Puget Sound

November 19, 2010

My buddy and I both have pipe dreams of writing. Like for a living. So we’ve been pushing each other with little assignments and short stories and whatnot. Last week we gave each other a song as the foundation for a short scene. He gave me “Subsonic Words” by Mimicking Birds (check the dude out- Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse signed him).The song and scene are below.

I rest my feet on the dashboard as she drives us home. It’s well past midnight but time doesn’t matter. We’re sharing subsonic words. As I ease back in the passenger seat, she slowly turns up the volume on the stereo. I look at her and she smiles, her face a silhouette against the starlight that bathes the car in a lavender glow. It’s a song I’ve heard a million times. The chorus whispered, the hypnotic strumming gently propelling us forward on the dark country road.

I put the window down and breathe in, allowing the fresh scent of evergreen to fill my lungs. Though the trees rush past in a peripheral blur and the yellow lines vanish beneath us, the night blankets the landscape in a patient calm. I’ve never felt so present. It’s as if the perpetual motion, the routines, the uncertainties, the expectations that distinguish our days have, for an instant, let down their guard and succumbed to the vastness of a clear night sky. In moments like these, everything feels familiar, like returning to your childhood bedroom after years spent away from home. Closing my eyes I remember when we first met.

“I love how they just glide like that,” she said.

We stood next to one another on the stern of the ferry as it crossed Puget Sound. I had been looking over the edge, transfixed by the wake the boat left behind. The frothy water churned and rolled.

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“The seagulls,” she said, pointing skyward. Two large grey and white birds hovered above. “When I was a little girl I thought they were the most beautiful things. I would spend hours drawing them in a notebook. It seems so silly now. I don’t even know where that notebook is anymore.”

It was late autumn, one of those brisk, windswept grey days that remind you of the passing of time. She wore a navy pea coat, a red wool scarf and a knit hat with a ball on top. The strands of auburn hair that fell around her face danced in the wind. Her eyes were the same grey-blue as the water below and seemed to hold just as much mystery.

“Why seagulls?” I said.

She looked up, squinting in the glare of the sky’s metallic hue. I noticed the soft area of skin beneath her jaw that the scarf couldn’t quite protect.

“I don’t know,” she said. “They make it look so effortless, don’t they? Just letting the breeze decide where they go. I guess maybe I was a little jealous.”

“I think we would have made good friends,” I said. “When I was probably six years old, I was convinced that I could fly. Sure of it. I even cut wings out of a refrigerator box and would strap them to my arms.”

“Uh oh,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “We had a swing set out back. One day I hopped on and got going as high as I could.”

She took in a quick breath and put one hand over her mouth where a grin began to take shape. She put the other hand on top of mine, which rested on the chipped orange paint of the stern rail. My heartbeat quickened.

“I’m sailing through the air thinking I’ve done it. I’m actually flying.”

Reluctantly, I took my hand from under hers and put both arms in the air.

“Casts for six weeks,” I said. “That was a shitty summer.”

“Well,” she sighed. “I guess I should be glad I stuck to drawing birds instead of mimicking them.”

Now the song on the stereo is fading out and I open my eyes. It’s begun to lightly rain. The swish of the tires on the wet asphalt echoes the vacant hiss that fills the space between songs. Through the raindrops on the windshield, the passing lights look like little fireworks. I know that this is where I’m supposed to be.

What I want to say to her is, “Can we just keep driving?”

Instead I say, “What’s on next?”

“That’s the last song,” she says, smiling. “Can’t go on forever.”

As we pull onto the road that leads to our place, gravel crunches and pops below.

“I think we should try,” I say.

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One Response to “Puget Sound”

  1. jeff Says:

    great idea with your buddy…the outcome is even better.


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