for August 22, 2001

Music Is Your Memory
by Robin Pastorio-Newman

Music is your memory. You live, music is with you. The soundtrack of your life includes songs you wouldn't choose. Songs you don't even know will figure into your history. You love them, hate them, treasure them; they are snapshots of moments you never forget.

Fake Plastic Trees
She aches. She loves him. He moves in, stays a few months, moves out. He says, "This song is how I feel." She is calm. He will come back. They've all come back.

They talked all the time. She remembers, later, they understood one another so completely. Maybe that wasn't real, maybe it was. She recalls the cocoa scent of his olive skin, his good humor, his gentleness. On occasion, she sees him rise and assume the air of one who will disable an attacker if he has to, but he doesn't have to. On other occasions, she sees him immobilize an enraged person with one word. She doesn't understand, but she loves him. The song turns.

A cooling feel, the words spread out over some distance. He leaves again, after a few weeks. This time, her life depends on bringing the words closer together, asking him some right way to come home. Weeks pass. She drifts. Even the song spreads itself out so far it might not come back together. Maybe he won't come home this time. Maybe the song ends, and takes him with it.

Life Is A Highway
Eventually, he comes home, but he doesn't love her. It is a hot day. He finally takes her, driving the moving van, to meet his family. On the Parkway, a song plays. She hasn't heard this song in ten years, she used to like it, but the band's other hit was better. At a point she will not remember, he says he's not moving in, too, but she doesn't take it in. The green of the trees, the freedom of his body, the sweat, the beauty of their having privacy, finally. The fact of his leaving escapes her. She sings along.

He sings, over and over, the same line, "Life is a highway/ I'm gonna ride it/ all night long." She hears the song. She doesn't hear him. They carry her possessions up two flights of stairs. Suddenly, she knows he'll be sleeping somewhere else tonight and every night. On a sweltering afternoon, they carry everything up while tears run down her face. She doesn't care who sees. She hopes he sees. She hopes and hopes he changes his mind. He doesn't.

The fact of his absence defines her for years to come. Everywhere she looks, something is missing. Everything she does marks time and accomplishes nothing. When he left, he absently tucked her in a pocket and someday he will find her crumpled in memory like forgotten singles in a coat that no longer fits. Where once she filled rooms with herself, she cannot locate that self anymore. He didn't mean to, but he took everything. The song drenches this ruin. At this depth, light fails to penetrate, it is all night.

It should end, but it doesn't.
It should end. But it doesn't.

©2001 Robin Pastorio-Newman