Thursday, November 03, 2005

do you remember when we used to sing

When my cousin, the teeniac, S, was visiting here earlier this year, the bro-seph and I continually marvelled at her ability to sing along to every song. Her mastery of 50 Cent lyrics did not bowl us over, but she also knew the words to songs that were not quite of her generation. We were shocked to find her bopping her head along to stupid classics like Kung Fu Fightin' and the like.

But when I really gave it some thought, I am pretty sure it has to do with growing up in EBF. We grew up in a place where at least 80% of the radio stations were playing music from different eras- classic rock, oldies, disco. I associate all of this quite old music with my childhood, and think that is when the music fit the time, but it didn't. Even then, it was anachronistic.

Because, one day in junior high school, on a long bus ride to a mediocre ski area, the windows cold as ice, but the sun lighting us up with anticipation, I remember this kid T singing My Girl. I had a bit of a crush on him at the time. We had all heard the song on one of the ancient radio stations. Other kids were joining in with him, as he sang out:
When it's cold outside, I got the month of May

I remember looking at him dreamily, wistfully, and just as quickly, snapping right out of it. Dude, My Girl is not a song you sing to a scrawny Indian twirp who's bundled up in ski pants and a parka that comes down past her thighs.

Funny. T was one of the popular kids, and really, he was earning cool points by the minute for crooning a Motown song in one of the whitest places on earth. All the girls were sighing. This kid sitting across from me, N, was eyeing him with veiled disgust. N kind of despised T, because T was the type of kid that was always garnering accolades for basically being boring. Did T ever take a stand? No. Did he ever have an opinion on anything? Not without checking around the room first.

N, on the other hand, was the sort of kid who had something to say about everything. He was always getting in trouble for talking in class. He was forever angering some cool kid by finding some really biting quip to hurtle. If you stated anything to him as a matter of fact, he would question you until you wanted to choke him. My first year of junior high school, when I was possibly the most introverted person at school, and still wore my hair in two braids that fell past my knees, N once grabbed the braids as if they were reigns. I turned around and landed a right hook in his arm. That is how we became makeshift friends.

And yet, it is still a mystery of modern day science, what happened next on the bus that afternoon. T was still basking in the limelight, with the eyes of a gaggle of girls trained on him. And suddenly, N, as if he was ripping the mic from a rival MC, belted out the lyrics to Brown-Eyed Girl at the top of his lungs. Initially, I found this strictly amusing. N was channeling Van Morrison, while T had completely turned My Girl into a vanilla milkshake. N was screeching just like you would imagine Van the Man doing it.

Suddenly, I noticed that a good portion of the bus was looking at me instead of N. Only then did I recognize that he was singing directly at me. I could feel myself slinking down against the shoddy green bus seats. It was the first time I had heard a song that someone could have actually been singing to me. There was nothing in it that was about beauty or appearance, but for the presence of those dark eyes.

N and I never spoke about it afterwards. We went back to our routine: him throwing out wisecracks at me, me doling out tomboy beatdowns at him. Meanwhile, I continued to moon over that Jordan Catalano-vacuous-o T for the rest of the year. But those two songs, both recorded well before I was born, remind me of sunlight filtering into a yellow school bus, and the bad decisions that stupid little kids make. When I think back on it, and ponder who I would want to have a conversation with today, the choice is obvious. But choice did not even play into it when I was a kid. Maybe it never does.

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