The Song That Changed Your Life: Picks
By Maggie Panko
In his old Ford, I push off my jeans. He turns on to the highway, making dragging panty hose over one knee rough. We hit a traffic jam. Luckily the front seat makes it impossible for him to see past my neck.
What're you doing?
Um. Getting changed.
He hesitates. Oh.
We barely know each other. He’s the friend of a friend. Since no one I knew wanted to come, I would’ve gone alone. Except this year, my driving teacher identifies me at seventeen as a lifetime danger to Ontario roads, the worst she’s ever taught. A driving test? Out of the question. My companion is licensed. He’s also actually eager to see a concert in Hamilton. Put on by a national orchestra.
I couldn’t ask my parents for a lift. My mother believes that a love of very old music is proof of a good intellect. I don’t, thanks to music I can’t stand. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana have broken over the airwaves. Smells Like Teen Spirit is rage poetry. I hate it and just about everything else on the radio. But you can’t deny the song’s brains, despite the deodorant reference. Liking the orchestra isn’t smart. Or not smart. It’s how your heart goes. You’re stirred by it. Or you aren't. With strings on my cassette Walkman, I’m floating, drowning, in love. Leaving the house in ripped jeans means I refuse the prevailing view of classical music. Refuse to admit my interest. I become a lady in the back of a car.
Adrift in a sea of grey hair, my companion and I find our concert hall seats. He surveys the program. His white collar is tucked into his sweater, his avid pale face stippled with pink acne.
“First is Holst’s ‘Mars’,” he murmurs happily. This quiet joy draws me to him. Not sexually. That is impossible. One night, I tell myself again, you will have to stop going out with boys. Find your way to a woman. Maybe you’ll get season tickets together. Get lost in Shostakovich. Tell everyone where you went. Who you went with.
Not this time.
“It’s starting,” he whispers. A tuxedoed conductor steps into view on a wave of applause. Lights fall. Bows bounce on the strings. A glorious flood of sound washes us all away.
Maggie Panko is from Verdun, QC
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