I'm not, like, morally opposed to them or anything. I think they're a pretty big deal. I just...never go.
I guess I do when it's family. My cousin got married a few weeks ago, and I went then. But I left as soon as I could, grateful to have the excuse of a work shift on a Saturday night half an hour's drive away. That one's easier to understand, though. I don't need a hundred questions from distant relations about the weight I've put on and the bylines they never see in print (because evidently the Internet doesn't work in Arizona) and, most of all, why I haven't had one of "these" yet.
But I don't go to non-family weddings, either. Plenty of men in their late twenties see reception attendance as a chore, but I honestly don't think I'm one of them. You get to wear a suit, for one thing. You get to see pretty girls in dresses, for another. There's cake, and there's dancing, and if the happy couple have any taste at all there's a live band playing jazz, which is the only thing you should dance to in a suit anyway.
Part of it is my schedule; I know I'm simply not available most nights (and, consequently, sleeping most mornings), so I don't bother asking when the blessed event is. Part of it is that, these days, I don't have many friends about whose nuptials I would give a crap. (The ones I did care about have long since passed, along with our friendships.) And yes, one cannot rule out a healthy dose of envy, a dislike of the reminder that they know something I never have, and that the money line isn't exactly trending in my favor.
You want to know the real reason?
I want to meet her there.
I want to catch her looking at me across a crowded chapel or ballroom or pavilion.
I want to walk over to her, and ask her name, and ask her to dance.
I want to hear "My One and Only Love" emerge from a saxophone, sweet and breath-filled, as I take her hand.
I want my feet to be light, and her eyes to shine, and the world to slow, to shimmer, a crystalline memory, imperishable, coruscating, lustrous, clear.
"So..." she ventured, hesitating, "...was that a date?"
They had arranged, in clandestine fashion (if by clandestine you meant a chat window), to meet outside the bookstore at seven. He had spent most of his day chatting to coworkers, about leads on new jobs and struggles with current ones and Chrono Cross and Photoshop and seeing a movie on Friday. He specifically avoided talking to her. When he did, it was in serious, official tones.
"You should really start working on that."
"Do you remember how to process those?"
"Thanks for your hard work."
His fingers were already telling her about the email he'd gotten that morning, the one from San Francisco, the one that probably wouldn't lead anywhere but sped his daydreams up to light speed, until the two topics, the girl and the email, commingled into a too-bright vision, like the last vestiges of a dream before you wake up with the sun in your eyes.
He skipped out early and walked across the street, fighting the wind, which tugged at his hair as if to insist that his arbitrary attempt at growing it out was foolish. He turned the corner and, seeing no sign of her, took a seat on a nearby bench, pulling out his phone and trying to look nonchalant. He waited for a few minutes, watching a nearby group of would-be sungazers with necks craned up to the overcast sky, seeking the transit of heavenly bodies.
It occurred to him that she might be waiting on the lower level. He walked over to the edge of the outdoor seating area above -- deserted due to the wind and chill -- and looked down. She sat on a carefully landscaped rock, shopping bag by her side, checking her watch.
For a moment, he pretended he did not see her. It was like a moment from a film: two people, waiting for each other, both knowing they were in the right place, at once together and alone.
We never look up, he thought. We don't realize how close we are.
They sat across an unbalanced table that rocked every time he leaned forward. She sipped Sprite from a clear glass with a lemon wedge on the rim and asked about his family.
He rambled, as he tended to do.
He told her about the family dog, the one who had died while he was away but had clung to life through that Christmas so as not to ruin the holiday for the family.
He told her about his brothers, how they seemed like distilled, concentrated versions of his contradicting selves, how they were able to focus and excel in ways he never could.
He told her he was afraid that he would always end up with too many interests and no skill at any of them.
She looked at him then, her browns meeting his brown-green-hazels, holding them.
"That's ridiculous," her mouth said.
Her eyes said something else. He couldn't quite make it out.
They ate gelato next to Yanni. A poster of him, anyway. She squealed and said she'd have to get tickets. He made a mental note of the date and time.
She looked out across the street at the darkening indigo of the sky and the bright orange of a Chinese restaurant, its walls aflame in the dying rays of the sun finally breaking through the gloom. (The astronomers will be happy, he thought.) He told her how, in their old building, the best view at sunset was not to the west. Turn away, he explained, and look east, and you will see the high-rises gleaming, and the side of the football stadium glinting, and the mountains and hills aglow. And you'll never want to move to San Francisco, or Seattle, or Italy, or anywhere bigger or smaller. Because the mountains mean home.
He didn't use those exact words, but that was the general idea.
They walked out into the rapidly cooling night, abetted by the frozen dessert still sharp on their tongues. They rounded the corner, past the ancient apartments that now housed pioneers of a different sort, those who preferred the street cred of the rundown and rickety.
"So..." she ventured, hesitating, "...was that a date?"
A hundred panicked responses sprang into his mind. He paused, taking in a breath.
"Good," she said. "I like dates."
He put his arm around her shoulder briefly, then let it fall.
There's always something, he says.
Some reason why you never did anything
or why what you did didn't work.
Something you've forgotten about.
Something you manage to wallpaper over
until you meet again
and then it all comes flooding back.
I nod. You're right, I say.
But then I think of two men reading letters from themselves
and a blue horn in the corner of an empty room
and a song that you can't buy any more
the one about hooks and lines and sinkers
(i just wrote this and posted it at bitmob. i've written some other things there, too. you should probably go read them sometime.)
I haven’t known many babies in my life. When you’re 28, single, and you work mostly nights, your opportunities for infant interaction are limited. So when I headed to Texas to visit my brother and his year-old twins earlier this month, I tried to soak in every moment I could.
As I played with my niece and nephew, I thought back to my own early childhood. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t remember much – just an image here and there.
What I can remember are the sounds.
I can still hear my mother softly sing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” as she tucked me in at night. The tones of my father’s rich tenor voice linger in my mind as he sang about Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.” And the pluck of their guitar strings hums with a clarity undiminished by the passage of time.
When all else fades, I will hear those melodies. They capture something ineffable and true about this world that I’ll never be able to fully explain. But collecting the eight melodies of Earthbound comes close.
If you examine each aspect of Earthbound by itself, you’ll find a fairly standard SNES-era role-playing game. The mechanics are nothing too special, the plot is basic child-saves-the-world fare, and psychic powers stand in for magic. But when you delve beneath those surface factors, you find a wealth of unique attributes that make the game much more than the sum of its parts. The music is a part of that.
Within the first few minutes of play, the character Ness receives an object called the Sound Stone, along with instructions to visit eight locations across the world to “unite your power with the Earth’s.” Seems like your usual cryptic RPG gibberish...but it ends up making perfect sense.
Each location – also known as “Your Sanctuary” -- features a boss battle against a grotesque (often humorous) monster of some kind. But the monsters aren’t the point. The real reason for visiting these places is to use the Sound Stone to gather a snatch of a melody. And after those few notes play, Ness recalls a brief memory – a glimpse of his dog as a puppy, a whiff of his favorite food (as chosen by the player), or the sound of his mother’s voice.
That song is supposed to empower you. But it doesn’t. Not until the melody is complete.
When I first played Earthbound, I didn’t even notice each section of the song as it played after defeating the boss. My young and relatively untrained ears didn’t put the whole thing together. It wasn’t until I gathered the final tune that it all became clear.
Ness puts the Sound Stone to his forehead, and the notes you’ve collected suddenly make sense. It’s a whole song; each piece is actually one musical measure in an eight-part phrase. But it’s obscured by strangely atonal bass patterns and random arpeggiation. It’s as if the melody has to fight through Ness’ own memories to be heard.
Then the screen suddenly changes to a scene in black and white as, in his mind, Ness makes his way up a winding path to his home. There, he finds himself as a baby in his own crib. He hears his parents’ voices as they look on in wonder at their creation. He even sees his trademark red cap placed on his head for the first time.
During all of this, the melody of the Sound Stone changes from obscure and strange to beautiful and clear, simple and strong.
It’s the sound of a family’s love.
Throughout Earthbound, Ness has a strange relationship with his family. His father is entirely absent; he communicates only through phone calls and ATM deposits. Ness’ mother dispenses health-replenishing food and worry-filled advice in equal measure. And his sister’s only purpose is to act as a delivery girl, taking unwanted inventory items off your hands.
Yet Ness can actually become homesick at periodic points in the game, a malady only cured by a phone call or visit home. If left unattended, Ness will involuntarily skip turns in combat as he remembers his mother. It’s a strangely powerful way to impress upon the player the strength of love and memories.
After a brief journey through the dark part of his mind, Ness awakens newly empowered by each location he visited – each melody he found. Because what greater “sanctuary” could there be than a place where memories use music to express love?
My niece and nephew won’t remember me until they’re older. And my own memories will probably continue to fade. But music will always be a means of bringing them back.
And someday I might have a song or two to pass on – no Sound Stone required.
i'm too used to flying solo
there's a comfort in the ache
like the pain after a long run
i go as fast as i can take
cause longer days mean shorter memories
but every night i lie awake
a tiny bed below the mountains
can't hold the life i aim to make
there's times i sleep when i'm not tired
but i'm drowsy when i wake
and i put on my suit and say my words
but some days it's too hard to fake
i know there's few that have it better
don't need no pity for my sake
but one day soon i'm gonna hit the road
toward the life i aim to make
i bought an extra pillow the other day
because i can't sleep unless I'm clutching
i tuck the blankets under my chin and cross my arms
as if i'm about to plunge down a water slide
the kind that i hated as a child
because i forgot to cover my mouth
and felt as if i were being flushed down a toilet
which is sometimes what sleep is like
and sometimes what waking is like too
there is more to the pillow
it yields to an embrace
but only so far
before there's nothing left to squeeze
and your arms are sore in the morning