It was of Dexter and me, at the airport, the day I’d left for school. The top edge was a bit blurry, and there was a weird sun-burst of color in the bottom right corner, but otherwise it was a good shot. We were standing in front of a window, and I had my head on his shoulder, both of us smiling. I’d been sad that day, but not in a final, end-of-story way. Like Melanie, I was heading off to my new world. But I was taking a part of my past, and the future, along with me for the ride.
The song was building in my headphones, the first words about to begin over the new, jazzy, retro-style start. I turned the picture over, and saw there was something on the back. Scrawled in black ink, smeared (of course), it said, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Austin… and you. I’ll be there soon.
I reached over and turned up the volume, letting Dexter’s voice fill my ears, smooth and fluid. And even though I had heard it so many times already, I still felt that little catch of breath as it began.
This lullaby is only a few words
A simple run of chords
Quiet here in this spare room
But you can hear it, hear it
Wherever you may go
Even if I let you down
This lullaby plays on…
I knew that there were no guarantees. No way of knowing what came next for me, or him, or anybody. Some things don’t last forever, but some things do. Like a good song, or a good book, or a good memory you can take out and unfold in your darkest times, pressing down the corners and peering in close, hoping you still recognize the person you see there. Dexter was a whole country away from me now. But I had a good feeling he would get to me, one way or another. And if not, I’d already proved I could meet him halfway.
But for now, I just sat there on the bed and listened to my song. The one that had been written for me by a man who knew me not at all, now sung by the one who knew me best. Maybe it would be the hit the record company predicted, striking a chord in our collective past, prompting a wave of nostalgia that would carry Dexter and the band everywhere they’d ever dreamed. Or maybe, no one would hear it at all. That was the thing: you just never knew. Right now, though, I wanted not to think forward or backward, but only to lose myself in the words. So I lay back, closing my eyes, and let them fill my mind, new and familiar all at once, rising and falling with my very breath, steady, as they sang me to sleep.