The Long 400kms

It will be an unearthly time by the time we reach home. Two cars. The other car’s home is a couple of dozen kilometres less than where I have to reach. I have an offer of staying back. 24-odd kms means much less, when you are homeward bound.

It’s dark. Late evening is upon us. I am a little over 400 kms away from home. The road ahead is good. It’s a dual-carriageway. We later discover that this is only a half-truth. But that’s later. My present is very different.

Fog Lights

A very young co-traveller is in my car, i.e. younger than me. I am driving. There’s three of us, I soon realise: the two of us, and the generation gap. The third passenger shows up every time a song plays from my playlist. We exit the city streets and are on the highway.

Man on the Moon, by R.E.M. plays.

“Do you know this song?” I ask.


I let a minute pass by.

“Do you like it?”

She says yes, but I am suspicious.

“If you have any songs on your phone that you’d like to play, feel free to plug your phone into the AUX.”

While I offer her that, and because I have arranged my playlists, Losing My Religion starts playing.

I feel I should tell her something about the song. I do not.

She says she is happy with what’s playing. I wonder what she is thinking. Perhaps, allowing my kind of music to play will allow me to focus on driving. 400kms in the night is not a small thing. I smile. Smart kid. I say to myself.

“You don’t speak much, do you?” I ask.


Wilson Pickett is describing the Land of a 1000 Dances. We’ve spent the last five days together, looking at broken buildings of yore. Alane, by Wayfinder is playing. I recall that in most conversation through the ruins, she has amply demonstrated her presence, yet, hardly participated. Claudette, by Roy Orbison. I offer again; she is free to play her music. Ella Fitzerald says Oh Lady Be Good. She refuses; say’s she’d like to hear what I have on my playlist.

“You had your chance.”

I hand her the iPod. “Skip what you don’t like.”

She owns the iPod instantly; doesn’t speak much, but the quietest, longest conversations I have ever had, is the one that I cannot forget.

Somewhere within the 400kms she feels compelled to make conversation. We play a diminutive version of 20 questions. It keeps me alert; and I think she feels good. She now skips songs on the iPod with ease. It’s a playlist I have curated. I wince every time she skips a song.

Once in a while, she says, “I like this song.”

That gives me the opportunity to tell her more about the song.

I do not know where 400kms went by. We come to the point where the road forks. We say our good-byes. She gets into the other car. I am homeward bound alone, for the next 80 kms.

I smile every time a song she skipped, starts playing.


16 thoughts on “The Long 400kms

  1. My brother cuts out things from the NY Times Sunday section and brings it with him when he visits my son and I. I love my brother. I save them. Sometimes I feel indifferent about the writing, sometimes interested, and sometimes I feel an inexplicable feeling that says “I wish I wrote this….this is a skillful, inspiring use of language.” I felt that way when I read this. What you didn’t say was as powerful as what you did say, and although I might have questions, I prefer the mystery. What a great piece. It is not my voice….but a part of me wishes it was 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • You should ask the questions. You probably don’t ask them of the columnists on NYT. Here’s your chance. Do ask. I am curious.

      I think, the ultimate compliment to a writer is when someone says, I wish I had written that. Thank you for that. And know this, you are not alone. I ‘hate’ many writers and singers. Because, “I should have written that.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Young people and their unwillingness to listen to our music always makes me laugh. Coincidentally, I have just been listening to Out of Time in my car :]


      • I did not sense an unwillingness at all – rather the stilted awkwardness of the situation and the age difference – That chasm was bridged when she felt comfortable enough to skip, or to comment on a song. But the importance of certain music, I believe, is because it is like the soundtrack of our lives, the songs we loved when we were younger hold a certain reverence – and THAT is why you winced when she skipped a song. …and smiled when they returned to you.:)

        Liked by 1 person

    • OH my! I am ashamed I had to google that – and even more so that although I recognized it – I never knew it was by the Stones! Young people listen to our music all the time – they just don’t realize it’s “OURS.” – soundtracks of kids movies, commercials, – my 21 yo knows more songs from my time than from his – well – we DID have the best music:)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Music is a personal thing and touches us all very differently. Play the same piece of music for a group of people and nobody experiences it exactly the same way. I used to think it had to do with age, but it’s more complicated than that. I liked your post.

    Liked by 2 people

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