deserves a quiet night

So many things happened that summer night when I was 15 and I remember all of them. There was a large group of us hanging out, and we took a bunch of people home, then went back out again. I failed driver’s ed that summer (I hadn’t yet learned that there were times when it was imprudent to be a smart-mouthed know-it-all), so I was sitting shotgun in that boy’s car as we zipped down the interstate, listening to songs and talking. And it was just a little nothing in the middle of everything else, a moment when nothing happened at all, when the REM song “Nightswimming” came on and we were all quiet for a few minutes. And that was it. September is coming soon, and it was. A couple of us still had more high school to endure, one would join the military and another would head off to college. We’d never all be together like that again, and we knew, and we didn’t even know.

I stayed out past curfew. I somehow couldn’t explain to my mother the fact that this was one of those seemingly endless nights where so much and nothing happens all at the same time, one of those nights when you’re entirely aware that this is a night you’ll remember for the rest of your life, even if you’re not sure why. The only thing I could say was that I was having fun. And I was. It’s not like you stop to analyze the fun you’re having as you’re having it (even I don’t do that, and I stop and analyze almost everything). But it’s a rainy afternoon in April more than 15 years later, and this song popped up and I felt not exactly nostalgic, but more happy for my 15-year-old self sitting in that car, listening.

We didn’t go swimming that summer night when I was 15. We ate ice cream.

Night ice cream is always a good idea.

2 thoughts on “deserves a quiet night

  1. I recall very few nights I had like that during high school. Mainly because I didn’t really hang with many people with whom I would consider friends today (or that would have considered me a friend then), but two moments did come to mind as I was reading this:

    The first was when I was a junior in high school and a bunch of us went riding around in a Volkswagen bus owned and driven by one of the several seniors in the group (which also included a couple of Sophomores and me). The plan was to go out Christmas caroling, but pot was smoked so that never happened. I don’t recall much, specifically, that went on in the bus, but I do recall having kissed Anna, a sophomore, under the mistletoe earlier in the evening (before the ride) and being dropped off with her at her place several blocks from my house. Like you, I returned home after curfew and my brother (who was watching Johnny Carson) made sure to make enough noise to draw my father from bed, which then led to him taking a few swings at me for coming home so late.

    The other memory that came back (which oddly was sort of played out in the recently released film The Music Never Stopped) was of a night sitting around in the same friends’ place where I’d kissed the aforementioned Anna. We were listening to music, which was pretty much the custom, and someone put on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 LP (one of those black vinyl circular things that in conjunction with a thing called a turntable would produce music), an album I’d previously not heard in its entirety. When the last song on the record (“Desolation Row”) came up, it was like a revelation. I had theretofore been familiar with Dylan’s earliest music (that usually considered “protest”) as well as a few of his more popular “rock” songs (“Like A Rolling Stone”, “Positively 4th Street”, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”) but that moment was like none other I’d ever had in listening to music. I think it was the first time I’d really felt the power a song could have.

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    1. Surprise! I do know what LPs are… I even own some. Though I don’t presently own a working turntable, which presents a problem. One of my favorite things when I was a kid was putting a record on and carefully dropping the needle. I wonder how much it costs to fix a turntable.

      This seems to be entirely a tangent.

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