The Song Remembers When

2001, JulieOh

 

I was standing at the counter / I was waiting for the change / When I heard that old familiar music start / It was like a lighted match / Had been tossed into my soul / It was like a dam had broken in my heart

 

I wandered the aisles of the tiny convenience store, staring at the shelves. An old radio behind the front counter strained to fill the dead air with music from the local country station, the sound tinny in the afternoon heat. What did I want.... Pringles.... Doritos.... chocolate bars.... ooo, gum.... Hmmm, what flavour....

 

"Hey Lance, can you buy these for me?" Justin shoved a bag of sour cream & onion chips into my hands.

 

"What?"

 

"I left my wallet on the bus. You've got money, right?" He backed away from me and out the door, not waiting for my answer. Sure, Justin, I've got money. Sure, Justin, I'll cover you. *sigh* I watched him tackle Chris halfway to the busses, laughing as our older friend was forced to piggyback him the rest of the way there. Oh, to be that young again. Wait, I am almost that young. Damn, when did I start feeling so old?

 

Where was I again? Right. Gum. I blindly grabbed a package from the shelf and smiled when I saw the grape wrapping in my hand. Good choice. I headed up to the cash register at the front of the store, where Joey was already standing. I deposited my gum and Justin's chips on the counter beside Joey's small mountain of junk food and reached around for my wallet.

 

"Geez, Joe, how do you eat all that shit?"

 

"What? Who knows when our next stop will be? I have to stockpile."

 

"Right." I knew most of it would be gone within an hour or two.

 

Joey took the plastic bag from the outstretched hands of the man behind the counter and thanked him. He hip-checked me on his way past to the door.

 

"See ya on the bus!"

 

"Yeah, I'll just be a minute." I turned my attention to the elderly clerk.

 

"That'll be three fifty-two," he said to me, his voice shaky and his eyes a little blurry behind his thick glasses.

 

I handed him a five out of my wallet and waited while he opened the till and slowly counted out my change. The song on the tired radio behind him changed, the tempo slowing with the first strains of piano filtering through. I blinked, momentarily fazed. Something about this song.... I knew it, but from where? I hadn't heard it in years. Not since..... Claire.....

 

After taking every detour, getting lost and losing track / So that even if I wanted, I could not find my way back / After driving out the memory of the way things might have been / After I'd forgotten all about us, the song remembers when

 

Claire.... My God, I hadn't thought about her in ages. I'd tried not to. Not after.... after what? I couldn't even remember anymore why it ended between us. Well, I'm sure I could if I tried, but I had a feeling I didn't want to try. When *was* the last time I heard this song???

 

We were rolling through the Rockies, we were up above the clouds / When a station out of Jackson played that song / And it seemed to fit the moment / And the moment seemed to freeze / When we turned the music up and sang along

 

**flashback**

 

"Happy Birthday!" I placed my hands over Claire's eyes from behind, startling her a little, but she quickly relaxed and folded her hands over mine. She leaned back slightly.... God, I loved how she fit against me...

 

"Lance!" she squealed. "What are you doing?"

 

"Just wait a second..." I moved my hands so one was covering both her eyes, and used the other to pull something out of my jacket pocket. I held that hand out in front of her and removed the other so she could see. "Ta daa!"

 

She gasped. "Train tickets! To where?"

 

"Anywhere. Nowhere. Doesn't matter." I turned her around in my arms and wrapped my hands around her waist. She looked up at me.... her eyes were such a perfect shade of blue... "I heard the line that runs from here through the Rockies and back again has an amazing view. I thought we could take a vacation together."

 

She beamed, her eyes sparkling. I remember now how the light used to glint against them when she was really happy. She rose on her tiptoes to kiss me quickly. "Thank you, sweetie! But when will we go?" The sparkle died a little. "Don't you have to be back soon?"

 

We had just gotten back from Europe then, and things were only barely starting to take off. We were being kept busy, but nothing like how it is now. A few gigs here and there, some studio time.... we'd heard rumours they might be talking to Disney about a special. I shook my head and smiled at her.

 

"They've cleared me for two weeks. I'm all yours."

 

The view from the train *was* amazing. We'd grown up practically up the road, but neither of us had ever been up into the mountains quite like this. We were there for three days, and we only took our noses from the windows long enough to eat and sleep, it seemed. The sunsets were the best.

 

Music was always playing through speakers in all the cars, and one night, after dinner, strains of slow piano music flowed clearly overhead, and I smiled. We both loved this song. I started signing along softly, practically whispering in her ear, and she giggled, shrugging away from the tickling feeling. She started singing too, both of us staring out the window at the colours slowly changing in the sky. She turned to look at me, and we sang louder, until some of the other passengers were looking at us strangely. We didn't care; we laughed through our words until the song was over, then turned back to the spectacle outside, not saying anything. We didn't need to.

 

And there was a God in Heaven, and the world made perfect sense / We were young and were in love and we were easy to convince / We were headed straight for Eden, it was just around the bend / And though I have forgotten all about it, the song remembers when

 

It seemed like nothing could touch us up there, so far away from everything. In a way, it was true, at least for those few days. I had never been happier than on that train, and I had never been more sure of my future. Or so I thought.

 

**end flashback**

 

I guess something must have happened and we must have said goodbye / And my heart must have been broken / Though I can't recall just why / The song remembers when

 

The creaky old man behind the counter cleared his throat lightly, startling me out of my daze.

 

"Oh, sorry..." I mumbled, taking the money he was holding out to me.

 

He smiled, as if he knew exactly what was going on in my mind. "Pretty song, eh?" I nodded, and he nodded back. "Lot of old memories..." I wasn't sure if he was talking about himself or about me. "So what happened?"

 

He had almost whispered it, and I wasn't sure he'd even spoken, except he seemed to be waiting for me to say something.

 

"Uh... I'm not sure." I shrugged. I really wasn't sure. I'd had to go back to Orlando, of course, I knew that much. But after that.... We'd really exploded then. Had my fame gotten to be too much for her? Was it simply the distance? Or had she found someone else, someone who could give her what I couldn't? The clerk still seemed to be waiting for more from me. I shrugged again. "I think her family moved away." Yeah, maybe that was it. He seemed to be satisfied by the answer, in any case, because he nodded.

 

"Yunh, that happens," he muttered, still nodding to himself. "People move, people change, nothing ever stays the same...." He turned away from me then, going back to his stool in the corner, muttering on about how things used to be. Don't I know it.

 

Well, for all the miles between us / And for all the time that's passed / You would think I haven't gotten very far / And I hope my hasty heart will forgive me just this once / If I stop to wonder how on earth you are

 

What *did* happen? As much as I knew I'd pushed it out of my mind for a reason, it was bugging me now. Maybe I should call Mom. She'd remember. Maybe she'd even know where Claire was now, what she was doing. My thoughts were interrupted by the bell clanging above the door. Joey poked his head in.

 

"Lance, hey, come on, we're waiting for you."

 

"Huh? Oh, sorry. I'm done here, I'm coming." I turned to look back at the clerk again. He wasn't paying attention to us any more, and the radio had moved on to a newer, faster tune. Yeah, I was definitely done here.

 

But that's just a lot of water underneath the bridge I burned / And there's no use in backtracking around corners I have turned / Still I guess some things we bury are just bound to rise again / For even if the whole world has forgotten, the song remembers when / Even if the whole world has forgotten, the song remembers when

 

The End

 

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