The living can’t fully grasp the gravity of the situation. Which is too bad, because the dead certainly can’t. But last night, I got pretty close. I wouldn’t tell you a lie.
The moment I drifted off to sleep, I immediately woke with a jolt. There was music in the distance. When I took out my earplugs, it went away. But I knew I’d heard it. I took a lap around the house with my flashlight. No need to arm myself because—hell, man, it was just music.
I found nothing but crickets. That, and an old lady across the street, smoking and coughing on her unlit porch. “Damned fool,” she must’ve thought. “It’s 2 o’clock in the morning.”
I went back inside and locked the door 12 times, which I know isn’t the same as having 12 locks. I’m not sure how I settled on 12. It’s just a good, solid number, and it has stood the test of time.
I laid down, put the earplugs back in, and the music resumed. I tried to figure out the tune, but all I could make out was a vague, oscillating drone that seemed to pulsate in groups of 3 beats. It cycled back around every 4 measures. That’s a total of 12 beats. I wouldn’t tell you a lie. The maddening waltz went on and on.
The night must’ve known I hate waltzes. I think waltz, I think circus; I think circus, I think clowns. Everybody hates clowns. Anyone who doesn’t can’t possibly grasp the gravity of the situation.
The night was taunting me. I closed my eyes and saw a carousel full of clowns. I cursed 12 times but it wouldn’t stop. I prayed 12 times but it wouldn’t stop. It’s important to do it in that order. I took out the earplugs and it stopped.
There’s a cute, predicable end to this story: In the morning, I realize that the earplugs are each connected to a cord. When I trace the cords, I find they’re connected to a 1/8″ stereo plug, which is connected to my phone. “Jiminy Christmas! I’m so silly,” I goof with myself. “Must be sleepwalking again!”
But that story would only work if I had waltz on my phone. I told you, I don’t listen to waltz. And that’s not what happened.
I was determined to find the logical explanation. Every phenomenon has a logical explanation. I walked outside again, with earplugs and flashlight in hand, searching. No need for a weapon because—hell, man, it was just music. The old lady was still on the porch, hacking and rattling. She pointed around the side of my house. Did she know something, or was she merely playing along? Either way, she was now a’partied to the situation.
But I didn’t hear the music. I came around the side of the house, and noticed the old lady was gone. I considered taking another 11 laps for good measure, but I was tired.
I went in and took a shower, hoping for a reality check. When I got out, I looked at the mirror. Several faintly squiggled lines appeared in the fog. They formed the shape of a heart, with the name Amanda written underneath. I had washed it thoroughly, but every time I showered, it reappeared. I never thought much of it. I just assumed it had been written in lipstick, or something oil-based. Because everything has a logical explanation.
I got back in bed and managed to sleep for a couple of hours. When I got up, I looked across the way and didn’t see the old lady who was a’partied to my situation. But I did notice a sticker on the window of her truck that said In Memory of Amanda, with a heart underneath. As if that wasn’t weird enough, it occurred to me that Amanda is a three-syllable word, and 3 is the meter of waltz.
On the way to work, I heard an ad on the radio. “Do you notice strange coincidences?” It was for some sort of psychological study, or a pretense for rounding up folks like me for the loony bin. Either way, I thought it was a strange coincidence, to hear an ad like that right after noticing a strange coincidence.
I turned the car around and drove back home, then emailed work to tell them I was “editing remotely today,” because that was easier—and less weird—than saying, “I can no longer ignore the gravity of the situation.”
Or that the universe is clearly telling me to write a song in 3/4 time.
I can’t tell you whether or not the song will be good. Probably not. But I can tell you this much: When you put in earplugs to try and get away from it, it will only get louder. It will defy all logical explanation. And when you ask me how I did it, I’ll say, “Hell man—it’s just music,” because you can’t go passing around recipes like that.
But before writing that song, I’m going to get a can of paint thinner and wash the bathroom mirror—a logical conclusion to a story that I’m sure, probably, had a logical explanation.
I wonder what happened to old Amanda. She was probably a damned clown or something. I don’t want to know.