By: Barbara Norton
“Hey Chloe, can you play some music?” Jake asks me, nearly hitting the car parked next to us as he backs out.
“Sure thing,” I choke out. Oh God. My eyes shift down to the thin black cord of doom, aka the AUX cord.
Up until he uttered those six words, I had been excited to go out to lunch with Jake and Melanie. Elated, even. Now, I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions I’ll face during my high school career, perhaps even my life- what music should I play?
It is absolutely essential that I choose the perfect song. It needs to match the mood (what is the mood? How do I match the mood if I don’t know what it is?). It also needs to establish that I’m… cool. Interesting. Like, quirky enough to show I’m not basic but not so quirky that they’re uncomfortable. I can feel the sweat starting to drip down my forehead as I shift uncomfortably in the passenger seat. My trembling hands unlock my phone. Alright, what song should I pick? Billie Eilish definitely isn’t right, too depressing. Wait, this song is pretty good… crap, it’s a Tik Tok song. Scratch that. Maybe some Kid Cudi? No, I don’t think Melanie will like that. Not the Luke Bryan songs I downloaded in 7th grade, either.
God, why don’t I have any good music? I hate myself. I’m going to pick the wrong song and ruin the mood and Jake and Melanie will think I’m lame and they’ll never ask me to lunch again and high school will suck and… I need to get it together. I’m running out of time to pick a song. Thank God Jake is still having trouble getting out of his parking spot.
Okay, here’s an idea: I could play some throwback tunes! Yeah, that’ll be good! But… throwback from when? Early 2010’s is a bit too recent… but maybe it isn’t? Or there’s also early 2000’s, but that brings up the question of whether it’s chill 2000’s or club 2000’s. Lily Allen or Lil Jon? Or maybe even older… Cranberries? Steve Miller Band? Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?
My forehead is full-on drenched in sweat now. God, has this car always been so small? And why are these seats so itchy? I wish I could roll down a window. I think I might vomit. I keep scrolling.
Lana Del Rey… that’s not bad. She’s cool. I think. Lana Del Rey is cool, right? Wait, didn’t Melanie go to a Lana Del Rey concert with her ex-boyfriend a few months ago? Crap, now I can’t play any Lana Del Rey. I would remind Melanie of her ex and then she would hate me and then Jake would hate me and they’d never ask me out to lunch again. Definitely no to Lana. I catch a glance of myself in the rearview mirror. My skin is waxy and slicked with sweat. My eyes are round saucers, like a deer caught in the headlights. I take a deep breath, and turn my attention back to my phone.
What’s the mood in this goddamn Subaru? It’s sunny, and lunchtime, so that’s a good mood. But Jake also just failed a math test, so that’s an angry mood. Or a frustrated mood? But it also might be a good mood because Mrs. Johnson allows test corrections. Crap, does Mrs. Johnson allow test corrections? I can’t remember. Oh no. I can’t remember. Think, I tell myself. Think. Focus. Does she do test corrections? Now I’m wasting precious time thinking about Mrs. Johnson and her test corrections when I should be picking a song. I can’t breathe. The air keeps getting caught in my throat. I feel like a fish out of water as I gasp for air. A stupid fish with bad taste in music. Oh no- Jake finally made it out of his parking spot. My time is up. Screw this. I just need to pick a song. It’s just a song, I tell myself. It’s just a song! A song can’t make or break your social life, right? Right. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and pick a random song.
I did it.
I picked a song. Okay, the song could be a lot worse. It’s pretty good. Actually, it’s great. Why didn’t I think of this song earlier? It’s such an obvious choice! Upbeat, but chill. Quirky, but not so obscure that they haven’t heard it. It feels like a ton of bricks have just been lifted from my chest. You know, Jake’s car isn’t really so small after all. And the seats aren’t itchy, either. I can already tell they’re both gonna love the song I chose. I reach confidently for the AUX, hardly able to believe a cord had been stressing me out only seconds earlier.
The cord doesn’t fit with my phone. Huh.
“Sorry, guys. I can’t play any music,” I say as I paste a smile on my face. It’s okay, I guess. They probably wouldn’t have liked the song I chose anyway…