Driving Around with TBS
Melissa Hall received her MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She currently lives in Austin, Texas where she tutors English and writing to students with learning disabilities. In her spare time, Melissa volunteers as a grant writer for a local nonprofit (Kids In A New Groove), and attends as many concerts as her budget allows.
Sometimes I find myself driving nowhere in particular. Sometimes I drive home from work and I continue driving past my apartment. Minutes or sometimes even a half hour later, I’m still driving, too worked up, too emotional, to be around other living beings. Maybe my boss has yelled at me. Maybe my bills are piling up. Maybe things are not okay. I pump my music up,
music the cars beside me and behind me at the stop light can hear, and I sing loudly. So loudly. I am screaming. My face the color of cherry pie from yelling and beating my fists on the steering wheel. The poor souls at the stop light glance at my too-old- to-be- doing-this face, bewildered. They’re thinking,
What is she doing?
Why is she screaming?
And what is she listening to?
Taking Back Sunday albums—Tell All Your Friends or Where You Want to Be.
I’m not embarrassed I listen to angsty high school music. I’m not embarrassed to say that I’ll be at the front of crowd when I see them at SOS Fest in November. I love these albums with my whole being. They helped me through my parents’ divorce, the frustration associated with being a grade-obsessed high schooler, and the emotional highway of high school dating. I
listened to these albums driving to school in my mom’s little Scion XA, the stereo pumped as loud as the small car would allow, doing AP calculus homework on the phone with my best friend as she told me to turn it down!, lying on my bed late at night wondering if Josh would ever notice me in biology class. These albums were my first true love.
When I hear a song from one of these beloved albums while at the bar, I’ll hum along.
But humming a single song in a bar when it randomly comes over the speakers and blasting the album in my car, alone, are two completely different things. Humming signifies enjoyment, maybe nostalgia. Screaming the lyrics “I can’t say I blame you/ But I wish that I could/ I’m sick of writing every song about you” very loudly, with as much angst as my 125
pound body can muster signifies something at least slightly unhinged.
It’s always just so much emotion—all of the little nuisances, and annoyances, and worries that accumulate over a given period of time before they need to come out. The missed meeting, the student I can’t seem to help, the new weird noise my car is making. They cannot stay buried, they have spilled out of the cup, and I cannot contain them in my body any longer.
They come out via song and tears.
But is that really so bad? Can’t I be angry and sad and hurt and confused and frustrated? Can I be not okay?
“I never made a scene/ well, they came to me.”
A particularly harrowing week, complete with a past student in the process of filing a grade dispute, I felt my shoulders heavy with responsibility and unhappiness. I drove home listening to Tell All Your Friends, breathless after screaming “Head Club” several times in a row. But when I got inside and greeted my boyfriend I was lighter. Lighter than I had felt all week.
Maybe there wouldn’t be such a build-up if it were acceptable to scream in public. If I were allowed to scream in the middle of the parking lot, arms in the air, and not have the stares, and possibly the authorities, directed my way. To be child-like, understood for my outburst and excused for the inability to contain it all within my body. Only when there’s a label associated
with this outburst does it become acceptable.
But what if we allowed ourselves to be emotional? What if it became okay, and even encouraged, to be angry and sad and frustrated? What would that look like?
Tiny sound-proof offices, like practice rooms in a music building, walls covered in soft padding. Offices in every work place that offer its employees solitude and peace as they express their emotions in a comfortable place. I imagine a happier world, no longer silencing ourselves in bathroom stalls, or shoving those emotions back down our throats, only uncorking them when crisis emerges.
I imagine fewer tears in the car. Fewer aimless trips. Until then, I have Taking Back Sunday.