Love in a Mixtape
Back in 1988, we still looked up movie show times in newspapers, we still were shocked by the Iran-Contra affair on television, and we still made mixtapes on audio cassettes.
That summer, I worked part-time in a bank branch that was so slow I hardly ever had anything to do. I struck up a quick friendship with Randy, a young head teller who dressed snappily in ties with tie pins and was always clean-shaven. Yet I could tell there was something different about him. We would talk for hours, interrupted only by the occasional customer. I remember him talking about the universe expanding.
I was hooked.
Sometimes when the bank closed at 4 o’clock, we continued our conversation into the parking lot, standing at our cars until dark, never pausing to suggest we get a bite to eat or even sit down.
We were both devoted to rock music and endlessly discussed our favorite bands. Soon enough, we started a project. I made him a mixtape on an audio cassette with no labels. His job was to listen, write down the song titles he could figure out, and decipher a story from the words.
We exchanged back and forth like this a couple of times, sharing our favorites from our record collections. We put together stories of “40,000 Headmen” and other adventures.
Right before I was to leave on a trip with my parents, Randy asked me out to dinner. Away from the bank, our easy, never-ending conversation dried up into awkward pauses as we struggled for something to say. I convinced myself it wasn’t a date and went on my trip. When I got back, he handed me a new mixtape.
That night, I sat on my bed with a pencil and paper and popped in the tape. The sound of an organ and guitar filled my bedroom.
- Miss You — Eric Clapton
Next up was another easily recognized song.
- Fool in the Rain — Led Zeppelin
Then, another Clapton song.
- Take a Chance — Eric Clapton
So, the story so far is that someone’s missing someone, is feeling like a fool, but is gonna take a chance.
- Suite: Judy Blue Eyes — Crosby, Stills & Nash
Hmm … blue eyes….
I kept listening.
- From the Heart of Me — the Grateful Dead
- I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song — Jim Croce
- Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie — the Grateful Dead
- Can’t Get Over You — the Gregg Allman Band
- Hello, I Love You — the Doors
Clearly, a theme of love was developing.
- I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know — Blood, Sweat & Tears
- You’ve Made Me So Very Happy — Blood, Sweat & Tears
I next heard guitar and the words, “Shadows grow so long before my eyes….”
- Baby, I Love Your Way — Peter Frampton
The last song was one of my favorites. “I can hear her heart beat from a thousand miles. Yeah, the heavens open every time she smiles….”
- Crazy Love — Van Morrison
The next day in the bank, we went through the morning routine. We were actually busy and didn’t get a chance to talk until a mid-morning break.
I made small talk. He brought up the tape.
“Did you listen to the mixtape?” he asked.
“Yes … it was good,” I said.
“Did you figure out the message?”
“I wasn’t sure,” I said. This went on for a while, with him asking me leading questions that I was afraid to answer.
We finally established that it was a love story, from someone to someone who had gone away on a trip.
He asked about “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”
I said that I didn’t know how that one fit in with the others.
“Well, do you know anyone with blue eyes?”
I paused, a long pause. I looked down. I looked to the side. He waited.
I wasn’t sure what to say.
I took the leap.
“Me,” I whispered.
We were married two years later.