Songs from an Evening
I leave home a little nervous. It is bright, though chilly, and I had walked this path several times now. But I know I will return at night, in the dark. I had never done that before and so, naturally, am concerned about being murdered. I live in one of the safer areas around, but one can never obsess too much about murder – that’s my motto.
The neighborhood around me is quiet and moving through it, helped along by the breeze and the sunshine, feels like freedom. Music pumps into my ears.
Don’t you know that I can’t live without you
And it’s hard to breathe when you’re not near.
Oh, yes it is.
But I can’t lie beside you
Cause you steal my soul when you leave.
Love, set me free, babe.
I could have ridden for two or three more stops, but I always get off the train as soon as I can. The Metro feels stuffy and dirty to me and I am enjoying the wind bath outside.
Katy Perry is building to a crescendo. There’s a spark in you. You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. And I must be smiling to myself because as I look up a boy trotting by is smiling back and waves to me with his fingers together, queen-like. He is at the front of a group of students on a field trip and my heart is temporarily pulled in another direction to another past. He is the outcast, removed from the rest, but unconcerned about it, literally marching to his own beat. This group of middle schoolers is just like most others and I recognize them all as they walk by: the oddballs, the popular girls, the smart ones. For fleeting seconds, I am overtaken by how acutely I feel like a teacher without a class.
I am watching people take pictures of a living statue when the ding of a text message interrupts the current best song in the universe.
Chillin’ by the fire while we eatin’ fondue
I dunno about me but I know about you
So say hello to falsetto in three, two …
“Where are you?” my sister has written.
“Sitting in the round thing.”
She approaches soon after and we both turn our music off. “This is called the Navy Memorial, you know.”
“Whatevs. It’s round, right?”
She looks around. “Well …”
I wave my hands dismissively. “Are you going to buy me dinner since I’m broken-hearted?” I ask matter-of-factly.
“Yes.” She rolls her eyes. “Where do you want to go?”
Mariachi music is playing and we have eaten so much: guacamole and chips, lobster, meatballs, tacos, chocolate mole potato fries. My pomegranate margarita is long gone and she is finishing her beer.
Outside, I am re-evaluating my position on never saying no to desert.
“Where do you want to go?”
Most people know how I feel about frozen yogurt. I re-evaluate my re-evaluation.
It’s a longer walk away and I thank goodness for small favors.
After we pay for our yogurt, we find a quieter part of the seating area, secluded from the rest, though I can still hear the pop beats overhead: I’m out in the club and I’m sippin’ that bubb’ and you’re not gonna reach my telephone.
“Do you want a cupcake?”
She has been carrying around a Red Velvet box all evening, remnants from the day at work. I open my mouth to say “no” but instead what comes out is, “What kind do you have?”
As she is listing the flavors for me, I see she has dumped hers into her yogurt cup.
Of course, I eat a cupcake, too.
We are en route to Potbelly’s for the bathroom. The FrozenYo bathroom is not pleasant at all, but luckily my sister has become an expert on the lavatory situation in this part of the city. She goes to Potbelly’s, which is the best, she explains, and because of guilt over using a bathroom without buying anything, she always buys a milkshake.
We take turns sitting in front of the milkshake while the other uses the bathroom. Potbelly’s is quiet and nearly empty, so different from what I imagine it is like during lunchtime, different even from the city bustle currently outside the doors. I love being in this place in the calm at the end of the day, knowing that I’m experiencing something most people don’t.
Outside, I am watching her suck on her milkshake in disbelief.
“Want to walk around the Mall?”
It is after dusk and I am thinking of my walk at the other end of my Metro ride, but I need to do something with all of the food in me. And I am not ready for home yet.
On the way down, she tosses the half-drunk milkshake into a trashcan.
“I hope you didn’t want any more of that.”
“I didn’t have any of it.”
“I hope you didn’t want any of that.”
She also unloads the remainder of the cupcakes on a man on the street and we are finally free of all food.
“Here we are, back at the circle thing,” she remarks.
“Oh, that guy’s still here.” I am surprised because it is dark and not many people are around to give the living statue money.
“Which guy?” She asks, confused.
“The living statue.”
“That’s a real statue.”
We continue on until we hear the notes of a familiar song. A video is being projected onto the side of a building. The images loom in the distance and as we get closer I recognize the words and the melody. I only have eyes for you …
I am compelled by the this manipulation of sound and video and architecture. We both remark on how odd art can be.
“What do you expect from the Hiroshima?” she asks, and I laugh, remembering a time we overheard a tourist authoritatively mis-identify the museum’s name as a historic tragedy.
We say goodbye near the Metro station and in the dark I plug my headphones back in. A man sings sweetly to me.
If your loose and libel lips
Keep sinking all my ships
Then you’re the one who sank my Lusitania
But somehow it don’t register as pain at all
A young couple enters my car at one stop and irritates me with their esoteric conversation. I turn the volume up.
The sky is black when I emerge from the underground, but there are lights and people around. I am briefly alarmed by a potential murderer stalking behind me, but he veers off in another direction.
As I head up the street, I am alone, but what I hear is this:
If you need me,
I can always be found.
I won’t run far.
I can always be found.
I will stay by your side,
And I want you to find me,
so I’ll stay by your side.
I can always be found.
I am halfway when I realize that I am moving at a brisk clip. It is late and it is dark, but nothing out there is going to get me. So I slow down, and enjoy the feeling of having some place to go but no hurry to get there.
This isn’t so bad at all, I think, as I float down the sidewalk to the music.
And when it’s finally reappeared
We won’t ask where it has been
It won’t say and we won’t care
Where it’s traveled in the in-between
And, then, I am home.