Baby didn't have a music taste, so much as a taste for music. Debora found this out as she waited for Baby, now known as Miles, to come home over the years. His foster father had taken a liking to her and they got along well. She'd visit him every Sunday at the old folk's home Miles dropped Joe off at before bailing that fateful night. He introduced her to Miles' vast music collection held on an array of tapes- the older ones that hadn't been taken in the raid, as well as homemade CD's, vinyl discs, and many ipods. The people at the home had been kind enough to gather the last of their things from the ruined apartment when asked to.
If Debora hadn't gotten to know Miles beforehand, how many ipods one human could own might have shocked her. Instead she laughed in delight as Joe pulled out a small bag that had more than 10 of the device. One for every day of the week and then some just in case those didn't suit his taste or he had the feeling he'd have a change in tune that day. Joe remarked on a notepad that one of them was missing, his oldest one. The one Miles always took with him to work. Debora knew why. Instead of telling Joe the reason, she asked if he would help her learn ASL. With how shaky the old man's hands were, it would be easier for them both if she could learn to sign rather than make him hold a pen. He smiled and agreed and they spent the rest of that day learning the basics of ASL, starting with the alphabet.
That night as visiting hours came dangerously close to ending, Joe offered to let her take Miles' ipods. Debora was welcome to have the rest of his collection too, but only had room to take the little devices that week. When she asked if it would really be alright for her to have them, Joe jotted down a note pointing out the fact that he didn't have any use for them anymore. He pointed to his ears and chuckled, an off-tune sound that made Debora giggle too.
Before leaving she gave Joe a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He waved goodbye through the front window, and Debora waved back through her windshield before driving off. It occurred to her at a stoplight two blocks from the home that she didn't have to wait until she got home to listen to the songs she'd been gifted. The light had only just turned red, so she had confidence she would be able to pop one of them on the AUX cord before having to focus on the road once more.
Reaching into the little black reusable tote bag, she rummaged around a bit before pulling out the familiar glittery pink ipod. An endeared smile radiating reminiscence graced her lips as she plugged it in and hit play. The first song to come on was Deborah by T.Rex. It was the last thing Miles had listened to on this one. The thought made her chest tight and her nose sting.
Memories of their first 'date,' flashed in her eyes as she rode the asphalt and she purposefully took a wrong turn at the next intersection. She thought it best to take the long way home, riding slow and easy while the music changed from one old song to the next. It almost made her want to laugh when she thought that this was probably the opposite of what Miles did while listening to these songs. She could picture him still; the look of focused ease as he pressed hard on the pedal, right hand always gripping the gear shift, left hand always gripping the wheel that rarely was held even for more than 15 seconds. Her foot twitched at the thought, subconsciously trying to mimic his admirable skills as she shifted up a gear and passed another car on the road.
Occasionally a more recent piece from a lesser-known band might turn on and surprise her out of her 70's to 90's era reverie. A softer tune slowed her speed down again, the music taking hold of her and dictating how fast the vehicle would go. Admittedly that probably wasn't the safest way to drive, but she never went slow or fast enough to cause any danger, still aware of safety hazards on the road as well as the speed limit. That was another difference between her and her Baby.
"If you gamble everything for love, you're gonna be alright. Alright," Debora found herself mouthing to the unknown song. A glance down at the ipod screen at another red light told her it was called Gamble Everything For Love by Ben Lee, released in 2005. She nodded, making mental note of that as the vocalists harmonized in 'ooh's while the light turned green and she stepped on the gas once more.
Time had been thrown to the wind and she only stopped driving aimlessly once her car informed her she'd come dangerously close to running out of gas. A glance at the dashboard clock told her she'd been listening to Baby's bedazzled-mood playlist for more than an hour. Her eyebrows arched up for a moment in surprise. She wondered if, when he wasn't working, would Miles get lost in midnight drives like this too? It was way too easy to lose oneself to the atmosphere his music provided.
When the tunes abruptly stopped along with the car engine beside the pump, Debora found herself thrust into the real world again. Away from the daydream-worlds the vibratos and guitars and drums built around her consciousness, she felt cold and empty where she stood. She stood alone with the whirring of the gas pump. Once more she was without Baby, ripped away from him all over again.
As soon as she was done pumping the gas, she haphazardly tore her receipt from the pay-at-pump machine and ducked into the drivers seat quickly. She immediately turned the music on again, turned it up two notches louder than before. She let herself sit back and take a breath, waiting behind the darkness of her closed eyes until the end of this rock song from a woman about a heart breaker faded away into something softer once more. An acoustic guitar played a soft rift, echoed with a computer generated effect.
"Oh I miss the comfort of this house. Where we are, where we are. Where we are, where we are," a gentle man's voice sang through the speakers. Debora was reminded of Baby, awkwardly leaning into the recorder she held up over the diner table. His little smile as he sweetly sang the lyrics comparing a Deborah to a 'ze-bo-rah.' Another smile wiggled through the fog of emotion welling up from her heart. If she had checked the screen of the ipod, she would have been informed the song was another more recent piece called Lakehouse by the band Of Monsters And Men. She didn't. Instead she gripped the wheel once more, shifting into first gear and then second as she picked up her pace back on the road. It was well time to head home, she decided. She could listen to the rest of the songs on this playlist as she slept, and wake up to it in the morning.
Sure enough, in the morning as she woke up she had another tune ringing in her earbuds, still in her ears. It was a song she'd already heard, the one just after Deborah. She'd made it all the way through the ipod at least once through the night... So she reached over to the bag of music players left on her nightstand and grabbed a new one. This one had a blue cartoon shark sticker on the back, edges peeling inwards. There was a big blue bubble sticker on the pause/play button in the middle of the selection ring. It made her laugh at how this looked like it could have belonged to a 12 year old child. A good way to start the morning. She paused playback on the pink jewels and plugged her earbuds into this new one, pressing play to listen to whatever song Miles had last used this water-themed one for.
"More and more I been thinkin' about love," came through in a gruff voice, followed by the beginnings of the drums with the guitarist following quickly after. Debora knew this one already, Baby Loves To Rock by Cheap Trick. That morning she got out of bed, dancing and mouthing lyrics to old alternative rock songs. Nothing made after 1997 was on this ipod she realized after breakfast on her ride to work as it blasted through her stereo. After pulling up to Bo's Diner she made quick work of switching the ipod from AUX back to her earbuds. That whole day at work she left one earbud in her ear, humming and mouthing the lyrics in between trips from the kitchen to customers. Debora was even singing loud and proud to ones she knew on her breaks.
That became her routine. One ipod a day, each one holding at least 24 hours worth of songs sans the bedazzled one, switching through to new ipods she hadn't listened to yet until she'd heard them all. Then start the cycle again. Always listening to music, of all different kinds, nonstop. Alternative rock seemed to be Miles' favourite and it became Debora's favourite too, but there was all sorts of genres on all ipods except for one or two dedicated to the rock and metal classics. Everything ranging from orchestral, to reggae, to rap, to pop, to hiphop, to soul, and beyond.
Her music repertoire grew every week she visited Joe, picking up another few CD's, a stray tape here and there. After she used her next paycheck to buy a record player she started picking up Miles' vinyls too. Next paycheck after that was spent on another shelf for storage, the space in her drawers and counter tops being taken up quickly by all this music. It didn't stop there, Debora became a regular at three music shops in three different corners of the city. She was hoping to surprise Miles when he got out of jail in a couple more years by being the one to introduce him to new songs for a change.
Hoping to sweeten the surprise even more, what she didn't spend on rent, food, and the monthly new CD or record, Debora saved up. Not for a house, not for tuition, no. For a car they couldn't afford. She didn't make any plans for her long-term future in the years she waited. When someone asked her to do anything after the date of release she received in advance for Miles, she'd turn them down and say she couldn't plan that far ahead. As the time to pick him up got nearer, she started selling her things. She sold everything but their music.
Finally, Miles was free. She picked him up in their brand-new Impala she'd saved and sold everything for. The trunk and glove compartment were packed full of albums, records, and remixes.
Finally, they were heading west on 20 in a car they couldn't afford with a plan they didn't have - just Debora and Miles with their music and the road.