I paused, then answered the question with a fabrication. Those smells in the car I referenced were of a certain time and did trigger a memory, but not the one I was tying them to. My hope was that the flicker of her old flame didn’t alight to expose me in that pause as I rifled my head for something else to say. No. In truth that song, whenever I hear it, reminds of a night drive.
It was right before a storm.
Still early by daylight standards but because of what was rolling in, that heavy blue night of summer washed everything dark, like someone dimming the lights on a stage. Ice cream was on the agenda and beating the storm to the gas station was part of the game. It had been a rocky and uneasy couple of weeks. I don’t remember why. That day however was relaxed and easy. T-shirts, stories on the porch. Dumb errands with the windows down and the music up.
The album had just come out and each time this song played, it felt like the first time we heard it. Against the factory speakers of the car it played crisp and bright. When we saw the cloud ceiling go gray it was decided that a cone of some sort would be best to go with the rain.
A crack of thunder went off like a race gun, the two of us making a break for it. If anything, it was just another excuse to get in the car and have the song blaring around us. We drove around the bend and up the street, besting each other with who had the ultimate flavor combination. The silly crap that couples do when their guards come down.
By the time we reached the top of the street, the sky had gone all but dark. About a town away, the storm approached in a distant guttural echo. From my peripheral, I saw her find my hand near the armrest. The song had been playing, and loud. It was still so good. We looked at each other, talking in that way people do when they don’t need words.
For a moment, I took notice of her in a way I hadn’t lately. Her gaze could still grab my attention. Even now that look, more daring than the little golden windows of people’s houses shrouding bright under in the indigo drape of everything else. A smile. Hers. As genuine as it ever would be, punctuated by a piece of hair caught in the wind kicking up. The ripped shirt and cutoff shorts. A hint of her lavender and the ozone of rain. No other worries other than deciding which flavor.
That’s what I think of when I hear that song.