If music be the food of love, play on. Shakespeare
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Victor Hugo
After all these years, the music brought back every memory of those tender moments, of first love, of being deeply loved. A Walkman and a transistor radio, both vintage by today’s standards, but a reminder of the way that music once traveled with us. Don was into one of his memory boxes, sifting and sorting, deciding what goes and what stays. Both the Walkman and small radio caught his attention. After replacing the batteries, Chuck Berry’s Maybellene came from the hand-held transistor radio and he quickly returned to the days of his youth.
A cassette tape with a side A and side B was in the Walkman. SST-2 was scribbled on the white strip of paper stuck to the plastic. Not enough information to give a recognizable clue as to what was on it. Curiosity prevailed. After new batteries were inserted, he pressed the play button. Music began and Don knew exactly what this cassette was and for whom. At that moment, I walked into the room. Don handed me the Walkman. He didn’t say a word. His eyes said it all.
Putting on the earbuds, I listened, listened carefully, never letting my eyes leave his. My heart widened and remembered. No longer was my breathing regular, but jerky and uncontrollable. Tears spilled down my face. Sobbing, I fell into his waiting arms. This was not just music. This was a love story. Music that traveled back in time, before Simplicity, before Apartment 2B, before our move to Wisconsin, before we knew we would be together.
Once upon a time in my life, I was an interpretive dancer, using mixed styles of modern, jazz and ballet in my work. Not only did I dance for organizations and conferences, I choreographed for groups of dancers. Finding the perfect music for the occasion was always a challenge. Don became a creative resource. Periodically I would receive a cassette tape in the mail. His musical tastes were different from mine, shaking up my usual repertoire. Ethnic rhythms and genres found on the edges of culture arrived in my mailbox. I listened for the rhythm, the unique instruments, the flow of orchestration that invited multiple ways a body could express and move. Through it all I felt Don’s love, his presence.
On occasion, I heard the stop and start of the recording, knowing his fingers had pressed the button, his attention totally in the moment. Missing him, wishing him nearby, this was one way our love grew across the miles that separated us. “Music is a way to dream together and go to another dimension.” Cecilia Bartoli’s words, but true for us. Music, dance, and love took us there, to a place fully alive and together.
Listening to SST-2 as I type this blog, the words not only dance across the page, my body is in time travel, remembering those days of dancing with the music in its fullness within me, with Don nearby. Tears are falling once again. Beautiful, gentle tears of loving one so completely. Tears of being loved and known so deeply. For all my demands to clean out those umpteen memory boxes stacked in the basement, this find was a gem and a keeper, just like you, Don Mendenhall.