WARNING: Ghastly hair appears in all but one link within this post.
Writing distractions come in many forms...my dog resting his head on my lap and staring up with those manipulative “Pet me” eyes, a hangnail that requires immediate attention, a sudden realization that I haven’t checked Aunt Clara’s Facebook updates (Oh, what birds feasted in the feeder today?). Being so distractible, I find I am more productive working in any of the five town stops on my Café Circuit. Sure, there are patrons who come and go, but they don’t notice me so I pretend not to notice them.
Having frequented all five of my coffee-ing holes this week, I returned to Destination Number 1 this morning. The big news here is they are out of large mugs and to-go lids. (That should make page three of the weekly paper, along with some angry letters to the editor. (I deleted mine.)) With a teensy cup in hand—the kind you’d use at a tea party with dolls (not that I ever have,...really!)—I sat down, opened my laptop and began to address the list of “fix-its” I assembled for my screenplay.
But, of course, I became distracted. The adult contemporary soundtrack playing a little too loudly in the “background” segued from a Richard Marx song I pretend not to like anymore to Natalie Cole’s lovelier-than-it-should-be duet with her dead dad, “Unforgettable”. Instant writing break.
My first “date” only came a month before my twenty-fifth birthday and first love hit when I was twenty-six. “Unforgettable” became my first official “our song”. By then, I’d heard many candidates for “our song”—a sappy Michael Jackson hit, Teri DeSario with K.C.’s “Yes, I’m Ready”, Elton John’s “Little Jeannie” (more of a novelty from his period of confusion)—but without an “our” they were just songs.
I’d only known John for six weeks when he drove me to the LAX to drop me off for a two-week trip to the family cottage near Ottawa. He played “Unforgettable” on repeat in his cassette player the whole way to the terminal. Anyone who has driven the 405 through Los Angeles in rush hour knows that Nat and Natalie went through the motions ad nauseam on that trip, but I was too almost-in-love to press EJECT and hope for something fresh from New Kids on the Block. Every time the song started up again, I squeezed his sweaty hand anew. Ah, yes. Nothing like love in bloom.
While we spent fourteen days in different countries, I sent him a daily postcard (beginning with one I deposited at the airport). These were pre-email, pre-Skype times. I paddled the canoe and imagined John taking the empty seat the next summer. I envisioned us picnicking on Big Island (a lovelier image than reality as it’s a favorite haunt for seagulls to go to die). I flirted with the idea of sharing my joy with my parents. But then why break from routine? They weren’t used to seeing me flash any sign of joy. When I drove to Ottawa to look for Canadian souvenirs for my sweaty stud at The Bay, “Unforgettable” played on the sound system. A sign, no doubt. We were truly meant to be!
John and I lasted a grand total of nine months. Yes, I returned to the cottage the next summer alone again (naturally). The breakup crushed me. I remember showing up at his place at 3 a.m. a week after being dumped. My tearful “WHY?! WHY?!” episode would make any limo exit on “The Bachelor” seem positively subdued and rational. Five months later, I’d moved on to something so much better with a chain-smoking, alcoholic and former coke head. (It was an authentic L.A. relationship.) John became a thing of the past.
He only comes to mind now when I need to draw an emotion or memory for a writing endeavor. Or when that bleeping “Unforgettable” resurfaces on someone’s oldies playlist. The tune still evokes memories...some good, some just embarrassing. Thankfully though, I can take the lyrics and set them to a future scenario. Maybe another love will come. Maybe Future Guy and I will actually be a good match. Regardless, despite the baggage, I’m still not tired of “Unforgettable”. That’s the power of a classic song.W