• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 09
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Off the beaten tracks

There was no music, like that music we listened to on that rusting Chevrolet's cassette player. The same side of the same album stuck in the machine and you couldn't turn it off. The volume stuck on high with the same songs repeated endlessly, even when we drove with the windows down at 90 through twisting lanes with overgrown hedgerows. We shouted at one another over the noise until our throats were sore, and we sat in silence with the sun overhead, clouds moving, the breeze through the windows soft like our mother's whispers against our cheeks.

We left the music playing as we drove to the side of the lake, moved from front seats to back - with some awkward difficulty, the headrests getting caught up in all sorts of uncomfortable places as our bodies twisted through the gaps.

The cassette whirred as we fumbled, not quite knowing what to do, the clouds gathering overhead and rain dripping through the open sunroof onto the back of our heads. The magnetic strip within its plastic case flicking like our tongues - your tongue, mostly - and then finally the silence as it whirred quietly in the machine, but the music seemed to play on in our heads.

I sold that old car for scrap last summer. The green paint half peeled away at the sides, but in the sun the way the metal caught the light was kind of beautiful, in the way that all broken things almost are. Before I dropped the keys off, I shoved the front half of my body through the driver's door and punched at that old cassette player, pulling and pushing and nudging, until finally it came away, and I was able to jemmy the cassette out.


Off the beaten tracks

The writing on the cover was faded, bleached away. I could never remember the name of the band anyway. But I couldn't - still can't - forget that sound or the music.

I left the cassette on the bonnet of the car, plugged my headphones in and hit shuffle on my playlist.

Sometimes it feels good to skip a few tracks.