Summer was nascent, and I longed for it nonetheless. I had vowed to myself — it was going to be the best season of my life. I was freshly seventeen and my spring Friday nights were peppered with visits to Waffle House and night time pool swimming, and for the first time I felt like I belonged. I heard Oh Baltimore that May. I heard it just once before, scarcely a clip, and I knew instantly that I needed to hear it again. It was so old and yet so new and for some reason I was able to close my eyes and be exactly where I was, exactly who I was, but gracefully antiquated, a soft lamp in a twilight room. It was laden with hope. My whole life I had been lying in wait, anticipating something from the novels I had clung to — an all-encompassing friendship, a whirlwind romance, the feeling of freshwater in my heart and the breeze in my soul. Oh, Baltimore, I thought, softly, as I fluttered to sleep. Oh, Baltimore. I had never tried before. I was sick of waiting for my life to begin. I was going to take matters into my own hands.
And hell, if I didn’t try. I travelled, and I mingled, and I kept in touch and when I arrived home and attempted to whip up those storybook moments with the friends I had curated, I realized I had lost something. I realized I was alone. This is what I had feared all along — I had never tried to make friends before because I was so terrified of getting rejected after putting out the effort. Texts were not replied to. Plans left unanswered. I floated on my back in the empty neighborhood pool and Oh Baltimore streamed out of my tinny phone speakers. I waited. I had been waiting. I clung onto the chords like a lifeline, the very last breath of a summer loved. Still, it was only July. I swam to the very center of the pool, water up to my collarbones. Oh Baltimore, the wind sifted through the trees, Oh Baltimore, the clouds embracing the sun, Oh Baltimore, the color of hope.
I laid in bed with the blankets up to my chin, one o’clock in the afternoon, a week before school was scheduled to start. In a last-ditch effort for some kind of companionship, I had sent letters out to those I had sought after for so long. I had written them far too late at night. I had poured my soul into every. And, nearly a month later, I had received only a single text in return. Oh Baltimore sang out of the speakers. It didn’t feel right. My eyes squeezed shut. Oh, how badly I wanted. The song hurt to hear. But for the first time in weeks, I felt something in my chest, something raw and something decorated, which was better than feeling nothing at all. Oh Baltimore, my hands curled against each other under the blankets, Oh Baltimore, my eyes squeezed tightly shut, Oh Baltimore, how much longer would I have to wait?
I shouldn’t write letters with an expectation of reply, I realized in September, as school thrust itself into full swing. I have a busy soul, I also realized in September, and if my mind was unabsorbed it was prone to drift off, to cling to the snide comments and the unopened text messages. There was so much I had to do. So much I could do. Legs crossed on a quiet Friday night, and there it was again, Oh Baltimore, a sky-blue thread and I clutched it to my heart. There was so much to be done. And I may not be surrounded, supported, entranced by the tangled friends I had desired for so long, but the air was ripe with potential. I could feel it. Oh Baltimore, I was ready, Oh Baltimore, the ways the lamplights filled the night, Oh Baltimore, it was coming soon.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis, music as politics, etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
Grace Yannotta is currently in her senior year of high school in North Carolina. She is an aspiring author and an aspiring historian and an aspiring a lot of things. Other works by Grace can be found in Boston Accent Lit.