It had been a long summer, and I had become wild. My skin had darkened, my preteen body had become muscled and strong. My once white tennis shoes had become cracked and browned with the dirt of miles of trekking through corn fields and cow pastures, wading up stream beds, dropping from rope swings into swirling creek water, and lying on rocks to dry in the sun.
I wore what I wore every day. Denim cutoffs. A fade blue and white striped two piece, and a sleeveless mesh jersey shirt, that, like the shoes, had once been white. Slung across my shoulder was the backpack I’d had since last year, and which would miraculously see me through high school: a black cotton number, printed with dark red and orange lilies and already missing a strap. In that backpack, a cassette player radio. Not a Walkman. A radio that took multiple C batteries, had a telescoping antenna, and held the mix tape of the day.
I walked along the pavement, up the hill towards home. The sun had come up, but a heavy fog hid it from view. The air already held the damp heat that would weigh on others, but which has always fed my soul. The leaves had turned dark green, there was week old roadkill up ahead and I could smell it. Birds sang. This is one of my favorite memories.
I had spent the night before sleeping under the Cedar Creek Bridge. It’s hard to say now precisely why, but largely because my parents we lackadaisical, and it struck me as natural to sleep out of doors in such glorious life filled weather. I had pulled away from my parents. From the dysfunction and fighting, although the worst was yet to come.
I took a step. In the bag on my back, the radio, somehow upside down, weighed down on itself, and pushed play. Tenuous guitar began to play. I slowed my step, and smiled. Eddie Vedder began to sing. “Do you see the way that tree bends? Does it inspire? Leaning out to catch the sun’s rays. A lesson to be applied”. The melodramatic, soon to be teenager felt that the universe was speaking to her. The happy well-adjusted adult woman still does. I already loved that song, but this hot, dewy morning it became imbued with special meaning. It became an anthem.
In the months to come, I would experience my mother’s infidelity, both to my father and to us, as she ran away with another man for several months. I would take up smoking. I would meet a boy who I would marry. My brother, elder by only a few years, would die. And I would remember to be the tree. Before anyone ever wrote a book about the importance of leaning in, I would lean out.
Serendipity bought this song a permanent place in my heart, and good thing too. It is solid advice. When I couldn’t cope with a high pressure corporate job and left it for more fulfilling but less financially rewarding work: “You’re the only one who cannot forgive yourself”. For every moment of anxious worry “It makes much more sense, to live in the present tense” I find the music soothing, the memory enlightening. I’m not sure how much credit I can give to this moment for how I turned out, but it is greater than none.
But wait, is it wrong to reminisce about Pearl Jam’s Present Tense?
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 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 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)**
Desira Fuqua is a happy human who has traveled six continents, married her high school sweetheart, and kept a menagerie of pets as a child. Although she started her professional life as a software developer, she’s also dabbled in business and operations, and today is focused on writing, narration, and dog sitting, because everyone needs more animals to cuddle. She draws from a lifetime spent reading voraciously of every genre and tramping the earth in search of history, adventure, and beauty to write essays that she hopes will inspire others to follow in her footsteps and come see the world, and tread more lightly upon it. Her first work of fiction will be published in an upcoming anthology Revolution from Little Bird Publishing. This is her first piece for Entropy. You can follow Desira on twitter and instagram @Desirafu