Yesterday afternoon I walked past the open back door of the bakery downstairs. They often leave the back door open all day, filling the alley with the aroma of freshly baked rolls and croissants. (Why yes, this is in fact hell on my diet. How did you know?) Yesterday though, it wasn't the smell of fresh baked goods that I noticed. I'm not even sure they were baking any. What I noticed was the music. It wasn't their usual top 40 pop. Instead it was George Michael's Careless Whisper that sauntered out to greet me.
It's funny how time can play games with your memories. I didn't even like that song when it came out. I was busy being a deadhead stoner (that's almost redundant, isn't it?) and would never have admitted liking a pop tune like Careless Whisper, even to myself. I was much too cool for that. In an ironic cosmic joke, however, I was forced to listen to it for hours on end until it infiltrated the very fiber of my being. That year, 1984, I was working at a clothing store in the mall, and corporate policy dictated that we had to listen a prerecorded selection of top 40 music. I'm sure it was developed after in-depth sessions with a focus group and with the declared goal of staying current and appealing to the appropriate demographic, but that didn't mean it appealed to me. Not by a long shot.
Working shifts in a mall there were moments of down time, time for gossiping with the other staff. During one of these moments I discovered that my new coworker was dating the teammate of my own on again off again "friend with benefits", for lack of a better term. We'd been seeing each other on and off for years, whenever I was between boyfriends, but that spring was the only time we'd actually tried, albeit halfheartedly, to make a go of it. Before, I'd just called him when I was between relationships and needed a date; he'd never volunteered a lot of information on his own status. I should have asked. I found out more that evening then I'd ever wanted to know. Our fledgling couple status died before it started, and the friendship never really recovered.
Today, 24 years later, hearing that song is like stepping into a time machine. I can still see the pale beige carpeting, the racks of polyester prom dresses and the crew neck sweaters (what on earth I was doing working in a store like that I'll never know. It didn't last long), and I can still hear George Michael coming through the tinny speakers in the ceiling. One line of one song and suddenly I'm back in 1984. I'm even singing along, for I still know all the words by heart. Thankfully the song ends eventually and the world spins back into its correct axis. It's 2008 again and I'm able to leave high school angst and poor decisions far behind and smile at how far I've come.
Still, every once in a while, I hear the strains of that old melody and wonder what happened to him. I wish him well, and hope that his life is a good one.
I was already writing this post for Sunday Scribblings time travel prompt in my head when I read about the new Flashback Friday, so here you go, two prompts in one. Twice the bang for your reading buck, or if you're a pessimist, half as much content. Either way, whatever works for you.