When I was young, you taught me how to climb into my Daddy’s beat-up green Chevrolet and sit in the driver’s seat. You turned the old rusty keys for me, yanking up the volume of the car radio. I gave every station my attention, giggling and singing until Daddy left for night shift or Mommy frantically ran to the grocery store for sour cream or bowtie pasta or square French toast sticks. And nodding my bouncy curls to passing rhymes and leftover pitches, I chased the sun until it fell through the horizon.
Every day, you and I rolled up our torn-up jeans and wandered through your backyard-forest, wiggling our bare toes in the muddy creek water as we skipped big, round stones to the beat of an old country song. We swung our feet down through the cracks in the old log bridge, whistling sweet folk songs with clouds stuck between our teeth. I could sing in harmony with oblivious cicadas as we criss-crossed through grumpy pine trees without any “excuse-me”s. Even the old swing on your porch creaked to the drumbeat of my racing heart.
Then I was spoonfed the “change is good” tutorial twenty miles south of you. Then somebody stole the car radio out of my sixteen year old Chevy, leaving that empty slot of forgotten melodies and no-good stations. And apparently we can’t be friends anymore because your eyes smell like the ocean and mine are made of chocolate. Because you can’t be seen with a girl anymore and I’m too old to chase a boy like you through the woods. So now I click my stiletto skyscrapers on an asphalt city to fill the silence that worms into my ears. Now I go to parties where the music is deafeningly absent and strange people dance in slow motion. And I stare at the hole in my heart where my car radio should be, waiting impatiently for some apologetic delinquent to return what belongs to me.
But this is useless because the silence is bursting my eardrums as I check my empty mailbox, and I’m tired of sitting and waiting for something that no longer is mine. So I buy another car radio. And another. And another. I listen to them all at the same time even though they’re too big, too cheap, too loud to fit in my dashboard. After all, what good is one when you can have four… or five… or six? I jam all my memories of you in the bottom of my file cabinet brain, piling on top old rock-and-roll CDs, high school pictures of people I don’t really know, and expired tickets for a sport I hate.
One day, I’ll pass you in a grocery store or sit two seats down from you in the back of a movie theater. But you won’t recognize me, and I won’t recognize you. We’ll be forgotten partners-in-crime masquerading as people we’re not. We will have remembered just enough to forget everything but the remnants of an out-of-tune memory. When I walk away, I’ll yell “Good riddance!” as I fly by apple trees that insist it wasn’t my fault we drifted apart like ships in the night. And I’ll sing in harmony with my cacophony of car radios, never hearing the silence underneath.