Music has never been my forte. Both the making of it and the appreciation.
I love it. I do. Love.
The discovery of it, too. Indie folk music is, like, my jam.
Somehow, though, I’ve always fallen for men with an absolute, unquestionable passion for music. The structure, the lyrics, the creation, even. They know the story behind the obscure band and have (of course) been to the concerts and shows and own all the albums and recognize every guitar riff and you know this new artist, right, Kristen? You know the band I’m talking about? Don’t you? Kristen?
I’ve received more CDs in my lifetime than any girl should. Gifts from men who have wanted nothing more than to educate me–musically. The thing is, I’ve cherished all of them. The albums, I mean.
I listen to my lovely new music on repeat like homework until I know the words by heart and slowly, inevitably, begin to hate them–my own fault for becoming too consumed.
Months later, I’ll rediscover the once beloved songs. I’ll allow the sunshine in my hair to make me brave. I’ll press a button that begins playing an old heartbreak and I’ll recall the fleeting moments in my life when those particular chords found a beat in my chest. I’ll roll the windows down and let the music and warm breeze envelope me.
But it’s not the CD I’m hearing.
It’s the shared laughter in the car and the fingers tapping a rhythm against the console and the quiet kiss at a red light. The shush when the best part of the song comes on and the playful demand to listen to something–anything–else. The whimper as the discs click past each other to reveal a new sound, a new voice, a new melody.
These men have changed the way I hear music.
Because it didn’t just play in the car for them. It was everywhere. The restaurant. The mountains. The airport. The dorm room. The lake. The kitchen.
And this–this inevitable scene– has happened to me so many times that I’ve begun to think of it as my personal curse. My first-date Achilles heel. The price I pay for an undeniable attraction to men who wear glasses and quote Death Cab for Cutie:
We stare at each other over candlelight. He says something charming. I inhale a shaky breath to respond, but the air catches in my lungs because his eyes have suddenly lit up.
“Do you hear this song?”
“No,” I say. “I was actually listening to you.”
“Bonus points if you can name this song,” he says. He always says this.
And I always think, I don’t want bonus points. I don’t want my tastes exactly matching yours to be my bonus points. I want you to know that I have the Taylor Swift album on a loop in my car right now, and I want you to love that about me. Every last City and Colour track can make me cry real, ugly tears in broad daylight, and Bon Iver elicits feelings I didn’t know existed. When I’m alone, I dance to Hootie and the Blowfish because it’s like driving my dad’s truck for the first time. I don’t know this song. We won’t always listen to the same music and we don’t come from the same place. I grew up on Tracy Chapman and I think she somehow taught me the full spectrum of human emotion, but I don’t know this song. I can barely hear it over my budding love for you. So, tell me this: do I still get bonus points?
“Sorry to let you down,” I say instead. “I don’t know it.”
He names the song and smiles. Smug. Always smug. But he’s smooth too, and I’m absolutely doomed.
Because of these men, I now hear it everywhere.
At the gas station. The deli. The movie theater. The waiting room. The street fair. The ocean.
My girlfriends laugh and tell me I’m ruined. They’re right.
I’ll never unhear the music. I’ve been conditioned to crave it. I can hardly take a shower or drink my morning coffee without it.
And with it, always, are the memories.