Ever since I gave my very first mixtape to my very first girlfriend, I have been hooked. Sometimes, after spending hours upon hours perfecting a playlist, I would take just as much time drawing out a cover that helped to explain where my mind was at when I made it. This extra curricular activity held no academic merit, in fact, it’s probably the reason I spent most of my Saturdays in study hall making up for all my failed tests. But it did get me in good with the girls.
Word had gotten out that my mix tapes weren’t just a burnt cd full of music I had stole from Napster - they were an auditory experience that could take you to another universe for 60-80minutes. Girls that would normally never talk to me wanted me to make them mix tapes to work out to. They wanted to drive me to and from school thinking that I might leave one of my “Off To School” mixes in their CD players. Guys came to me with their relationship issues, spilling their guts all over my shoes in hopes that I could mop up their sorrows and put them into a mixed CD.
My golden touch followed me out of high school and after graduation I began DJ’ing house parties every single night. My talent had become a burden. I couldn’t step into someone’s car without having to choose the music. I shopped in grocery stores with headphones on because I couldn’t stand listening to the terrible soundtrack that hung over my head while I picked out cereal. No one’s choice in music was ever good enough.
Soon, after listening to so much music, it all became boring. I knew the right songs that would get people pumped and I knew the perfect song to play at the perfect time to bring a girl to tears. I was in a musical rut. Then I met a girl named Amber. I liked her from the start. She was funny and fun and she dressed to kill. But I didn’t know I was gaga for her until one night, as I dropped her off at home, she pulled a CD out of her purse. She said “Here, I made this for you.” The CD was titled Driving Myself Around At Night and had a picture of a squid that she had drawn on the cover. Across the CD in her dainty hand writing read: “If You Aren’t, You Should Be.”
I was skeptical, but I played it on my way home. I passed my home and put the CD on loop. I listened to it over and over again every night for the next few months. It was perfect. It was like she had given my nightlife a soundtrack. I couldn’t wait for the sun to go down so I could listen to the album. But I couldn’t listen to the music during the daytime because it didn’t fit - these songs were specifically chosen for driving at night, and that’s how they needed to remain.
Soon after that, my golden touch was gone. Every mix tape I made after listening to Amber’s never sounded right. It wasn’t just me noticing the loss of quality either. People were skipping over songs in my mix tapes and I wasn’t being asked to DJ anything hardly ever. The spell had been broken. The only person that really seemed excited about my mix tapes anymore was Amber. Her and I traded music back and forth between each other and each other alone. We would sit in the parking lot of the school after everyone had gone home and talk about music while we listen to each others latest mixes. It was… perfect.
I haven’t seen Amber in about 6 years. She moved away and so did I. The only form of communication we have is through email. Our emails to each other are always pretty short. A little bit of filling each other in on what’s going on in our lives mixed in with a couple of pop culture references. The important part about our emails is that they always come with a link to a new playlist of music that we make for each other. When I press play and let the songs fill up my room, it’s like Amber’s right there with me.
Many years and mix tapes later, I have finally decided to share that very first mix with all of you. I hope when you listen to it, you are somewhere on the freeway driving with a blanket of stars hanging above your head. If you aren’t, you should be.
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