what’s on your mind is what’s in your heart is what’s on the radioPosted: October 19, 2010
He’s there driving a car, and she’s there too, spending a few hours together as if nothing had ever changed.
One of the differences between a city of two million and a city of six is the number of stars that peek through the blanket of light pollution that wraps the sky in its pale gray warmth. In a city of six million, there are about two to four of them that are visible through that fog, depending on the weather. If one were to look upwards in a city of two million, the night would be freckled with about a handful of those tiny white dots, scattered like grains of sand separated by miles of smoke. To this particular boy, who had made the move between the two, that revelation was more of a shock than it should have been. But to someone who had lived in cities his entire life, a handful of stars is quite a number indeed.
He tries to tell her that one little thing he found while the streetlights streak evenly overhead, but the words stumble out of his mouth. They’re toddlers that learned Shakespeare before they learned how to walk, a message mangled by its execution. She’s there beside him, adjusting herself on the seat, propping her legs up on the dashboard and leaving footprints on the windscreen. The radio drowns out his missteps and leaves the pair sharing the music which fills the silence between them.
It swells as she asks him to stop. He gladly obliges, as he always does. They’re parked in front of a house and judging by their luck, it’s a house occupied by a paranoid schizophrenic serial killer. Or crack addicts in dire need of some stab victims. Or an old lady who has a tendency to frown upon random strangers parking in front of her driveway and subsequently tries to get them arrested. Either way, the engine is off, and sound is filtering from the speakers as consistently as the early autumn air pours through the car’s window, cracked open. There’s something in the atmosphere that’s begging for attention, the proverbial elephant in the automobile cabin, and both she and him are trying to ignore it.
This place they’re in, at this particular moment, reminds her of home. It’s the closest she’s been to home in months, her distance from it, separated by municipalities and borderlines, was growing unbearable. Through sheer strokes of luck and coincidence, she found herself in a city of six million people, with the one person she didn’t mind being around. Even if he was too busy singing along.
The radio had this uncanny way of articulating the things they should have been saying. His and her words were dancing aimlessly, careening towards conversations that were so eerily reminiscent of when things weren’t the way they are now, when they weren’t two people caught in the ether between youth and reality, whose lives drifted the pair apart moments before they decided to be together. As it always was with him, and as it always was with her, the timing was off. But the words drifting in from the bellows of the car, matching their cadence with chords and drum beats, was enough to get them by.
It’s later now, and she has to go. There’s someone beckoning her, but what they don’t know is that she can’t bear herself to leave and he’s more than willing to let her stay. So the two of them, at a point in their stories where the shifting sands of time have started to set, decide to stare at the eternal mist of light pollution that fills the view on the other side of the windshield. His seat is reclined, as the car hasn’t moved in quite some time. The radio obliges them with more music, which begs him to speak and her to stay. In a fit of spontaneity, they turn to face each other.
The cramped confines of the car place their faces a few feet apart. She tells him that she probably should go, and yet her hand isn’t on the door. He tells her that it would be best for her to stay, and yet he isn’t doing much to make that happen. And so, the story goes for the next few minutes. Their minds are filled with the thought of goodbye, as they did months before they both moved away. They’ve regressed to who they were at that point in time, naïvely oblivious to the future and how profoundly things can change.
Now, they’re in the future they were so tried to avoid. His new surroundings, that city of two million, three hours away by car when heartily breaking the speed limit, is the same city where he can see a good handful of stars. Her new surroundings, by contrast, are three hours away by plane, where, given the right conditions, the glimmer of the night’s brightest star is often mistaken for a distant street light. The paths they’ve taken have already diverged. He turns to the wheel and flicks the keys. From then starts the drive to where she’s staying this one last night, before things would go back to the new normal.
There is a droll, bored voice that starts to echo from the speakers. It’s the DJ, announcing what he had in store; unsurprisingly, another song that both she and he knew. It begins playing as he parks again in front of the lawn of the house that held her suitcases. The drive itself was short, silent. He’s obviously learned to not waste moments between those about to part ways.
She really has to go now, but he turned his engine off again. He doesn’t want to prolong the goodbye that’s bound to happen, but she’s not moving. So they’re staring at each other once more. There’s a certain inevitability behind what’s on both of their minds, that elephant they so carelessly shoved into the back seat was rearing its head once more. Things leave only to be replaced again, there have been countless lyrics and compositions that can attest to that, but people always prefer what they have now.
She wants to tell him this, but fears it won’t be enough to get the point across. He’s dense, staring out the window again, and she smiles in his general direction. As if feeling its warmth, he turns towards her, leans in, and says, quite simply, “What?”
His thoughts are complicated. They have a tendency of being that way. He’s trying his best to resist that primal yearning that growls from the pit of his chest, that roars whenever he was around her before, and which he had so chosen to ignore. These things seldom change, even after months and miles of separation. He hopes she knows this, and chose to push it aside much as he did. She, of course, knows. “Oh, just do it already,” she tells him, and of course, he does.
Drums and guitars create the backdrop for this scene. There’s an ardor in the air, a flurry of hands and embraces, of lips and saliva shared between the pair. It’s situations like this that make it difficult for her not to miss him and for him to let her go. As the angular wail of the strings match the steadily rising beat of the percussion, so do their bodies intertwine with one another.
But, as these things always were, the two were cut short by life’s uncanny way of making things difficult for people who are just a bit too late.