Earworms

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Put a well-worn record on and throw a handful of worlds in the air. A solar system of softly gleaming marbles, they hang suspended, memories rippling across their surfaces. With each lazy spin, the taste of the past — a strum, an ocean, a tug at the heartstrings, a second — glints like Saturn’s rings.

I gorge on songs. They enter my consciousness accidentally, through a friend’s recommendation or the well-timed switch of a radio in a car, and then I consume them greedily, seeds and skin and all. They stain my fingers, leave stripes of purple and raspberry red on my tongue. I play them on repeat, learn their dips and valleys, hear the clicks and spikes. And then as accidentally as a song spins into my world, it leaves it — shaken off out of annoyance when its first few stanzas start to grate, or discarded when a new chorus catches my attention.

But a year, five, a lifetime later, I’ll hear a song again and it’s a visceral reaction. I’ll walk into a pub and hear a familiar rhythm, or I’ll slip headphones on and deliberately chase a certain drumbeat, a moment, an expanding between ribs. And I can fast-rewind as far back as I want.

Because here’s to you, Mrs Robinson is a candlelit backyard after a day of sun and salt; and every day that you want to waste walks in padded steps between midnight and dewy sunrise. I’m not entirely sure Tegan and Sara didn’t sit in our backseat as we wound through the States that spring. Bikes lay on their side, wheels slowly spinning to a stop, you’re my hip-shakin’ mama, how I love you; a thousand lanterns become starlight, offer me that deathless death.

(Blink 182 is sort of everywhere.)

And now, in a new city and the clean page of beginnings, the latest five songs play on rotation. They wind around my ankles as I wash dishes in warm water, tuck into my pockets on windy days down Queen Street. They’re blank slates, enjoyable distractions as I ride streetcars the wrong way to spend Thanksgiving with strangers. An RPM to cajole me into running shoes. Before hindsight adds a planet to your back pocket, all you have is an earworm.

Nothing more, nothing less.

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