For my first formal iteration of #ThrowbackThursday (TBT) on this blog, I’m relaying a story I wrote some years ago about a relationship I had during my freshman year of college. When I say relationship, I don’t mean the dating kind, although there is a somewhat romantic element to it (mostly, it’s just humorous, and a bit wistful).
Although I try not to live in the past, I can be pretty sentimental/nostalgic, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing, anymore.
So, without further ado, here is my short, creative nonfiction piece, “Wolf,” for your reading pleasure.
He was 26 and I was 18 when we met. I’m sure it took a few days for him to recognize me as a regular, since I rarely wear the same outfit or order the same drink twice at one establishment. But if he didn’t remember me by the end of my first month at school, I’m sure he knew me by the time I showed up later that fall, soaked to the skin in my t-shirt and ill-fitting skinny jeans.
I had naively left my dorm room without an umbrella, thinking nothing of the gray day. Because in Southcentral Alaska, an overcast sky doesn’t necessarily mean a downpour, and there, I usually had a car nearby. As a freshman in a college town in southern Minnesota, venturing out in that weather without some kind of rain gear was a much riskier move.
The café didn’t have a hand dryer in the bathroom, as I recall, but he directed me there anyway, in the event that paper towels could possibly be of any use. He looked sympathetic, but also amused, barely believing I had walked there through the rain just for coffee. The owner actually laughed when she came in later.
I continued to frequent the place, making small talk with the intriguing male barista at the counter while he tamped espresso and steamed milk for the various drinks I ordered. One time, when the place was empty (as it often was), that small talk actually evolved into a conversation on German philosophy, which was probably sparked by his Germanic name, Wolf. Though he obviously had an interest in the subject, I remember his study plans consisting of something more practical.
But it wasn’t until the following spring, when he came out from behind the counter to sit at my table and write me a list of his latest favorite musical artists, that I felt something winding its way into me, like a man’s fingers through a woman’s hair. My eyes sparkling with interest, I asked him about bands like Gold Panda, The Joy Formidable and Atmosphere, which until then had been completely unknown to me.
He paused about 10 minutes later, looked around, and, seeing no one but us in the shop, stood up and said he’d be right back. I watched as he stepped out to his car parked on the street, rummaged around the front and back seats, and returned with a handful of CDs. He briefly explained the ones I was unfamiliar with, and why he liked them, then encouraged me to take whichever ones I wanted.
I took them all.
I left with three or four discs in total — the soundtrack to a Woody Allen film called “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” a burned copy of the ambient, experimental “How to Dress Well,” U2’s “The Joshua Tree,” and possibly another, with an unmemorable name — and an even bigger crush on the guy than I’d had before.
By the time the school year was over, he was gone. By the end of January next, the café had closed and looked as if it was being remodeled for some other purpose.
Five years later, I sat in my car, getting ready to leave my parents’ house in Alaska, searching for something to listen to that I hadn’t heard in a while. I found a CD labeled with only an ‘X’ and decided to give it a try, not remembering the artist. When it began to play, the sounds did little to jog my memory. But as the moody, almost dissonant music reverberated through my car, I had to believe there was only one person it could have come from: Wolf.
I doubt he’d remember me if I ever saw him again. But hearing those songs that day raised the ever-present question in my life of why certain people are brought together, for what amounts to a single, memorable impression.
Perhaps it is only to experience the uninhibited satisfaction of howling at our own moons with the sounds of kindred souls, which, once voiced, forever echo back through time to make us smile and wonder, later on.
Copyright © 2019 by Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum. All rights reserved.