Today’s writing prompt is called Mixtape. It comes from Hallie Goodman (which you can access from Suleika Jaouad’s website, The Isolation Journals HERE).Pick five random times or ages in your past. Then assign songs to them and write for a paragraph.
I added a sixth when I got into it and overwrote a bit. It’s fine.
Aaaand I’d like to share them with you.
20 years old – Dilate by Ani Difranco
I’m walking along at night. I don’t know what else to do. I am alone. I know no one and no one knows me. I have my Discman with a few Cds I brought with me. My favorite artist right now is Ani. She is a beacon in a dark and uncertain world. It’s tough being a freshman, especially when that freshman transferred in the spring semester when everyone has their friends already.
I am honest in my loneliness, here walking the streets at night. I don’t try to hide it as intellectual thinking or spiritual oneness. I am engaged in it. I am walking in my own pace, with my own style, with my own music. I walk everywhere. I love to find and locate and discover. The places I’ve been are places that I’ll hold dear for the rest of my life.
I’m too ashamed to call for a ride so I walk. I did the math after I got home an hour and a half later—I’d walked almost the whole length from the bus depot to my dorm room, almost nine miles.
I say almost because I hopped on a bus for about a stop or two but then got off. It didn’t feel right. I wanted to be alone. I’m better off alone. I will always be better off alone until proven otherwise. I don’t think about what it will be like to have friends in college. I know I’ll have them eventually. I just think about me, right here and now. By myself.
15 years old – Deuces Are Wild by Aerosmith
I miss rocking out. Mostly in cars going nowhere in particular. I was in band in high school, most of my friends were, so music was just par for the course. It was all around us, at all levels. Rock, though, was the way to really show it.
Suddenly a song comes on—THE song, YOUR song, ALL Y’ALLs song—and we come alive. These were the days of radio (radio was like a Spotify playlist you couldn’t control) and so whatever they played was always a surprise.
It began by blasting the volume. Windows all open.
As you drove down the road to wherever you were going, you sang as loud as you could. All around you the buildings changed but were all familiar. The traffic crawled and you came to a stop, and now you sang even louder—voices screeching and failing so badly at harmonizing the high parts.
The solo comes and you are air guitar and I am air drums, all while moving in and out of traffic, all while eating Taco Bell or McDonald’s or something from someplace local like Uncle Sam’s or The Sub Station or El Coyote’s.
Then it’s over. Horns up, head bobbing, loud and bold and silly. Man I miss rocking out.
21 years old – I Will Remember You by Sarah McLaughlin
Heartsick. Love drunk. These songs can be poisonous sometimes. But you dip your finger in the vial anyway and taste it on your tongue:
That look on your face as you try to act tough. You kiss my forehead and I feel blessed.
The way your eyes disappear into arcs. Your curly, black-brown hair in glorious twists and turns.
Your yell. Your breath. Your laugh-snort.
I feel the weight of your body on me and align my dark brown eyes with yours. I smile and feel so helpless. You smile the same way; we are on the same ride, it seems.
I rest my hands on the small of your back, you curl your hands around the back of my neck as we slow dance to this song. I sing low the third verse into your ear. Always the third verse. I feel your smile on my right cheek. I hear you exhale. You strain to fight the tears.
From my car, I blast a rock song as I horribly sing over it. As you walk toward me, you reach your hand out to a Rock On pose and bite your lip. This always made me laugh.
The way you sit on my lap listening to your friends as you wrap your arm around my neck and comb your fingers through my hair.
22 years old- Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Eiffel 65
Oh boy. This song. Drinking from plastic cups. Distinctly, in my sweater and khaki pants. I smell like Claiborne Sport that I bought from the local mall because Nate, a friend of mine, wears it and he’s cooler than me. I have blond tips but only because I’d originally dyed my hair bleach blond a la Eminem (this is how much I trust you, dear readers!).
I smell like a frat boy; I meant to. That’s our secret—we want to be them but we don’t want to be. Me and Nate were nerds and school and so we still dream of being at the top of the pile.
The parties they have are where we want to go, but we can’t so we go to parties in kid’s basements and eventually bars, to people watch and drink rather than dance, but then we get really ripped and go dancing anyway.
But here, before all of this, we prepare. We shower, we blare our music, we eat and play video games or watch movies. Nine o’clock rolls around and we head out. We already have four places lined up if the first place sucks.
Then there’s always after-hours parties. Then when we are done looking for girls and being stupid (stoopid stupid), we leave either in a group or split up, heading over to Denny’s or some other late night restaurant, over to get food to go at burrito place or Subway. We eat and drink soda or water or more beer or a few shots and then pass out.
If we’re lucky. If not, we puke our guts into the wee wee hours of the night. Dorm rooms. Dorm bathrooms. Gah. I miss living on that floor. Manchester 16. ISU.
37 years old – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks by The National
The chill of the grey. The leaves falling from the trees. The people walking to the store, the babysitters and caretakers pushing strollers. The chill of the winter wind. The rush of it against my face, my slitted eyes and my open mouth. I exhale out in defiance, making a cloud of breath like a smoking volcano.
I am content. I am happy and I am walking. Everything comes to me in these moments of peaceful walking. Where did it come from, this peace, and where does it go, which it most certainly will. I love being alone and walking around. It reminds me of college.
25 years old – Heaven by Lamb
Driving home from the restaurant I work at. I am taking the backroads. I am in the south burbs where roads run a swath through the fragrant forest preserves of Tinley Park.
At night, it’s labyrinthine. I shut off my headlights and bathe myself in the utter darkness around me. When no other cars are around, it feels like I’m flying through space, like I’m traveling in a rocket just an inch from the ground, a missile to locate nothing and blow up nothing but to search and search and search.
A car comes around a bend and I flip my headlights back on. I drive on.
I press the window button down and feel the cool summer air cascade into my car and onto my shoulder and into my face, pushing around my hair. I am meant to do this.
I am meant to go back to my apartment and get high until three in the morning eating what I can and playing Vice City or maybe Tetris (we had several game consoles), my roommate and I. I meant to do nothing but have fun.
To be young. To spend my money. To get high. To screw around. To mostly be by myself but also be surrounded by my friends and family. This is life. I am not who I want to be but I don’t know this yet. Yet I pine for these days of confusion and inertia. Damn songs! Damn nostalgia! My car takes me where I want it to go; it’s that simple. And so I roam through forest preserves on my missile.
12 years old – Back to the Future Overture by Alan Silvestri
I remember daydreaming in my bed. I remember it was a sunny summer afternoon. All my chores done, all my friends busy. I pressed play on my boombox and lay back on my bed and closed my eyes, ready to make another story in my head to the music.
I collected soundtracks all throughout my youth. The only rule was that I’d had to have seen the movie. Batman, Pretty Woman, Aladdin, Blues Brothers.
Back to the Future. This was one of my first. I would daydream stories and characters and plot lines completely different from the movie. I am always the star.
But I remember this soundtrack the most because the idea of dreaming came to such a point that I had my own story line. I would actually create a whole new movie. I was imagining. What a world I’d created!
And I could conjure it up, almost perfectly, every time I put in the song. It was the first time that I really felt the power of my own imagination. Not ones I’ve already seen in movies or read in books, but my own. It was the beginning of me as a creative. I went on to be an art major, a music major, and finally an english major. The arts have always been a big part of who I am and who I have in my life.
But it all came from those early moments of imagination and fantasy and music.
Thank you, music!
And thank you, Hallie Goodman and Suleika Jaouad, for your webpage and prompt.
Create and Complete!