Old Music Remembered

Juteau is tracing power lines with her fingers as we lay together in the grass by the old school near the airport. Her hands dance in the air, sliding this way, crossing over that, like she is conducting an orchestra of electricity. She hums a tune as she goes, something I can almost place, but which hangs just at the edge of recognition.

“What’s that song?” I ask.

“Cyndi Lauper,” she says. “‘All Through the Night.'”

“God, I haven’t heard that in years. I had a tape of that when I was a kid.”

“I used to play it out in my treehouse,” she says. “I had a cheap tape deck my grandmother got for me, and I’d sit out there and read and play it over and over until it finally wore out and the machine ate it.”

I smooth the fabric of my shirt over my belly and leave my hands crossed there. “I was a kid out of my generation. I used to listen to Jackson Browne all the time, and the Eagles, and Linda Ronstadt. Everyone else was listening to Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, I wanted Southern California cocaine music.”

Juteau rolls over and puts her arm over me. “I was worse than you. I had a plastic Batman mask that was a leftover from Halloween, and when I was in the treehouse, I had to wear it. It was my Batcave, and the only music that was allowed in the Batcave was Cyndi Lauper.”

“I would hide in my room,” I say, “listening to Jackson Browne and reading In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter. I had a weird serial killer thing going on back then. My parents thought I was going to grow up and be a Manson family member.”

“I dated a guy who killed someone. Not when I was dating him, but after. He had an argument with a guy, not even a bad guy, someone he knew, and then he shot him. I don’t think that counts as a serial killer, because he just did it the one time, but he’s still in jail for that.”

“Once is enough,” I say. “Once is too many.”

“I knew he was going to do it,” she says. “Well, not that specifically, but something. We used to go for drives all the time, and he’d always keep one hand on my thigh while he drove. He’d never try anything, never under my skirt, but he’d just have to hold me there. Sometimes he’d squeeze me, hard, almost pinching me, and it hurt but I didn’t tell him to stop. I liked to pretend that when I got home, I could lift my skirt and see his fingerprints pressed into my skin, like a tattoo.” She rolls onto her back again and looks up at the power lines. “He had these scars on his shoulders, thick and hard ones, as long as my finger. You could feel something under them, like bone where there shouldn’t have been anything, and they were white as salt.

“‘Is that where your wings were when you were an angel?’ I said once while we were driving. Stupid kid thing to say. I thought I was being cute, but then he got all quiet and turned to me with this snake’s look, black and hard, like something hiding under the stairs in the basement waiting to grab your ankle when you come down. He was doing eighty miles an hour easy, and I wanted him to pay attention to the road, but really I just wanted him to stop looking at me with those eyes. They were like oil on fire, bottomless black and red pools of burning oil.

“‘Those weren’t wings, honey,’ he said. ‘That’s where I got the mean put into me, and someday I plan to give it back.’ Then he squeezed my leg so tightly that he left a bruise that didn’t go away for a week, and he dug his nails into me so hard that I thought my skin was going to break, and I couldn’t breathe it hurt so much, and when I thought I was going to pass out from it, he let go, and he went back to watching the road again, just like he turned off a switch. Scariest thing I can remember.

“He kept his hand on me the rest of the drive, though. Same as always.” She reaches for the power lines again, and then lets her arms fall down to her sides. “I didn’t get back in his car again after that. Sometimes I still dream about him though. He’s got snakes coming out of the scars on his back, big ones as thick as his arms, with black marbles for eyes, and they’re squeezing me tighter and tighter until I can’t breathe.

“And then I wake up.”

We stop talking then for a while, and there is a chill which falls over me that raises bumps on my skin. Soon Juteau goes back to humming her old songs while above us, a plane takes to the sky, and we watch it climb higher and higher into the clouds, the roar of the engine gradually fading, until all that is left is the sound of old songs remembered, the whisper of traffic on the nearby freeway and the buzzing of the electric wires high overhead.

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2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth yon

     /  January 22, 2014

    “That’s where I got the mean put into me, and someday I plan to give it back…” That line simply pulses with power! What a fabulous dark character…and how this takes me back to my own teen years.

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