The sound I have heard in your hello
If you were going away for two weeks for work and your spouse was going to be left minding the store, you might be more inclined than usual to be guilted talked into, say, cleaning the mildew off the shower curtain, doing 93 and a half loads of laundry, or climbing the stairs to the storage shelf to finally unpack that box that you never bothered to empty when you moved in over a year ago.
Sometimes such things pay off. This time you find a stand for your guitar, a motherlode of blank CDs, your son’s missing baptismal certificate (the one that took you three weeks to track down a copy of when you needed to get your kid into school last year), and a cassette tape that you haven’t seen in at least 20 years.
The tape was made by a guitarist you once had a crush on. He was a friend of a friend who went to a college in the town next to yours and once he asked you to play on a recording he was making for his composition class. The piece, “Skating with Satie,” was an arrangement of one of the Gymnopèdies for guitar, flute and violin and you spent several hours dubbing the tracks in his school’s studio. But on the night before he graduated (he was a couple of years older than you), he gave you that cassette and you thought it was just a recording of the piece and you thanked him and put it in your pocket and spent the evening sitting around a bonfire late into the night with him and a bunch of your other friends, laughing hard and washing down toasted marshmallows with cheap beer.
The next day, after you pack all your worldly possessions in your car and start the long drive home, you find the cassette in your pocket (for you have slept in your clothes) and stick it in the player. And this is what you hear:
And when you find this cassette 25 years after you first received it, you are kicking yourself for hauling your last remaining cassette player to the street when you moved into this tiny apartment, where it disappeared within minutes. But you download the songs into a playlist on your phone and even though you miss the click the smooth plastic case makes when you open it, and the paper card with the guitarist’s scrawly writing, you are for a moment 19 once more. And you remember the summer where you listened to this cassette incessantly, walking headphones on and walkman clipped to the waistband of your shorts, how you shared it with the theater director with whom you shared a cabin in the woods at the summer camp where you both taught and she liked it too, but not as much.
And it occurs to you now, 25 years later, that you still don’t know if he liked you.