Music prompts are my favorite prompts and also the hardest. Californians love driving like they love a brother. We bitch and moan about traffic like it's our job, but in the end, don't even know how to function without an engine and an open road. I'm from the part of California people come to just to drive. Dark, forested, windy back roads that suddenly open up on top of rolling hills and vast expanses of vineyards. Lush and green in the spring and waves of fire in the fall. Round the right corner and suddenly your car is hugging a cliff and you're blinded by the sun reflecting off the Pacific.
When I'm stressed my urge is to jump behind the wheel of a car, or when I'm angry, when I'm depressed, when the sun is shining and everything seems right with the world. All emotions lead to California One. Sometimes this is the hardest part of New York, this long separation between me and a steering wheel.
You can't really belt it out and feel your FEEEEEELINGS on the subway.
"Excuse me? Could you round this corner just on the verge of too fast and maybe blast some Ryan Adams over the loudspeaker? It's just, I broke my own heart tonight. Don't try tell me everyone else on this train isn't also sick to death of love and sick to death of trying, we all know what dating in New York is like"
What? You don't feel all your feelings through alt country of the 90s?
Is it because, like me, you have a not so secret love for feeling all your feelings through angry female mainstream country? At least, you do when you're back living at home, in the country and that cowboy Casanova has told another one of his lies and suddenly you're identifying with T Swift? (I'm still bitter I was never allowed to drive that damn truck)
But it always comes back to my favorite song. I've listened to it over and over and over, driving everywhere. I made a tape of the album, back before there were iPods, because my sweet '96 Corolla only had a tape deck. I've mentioned before that it was the anthem of my junior and senior years of high school. The years right after my dad died. The years when I was truly truly a mess.
I didn't sleep much. Sometimes, when I couldn't sleep, I'd layer up and leave my house. I didn't really get in trouble and I didn't have a curfew and my grandparents were usually in bed before me, so I honestly don't know if they even noticed. I'd get in Delilah and pull out of our driveway, turning left towards the road that would lead me to the coast.
Put your hands on the wheel, let the golden age begin.
If it was too cold (which it almost always is in coastal Northern California at night), I'd turn the heater as I obeyed the next lines.
The window down, feel the moonlight on your skin
Desert wind cool your aching head
The weight of the world drift away instead
I'd relax into the seat. Tears pricking the corner of my eyes, quickly navigating the turns so familiar I could still follow them blind folded, turning the heater higher and higher as I got closer to the coast. This was a thing my father and I did, driving. And at once I'd feel closer to him and forever far away.
These days I barely get by
By the time I'd get to Hwy 1, I'd have to rewind the tape to listen to this song over again. Finally, pulled over, I'd chokingly sob along, the crash of the waves slowly calming me.
I don't even try
I don't even try