news, good or bad, spreads, and is potentially contagious, and affecting (Impacting, for Emily); personal experience or philosophical explorations...it's all good.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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