Back And Forth

Everything about you and me was in the music.

Me and you, just us two, the strands of our hair intermingling the way that the sound of a chord turns into the next one. The notes that rose up from the speakers on my kitchen countertop wafted up like incense filtering into the air. The bass instructing me to wrap my fingers into yours, the treble telling you the way that you ought to run your hands through my hair, the timbre nudging us both to rub our noses together like eskimos.

We made not even a single noise. And yet there was an entire symphony around us.


I worry that we are all in a game of musical chairs. The music plays and plays a salsa a rhumba a tango a waltz and no matter how fast or slow we dance, we all know that it is going to stop. How do you play the game? When the music stops, you should be somewhere. You should be in a place that is steady, a place that is firm, and somehow end up sitting down in a chair — doesn’t matter where, just as long as you don’t take too long to find a place to sit, a place to belong.

I think what they want is just for you to be sure — of yourself and your decisions — when the music stops. That’s the idea. It must be: momentary confidence. That the choices you made were the right ones, that the place you ended up was the perfect one, the people you couldn’t love enough were the worthless ones.

But I am a
in and out with the rhythm girl, 
back and forth with the beat girl, 
get caught up in the music kind of girl.

A girl who, at six, put a jazz cassette on in the living room and insisted on twirling around to the sound of Carole King with no idea what a natural woman even was, but knew that she had to get dizzy off of the melody anyways.

So what am I afraid of? That the music will play and play and that I will love it — every single note of it — and that I will spin around, all with this seemingly impossible goal of trying to lift off, trying to fly away, trying to levitate up and into the skies, and that when the music stops it will be me who is the last one standing.

I don’t mind standing, but then I’ll be out of the game.


Saturday, in your living room, a grey couch that feels like a box perfectly our size, just big enough for the two of us to crawl onto without your dreams crowding up against mine. New records you brought back home with you, James Taylor and Fleetwood Mac and Michael Jackson the Beatles — the kind of music that your head starts to bob to, the kind of songs that you tap your feet to, the harmonies that you and I swayed back and forth to.

I watched as you closed your eyes — how sweet it is to be loved by you—and watched as you shook your shoulders up and down, rocked side to side and— it’s just like sugar sometimes — watched as you disappeared for those three whole minutes into another world, leaving me here alone, leaving me to watch you, leaving me here to embed in my heart this specific moment — it’s like jelly baby, oh — and the rhythm of all the ways that I loved you.

When the music played, I could be nowhere else, except with you.

And now, Saturday again. Walking to the farmer’s market, running my hands over the bell peppers that can’t seem to decide if they want to be red or green, cupping sweet plums in the palms of my hands, smelling the dewey bunches of kale tied up with orange rubber bands.

On the walk back home with Black-eyed Susans in my tote bag and a perpetually-set-on-shuffle playlist streaming itself into my ears, I let my heart be surprised. It happens this morning again, just like it does every once in awhile. And somehow I can never quite believe the way that I can suddenly go back there with you, end up there in that moment all alone with the me, the music, and the memory of just us two.

How it hurts me to think about, hurts in the way that I used to practice my scales — C Major into D Major into B Major back to D Major — until my wrists throbbed and my fingers started to callus. I get caught up in the sounds, in the strums of the guitar, in the words, in James Taylor crooning for me to stop and thank you baby, oh yes.

I am always back and forth, a girl who falls in and out of love with people, with ideas of them, with memories of who she thought them to be — who she hoped they could maybe turn into if she listened to enough songs with them. I oscillate between forgetting you completely and trying with every ounce of me to remember the way that you nodded your head to the sound of “Billie Jean”.

I’m caught in the middle of the place that I’m supposed to end up and the places that I have been — with you, and him, and all of rest of them. And I worry if I am trying to hold onto a melody that I need to let go of, if for no other reason than to know for sure in my heart: will the next song be a better one?

The saxophone fades away and James finally stops singing. And when the music ends, you will be sitting down somewhere, on your grey couch or someone else’s, wherever it is that you are meant to be.

Where will I be? Still caught up in a moment that is long gone, swaying back and forth, standing in the middle of a street while everyone else has found a seat, a place to belong, with the music turned off — music that I can still hear in my head.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Vaidehi Joshi’s story.