My Heart’s a Stereo

Funny how a melody sounds like a memory.
– Eric Church, Springsteen

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well the way to my heart is through music. I would give up watching television any day rather than cease listening to the songs I love. And as hard as it would be, I would give up my collection of books rather than my piano. Side note: if anyone wants to purchase or aid in the purchase of a baby grand, donations are welcome.

Essentially, this piece is simply about the power music has to move us and its ability to crystallize memories we have kept in the dusty, long-forgotten corners of our minds. How it can help us fall in love, heal, laugh, cry, and when words fail us, the harmonies and melodies can save us.

I was twelve years old. It was one of the last middle school dances of the year – late May or early June, I think. Either way, the night air was warm, and I had on – at what the time I believed to be incredibly fashionable – one of those hair clips with the dangling feathers/beads/incessant shit no one would ever think to put in their hair anymore. My father had decided to chaperone this very dance, but my eyes weren’t worried about him. They were looking at you. The last song of the night was about to play, and as the wise tweens we were, we all knew it was going to be a slow song. Just grab someone to dance with now, keep at least six inches between bodies, never ever make eye contact with the one you’re slow dancing with (substitute this with a head nod to your friends who are busy dancing with someone else), and make all attempts to avoid any awkward touches. And the quintessential song of my middle school generation came on: S Club 7’s Never Had A Dream Come True. Beyond my wildest dreams, you asked me to dance with you…but then my eyes met my dad’s, and for some God-only-knows reason, my beloved father was wearing sunglasses at an outdoors dance, and let me remind you, the moon was out at this point. And then another miracle happened, my father gave me the go ahead to dance with you (which means a lot coming from an Indian man). And so we danced, and that crush on you taught me one thing: we only had one thing in common, and that was we both thought you were attractive. And eventually I came to learn that there’s a difference between confidence and cockiness. And you were the latter.

It was summer. Our arms and legs stuck to the leather of my beige couch, and every once in a while, we’d have to peel ourselves off and up so our skin wouldn’t become one. I rested my head against you, and we watched your mom, my mom, your dad, my dad all drunkenly singing karaoke throughout my family room. I was so happy as you turned to me and kissed the top of my head. You smelled of beer and cologne – my favorite scent on you. And all that was humming in my head was Taylor Swift’s Mine. That song just seemed to fit – you had always been a rebel – pushing me over fences and past security so we could sit in better seats at San Francisco Giants games, getting me a little too tipsy for my own good, and keeping me out way past curfew. But you amazed me. You were amazing. I still think you could be.

It was 2 am, and I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t busy counting sheep, I was busy counting down the days until the next time I’d see you. 200 miles separates us, and I missed you. I missed you hard. Just like I loved you. It was almost inconceivable after all this time. My iPhone lit up and the sounds of tri-tone signaled I had an incoming text message. You. Beautiful, blue-eyed you. An extremely brief message, but meaningful: Listen to Gary Allan’s Right Where I Need to Be, it made me think of you. The line “Where I won’t miss her, I can kiss her anytime that I want to, yeah, that’s right where I need to be…” sang me to sleep that night. I woke up feeling safe, feeling loved. Distance would never break us. Other things eventually did.

Last Kiss and Whiskey Lullaby were played over and over. An endless loop of Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley singing about broken hearts and the unbelievability that occurs when you’ve lost something you were so sure of. The stillness, the quiet – it never leaves. Somehow it mellowed out with the sounds of guitars strumming against my ear drums as I lay in the fetal position on my bedroom floor. This finality, it was so surreal. But scars fade, and without the music, so did the memories. And so did you.

Fall of 2011 began my obsession with Luke Bryan. All thanks to you, and that night we ran around my old college campus until midnight playing hide and seek with my cousin, sister, and our friends. And somehow we did this completely sober, too. I remember getting in your car, and I Don’t Want This Night to End was playing from your iPod, and the next few months with you blurred together. From blasting Drunk on You and dancing on top of your bed to handcuffing me to a refrigerator while Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites blared around us, you helped to bring me back. You taught me how to have fun again. That laughing was okay. And you’ve been an incredible friend ever since. And you still are. And I’m pretty sure you always will be.

I remember when I first saw you. It was my first day at my first real job. You sat behind me (or I sat behind you, depending on the vantage point), and I think at one point you called me your musical soul mate. You were my best friend at the office, and one of my closest friends in general. You introduced me to the beauty of live shows in small venues. And we froze our asses off trying – and successfully meeting – Javier Colon, and yes, I still blame you for that next week where I was sick as a dog. You understood my love of country music, and we connected over old school hip hop and R&B. It was 2012, we were in the midst of the digital age, and yet, you still are the only man to ever burn me a mixed CD. Multiple mixed CDs. And you’re the only person I know that would actually block out time on his calendar at work to take an extra-long lunch break to go with me to buy the new Rascal Flatts album the day it was released. And yes, we both understood the importance of having the physical CD in hand (rather than easily going to iTunes) – although I would never instantly rip off the packaging and smell that cover art booklet inside the CD case like you did. Every time I listen to Javier Colon or Rascal Flatts or James Morrison, I can’t help but think of you. And not in a romantic way – we never really got there, did we? – but all I want to tell you is that I miss you. I miss our friendship, and I’m sorry our feelings and emotions were never in the same place at the same time. I wish you were still in my life even though our timing always sucks. I mean we text – rarely – and when we do, the instant chemistry is no longer there. You’re with someone, I’m with someone. And I know we’re both happy. But you truly understood my passion for music and why I needed it as a constant in my life. You understood a lot about me. Thank you for your friendship.

And now losing all anonymity of the men from my past, I will let it be known – the name of the man in my present and hopefully my future. Gavin, I have to thank you for loving me. Truly loving me. I have songs for you that will always be yours. Just like my heart. As soon as I heard Mirrors, I remember texting you telling you this would be my song to you. Yes, I still text you the names of songs I tell you to listen to because they make me think of you, but this JT classic is our song (even though you do tease me about the fact that you think I only chose this song because my “love” for Justin Timberlake has lasted since I was nine years old). People constantly tell me how alike we are – my aunt will tell you we are the same in the best of ways and different in the best of ways. My reflection, my mirror. I’m coming up on my mid-twenties, and I can, without a doubt, say I know how to really love someone. The relationship I have with you is vastly different than any other relationship I’ve been in, and you are vastly different than any other man I’ve dated, crushed on, or maybe even loved. Your love of politics and literature parallels my own, and in you, I have found my nerd counterpart. You let me play the songs I love over and over, and only you would put together an entire binder of sheet music for me to play on the piano and track down a piece I have been wanting for years. I still love the fact that you called the film company to get it. You’re such a softie, you know? And you’ll sit there with me, one ear bud in your ear and the other in mine, and listen to my guilty pleasures like One Direction. To be honest, you did that even before we dated. I remember we had just started hanging out and the newest Batman film was coming out. We had on matching Batman t-shirts that you had bought for us, and had arrived at the theater two and a half hours early per your request, and thank God I had brought my iPod or we may have died out of sheer boredom because there was absolutely zero people in line. In fact, the line for our movie hadn’t even been set up yet. But nevertheless, there was one ear bud in your ear, and the other in mine. With you, I think music connected us from the start. The first weekend that I met you, we went out with my cousins to Sugar in San Francisco, we were just starting to get to know each other. Journey’s Any Way You Want It came on in the bar, and again, since I’m such a nerd cool person, I decided to rock out on my air guitar. Only to look ten feet to my right and see you doing the same thing. Neither of us realizing at the time that our nerd counterparts existed. And they were standing ten feet from one another. I’m so thankful that you came into my life. And now I know you’re not just my nerd counterpart, you’re my counterpart to everything. So if I ever do get to meet JT, I’ll be sure to thank him (and do my best not to subsequently pounce on him), Timothy Mosley, James Fauntleroy, and Jerome Harmon for writing what I already know will be one of my all-time favorite songs. And don’t worry JT, I won’t tell anyone you personally wrote it for Gavin and me – it’ll be our little secret.

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