For the Love of Music
I can tell we’re taking one of our last drives together. This won’t make it to next month.
We leave the city, pass its farthest fringes. We’ve said about 10 words since leaving the apartment.
“Watch out for that asshole, he’s driving erratically.” And: “I can see. I’ve got these funny round pockets on my face. They’re called eyeballs.”
At least the music is doing well, never been better. We’re shuffling CDs like they’re hot potatoes. We’re popping one after another into the stereo. Pete drums the steering wheel. Sometimes we sing.
This all might sound like a barrel of monkeys, but a familiar resentment sets in as I watch Pete pretend the gear-shifter is his crash cymbal. We’re so in love with these riffs, with the fiery crotches of the men who play them. There was a time when we felt that determined, that excited about one another. If they sold Pete t-shirts, I would’ve worn one till the stitching fell off. Pete, for his part, would’ve pinned buttons with a picture of my face all around his denim collar.
We take an exit onto a rural road, a new road.
“Track 5,” Pete instructs, “track 5!” like he’ll die if he doesn’t hear it.
I click the right-facing arrow four times.
I save his life.
The car floats into a town no one has heard of.
At a dumpy diner called See’s we split a cinnamon roll. Country music plays from a hidden speaker.
“Could you turn it to a different station?” Pete says suddenly. He drops his knife on the floor and it makes an awful clatter. The patrons go dead-quiet and the woman behind the counter turns around, slowly, like she knows this is the right time to generate tension.
“Come again?” she says to Pete.
“A different station. The radio,” he yells. He’s not angry, just excited. I’ve known him for three years, I can attest to it.
The woman looks at the other diners, men wearing camo. Can someone explain this man to me, she asks with her cow eyes. They look down at their plates. Their backs arch. They resume their eating. The woman turns around and goes back to arranging saucers.
We finish our cinnamon roll.
“What’s wrong with her?” Pete asks.
I shrug and say it wasn’t him.
Back in the car, I let Pete pick the first song. I push the CD into the stereo. I push the button with the arrows to his favorite track. We drive on.
Marta Balcewicz lives in Toronto. Her stories, essays, poems, and graphic narratives appear or soon will in Catapult, The Offing, Hobart, The Normal School, AGNI online, Cosmonauts Avenue, and other places. She tweets @MartaBalcewicz.
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