He heard it somewhere east of El Paso. An old Mexican ballad maybe, not that he could understand a word of it, but the woman’s voice was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. Slow, faint, and hazy like a well-worn memory. He imagined her lower lip trembling on some distant shore. Vinyl crackle and radio static fizzed through the song and he couldn’t tell you if there were instruments or not, he was so focused on that magical voice, the strange warbling sound of a vintage woman singing, reverberating with that 1950s audio trick making one woman sound like hundreds, a perfectly coiffured red-lipsticked girl standing awkwardly in a tiny glass booth with a giant headphone to her ear while fat men in white shirts and wide neckties chain-smoked and critiqued from a dark viewing room on the other side of the glass. That voice, fighting through the AM crackle and fuzz, climbing out of the speakers and reaching for the light. He thought she was singing Spanish but it was beyond language, more like being a little kid and looking into the sun, a memory without beginning or end. Yet it did end and a drowsy voice mumbled the station call letters and he strained to catch a name when something hit the windshield with a thwack. A pebble or maybe a bug, one of those hard Texas beetles with yellow blood. A tiny crack appeared near the southwest corner of the glass.
Nobody could smoke a cigarette like Linda Darnell.
Stories from the white spaces on the map.
A dub field of mid-century blues.
Love among the ruins.
Lonely gas stations and motel neon.
Her best friend was a little battery-powered radio.
He felt close to her while he drove, his insides vibrating like a teenage dream.
Somewhere Roy Orbison plays on a battered old radio.
There’s no such thing as weirding out the normals these days.
Things I’ve read that altered me.
The gatefold sleeve and dusty touch, the hiss and pop.
Notes and scrawls from my seminars.