Just one more chapter, he thought. One more tape. He pressed eject and put in a nondescript TDK MA-110 cassette. Back to work. He was expecting to hear some XTC, maybe some REM or Peter Gabriel. He was not expecting Billy Joel. He looked suspiciously at the tape deck, as if it was responsible for this discrepancy of expectations.
Oh well, he thought, probably don’t remember making the tape.
That was before Meat Loaf.
When “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” came on, he stopped cold. This wasn’t one of his tapes. It had to be one of hers. He was okay with the songs leading up to Meat Loaf (he had never liked Meat Loaf) so he let it play, tried to push it to the background. When the opening chords of “Hey Jealousy” came on, he gave up and just listened. She had gotten that from one of his tapes while they were dating. That was a good period. The world was wide and open. Rose-colored. He hadn’t known when she had made this tape until the Gin Blossoms. This was from the spring before the wedding. She was alive, rosy and happy. He was media centric and brooding, but also kind of rosy too. 18-19ish. Nothing could go wrong. They were young, thin and naive. But it didn’t matter.
The tape changed sides.
Side 2 opened with Billy Idol’s “Adam in Chains”. Progressed then into glam metal with Cinderella and Firehouse. And he could look past, just for a few minutes, the years of arguing, the multiple infidelities, the incompatibilities and the nit-picking. He could, in the carefree rule-bending tape filled with mostly cardboard songs, see what he had seen in her. Her hyperness. The effort she had put into drawing him out, posturing him to be her knight in shining armor. The hoops that she encouraged him to jump through. How happy he had been to jump through them.
Something occurred to him.
It isn’t the songs. It’s the mix. When songs are grouped in certain ways, they transcend their boundaries. Most of the songs on that tape were almost worthless on their own, at least to him. But when she put them together, she had created both a mood and a portrait that was poignant enough to push through all of the crap dumped on top of it for a couple hours to bring him reminders that once she had shone like the sun and there had been love, even if it was to fail. There was a moment of rash humanity before they had destroyed it all.
When the tape ended, he had expected that he would feel all blue or want to call her or something else equally as ridiculous. But that wasn’t the case. He felt good because he could recall something nice about her for just a hundred and ten minutes. Got to relive a time with her that wasn’t colored by yelling, blame and anger. That was nice, and that was all it was.
That was just fine with him.