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.

“No.”

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.

“No.”

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.

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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 :]

    Like

      • 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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