Tapping the wheel to Boogie Stop Shuffle, Robert momentarily drove through a memory. Unconcerned with the gaps in logic, vision and sound which shifted and merged with a cloud’s unhurried ease, he became, once again, eight years old.
Sitting behind the passenger’s seat, he fearfully returned his father’s rapturous gaze each time he turned around, away from the driver’s controls, away from the rapidly unfurling road ahead of him, to furnish a point in his explanation of the beauty of the song which now played, as it did thirteen years ago. He recounted his first hearing it at a jazz festival in a lazy French port town, trying to explain, in his own way, the ineffable magic of music.
Charlie Mingus plucked the song’s last sonorous bass string. In the silence Robert again felt the warm faux leather of the steering wheel beneath his fingers. He watched as his hands automatically adjusted the car’s position in line with the slight curvature of the road, as if someone else had taken control while he remembered.
Robert inherited his father’s love of jazz, as well as many other genres. His phone, which was connected to the car’s speakers, now held more music than any of those record shops where his father and his friends once spent their free time and money.
He strained to decipher the next randomly chosen song above the whizz of fence posts zapping past his open window. A synthesiser clued him to the decade. The rap of digital drums narrowed the possibilities. Something inside him coiled in delicious anticipation of the first lines.
Robert was born too late for the 80s. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City introduced him to the decade. Driving through the neon pink city of Los Santos in his mid-teens intertwined the music of Michael Jackson, The Buggles and others with indiscriminate pedestrian death and citywide police chases. Months were spent sprawled on the sofa after school stealing fast cars, cruising, killing, shooting, listening to music on the in-car in-game radio stations, aching with pleasure when the right song came on in the right car as the sun set so realistically.
’Video Killed the Radio Star’ played as he passed the sign for the next town, submerged in memories unlocked by the beat. Lying on the sofa, homework abandoned on the kitchen table, or finished, or not—in the memory those aspects were faint; the screen, his character, was the focus. His fingers flurried across the controller’s buttons. Driving a souped-up Chevy, his arm/his character’s—elongated by the snub of an Uzi—stretched through the open window, spraying bullets through a pub’s stained glass windows.
Glancing to his overnight bag in the passenger seat for something more powerful, maybe a rocket launcher, he noticed the road ahead, the rear of a stopped car, red traffic lights, a wedding squeezing from the doors of a tiny church. He braked, stopping just in time. His hands trembled as they waited for the next song.