Mix Tape

“Side B song #5-me and the major-belle and sebastian-it’s so poppy and fun. play it when you’re driving down the freeway. it’s amazing.”

I was clearing an old bookcase cabinet yesterday and found in it the cassette tape graveyard, where all such were relegated once technology moved on to the point that we no longer had a way to play them. And that is where I found it. A mix tape my sister Lil had made for me years ago, before cassettes went the way of the dinosaur. She had made a cover for it and entitled it

“a li’l sistah compilation”.

I don’t remember exactly why she made it or when she gave it to me. I’m sure I took it from her hand casually, certain that there were oceans of time left between us and untold number of things to receive from her hand. Before we knew how bad it was going to be, how we would watch horrified as the nose of the plane slowly turned toward the ground, and be helpless to do anything about it, the right thing, the wrong thing, something, anything, I don’t know. Until early one morning the phone rang, and when I saw the hour and that it was my Dad I knew what he was going to say before I lifted the phone. And then he said it and the long wait for that phone call was over.

The day after her funeral I stood under a winter night sky as one year turned into the next and beheld the first sky of the first day of the first year that she would never know. And I wondered how it came to this. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. I don’t know what I should’ve done, I only know that somehow I didn’t do it. Now she only visits me from time to time in my dreams. The first time she did we were walking on the street. She was ahead of me and the distance between us kept getting greater and greater. I called her name, louder and louder, but I couldn’t get her to turn around. Don’t need to bust Joseph out of Pharaoh’s prison to interpret that one for me.

I opened the mix tape box and a piece of paper fluttered to the ground. It was a carefully typed song list with notes explaining why the song was chosen, and what it meant to her. It was full of references to people and events in her life that I knew nothing about and now never would. I sat in the floor surrounded by obsolescence and pored over it as though it were runes that could help me understand a vanished world, while all around me dust swirled and a Greek chorus shrieked:

“Too late, too late, too late.”

And so I took the song list and made a new playlist for my phone. And I’m listening to it in honor of her and as one last chance to know something of who she was.

It is a gray fall day as I guide my car onto the interstate, gusts of wind shower my car in yellow leaves. I ease into traffic and imagine for a moment that I can see her out of the corner of my eye, a shade riding shotgun with a small smile on her face. I step on the gas and turn up the volume, and she’s right, it is amazing.

In loving memory of Lillian Plott

February 27, 1986-December 29, 2014.

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