It has been a Monday. One of those days where the frustrating parts of my job loom large enough to overpower the parts I love. With not enough time and too much to do, lunch seemed like a luxury. Nevertheless, I got into my car, and pointed it toward Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Haines Road, reducing the voice in my head that screamed about cholesterol to a mere whimper and fully intending to indulge my craving for fries.
I was not disappointed. The clerk who greeted me was pleasant, cheerful and patient. The kitchen staffer who took my "one more thing" request was equally courteous and friendly. I could feel the stress floating into the heavy air even before I sat down to take a breath and enjoy my lunch - a burger made to my specifications and more fries than I could possibly consume in one sitting.
I'd taken only a bite or two of my oh-so-worth-it burger when I heard it. A familiar piano riff trying to make itself heard over kitchen clatter and lunchtime chatter. Springsteen.
Suddenly, I was smiling. "Rosalita"? Nah.
"Thunder Road." No, wait.
My tension slipped away as I munched on fries and strained to hear every lyric. I couldn't, but that didn't matter. I was already transported.
I was back in Allison's dorm room senior year, sitting on the floor while she, Cindy and I listened to the song over and over again. Drinking wine maybe? I don't remember. I do remember analyzing the lyrics, dissecting the characters and having nowhere else we needed to be, nothing else we needed to do. The mental picture is hazy, but the feelings are clear.
I haven't seen Allison or Cindy in over 20 years. Sad, in a way, because we were close then. And I'm not sure why that memory leaps to the forefront of my mind so clearly when others are relegated to its recesses, but I know that I needed that song and that memory this afternoon, even more than I needed the fries. Definitely more than I needed the fries.
Funny how music has the power to slip into our subconscious and unlock things we'd long forgotten - or thought we had, anyway.
And amazing how so many years later, that piano riff sparks an instantaneous smile.