A departure from my writing as you may know it or have come to know it these last few weeks. I decided to take a writing challenge. The challenge was to write a love story about your favorite song. It seemed the perfect invitation as my favorite music has been playing in my head during runs and this story was dying to get out.
You’ll notice a few song verses scattered throughout rather than just one. This is because no one song fit the story I’m telling below. I cheated a bit on the challenge to make the story what it is now, but I suppose that’s what the “creative” in creative writing allows me to do here. The songs you’ll see mentioned are mostly by my good friend, Matthew Ebel, a extremely talented, geeky, fun piano rocker located in the Boston area. We met years ago and I’ve carried his music around with me quite a bit. (Yes, there are others and yes one is a JT song.)
His music and the songs below are well worth a few minutes of your time to listen. (If you are a Hitchhiker’s fan, check out Goodbye Planet Earth especially.)
It’s been a very long time since I’ve shared my creative writing with anyone, so welcome along for that ride.
The airport was packed full of people and noise. It was 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon. She was flying away - after planning for three months - it was just about boarding time.
People were starting to crowd around the little lane constructed by some posts and a large rubber band. It’s amazing, she thought, how people can’t wait to get on a tin can for 5+ hours. Airports are definitely a place where patience isn’t a virtue. Awaiting the call for first class, she sat in a seat trying not to think of the day past and the tears that came so easily when no call came to her cell phone.
When she arrived at the airport she put the phone away knowing that her hopes would keep her glancing at it and she couldn’t handle much more of her imagination running away with her sanity. Phone away, headphones on, music playing, she sat back and watched the people at her gate as her mind wandered.
Two weeks ago a notice was given, she’d held it inside until she couldn’t bear not saying something anymore. She was leaving. Running away isn’t much like our heroine in this story but for once she knew she wouldn’t be able to move forward if she stayed.
“I’m going to travel for a while, start in Ireland, walk for a while and see what happens before moving on to other places. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, though I don’t think that it'll change anything for you one way or another,” she told him that night.
He had looked shocked. The blood drained from his face. While his face said he was both surprised and not particularly pleased, his voice was calm and cool and accepting of her choice. She hadn’t known what to make of his response. She still didn’t, though now the scene in her mind evolves into pain each time she recalls it.
“It’s probably for the best,” he had remarked. There was no hiding the hurt in her face. She’d never been good at hiding her emotions anyway and they had agreed on 100% honesty. Never only 90%. And frankly, “probably for the best” wasn’t the response she was hoping to hear.
Even with the promise of 100%, she still held some things back. In this case she never mentioned the hurt she was feeling. She might prefer the honesty, but this time she wanted to avoid a fight and experience a long goodbye more than the pursuit of honest conversation.
Static crackled. “We are now boarding all first class passengers.” Picking up her pack, she glanced one last time to the waiting throngs of people before slinging it on her shoulders and heading toward the rubber bands and door to another life.
In the air 4 hours later, “Tenneesse Never Cried” played in her ears, tears stream down her face...
“I wanted to run
I wanted to fly
and I didn’t want to abandon
all that we had…"
Her phone buzzed - the text reads “How are you doing up there?” Her closest friend knows she’s going to be struggling to feel confident about her choice right about now. “I’m okay, but I’ll talk with you when I land.” She still needed some space from everything she’d left in her now former city. “Okay, but do call me,” the next text had read.
Her tears dried and she drifted off into a fitful sleep, suddenly in a different time and a different space, gentle sunlight cast the room with a glow, windows open with crisp fall air creeping through. She recalls the warmth beside her in that morning, the feel of his hair against her cheek, his head resting on her chest, facial hair scratching her skin, his arms wrapped around her. Tender moments play through her dreams like a film and yet, reality intrudes - and the light faded out. The plane had shuddered a bit and she was awake and a fresh wave of both heartache and tears washed over her.
The flight attendant saw her awake and walked over to ask if she’d like to have a bite to eat or something to drink. She opted for the drink, a good strong Irish whiskey would serve, after all a flight to Ireland should include whiskey, should it not?
Her drink was delivered as one of her old favorite songs started in her ears.
"Please come closer, I don’t mind.
There’s room for two in here, just crawl inside.”
She began to recall their first meeting. The startling desire to embrace him. The smiles exchanged. No words were said by either. Nothing remarkable had happened other than their meeting. And a feeling that something had happened that changed everything for her, even if she couldn’t name it at the time. She’d think about that moment for the weeks to come. It stuck with her as a constant buzz.
Next shuffle was mid-way through when a flash of anger hit her again, mixed with a heady dose of fresh pain.
"She could scream at you until her vocal folds sever,
while you’d be diving headfirst into your next endeavor.”
Aye, that pretty much said it all. She had felt like screaming a few days after letting him know she was leaving. His reaction to her plans had filled her with hot anger. Fear of everything that would happen if he embraced that change - deciding between the known and unknown isn’t a trifle. It takes courage, courage that she had always had. She had tried to push the anger down and reach for understanding as much as she could, but there were moments when she felt rage in response to his fear.
She heard the warble of announcement through her headphones and the next shuffle that they’d be landing soon. Trance-y music filled her ears and the song made her recall departing each other after a long afternoon full of passion and snuggles.
"Loving me is not
but its worth the time
or so I’m told."
The words made her feel more regret at not being more understanding, at not letting go of her anger more easily than she had been. That, perhaps from his point of view, he had tried his best to find his way through.
Letting the music play, she thought it’d be good to distract herself with a bit of reading. At some point she knew that she had to let the memories exist without leaving herself in them for too long. It might be best to try for that now. She’d have plenty of time over the next few months to drift back through them.
Before long the plane touched the ground with a jolt, her attention span was short but reading helped take her mind off things. Approaching the gate, the plane came to a stop and the familiar chime rang throughout the filled passenger cabin. Up and ready to move, she grabbed her pack and prepared to step off the plane. The flight attendant seem preoccupied with a short call and static came across the speakers before she announced due to some confusion at the gate there’d be a short delay in deplaning.
When the doors finally opened, she managed to be the first off the plane and as she approached the terminal she could hear a thread of music filling her ears. Checking her phone, she saw that she hadn’t forgotten to turn it off after pulling out the headphones. She was looking down as she stepped into the terminal, and when her attention turned to navigating the people waiting to board the plane she’d just left and oddly, people were staring at her. She stopped in the middle of the gate area when she noticed a familiar face standing in her way, a friend who couldn’t possibly be standing there.
“What are you doing here?” she asked with awe and perhaps a bit of anxiousness in her voice.
“This.” He started to play a piano in front of him and soon the air filled with music again and his beautiful voice and violin strings as well. Turning to see a second friend adding his talents to the mix, those feelings turned to confusion.
Familiar music filled the air as the song's first verse comes out of the speakers:
“Said all I want from you is to see you tomorrow."
Her face full of questions, she jumped as she felt familiar arms wrapping around her from behind, the alarm subsided as a warm voice in her ear, speaking the song from the first word.
"And every tomorrow, maybe you'll let me borrow your heart
And is it too much to ask for every Sunday
And while we're at it, throw in every other day to start"
After the first verse, she pulled away to look in his eyes, feeling both elation and anger. Anger won. “You let me go. Without a word. I gave you every chance to say something, do anything. Especially last night. No, just no. I finally accepted the world around you wasn’t going to change, that you wouldn’t let it. How are you even here?" she blurted out that last bit trying to buy some time to think.
He took her hand and swung her around back around to face the crowd, hugging her to him and started to whisper in her ear again. Once he started to speak, the music started to fade a bit on her, but filled in the spaces between what he had to say.
“I remembered what you said about about the flights you chose and decided to beat you here. I knew if I were here, that if I put this effort into being here and bringing these guys with me, you’d at least hear me out,” he explained, “I’m here. I’m not scared anymore. I’m more scared of what my life is without you. I not to stop you, but to go with you. You just have to say the word and I’ll follow. We’ll work through things together, there will be rough patches, but there will be joy and laughter."
Her anger started to subside and tears streamed down her face, her head fell forward onto his chest. Taking that as a yes, a smile filled his face. When she looked up at him, tears and light filled her eyes. She nodded her head slightly, his smile widened and they turned together, hand in hand, to listen.
I struggled a bit on how I wanted to end this one. I knew when I began writing that I didn't want to place the focus on who this couple is, their names, their faces, how exactly the relationship started, the circumstances surrounding "probably for the best", or even where they would end up a few years from this time. It's meant to be a short, a story about how songs can be interpreted many different ways by individuals listening and this is how my brain played out said story.
The song that I began to write to was "Not a Bad Thing", but as I wrote, I realized several songs fit the story I was trying to tell better than only one. Thus the creative license. I also considered many others, since I've multiple favorites, including Black Lab's Ghost In Your Mind, which haunts me when I hear Paul start to sing. I've included a video of that one below, just for fun.