Without music, I don’t know what kind of person I’d be. I’d still be me, just different. Empty. Well, emptier. So empty that I wouldn’t feel anything. I’m not sure how, but I know. I can’t say what about music means so much to me, all I know is that nothing makes me happier. Well, other than all the shows I watch.
I hop on the bus, leaving Kennedy standing on the sidewalk alone. After last night I don’t want to talk to her, though that’s not really anything new, I guess. I just don’t get how she can be so fine with ignoring me, and then the next moment be telling me how much I need friends. I know I need friends, I know it better than her! But it’s not my fault that Amy moved away. It’s not my fault that people treat me like the mess I am.
And no matter what Kennedy thinks, I can’t just change how I feel. Can’t change me.
I groan inwardly. An angry mood is totally the best way to start the day.
I need to calm down. I need music.
As the bus turns onto the highway, I plug in my earbuds and select the first song on my favorites list, putting it on loop and resting my phone on my lap.
It’s Netflix Trip, by AJR. The first line comes in, and I close my eyes and just listen.
I had my first crush in season two
She passed me notes and filled our hands with glue
And in my corduroy's we'd walk to school
I sat and crossed my legs like Jim would do
I know it’s about The Office, which I know literally nothing about, but I don’t really care. It’s relatable in every other way, and if I replace a few words with references to my own favorite shows, it works.
She moved away I was on season three
It hit my heart so hard I'd hardly speak
But I could find some peace and privacy
A paper company to sit with me
It’s like my theme song. It still almost takes my breath away every time. If nobody else knew about it, I’d be perfectly okay, and keep it as my song, mine to hear and love. I used to scroll through the comments, back when I listened to it on Youtube, looking for other people who liked the song, and I found them. But instead of smiling inside and loving the song more, each comment made me feel scared, like all of the strangers in the comments were ganging up on me to say how much I didn’t like the song. They never said anything even close to that, and the rational part of me knows that. I just don’t listen to it. Instead I listen to the song. I’ve bought it now.
I lost my grandmother in season six
I watched my mom, she cried and held her kids
My mind was broken up I couldn't think
So I just hugged her the way Michael did
I nod my head to the beat and let my fingers tap the rhythm against my leg as the chorus starts. I try to feel the bass like it’s part of me, but it doesn’t work when I’m trying. Sometimes the music just fixes me, fills me up with… something like happiness. Maybe it is happiness.
But who are we to wonder where we're going?
Who am I to tell me who I am?
Let's take it back and take in every moment
Who am I to tell me who I am?
The third line always gets me. I think it’s because I’ve wished to do that for so long. Wished to be able to relive my past, or watch it like a movie, to see and feel my memories of playing at the park with Amy, and going to the waterpark to cool off afterwards. Splashing water in her face and feeling a bubbly kind of laugh start in my tummy as she sprayed water back at me.
But I can’t remember.
I can remember certain things, specific instances when I had an especially fun time at her house playing headbandz, or eating pizza at my twelfth birthday. But none of the memories sum up the feeling I get when I think of her. And none of them make up for the hollowness in my heart when I remember she’s three states away, and I’ll never see her again.
Netflix Trip has ended and started twice before we come to the school.
Another day of school. It hits me like a punch to the gut, leaving my stomach tight with anxiety as I anticipate the hours ahead.
I’m just glad I can forget it once I’m home. Then I can sit in my room, alone, away from people. Maybe I’ll start binge-watching season five of Doctor Who.
I swing by my locker to pick up my special binder before leaving the school. I slip it into my backpack and zip it up with extra caution. If I lost my binder, I don’t know what I would do.
I walk past groups of teenagers, some younger than me, but most older. They’re standing in the hallways, in little not-quite-circles, chatting and laughing. When I pass them, each person takes a turn glancing at me, then away. I know they’re probably just making sure I won’t crash into them, or something, I know they’ll likely forget me within minutes, I know—I know, but I still feel like they’re scrutinizing me, judging my every motion, hating my scuffed up blue shoes. They probably didn’t even look at my shoes.
Walking out of the double front doors, I feel like I can breathe again. The winter air hits me in one wave, like a slap across the face. It’s refreshing, honestly. I stand on the sidewalk in front of the school, waiting for Kennedy to pick me up, listening to Netflix Trip on repeat again. Normally I would ride the bus, but Kennedy just texted me, saying she’d pick me up.
ARJ made this wonderful song, so they probably have other good songs. I don’t know when I’ll look at them, though. I’m scared to. If the comments on Youtube almost ruined it for me, what might similar songs do? Mine—this one—could stop being special.
Not worth it.
I scan the school yard, taking in every other person waiting outside. There are only a few, and I don’t recognize any of them. There’s a boy, rocking from his toes to his heels, and back, breathing clouds of water vapor out every time he rocks forward. One girl is walking away from me, too far away for me to make out her features. She looks tall and thin. Wait.
I jump, whipping my head around. It’s Kennedy, from the inside of her car. How did I not notice her pulling up? She’s leaning over the storage compartment armrest thing, looking at me expectantly.
I get in the car.
“How was school?”
“Fine enough. I don’t remember most of it.”
Kennedy sniffs, putting the car into drive. “That’s too bad. Was it really that unremarkable?”
“Yeah, it was.” Or else I’m just bad at paying attention.
We pull forward, passing the guy who was bouncing up and down. He stares as we drive away.
“Hey, isn’t that the one girl? Julia?” I turn at Kennedy’s words.
Kennedy slows down as we get closer to “that one girl”. Julia glances behind her, pausing for a second when she recognises us. Kennedy waves, and I try to keep from sinking into my seat. Why is she being this way?
Julia waves back, then resumes walking.
Kennedy speeds up again, turning out into the road. “I wonder if Julia has any friends.”
I feel a familiar annoyance rise inside me. I try to keep my face impassive.
“She has friends. I see her talking to people during lunch.”
“Still.” She reaches to adjust her rear-view mirror. “I think she could use another one.”
“Why are you pushing me to be her friend?” The words pop out of my mouth before I know I’m saying them. “We don’t even know her.”
Kennedy frowns. “And what if I know more about her than you assume?”
I have no idea how she would. I’ve been going to the same bus stop as her for two years, and all I know about her is her name, and that she likes reading. I didn’t learn either of those facts from her. I’m not sure what to say, so I reach for my phone to listen to music again.
“Hey,” Kennedy says sharply, “Don’t put your music in. I want to talk to you.”
I hesitate. Then, “I don’t want to talk to you.” comes from my lips. I instantly regret it, but then I realize that it’s true. If she’s just going to tell me how much I need friends, and who else supposedly needs a friend, then I don’t want to talk to her.
Kennedy stiffens, then sighs, tapping the steering wheel with her fingers.
I put my earbuds in.