Do you remember how it starts? The drum machine begins. There probably isn't a human being alive that can't identify this song within 3 electric drum beats. There probably isn't a Japanese Macaque or Bengal Tiger that can't recognize it within 12 beats. I start to drum along on the steering wheel. Softly. Ever so softly. I'm statin' the obvious here, but you've got to save your energy for the end, people. Can't start too hard. You've got to be an easy lover.
An electric guitar screams. But still, not too much. Easy, electric guitar. Easy. A light layer of keyboard gets placed on top to warm things up a little, to make things go a little smoother. We've got a nice, easy rhythm going now. Then, a soft whisper in the ear. Phil Collins is adding his two cents with a little haunting tenor. Yeah, tell us what's about to happen, Phil. And he does.
TheWife sits silently, stoic. She isn't convinced. Sometimes it takes more work and you can't get daunted. You move on to verse two. Things pick up a little. The voice gets a little louder. The music picks it up a little. Does that hit the right spot? You gotta mix it up a little bit. It's not always the same beat that gets you. You can't hurry love. I tap the steering wheel a little harder. The good part is coming. It's coming in the air tonight, as a matter of fact. It's inching closer and closer. My hands are growing more stiff in anticipation of the steering wheel banging that's about to happen. And we've got a red light so I can do all the banging I want without having an accident! I grin, my heart rate increases. The music gets louder.
From my right, TheWife says, "I hate this song."
TheWife looks back. She looks smug, one eyebrow raised as if to say, "You got something to say? Please, tell me. Give me your genius argument for why the past few minutes weren't a waste of everyone's time."
I look away. My jaw is tight. I stare at the traffic light that has been red for way too long. My eyes say to the traffic light, "Why should I even bother? How do you explain to someone who sings along to Gwen Stefani songs that In the Air Tonight is literally made of awesome?"
The traffic light says, "Don't look at me. I don't care anymore. I listen to Electronica."
Unable to hold it in any longer I explode. "HOW do you not like In the Air Tonight??? What next? You don't like breathing? You don't like apple pie??"
TheWife smirks at me, like I'M the idiot. "Yeah," she says, "Phil Collins is right up there with apple pie. My favorite is when Normal Rockwell paints a picture of grandma serving up a slice of Phil Collins. Who needs pie when you can have Phil Collins on a plate?"
If we weren't in the car she would have put her hands on her hips. She did anyway, somehow. I'm sure I saw it. And she gives me that Teacher-glare. It is more powerful than mine and I start to wither a little.
"Yeah. I do hate America. If America is a sniveling, whining bunch of melodramtic crap, then yes: I hate America. If America starts off slow and takes 5 minutes to build to a lame, incomplete climax, then yeah: I hate America. If America's climax is 12 seconds of electronic drumbeats and a lame guitar-riff like a wet noodle, than yes; I hate America."
We sit in silence for a few seconds. Staring at each other. Not glaring. Just staring. Slowly, our differing arguments gel, our separate lives come back together.
"Yeah," I say. "I think, maybe, I hate it too." And I do. She ruined it. Or maybe she's pointed out something that I've always suspected but never wanted to face. Either way, I don't think I could bear to listen to the song one more night.
Later that night, if you'd put your ear against the bathroom door or my home, you would have heard the sounds of soft weeping as a man deleted "In the Air Tonight" from his mp3 player. I think, as it was erased, it made a sort of " ssssuuusssudiooooooo" sound. I will never be able to erase that sound from my saddened heart.
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