I've heard a rumor that opposites attract. But when I met my husband, we were attending the same liberal arts undergrad, sang side-by-side in the same a cappella group, shared the same tight group of friends, and took the same classes. (To be totally fair, he took them, I took his completed homework). It was the late '90s and we jammed to the music of our generation: Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews, Smashmouth, and that bizarre bout of swing music that swept the country. It wasn't groundbreaking, but the angsty lyrics and pop melodies scored perfectly the movie we were making at the time -- young 20-somethings, dreams bouncing like popcorn in our brains, invincibility radiating from our every pore.
Hubby and I didn't venture down the path of romance until years after we graduated and drove cross-country to make (actual) movies in the land of palm trees and plastic surgeons. (An obvious setting for true love.) In any case, it was a drive to remember (not just for the blood stains that adorned the walls of our motel in Memphis), but because of the righteous rhythms that blasted from our CD deck, feet keeping time on the gas pedal, curls blowing back, nothing but dust behind us. The backseat passengers on our trip, including Duran Duran, Aerosmith, and Santana, eavesdropped on long hours of confessions flowing like wine under the inky black of night, and filled the silence in the (very few) quiet moments between. We fell in love that summer in L.A., poor, but well-tanned and making it on our own, against the swelling and self-indulgent sounds of Coldplay's debut album.
When we went to law school, our anxiety levels commanded classical musical around the clock. When we began our demanding law careers, we spent what little free time we had with our colleagues at swanky bars and clubs, downloading our stresses while dancing to the likes of Chamillionaire and Shakira.
Through years and careers, we eventually started traveling down two different paths. I once was told that when you have children, you say "goodbye" to your spouse until the children leave the house. While we do occasionally exchange other words (e.g., "Grab that laundry basket," or "Not it on cleaning lunchboxes tonight"), it's hard to deny that the differences have started to pile up. Our politics diverged. Our taste in movies inexplicably parted ways. And then last week, my eye caught the strangest string of song titles on my iTunes receipt, including "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" and "Silverado Bench Seat." I emailed hubby, warning him that someone had hacked the account. Instead, he informed me he had become a country music junkie. Country music? That evening, he played a ditty for me with the following lyric: "Baby got a ball cap on" - -a tune about a girl ... wearing her boyfriend's ball cap. I didn't get it. That is, I couldn't wrap my head around a song about a hat. I resumed the dishes, assuming it was some wacky, passing phase.
Driving with the family that weekend, I put on a playlist heavily featuring Nina Simone. Suddenly, mid-song, a new song started. I looked down at the dashboard and wondered aloud why the playlist was skipping. "Oh, I did that," hubby nonchalantly replied, "I'm no fan of elevator music." I almost veered off the road. I responded that while I didn't know her full list of venues, I could assure him that the High Priestess of Soul never addressed her congregation in an elevator. We tussled in vain over the controls for a few minutes, finally settling on the kids' choice to avoid further blood spill. Silently fuming, despite the incessant mandate of "Let It Go" with which I was being bombarded, I realized that it was the first time in 19 years that we were unable to find a middle ground on music.
When I listen to Nina, her raw, visceral vocal washes over me, a bath of bourbon. I soak my stresses in the sweet bitterness, blood warmed, head dizzy. These days, my music selections often reflect my barest emotions. I didn't know if the same was true for him, but I was certain that whatever "Ball Cap" might reflect in his soul was not mirrored in mine. If music is food for the soul, would we ever be able to break bread together again? If music be the language of lovers, could we ever hope to communicate about anything (other than who was doling out the kids' vitamins) going forward?
Things had come so easily for us when we blazed a trail together. Perhaps we took it for granted, because it struck me that, during the years when our paths began to diverge, we never did anything in particular to bridge the newly developed space between. And the path of careers, children, and "grown up" responsibilities is a steep, downhill ride. Racing headfirst, time slips away. All the while, our eyes were down, focused on making it through each day without hitting any obstacles. If we continued down our respective roads, while we might still be in the same neighborhood, the distance between could become too vast to overcome. And so, while he is still in earshot, I pick up a brick and place it on the ground between our paths, a start to a bridge. I buy two tickets to Dave Matthews Band. He responds: "That sounds like a really great idea." He lays his own brick down.
It undoubtedly will take many bricks to make a connection sturdy enough to withstand our weight, along with the load of the briefcases, lunchboxes, bills, and supermarket bags that we now carry with us on a daily basis. Our paths will, no doubt, veer course time and again, requiring routine maintenance of the bridge and rearrangement of the bricks already placed. But the sound of one solid thud after another -- willing and eagerly laid down in turn -- now that is music to my ears.