track 3

i had pulled the CD out of my car’s player. it is lost somewhere in my stack of things recently on my mind, in a bag behind me or scattered across my back seat. in any case, it is out of reach and unfindable without my turning completely around to look. and given my increasingly frequent tendency to run my car into things, i opt to grab something more immediately available. always needing some sort of noise, i could just listen to the radio, but i am not in an NPR sort of mood. so instead, i grab the first CD my fingers touch. something i haven’t listened to in ages: the haunting wail of a ghost long dead now, having drowned in a tennessee river when i was still in high school. a tragic ending for a bursting talent on the verge of stardom, but fortunately, for the rest of us, only after he had produced the best nina simone and leonard cohen covers ever recorded.

track 1. meandering. washes of tone, chord, and high-pitched whines. nothing definitive. nothing grabbing me at this moment. fast forward.

track 2. guitar arpeggios. angular…and angry. more rhythmic and pulsing, but alienating. too minor to be uplifting, but too major to be cathartic. i could never figure out what he was saying anyways: “reel in the fire?” “wade in desire?” whatever. skip.

track 3. this is it. tremolos and echoes. a crescendo and the drums kick in. the hook of remembrance and i crank the volume to full. i am driving down allen parkway and only now hitting the critical speed for this song. i roll down my windows. i open my sun roof. i pull the rubber band out of my hair and let it lash around wildly. i thrust my hand out the window to feel the cool wind on my palm. (i have to consciously resist closing my eyes to concentrate on the tickle of air on my cheeks and chin, the sensation being almost unbearably sweet.) and i smile.

and before i know it, the song is over. and i am home. i hit repeat. i call my friend.

“you home?” the answer is yes. “be outside your place in 30 seconds. i am stealing you. for five minutes.”

i pull into her driveway. i rewind the song, but turn off the radio just long enough for her to open the door and get in. she has to hear every second. no interruptions.

“listen to this. i love this… listen.”

i pull out of the driveway, aiming towards some longish patch of road in an effort to sustain the flow. (this is definitely a driving song.) i finally turn the radio back on and she is silent a moment. the first strains sound and she starts to say something. simple pleasantries. about our day. the kind of thing you say to someone upon greeting them.

i shake my head. no, i think. no, no, we can’t talk. my body tenses and i hope that she can see, from my body language, that we aren’t supposed to speak. i smile and she falls silent again, finally understanding the drill.

i’m in my head and she just stares out the window, until i notice her face and realize it’s not the same for her. it’s not just this song; music doesn’t move her in the same way. she’s not unhappy, but she’s humoring me. and i’ll take it for now.

and in a moment, i am not in my silver 2005 honda civic, but in my white 1985 plymouth reliant. (my grandmother’s old car that i inherited when she died.) and i am driving down the country highway, my manual windows rolled down and my best friend at my side. his unusually small hands hanging out the window, catching the wind, and my hair, 7 inches longer then, flying around the car and slapping us both in the face.

it’s amazing how some memories are so deeply carved into your brain.

we are leaving some theatre thing. or going. (no, leaving… i remember now. i remember trying to pull forward out of the high school football field parking lot and hearing a loud screech, the scream of the metallic chord separating the spaces as it scraped across my hood. and our laughter. and my attempt to blame my blindness… better that than my absent-mindedness.)

and we are sailing down the road to the tune of ‘why can’t we overcome this wall? well, maybe it’s just because i didn’t know you at all.’ nothing but a blue expanse before us and verdant green to our right and left. leafy crops buried in tight rows spanning as far as our squints will take us; meticulous geometry in the raw chocolate earth. (how funny that the fastest growing housing developments in our entire country are built over the most beautiful black Brazos riverbed soil you’ve ever seen.)

i hit repeat. again and again. no explanation necessary. we are contained in this moment. and he doesn’t look at me, but we are tied together forever in the kinship that spilled out and over us in that car ten years ago.

ten years ago, i didn’t understand what was happening. i didn’t understand that i was experiencing my first true love. not the first date…not the first kiss, nor first sexual escapade. but the comfortable silence between two people, the peace in a companionship minus all expectation, and the exquisite realization that the person sitting next to me could read my heart. but not out loud. he and i, we didn’t need words back then.

the most precious happenings in those days involved him. driving down that road, listening to that song. the mass-scale, golf-course game of capture-the-flag, leaving nobody muddy but the two of us… caked head to toe in delightful dirty. the night-time walk underneath austin trees, hand in hand, campus lamplight illuminating his face and his thoughts on north carolina. the chase down the aisles of my neighborhood grocery store, where i stopped by the coffee, wondering if he ever used my decaf care package. the climb up the stairs to his room, where, unaware of his artistic talents, i spied his drawings…those skillful sketches he only sheepishly claimed. the night we sculpted clown-faces in the sand traps behind my house, dropping directives for tomorrow’s early-morning golfers. “go to church,” we wrote, though we both knew he would be the only one there the next day.

or the moment, lying together across the motel-room bed, when our teacher whispered the question: “so, what’s going on with the two of you?”

that was a question that would echo through my head for the next decade.

i had never entertained the possibility of anything, though the intimacy we shared betrayed our conscious thoughts. we never talked about it; we simply were. content with the simplicity of the now, we knew how to spend each moment together in earnest appreciation for everything. my feelings finally surfaced as i was singing in front of his congregation three years later, in honor of his departure for his brazil mission trip. i broke down mid-verse, my vibrato becoming a desperate wobble and the song’s rests filling up with my stifled sobs. the emotions emerging from my most-subterranean psyche… it took the thought of two years in south america to make me realize.

and for two years, i would pluck the handwritten letters stamped with exotic images and gibberish words from my mailbox with a stone-heavy sense of dread. he would write of daily goings-on… of natives and adventures and places existing to me only in postcards. but he wrote mostly about faith. about god. and of religion. and his words made as much sense to me as the spanish and portuguese scribbled on the envelopes i received. and each time, i would fold up these letters and stuff them in a drawer. unanswered.

two years and countless letters later, i remained silent.

time and distance provide the answer to so many questions raised during our life’s journey. but the seven years having passed since then have given me no further explanation of my actions, aside from my inability to respond to his spiritual soul-searching with trivialities. in this man i believed i knew inside and out, i had discovered something so foreign that no sentiments could bridge the distance between our beings. the profound realization that i would never understand his journey was the wedge driven into our perfect union.

i was forced to answer for my transgressions when he finally returned. being the person he was, he didn’t ask questions, but i nonetheless felt compelled to explain myself and my twenty-four-month mute. and in one 6-page, gut-purging letter, i finally admitted that i was in love with him.

and i remember clearly as he sat in my then 1998 red saturn, folded up my letter, and grabbed my hand. he didn’t say anything. he didn’t need to, for we both knew in that moment that we could never be that kind of happy ending, our pristine love sans self-consciousness and selfishness would remain so under the inch-think glass of stolen affection and fleeting familiarity. our understanding of our permanent misunderstanding ringing shrilly in our ears and through the quiet.

and today, listening to that song with my hands on the wheel and my foot on the gas, i peer over at my friend who is still looking out the window. and i recognize that sometimes the loudest statements are made in the silence.

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~ by ladamesansregrets on December 22, 2007.

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