The school bus window felt cold against my forehead. My head was leaning against the glass as I stared out into the suburban abyss that I called home. It was winter in northern Ohio, and that meant snow and freezing temperatures. I had lived there all thirteen years of my life, but I still wasn't used to it.
I was dressed for the weather, for the most part, with a bubble coat and a black hat with a multicolor poof ball at the top. My shoes, however, were not as practical. I wore the same shoes everyday. Slip on Vans with the black and white checkered pattern. Something about those shoes made me feel like myself. They were the perfect aesthetic to express who I felt like inside. I looked down at my pink iPod mini, it was already chipped on one of the edges even though I had just gotten it for Christmas. The title scrolled across the screen, "A Decade Under the Influence." I turned back to the window and stared as the trees passed by in a blur. I was having one of those dissociative moments, the kind where you pretend you're in a movie and the music in your headphones is the soundtrack of the scene. The song playing was perfect for that sort of thing.
Taking Back Sunday was one of my favorite bands. Their songs had a way of validating my teenage misery, which I realized later were just feelings of hurt and anger that I didn't know how to cope with. Soon, the bus would drop me off at the source of those miserable feelings.
I felt a tap on my shoulder, and instantly I was yanked back down to reality. My head jerked to the left, surprised that anyone would try to talk to me when I was clearly in my own world. Across the aisle, looking back at me, was a kid named Evan. He was a weird kid, but not in the same way that I was. He was weird in the kind of way that made him an outcast in school. I don't think we had ever even talked before that. He was someone I didn't pay much attention to at all. I reached for one of the ear pods and pulled it out so I could hear.
"Hey," he said, "what are you listening to?"
"Taking Back Sunday," I replied, hesitantly. I wasn't sure if I wanted to have a conversation with him. I was content in my day dreams of being the main character.
"Oh awesome, I love them." His tone seemed eager.
I was confused where any of this was coming from. As far as I knew, he was a freak. Definitely not someone who would strike up a random conversation about music with a girl on the bus. I gave him an awkward smile and went to put the ear pod back in.
"Have you ever heard of Brand New?" he asked, before I could escape the situation.
"Uh, I don't think so," I answered. In my head I wondered if it was the name of a band, but I didn't want to ask.
His face lit up. "If you like Taking Back Sunday, you'll love Brand New. Their one album is my favorite. I'll burn the CD for you."
I could feel my guard come down, it was almost like it gave me a physical sensation. I didn't know why, but I was happy that he made the offer. Music was my therapy. And for some reason, I trusted that he felt the same way. It didn't matter who he was at school. In that moment, we were equal. Music has a way of bringing people together like that.
The bus came to a stop and I got off. I was home. Home was where I needed music the most. I had some time to myself before my parents got home from work, the calm before the storm. As soon as I walked in the house, I threw my bookbag on the ground and ran into the computer room. Between MySpace, AIM, and the Sims, I spent most of my time on the computer. I logged into my MySpace page and got the instant dopamine release when I saw all of my notifications.
I realized it had been a while since I changed the song on my MySpace page, so I thought long and hard about what my next choice would be. It wasn't just something you did on a whim, this was the song that represented you and your style. It had to be perfect.
Besides Taking Back Sunday, I had some other bands that got a lot of play time on my iPod. My Chemical Romance had just come out with their album "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge." One of my favorite songs on the album, for obvious reasons, was called "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)."
As much as I loved that song, it wasn't quite MySpace worthy, at least not on that particular day. I considered using "Ohio is for Lovers" by Hawthorne Heights, but that would be too cliché, seeing as I lived in Ohio. How interesting a time it was, when a song with lyrics that say "cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight, or die" went mainstream. I loved it.
I clicked on the Start menu at the bottom left of my screen and opened up Limewire. I scanned the list of songs I had downloaded in my library, but nothing was grabbing me. I played "All That I've Got" by The Used, just to hear it. I had used it on my page a while back, but I never got sick of listening to it. It was one of the most beautiful songs I knew.
Time passed quickly when I was home alone. I often found myself wishing I had a pause button. Or even better, a fast forward. I heard the garage door open and my heart sank into my stomach. I knew it was mere moments before my peace crumbled into pieces. I turned the computer off and ran up to my room, bracing myself for the screaming and yelling that would be sure to follow me. I wanted to fast forward to the bus ride the next day. I wanted to get lost in that CD.
When I saw Evan, I sat down in the seat right across from him. I didn't care who saw or what they were thinking. He reached into his bookbag and pulled out a silver disc inside of a clear case. Written on it in black Sharpie was "Deja Entendu." I had no idea what that meant or even what language it was, but I was intrigued.
"Let me know what you think," he said. He seemed confident, like he knew exactly what he was doing. I thanked him and put the CD in my bag. For once, I couldn't wait to get home.
I went to my room and put the disc in my boombox. I played the whole CD from beginning to end. Every single song spoke to me. Every single song touched my soul. Every single song made me feel a little less alone. I knew right away that they would be tethered to me forever.
I ran downstairs to the computer room. I knew exactly what to make my MySpace song.
It's been fifteen years since that album came into my life, and it's still just as meaningful to me today as it was back then. Fifteen years later and I still know every single word. I still listen to it in the car when I need to let myself feel. I still appreciate it like I would an old friend.
Thank you, Evan.