Music reassures and dismays me in alternating strokes.

Years and years ago, I worked and lived and was from somewhere hundreds of miles away, and in the time since things have unhitched themselves from me, and this includes thousands of moments big and small. Little songs bring them back sometimes.

There was a terrible, terrible thunderstorm one day, a real shaking storm whose lightning killed the electricity. It stayed off for some time, so the supervisors at the mail processing plant decided to cut everyone loose for the evening. There were torrents of rain falling like unrolling rugs, and I otherwise would have walked back to my apartment.

I had a coworker and we worked in the same section of the plant. Our work was often idle, dependent on the volume of material to process, which was scant during our shift, so we typically chatted more than anything else. I don’t remember much of anything we ever discussed. Regardless, she had an automobile and I did not, so to spare me the trouble of rainsoaking myself, she offered me a ride. Now, in all honesty, there’s little more I enjoy more than being caught in the rain on my way home. I’ve done it enough to build a real appreciation for it. But far less frequently have I been offered rides home by pleasant young women, so what the heck.

Getting to my apartment couldn’t have been simpler (it was directly across from the river–if you missed it, you’d likely have been in the river), but my knack for direction must have been lacking because we ended up some blocks away, stuck in the parking lot of an abandoned factory, brought to a standstill by the heavy rain. Let’s blame the severity of the storm, but let’s also not discount any overt or secret disinclination to go anywhere else. We sat in the parking lot for quite some time before the weather cleared and I went on home.

I quit my job a few months later and moved away to finish college. By the time I left I had stopped talking to her for whatever inexplicable reason it is that such associations disintegrate. I fail to mention her name simply because I never knew it. The longest we dwelled on names was when she asked if my name was James, as my supervisor kept calling me. I said no, and that apparently settled the issue.

Sometimes I’ll hear a song and an unsuspected blank space fills in somewhere in my memory, like finding an old photograph in the pages of a misplaced book.

The Lovin’ Spoonful “Rain on the Roof”