I was driving around this afternoon listening to some old music I loved in high school. The Cure. The Smiths. The Grateful Dead. Thumbing through my iPod I found songs I hadn’t listened to in a few years; probably not since I had downloaded them during one of my “back when” memory fits. As I went over song after song, my eyes finally rested on the words of a song I could not remember having heard since my last days of high school “Anchorage” by Michelle Shocked.
I couldn’t just immediately play the song. It had to be perfect. So I lit a cigarette, took a sip of my coffee and finally pushed the play button.
As the words flew through the car my mouth rested on every syllable, remembering every last rhyme and intonation as only happens to me today with songs I’ve heard 9 million times. And I was reminded.
Of smoking Camel Lights late at night in my friend’s back yard. Of endless nights driving around Carmel, Indiana looking for “something” or “someone”. Summer days so hot we could barely breath. Winter days missing school but able to drive over to each others’ houses to complain about how our parents were driving us crazy. Notes passed in hallways. Threats of fights. Butterflies flapping wings of love uncertain in our stomachs. Movies like Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. Moonlighting. Roseanne. 90210…the first time.
And listening to the words of this magical song I instantly remembered one person.
I had a small group of friends in high school but she and I were the closest during the first years of high school while I ended my days there being best friends with her sister Margaret. I’m not really sure why I thought of her or why her smile and ever changing hair flashed through my memory. Maybe it was the funny cartoons she used to make for me of a imaginary triplet named Trendy Hairlip. Or maybe it was my having found my old journals which reminded me why we stopped being friends in the first place…because I had found and read hers. Or maybe it was just perfect timing. I don’t know.
I miss her though. I miss all my friends that knew me way back when. Sometimes I wish they were still around me today. And I’m not afraid to brag…I’m cool. I’m probably cooler now than I was then because I don’t care much, or at least I’ve convinced myself of this, of what other people think. Nonetheless I found myself wondering if she was still cool today because she was back then. Man…we were cool!
And laughing to myself as I type this I find it interesting I didn’t realize how cool my own mother was until mere years before her death. But she was very, very cool. The kind of cool that would smoke clove and vanilla cigarettes with coffee at midnight, light a few candles and say, “you know I still don’t understand how Oswald got Kennedy from the 6th floor. There’s just no way.” Or, dancing in her kitchen to Janet Jackson and Garbage while walking miles in her neighborhood to The Grateful Dead and CSNY. Her greatest claim to fame was having finished Ulysses in one weekend and knowing Steve Martin was going to be famous when she saw him on Johnny Carson. “I just knew it“.
She was way cool.
And so am I.
And so was I. And so was Shell. And I hope she still is today. I hope she wakes up every once in awhile, the sun straining her eyes and thinks for a split second it was all a dream and I’ll be picking her up for school in just a few. Maybe she’s forgotten the journal incident. But if not, I apologize. This is my amends for a horrible act…but I liked what I read, sorry. I hope she remembers and retains that coolness…because we’re on borrowed time as it is.