One day, if I’m lucky, I’ll tell some young girl all my stories … and I’ll get to live them again.” –Jenny Han, Always and Forever, Lara Jean
In the car, Hadley and I are discussing “get over you” songs. The kinds of songs you play when you’re convincing yourself that boy with the sparkly blue eyes and the blond hair, that boy with the mischievous brown eyes and the tousled brown hair, that boy with the sandy blond hair and eyes you’re unsure of what color they are but you’d be fine staring at a nice long time to figure it out—those boys don’t matter anymore. You play this song and you will, indubitably, get over them.
Mine was Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking.”
“I’ll get over you,” I know I will/I’ll pretend my ship’s not sinking,” I sing with my thumb as a pretend microphone.
“That’s not a ‘get over you’ song,” Hadley says. “It’s more of a ‘I’m pretending to get over you, but I want you back’ song.”
I think about the many times I listened to this song full blast on my red Walkman, risking damage to my eardrums as the song seeped into my soul.
“Now this,” Hadley says, hitting play on her phone, “is a get over you song.”
Lizzo’s song, “Truth Hurts” comes on. “Yeah, I got boy problems, that’s the human in me/Bling, bling, then I solve ‘em, that’s the goddess in me.”
Hadley nods her head and sings along. “I put the siiiiiiing in single,” she yells out, one hand in the air.
That’s a good line, I think. Also, she’s right. My song is the equivalent of a big, purple dinosaur compared to hers.
“Stereo Hearts” comes on, and Hadley and I both reach for the volume to turn it up. When one of the Gym Class Heroes says, “Appreciate every mix tape your friends made for you,” Hadley asks what a mix tape is. I’m happy to tell her. I love mix tapes. I’m certain I made more mix tapes than I turned in homework assignments. I press pause to explain.
“You put a bunch of songs on a tape to express how you feel, or because they hold a lot of memories from a certain time,” I explain.
“Did you make any for boys?” she asks.
Did I make any for boys. Is the sky blue? Is Friday night the best night of the week? Does a Bear….
“Yes,” I tell her. “I sure did.”
“Did boys make you any mix tapes?” she asks, and I think I hear pity in her voice. Or maybe it’s a challenge.
I smirk at her, and bop her on the head. “Well, did they?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say, sitting straight and puffing out my chest. “Some of them.”
Hadley crosses her arms. I don’t think she believes me.
“Sometimes, they’d even talk in between songs so I’d know why a particular song was chosen. Or sometimes, the songs themselves would be a code. You’d have to figure out what the boy was trying to say.”
“Were the songs in another language?” Hadley asks.
“What? No! Why would they be in another language?”
“Well, that doesn’t seem like much of a challenge to figure out what a boy is trying to say if the song’s in English,” Hadley says, totally unimpressed.
I press “play” on Adam Levine and the Gym Class Heroes.
“Sometimes it’s just easier to say how you feel through a song,” I mumble.
I had a terrible crush on a boy that lasted longer than the “Family Ties” sitcoms series. I was mush whenever he came around, and I guess that feeling was one I enjoyed because I would go out of my way to look for him. I took up riding my bike or rollerblading by his house close to two miles away in the hopes he’d be outside.
In my head, the scenario would go like this:
CUTE BOY (smiling and surprised): Callie! Hey! What are you doing here?
ME (casually taking off my headphones and clicking the “stop” button on my Walkman): Oh, hey! You live around here?
CUTE BOY: I’m in that house, over there.
ME: Cool. This is my workout route.
CUTE BOY: Cool.
ME (flipping my head phones on and unclipping my Walkman from my biker shorts to cue up my music): Well, see ya.
CUTE BOY (putting his hands on my handlebars): You want company?
We smile at each other for a second, and I take my headphones off and say, “Sure.”
Here’s how it actually happened:
I rollerbladed to his house one summer day after a tar truck had just been down his street patching up dents from the Chicago winter. I was listening to my music, trying to rollerblade on beat while at the same time watching out for him, and there he was and into mush I turned.
The tar on the road conspired with my shaky legs and just as he was walking out of his house, not only did I fall, my rollerblades got stuck in the tar. My feet popped out of them, and I landed on my knees and elbows. I was a bloody mix of tar and gravel and shame.
“Callie! Hey!” he said, jogging over to me. “Are you OK? Do you want me to get my mom?”
If I’d made him a mix tape, none of this would’ve happened. Perhaps. Something tells me that the thrill of “what if” would always be too strong for me to turn down.
“Troublemaker” by Olly Murs comes on and Hadley and I pep up. I haven’t asked her, but judging by how much conviction she sings with, I’d say her favorite part is my favorite part: when Flo Rida steps in. “Maybe I’m insane/cuz I keep doin’ the same d*** thing/Thinkin’ one day we gonna change/But you know just how to work that back and make me forget my name.”
We know all the words, and sometimes I imagine she and I are at a party singing this song and dancing to it like we’re besties.
Once, at a high school graduation party, a boy struck up a conversation with me. He was tall, and cute, and friendly. Plus, he was in college. He was just a year ahead of me, but still, he’d gotten through that first year I was headed for, and he didn’t look too worse for the wear.
“You’ll do great,” he said, and I believed him. I’d been so anxious about leaving, and, quite frankly, not interested in going to college at all. Talking to him though, made me think maybe it’d be OK if I left home for a little while.
I looked at my watch, and he asked if I had to go. I said that my boyfriend was coming to pick me up.
“Oh, you have a boyfriend?” he said.
“Yeah,” I told him, holding his gaze.
“So,” he said, stepping closer and leaning towards my ear, “he probably wouldn’t like it if I asked for your number.”
I stayed where I was, but he stepped back, and I watched him, smiling, my ego growing larger than the Chicagoland area in that moment. “Probably not,” I said.
The song ends just as we pull into the driveway. Hadley checks her phone, while I’m wishing we still had miles to travel together.
“Can I go over to the pool? A bunch of my friends are there.”
She names who they are, and as she does, I study her face to see if there’s a spark of anything when certain names come up. Nothing. Her face is poker.
“Yes, you can go over there,” I say, and she bolts out of the car and runs upstairs. Seconds later, she’s running across the backyard in a swimsuit and cut offs, her hair flying behind her.
Jesse walks inside from working on the yard. He’s talking about building a fire pit in part of our backyard, and putting in a small garden for herbs like basil and thyme that we usually get at the grocery store, and never use up before they go bad. He wants to turn our side yard into a spot where wildflowers grow.
I am slicing a white peach, when he enters the kitchen. Jesse bought them for me because he knows I like the white peaches better than the yellow kind.
“I can’t get the Bluetooth speaker to work,” I say, popping a peach in my mouth. “Can you help me?”
“Where’s your phone?” he asks, and I walk to the little hutch in our living room where we keep them. Jesse follows me.
I hand him my phone and he clicks the Pandora app. Iron and Wine’s “Belated Promise Ring,” comes on through my phone, but not on the Bluetooth speaker, the one that looks exactly like a stereo Jesse and I used to have. This one is a miniature version of it. The other one was his grandparents’ and it had a record player in it. It was so big it took up an entire wall of our apartment in South Bend, Indiana. I loved that stereo, and was devastated when we realized we couldn’t take it to D.C. with us because our postage stamp apartment in that city barely had a room in the kitchen to open the oven door. There was no way we would get that thing in our new home on Connecticut Avenue.
We gave the stereo to friends. Jesse helped them take it down three flights of stairs while I sat in our empty living room and pouted.
“We still have the music,” Jesse said, when he came back upstairs.
“Sunday morning, my Rebbecca’s sleeping in with me again/There’s a kid outside the church kicking a can,” the song begins, and I look out the window towards Hadley and her friends. When was the last time Jesse and I slept in on a Sunday morning, I wonder, as I spot Hadley running after a boy. It looks like they are playing “Keep Away,” and it looks like she will catch him.
In the song, Rebbecca is stubborn. She seems selfish, and cruel. But each time Samuel Ervin Beam sings of her, he calls her, “my Rebbecca.” She is his. “I think I could never love another girl/To be free atop a tree stump and to look the other way.”
The song ends, but Jesse keeps working on my phone. He clicks on “Settings,” turns the speaker off and on, makes sure my phone is synced to the Bluetooth.
I think it’s taking too long, and I don’t want him to waste his time, so I say, “It’s OK. Maybe it’ll work tomorrow.”
Jesse doesn’t stop working. He will stay here until we hear the music again.
Photo by Lottie Caiella.