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Small-Town Music Magic

How spontaneity lead to fate

By Dani BananiPublished about a year ago 13 min read
Small-Town Music Magic
Photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash

What else can you do, when flying at top speed, but scream your mighty head off? Like as loud as viciously possible?

The cool, evening breezes forced themselves into my eyes as tears fought their way out, which was exhilarating despite the discomfort. I could have shut my eyes, but I wanted to see the world spinning.

And I was screaming. Endlessly. I was probably getting on some nerves, but I cared more about how much fun I was having.

The fair’s swing ride slowed down a little and I panted hard, pleased by the fact that the swings still gave me the same feeling they did when my parents brought me to our local fair as a child. Being twenty-two hadn't taken this joy away from me, and I was so excited to discover that.

By Scott Webb on Unsplash

The ride ended and I hopped out of my swing, feeling thrown off by the return to normal gravity. I giggled forever as I returned to my best friend.

"You're ridiculous," he informed me.

"Am not. I'm ridiculously fun." I made a kissy face at him while his eyebrow remained raised.

"You flew in circles on a fair ride and I've literally never seen you happier."

"It was your idea to come to this fair in the first place."

Henry made a face, one that I didn't quite understand.

"Maybe you'd understand if you dropped the tough guy exterior and joined me some time. Let's get a slushee."

"I'll get a water."

"Don't be an old man, c'mon. I'm paying!"

By Julia Joppien on Unsplash

I ran to the slushee booth far before he could arrive and breathlessly ordered one blue raspberry slush and one cherry. I gazed at our fellow fair-goers while waiting for my order; I felt like I was the only adult willing to let it all go and enjoy myself. Adults here looked tired, dragged out, following younger kids and teens who had all the energy I had and seemingly loathing every minute. I hoped I wouldn’t be like that. I wanted to fly, freely, until my flight took me to my perfect ending.

Once the slushes were ready, I snagged a couple of straws and sat down with Henry at a picnic table. He picked at his drink with what looked like disdain.

"Come on, what's wrong? I know I'm more fun than you but you've been quiet. Too quiet. Basically, not yourself at all. Ever since we got to the fair. What's up? And I mean what's really up?"

Henry sighed before looking right into my crystal blue eyes.

"We need to talk. It's not good."

My heart wanted to explode out of my chest. "Just say it. Please, Henry, I can't take it. Tell me now."

I felt numb as I awaited his answer.

By Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

"Elaina, I never intended to drive all the way across the country with you. You're going to leave here and I'm going to stay. So when you finish having fun at this fair, you'll head to the next destination we planned, and you'll have the journey we always talked about. I already got all my things out of the car and moved into my partner's, so you' to go whenever."

"Why are you doing this?" I asked, barely whispering as I stared into my melting slushee. “Why do you feel so cold and distant? Are you…breaking up with our friendship?”

Words were lodged in my throat like a chicken bone, so many words I wanted to say and shout and scream, but my pain kept them locked in place.

“No, Elaina, I’m not doing that. I just thought it might be easier if you…left with the feeling that you didn’t have anything you were leaving behind.”

By Fa Barboza on Unsplash

The tears started. “I’d rather be loved by the person I went to freaking PRESCHOOL with, but fine, Henry. Have it your weird, not-well-planned way anyway. Just so you know, this was a stupid idea, and I thought you could have done better than this for me. You're practically my brother!”

I started to charge away until I felt my pace slow down in mere seconds. My chin dropped to my chest as I halted, knowing this wasn’t how I wanted to end this part of my life. I turned around and called his name, to which he lifted his head from his arms crossed on the table.

"I love you. I hope you find all the happiness you want. I’ll find forgiveness, in time."

He gave me a pained smile as I made my way back to our car. Well, my car.

By Kitera Dent on Unsplash

The faded yellow paint of the old 1970 Chevy stood out despite having lost its vibrance over the years. I hopped in and closed my eyes, thinking of my next move and how all of the planned moves had abruptly changed. Ultimately, I reasoned that unexpected changes were part of life, so choosing my next destination was going to be by total accident. If Henry could jump the path, so could I. Besides, he couldn't tell me what to do.

I chose a direction and drove, ending up driving for 17 hours and stopping a few times to take a break and get gas. As I headed toward what looked like a truck stop, where I knew I could safely park and sleep in my car to save money, I thought it somehow felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be.

After a quick rest stop and buying a pre-packaged sandwich, I curled up in the backseat and snoozed for a good 4 hours. It wasn't the most comfortable, but being small in stature made it manageable. My thick, straight blonde hair fell over my face like a warm curtain, which felt nice. Sometimes “roughing it” was more fun than inconvenient. Right now, it felt good for the mood.

One coffee break and bathroom run inside, I was ready to hit the road again, noticing the barren and brown landscapes around me. I wasn't entirely sure where I was but it looked a little bit like a desert.

By Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

A few blocks into the actual town itself, I noticed a lot of homemade signs advertising the town talent show at 9 a.m. Checking the time, I realized it was about 20 minutes until starting. Figuring it might be a fun experience, I pulled over to Google search the location and made my way there.

It was taking place inside a small rental hall, so not the grandest of setups but there was plenty of decorations and a mock stage. I wondered what kinds of talents I'd see. Sometimes you find some true gems in unexpected places, and that was all part of my life plan. For now, anyway. I didn’t want to commit to anything.

The show began, introduced by a young girl no more than 13, who looked nervous but thrilled to be given such a big job. Lighting was added, maybe not as elaborately as I'm used to, but it looked great. The acts consisted of instruments, speeches, interpretive dance, improv, ballet, and gymnastics; I relished in their enthusiasm for the small crowd. The girl did a great job introducing each act, and her confidence built in her sparkling brown eyes each time the crowd applauded. These people didn't need swarms of people to feel good about themselves. I appreciated the small-town feel of it all–I grew up in the big city. I was suddenly very happy I’d chosen to stop for this and leaned forward to pay closer attention.

By Ahmed Badawy on Unsplash

"Next up, we have our favorite local band here with a brand new single, never heard before! Let's give it up for Belong by The Barn Owls!"

The room erupted in cheers, stomps, and clapping while I chuckled to myself. Who names a band Barn Owls? It sounded so hillbilly, yet everyone in the room was overreacting.

Be nice, Allie, you’re here to learn and appreciate. Not judge.

The angel on my shoulder won, and I watched the band emerge with a neutral approach, waiting for them to show me what they had without my predetermined stereotype.

Once they were set up, the guitarist strummed a low, long tune and a small light show began. To my absolute shock, they were a rock band, and they were really good. They were exactly my taste in music. The sound was horrible as the venue wasn't made for music like this, but I found myself in love with the sound. Besides rough acoustics, I swayed my body and stood, cheering when the song ended, understanding exactly why everyone had reacted this way.

The singer grabbed the microphone and said, "Copies of our newest album are available for sale, $5 each. Thanks for coming out this morning, folks. WHOOOOO ARE WE?!"

The crowd shouted, "BARN OWLS! WHO! WHO! WHO!"

By Nicholas Green on Unsplash

I smiled, laughed, and clapped when they finished. Not often do you see some cool guys (and girl drummers) who can rile up a quiet little town like this. They must have something special. Something I don't quite understand, but I knew one thing: I wanted that CD. I hoped to hear the lyrics of the great music I just heard.

I approached a small table that appeared to be selling them and scanned the PayPal QR to send my $5, adding 10 extra for their phenomenal show. The girl thanked me for the extra, promising to share with the band what I'd done. I asked, “Is the song they just did on this CD?”

“Yeah! First track!” she replied brightly, her black nose hoop and dark purple hair giving her a cool, laid-back vibe. I left with the CD in hand, delighted by everything I’d just experienced. No one I ever met or will meet will have this music--just me, and that made it special. Plus, I did something off the planned path, and it turned out amazingly! Maybe I wasn't so bad at making spontaneous moves.

By Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Hopping back in my car with an extra bounce of glee, I decided to pop the CD into my added-in system right away. The cover art of the album was beautiful: a painting of a yellow sunset, a tree, and five differently-colored owls. The paint strokes reminded me of Van Gogh; whoever did this was an extraordinary artist, and I briefly wondered if it were one of the band members. Maybe I could Google them later and find out.

I was ready to get moving and start driving aimlessly. I hit the highway right as the first song loaded up, tapping the steering wheel to the beat of the drums. The lyrics began, much more clear than I could hear at the talent show, and I sank into them in hopes of finding what was so loved about them.

By Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

I thought I knew everything about where I was going

But there you were throwing me in all unknowing

And now I am stranded and forced to survive

But I won't let this go, I won't let myself die

Then I found where I belonged

All along, just in your arms

Then I landed right where I belonged

Like the fates knew I was getting things wrong

I drove for so long down those long, winding roads

And I thought that I'd never find a place I'd call home

But your soul, it was calling, just calling to me

So I kept myself going on this whole journey

Then I found where I belonged

All along, just in your arms

Then I landed right where I belonged

Like the fates knew I was getting things wrong

And no, I've never been the one to follow my instincts

I've made my choices and gone so astray

But today, today,

I'm setting me free, and I'm following the string that your heart sent to me

Just wait for me

Wait for me, because

I've almost found out just where I belong

All along, it was just in your arms

I'm almost landed, right where I know I belong

The fates finally helped me, just rights, no more wrongs

By petr sidorov on Unsplash

My heart nearly stopped beating. I'd never heard anything so entirely relatable in my whole life. I knew music could connect to you, but this song nearly poured right out of my soul.

How intriguing. How enchanting.

I needed to know more.

Up until the prediction of finding where the singer belonged, at least. But everything before that was true. Was this my sign? Was this my journey? Was following my instinct to find that talent show about to land me where I finally belonged? How did, of all things, local talent in the middle of nowhere predict my life for me?

My adrenaline kicked up several notches as I listened to the entire album several times over. To my delight, every single song felt dear to my heart, but perhaps not as much as Free did. I made stop after stop, in small towns and big cities. I followed my gut, playing The Barn Owls nonstop. Everywhere I went, I relied on my instinct, looking for clues or what might be that final step to ending up where I needed to be.

By Mediamodifier on Unsplash

A year later, I started to lose hope.

I was driving in the morning, through a fairly decent-sized town, and noticed a donut shop off to the right. At the last moment, I swerved into its parking lot, making someone honk at me in irritation at my spontaneity.

Shrugging it off, too tired to care, I trudged in and reviewed the menu for something to energize me. I needed to drive at least a few more hours.

"Oh my god, Allie?"

By Madison Kaminski on Unsplash

My heart raced at hearing my name, so I turned slowly, worried I might not like what I would see.


"It's me! Elijah! Remember, third grade, you agreed to be my girlfriend but when I gave you the chocolate Hershey's kiss cookie..."

"...I cried and threw it away and broke up with you," I half-whispered.

“In front of the entire class,” he added.

By Giulia May on Unsplash

I was mortified. I could feel the red flushing my cheeks. Frozen, yet ready to fall apart.

Get it together, Allie. Just talk.

"Hi. Wow, god, I really am sorry about that. Okay? I really have felt bad about that for years and I was just..."

"Hey, it's okay, you taught me a lesson that day. Never kiss before the first date." He winked, and I laughed, surprised by how charming he had grown up to be. Not to mention how handsome he was, with his dark brown hair spiked up, a full beard, tall, and dressed in a pale yellow button-up dress shirt with a black t-shirt beneath. His gray eyes stared at me warmly, and I smiled.

"Well, um, I'll let you get back to...your wife, or...husband? Spouse? Dance partner?"

"None of the above. I'm just hitting my local fave. Wanna join me?"

"Sure. I love donuts. But after this, I'll have to hit the road."

"What reasoning could take you away from me so fast?" he asked smoothly.

"I'm on an adventure. A journey of sorts."

"Well, what if having breakfast with me and hanging out for a while is part of that journey?"

As soon as he posed the question, my instincts flared bright and clear: I should stay.

"I mean, I may not be here all day, but I'll give you my time and attention."

Elijah chuckled. "Whatever you wish, Allie."

By Rocco Dipoppa on Unsplash

I knew it. I knew The Barn Owls were going to do it for me. Somehow, that small-town band with talent and maybe just a hint of magic freed me to where I belong.

And where is it that I found I belonged? Besides his arms?

By Jeremy Wong Weddings on Unsplash

P.S. I also forgave Henry. He's my Dude of Honor.


About the Creator

Dani Banani

I write through the passion I have for how much the world around me inspires me, and I create so the world inside me can be manifested.

Mom of 4, Birth Mom of 1, LGBTQIA+, I <3 Love.

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  • Alex H Mittelman about a month ago

    Good! Very good! I like it!

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