Despite the minor scratches and remnants of duct tape from the time I drove into my garage and knocked the side mirror off, my harvest-gold SUV has stuck it out through the good, the bad, and the 2 a.m. 7-Eleven runs. On breezy summer afternoons, I put my responsibilities on cruise control and pass the day to the upbeat wails of a no-name band.
I hit play and Ben Lee’s rendition of “Float On” begins. From the first happy note, my spirits are instantly lifted. Fingertips tap-tapping on the wheel, head nodding in time, my pitchy vocals broadcasting out the windows to whomever is unlucky enough to listen. I have and need no destination, but all routes eventually lead to his driveway.
We’re in the parking lot of the deserted local library, and a cotton candy-colored dusk is setting in. I turn the volume knob until melodic beats fade behind our whispers. Feet dangling out the window, we mull over and under and before we’re ready the album’s all played through.
I’m cruising down Telegraph Road, and I’ve probably been listening to the same song on repeat for 25 minutes, like I’ll never get tired of it. It’s amazing how I can convince myself that this will never get old.
Tuesday night, which means we’re alternating “Entourage” and some sports movie. I’m not paying attention to either, and my Cheez-Its are starting to taste stale. Going out to dinner and a movie isn’t for everyone. Chinese take-out again? Yeah, sure.
That Halloween he was dressed as a cowboy. I tried not to judge him for his lack of imagination. My friends and I had sewn our own Mario characters costumes out of felt (I was Yoshi, complete with a plush egg). And that was only the start of our differences. He was careless and guarded and never wrote down his physics homework. I was nervous and over-analyzing and listened to indie folk to hide that fact. But “A Walk to Remember” had deemed that even the fiercest of opposites could be happy together, so when the one-month mark became the fifth, sixth, eighth, I still considered him the Shane West to my Mandy Moore.
The next track starts, but I’m zombieing out because it’s some shameless fratty dubstep remix of what was originally a good song. My pride takes a hit—how much of it is left?—as I bang a right and drive at the painful 35 mph limit. I’ve gotten one too many speeding tickets here, and don’t think I could muster up fake tears to a cop again.
Towering pine trees line the narrow lanes and obscure the houses nestled comfortably into the woodsy terrain. I used to miss the driveway all the time, but I’ve since learned to recognize the mailbox-mailbox-gnome-mailbox pattern that precedes the yard of interest. I try my best to slow down inconspicuously, maybe even turn on my blinker as if to make a turn, so that I can sneak a furtive glance at the stark white house. Unsurprisingly, it looks the same, triumphantly standing unaffected, whitewashed.
I roll up to the red light at the end of the street. The wait feels longer every time. Three minutes and what feels like hours later, the light turns and I tune back into reality. Wow, this one’s bad too. Skip back to track one.
At some point our whispers and singing-along graduated to lazy requests and half-hearted goodbyes. Soon we were screaming, drowning out everything else in a cacophony reminiscent of a Yoko Ono album. I couldn’t even pretend to be an innocent victim. Between the tantrums and passive aggression and one glorious bitch slap, I may as well have been blasting the most horrific mash-up of Gucci Mane and Enrique Iglesias that has thankfully not been put into existence.
My thoughts still wander to him while I’m driving around sometimes, mostly because the sweet and sour notes linger and will continue to for God knows how long.