Mix Tape: A Flash Fiction

On being asked to write about a relationship to an object:

Some days I’m seized with a hunger to find out who my father was, and this Wednesday was one of them. This time I gulped bravely and brought a flashlight into our frankly spooky basement crawl space. I found the cassette player in a cardboard box of things Mom doesn’t touch anymore.

Squatting among abandoned items too important to throw away, too painful to acknowledge, I did not find what I was looking for. There were no photos of my father, nothing for me to tell whether I inherited his chin and whether it really does look better on a man, like mom says.

All I got was an obsolete rectangle that once carried music into the ears of a pulsing sack of meat who would one day become my father. And yet. This had been his, after all. Like blood swims through a vein, music runs through a headphone.

My fingers sunk into the cassette player’s deep buttons with something like pleasure. I let my fingers rise and fall, lulling myself into the rhythm of a tape player that once was in my father’s back pocket. The red button released the tape inside: “Songs For You, From Mindy. 1988.” Oh Mindy. Oh Mommy.

I found that some things stay constant over the years, like that headphones fit into iPods and cassette players and that my mom’s taste in music has always been quaintly lame. And that when you love someone, you listen to their mix tape so many times it becomes scratchy and skips. Skips like a heart, like the years skip into no time at all when there’s something to hold from 1988, from when your father was as alive as you are at this moment, pulsing with a shared beat.

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