Friday, May 4, 2012

How a song can work

I was sixteen, alone in my piece-of-shit 1964 Mercury Meteor on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg, driving in the fading light of day. The day before, the first girl I had ever truly, deeply loved had dumped me because I had, in her words, loved her too intensely.  I'd driven a great deal since she'd said goodbye, but of course I hadn't gotten anywhere at all.  I drove to keep moving, and because alone in my car, with WLCY playing rock and roll on my barely functional car stereo, I was safe from anything the world could do to me. As long as gas remained in the car, I could move on, and nothing could touch me.

In the way one does at sixteen, I knew with an unshakable certainty that my heartbreak was as powerful and as damaging and as any feeling a human heart could contain. 

At the peak of a particularly bad bout of melancholy, as I reached what was then an outer edge of St. Petersburg and prepared to turn around so I didn't end up in Tampa, as darkness set about wiping away the last bits of light as if they were stains on the sky, this song came on the radio. 

It's not, in my opinion, a particularly good song, nor do I hate it.  I had no opinions about it at the time.

In an instant, though, my brain bound it forever to that dark moment on that darkening day.  Each and every time since then that I have heard that song, including earlier today, for a fraction of a second I have returned to the Mercury Meteor's driver's seat, to Fourth Street, to sixteen, to the warm Florida air rushing through the open windows, and to the sadness.  In the next fraction of a second, the rest of my brain takes control, the present floods back in, and the heartache fades quickly back into the emotional abyss where it belongs. 

I love that songs can do this.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean about driving on and on, to give yourself emotional space - I did the same thing myself as a teen in my first car - a 1970 Mercury Comet. For me, it was the second movement of Beethoven's 7th, but yeah, certan songs can really take you back.


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