Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a car and music are all you need to feel free

At 6:30 a.m. every morning, when the black sky still cast its shadow on the tired houses in the quiet neighbourhood, I would slip out of my house and start walking down the street to the bus station about a mile away. The wind would play around me, glad that something would creep out of its shelter to face it. It did not consider the bikers and runners that also littered the leaf-strewn paths. It wanted something with a bit more patience, with a bit more calmness. I was not one to hurry because I knew I wouldn't miss the bus. I was the kind of person that left long before the appropriate time for irrational fear of being late.

Walking across the neighbourhood, I would sing songs out loud that I wouldn't let myself sing in any other circumstance. I cherished my loneliness and the emptiness of the streets. The houses on their freshly mowed lawns looked like insomniacs sleeping; troubled dreams rolling and bubbling over each other, soon to give in to wakefulness and sleepy-eyed tiredness. The cars that would rush past me, their headlights carving the darkness sharply, blinding me with artificial light, were always in a hurry. They always had something to catch: a stop light, a train crossing, or even the rare dazed squirrel that had decided to cross the street at the wrong time.

There was that spot where the lamp on the right side of the street and the lamp on the left side were in a relationship. Right would reach out its arm of light to feel the distance in between, to see if Left was awake yet or still in love. Left would immediately respond with a similar arm of light and the two would merge in a ray of warmth in the middle of the pavement. This is where I would start listening to the sound of the cars coming my direction. This is where she usually would come speeding past me, glance towards the right side of the street, see a shadow of a walking human, and screech to a stop while calling out 'Hey, wanna ride?' Her car made a very distinct sound of arrival; it was the sound of rust, beat up metal, and burnt rubber. Every single morning as I passed that particular section of the road, I would strain my ears at every mechanical sound, searching for her Honda without turning my head. When she'd see me and stop, I would nonchalantly swerve my head in her direction and yell out 'Sure!' as though I had been happy with walking but because she had offered me a ride, I had accepted it out of politeness. The truth was that I would wait for this moment with anticipation, eager to rest my legs for the rest of the journey and get to school faster than to walk until the end of the street, wait for the bus, pay $1.50 for a five minute ride, and be enveloped by the hard-hitting yellow lights of the inside of the bus.

I wanted a car just like hers. It was beat up and cheap but it had a cosy, bohemian, individual feel to it as though you could just hop into it whenever you felt the world was getting to be too much and drive endlessly until the feeling of helplessness ebbed away. The windows would always be down no matter how cold it was outside(she complained she was hot) and her ipod would be blasting at full volume. You could practically see the Modest Mouse tumbling out of the windows, left behind the car as it would stream past stop signs and school buses. With the music that loud and the sun that low in the sky, there was not much to say except 'Did you know Janis Joplin overdosed when she was 20?' 'Yeah. But she was fucking awesome anyway.' 'Yeah.' But that was enough. It was enough to just sit in the front seat and watch her lips move and her head sway from side to side to the song. We'd get out of the dark alleys of the well-to-do neighbourhood and enter the wider streets with the McDonalds and Boston Markets competing against each other and tearing each other apart from across the sea of traffic. Here, the lights of the gas station would shock our eyes into vision so we could see with this ultra-sight that was unnatural for that early in the morning. Everything would become painfully clear and suddenly, we'd realize that we hadn't actually slept the night before. Or really, the night before that. By then, the song would have changed and Emily Haines would come on and we'd slip into a reverie where notes would wash over us and we could drown ourselves in soft sound. We'd be at the school and she'd try to park. Sometimes, she could do it right if there wasn't a car that got a spot in front of her before we arrived, but that wasn't often. It was now 6:40 and parking was becoming scarce. Students paroled the streets for empty spaces. 'Fucker! Fuck, I have to fucking back up now.' Ten minutes later, one wheel was on the sidewalk and The Kills would begin their haunting.

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