I’m five years old and my rollerskating coach, Glenda, has me practicing my backwards scissors. Everyone is always telling me how cute I am or that I’m such a good skater for my age. I’ve been learning jumps and spins. Eventually, I’ll be paired with a boy and we’ll both have to practice for our skating showcase at the Aviano air show. But for now, I’m weaving my skates in and out, out and in, wide and closed, until I’m moving at a pretty decent speed.
Then it happens. I stop my skates with my little rubber stoppers and just stand there. My little brown teddy bear is dangling just inches from the floor. (I named her Bubble Gum and she has a bell in her ear. My coach lets me skate with her sometimes.) Instead of skating, though, I’m frozen in the middle of the skating rink. John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” is playing over the sound system and it makes me sad. So sad that I just stand there and cry. Though I’m not just crying, I’m bawling…like howls, and sniffles, and my chest is heaving so badly that it’s hard to breathe. My mom is coming over to comfort me and I can see by the look on her face that she doesn’t understand what’s wrong. Unfortunately, she can’t see the look on my face that says the same thing. I don’t even know what’s wrong. The song reminds me of something mean I’ve said to my brother and now the song makes me cry. That’s all I know.
It’s quite a few years later and I still cry when I hear certain songs. Any ballad by Journey sets me off and reminds me of walking my dog for the last time ever, just hours before he was put to sleep for biting my mother and, basically, being a crazed psycho-chihuahua who would take off anyone’s face in a heartbeat. Morrissey’s Come Back to Camden is a really good song that threw me into a fit of uncontrollable sobbing as I crossed the bridge from Southern Maryland to Virginia, leaving my best friend behind. It was just the beginning of my 12-hour drive home to Florida and I didn’t want to leave. Or Pretty Good Year by Tori Amos. The lyrics make me think of the nameless soldiers who fought in Desert Storm but didn’t make it home alive. I don’t know why. It only takes one verse and I’m blubbering. And I love the song Bury Me With It by Modest Mouse. All that screaming reminds me of a really cool guy I worked for once. I always thought it would be fun to drag Don out to a karaoke bar and sing that song with him. Don was in his 70s and died last year. I miss his enthusiasm for life. I miss him.
Music is supposed to be emotional. I can remember back to almost every coming-of-age moment in my life by the song that was playing at that exact moment. Who was singing? Pupo, Three Dog Night, John Lennon, Prince, Rush, Jesus Jones, Depeche Mode, Cypress Hill (long story), Death Angel, Boa, the Cure, Faith & Disease, REM, K’s Choice…it’s all there. And not every song is one that will make me cry, but most of them are. Especially Taps. The first note will render me an emotional basketcase who must be scooped up and carried off, preferably far, far away. Clutching my teddy bear, of course.
On a somewhat-related note, everyone should read the book Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. It's a love story. With a soundtrack. And it's heartbreaking.