Turn on shuffle. Five songs. For each random song see what writing comes out. Go.

Carnival :: Natalie Merchant

“Have I been blind?
Have I been lost inside myself
and my own mind?”

Stripes on a forgotten sweater found in the bottom of a garage shelved box, I put it on without washing the smells out, the age, the decay, because you are in there, you are in the weave and the unraveling left sleeve. I hesitate at the traffic light, wishing for a reason to turn around, to pull to the side of the road, get out, wander, lose myself in the hum of the city. We used to walk like that, aimless, rhymed without reason, holding hands in all the screaming silence. I hold my arm up, the right one, the one with no tear in the fabric, and breathe you in. The light turns green, three beats I wait until the horn behind me wakes me from my nostalgic reverie. I laugh it off, hash-tag it a throwback, dismiss memory as just another old song. Between the lines I miss you, but we live outside of them now, with eyes open and heart’s closed. The city in my rear view, the downtown of yesterday, and all I can do is drive on. I can still smell you in these sweater sleeves. I can still taste your secret sins. I can still hit replay and keep singing, recalling the words, the last kiss in the alley, next to a phone booth, 25c for local calls., unanswered, or otherwise.

Girl from the North Country :: Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

“So if you’re travelin’ the north country fair,
where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,
remember me to one who lives there;
she once was the true love of mine.”

There was dirt everywhere, cloying, landing on my tongue as I opened my mouth to call out to her. “Wait up!” She had a longer stride than I, a focus I lacked, clear and concise. It persisted even on this makeshift holiday. She had showed up early, before the sun, two coffees in hand, a folded map between her teeth, action in her eyes. We’d talked about this. The desert and a drive. But, I’d thought it just one of those conversations, late night, over too many cigarettes and a bottle of cheap red wine. Promises not meant to keep, plans turned to ashes in an overfilling tray. But there she was, standing in my doorway, faded Rolling Stones t-shirt, the one with the tongue sticking out, and torn up jeans, crookedly cut into shorts, a fringe of white threads dangling down her skinny legs. She was two steps ahead of me. She was who I wished to be, but never was. She was the tangles in my long hair, the day before I cut it all off.

You Don’t Know Me :: Ben Folds & Regina Spektor

“You could have just propped me up on the table like a mannequin,
or a cardboard stand-up and paint me any face
that you wanted me
to be seen.”

Standing in an aisle of a used bookstore, paging through books on erotica and a lead singer from a band I first fell in love with at sixteen. I take the latter, bending over to lay it atop the others I’ve picked out – a book of magic spells, a coming-of-age love story, a gory serial killer fiction, and a graphic novel with a strong female lead. You slide up next to me, smelling of chlorine and something salty, asking if I’m ready to go. “You already have that one”, you say, pointing at the top of the stack, Little Birds by Anais Nin. I shake my head, flippantly saying something like “she has more than one”, knowing that you won’t get it, that you don’t care at all, that this is just biding time until I say “let’s go”, until you can take us back to your place for a blow job while some court show plays low in the background. I walk away, stack of books in hand, and attack the next row, cookbooks and self-help and sex positions, ignoring the shrug and sigh, deciding right then that this will be the last time my mouth is around you, the last time I’ll bring you anywhere, the last time I will ever think you are mine.

I Want Someone Badly :: Jeff Buckley

“Now I want someone badly,
to burn in here with me.”

We aren’t supposed to be here. Not you, and no, not me. I said it was over, you stood there agreeing, calling it done, saying all those “for the best” reveries. We both knew it would come to this, an end to this tangled affair, the last track of an album we stole. But here I am, leaning in close, as you whisper the last line of a book we read together, last winter, in that just off the highway motel. “Is she still with you?” I ask, though I’m sure I already know. “Is he?” Our answers come in the twist of his tongue with mine, his hand lifting the hem of my skirt, wandering back to where he knows he doesn’t belong, but is always welcome. Maybe one day I won’t still want you. But today. No, today is not that day.

Nearly Lost You :: Screaming Trees

“I nearly,
I nearly lost you there,
and it’s taken us somewhere.”

Coin-operated laundry, middle of the night, the machines are a god-awful eighties pink, nearly neon, like Nagel was slumming it, designing appliances. We sit on side-by-side dryers, feeling their rumble and wail, feeling it shake our insides when the spin cycle begins. “I got my first orgasm on-top of a Maytag” you confess, “and broke my hyman on my bike.” We laugh together, joking about losing your virginity to a Schwinn. I tell you three secrets, each one bigger than the last, because that’s how best friendships are made, late at night with a baggie of quarters and a hand-rolled joint stolen from your almost ex-boyfriend. That’s how it all begins.

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