It was only the last thirty-five seconds, but after four barren years that was enough. She sat there in her banged-up car, and as his familiar voice wrapped itself around her she felt like he was her Jimmy Stewart, wrapping her, wet and shivering, in a blanket after finding her in the San Francisco Bay. She hadn’t realized how tense and nervous she had been until the blank, blissful calm she felt upon listening to him again had enveloped her. Her mind was a shaken Etch-A-Sketch, ready for him to mark out the boundaries of again.
It had been such a long time she had almost ceased to believe he was real. His words were the constant, throbbing pulse in her head, but for them to have originated from a real, flesh-and-blood person? Impossible. He was too pure, too ethereal to not be the product of her imagination. And yet here she was, arms slung across the chain-link fence, waiting for his majestic presence to grace the stage. It wasn’t until the roadie brought out his familiar blue keyboard stand that her trembling hands telegraphed the message that it was true. He existed.
“I thought they’d be thicker,” she said, slowly turning it over and examining it curiously.
“Have you really never ever seen a cassette tape before?”
“Not in person. It’s so thin!”
“You’re making me feel so old! Cassettes are all I had until I was almost your age!”
“Well, I am my age.”
“I didn’t even have a CD player until I turned 15. I grew up with cassettes! They’re all I had!”
She turned it over again, looking at it like it was a dusty artifact of an earlier civilization. Perhaps it was.
It explained everything. Of course he had made her up. She was not flesh and blood, she was just another broken soul populating the desolate landscape of his songs. It all made perfect sense to her now. That was why everything was always under his control, that was why nothing ever moved forward. Songs do not change no matter how many times you listen to them. Songs are stationary. If the people inside the songs are lost, they stay lost. They never find their way home. He will not let them. He keeps them exactly where he wants them, always.