Isabel stepped into the kitchen and brushed gentle fingers over my shoulder on her way to
the coffeemaker. I could hear my daughters arguing as they got ready for school, a bit of
busy music from their bedroom down the hall. The sun was butter melting over the
rooftops as a start to one to those glorious days that arrive to testify that even a wounded
Manhattan is a marvelous place to live.
My wife brought her cup to the table just as the girls came in twittering like sparrows,
their dispute resolved. I sat momentarily dazzled by their beauty, their small oval faces and
round black eyes so full of light and life. They kissed the mom to whom they owed their
looks and then me, and clattered out the door and into the elevator, miniature humpbacks
under packs that threatened to topple them.
In the sudden silence, Isabel left me to my paper and went to stand by the window to
watch them emerge onto the sidewalk and clamber onto the waiting bus. It was an even day,
I noticed the way her face was cast in the morning light, the green eyes set off by the
tawny flesh and curly black hair of her Latin viejos, and then back to the Irish side of the
tree for a sprinkle of dark freckles. Her lips were full and her nose held the slightest Indian
curve. She looked so pretty and I felt so lucky.
The horn tootled merry notes and the bus pulled away from the curb. Her gaze was wistful
as she released her babies to the world once more. After a sweet sigh, she shifted into career
gear, stuffing sketches, photographs, notes, and the other paraphernalia of the designer’s
trade into her portfolio, launching her own busy Monday.
Our routine ended when I turned a page and saw the item that was wedged into the bottom
corner. I said, “Oh, my God.”
The note in my voice caused Isabel to stop and stare. “What’s wrong?”
“Goddamn. I don’t believe it.”
She was starting to look alarmed. “What? What?”
“They sold the rights to ‘She Loves You’ for a TV spot.”
Her brow stitched. “Sold what for what?”
“‘She Loves You,’” I said. “The Beatles song. They sold the rights. They’re going to use it
in a TV spot.”
“Oh.” She shrugged and went back to organizing her case. She must have felt my frown
over the top of the page, because she turned back around and said, “What?”
“Oh? That’s all?”
“They do it all the time.”
“It’s not a –”
“And you bitch about it all the time.” She snapped her portfolio closed and smiled at me.
“I know, but this is not just any song. It’s different. To me, I mean.”
She eyed me for a bemused moment. “Oh? How so?”
I pushed the paper aside. “I remember the very first time I heard it,” I said. “Exactly
where I was, who I was with, all of it. How often does that happen?”
Something in my tone caught her and she took a sip from her cup and cocked her head to
one side, waiting for more.
“Don’t you have to get to work?” I said.
“I’ll go in a minute,” she said. “I want to hear this. Go ahead. Tell me your story.”
We were in my room in our half-double on Queen Street. I was sitting at my desk and
Joey was sprawled on my bed, his arms folded behind his head as he gazed up at the
ceiling. We were doing nothing, talking about nothing, lazing away a Saturday afternoon.
It was too cold to go outside and there was really nothing to do in a little town like
Wyanossing, anyway. We were gangly twelve-year-old twerps with bad haircuts. Even in
those days, I was the serious one and Joey the clown.
The music trickling from my little Philco AM was so bland that it faded into the beige
walls of my room, a hypnotic saccharine drone that pitched us into our private musings
Through the window, I could make out the profile of Nock Hill, the ridge of blue
Appalachian granite that ran along the other side of the river, a dull mount save for the
jutting promontory of Council Rock. Winter clouds were hanging dark and low and the
three radio towers atop the hill blinked in melancholy rhythm, lonely beacons in the gray
Some time went by and I sensed the DJ’s voice into an ascent of sudden urgency. I heard
the words “new combo” and “the British Isles.” By the time he reached a staccato
“Liverpool,” “screaming girls” and “huge!” he was almost shrieking.
Joey sprung upright and began flailing his hands at the radio and yelling, “Turn it up!
Turn it up!”
I jerked to attention and fumbled to twirl the plastic knob just in time to catch the roll of
a tom-tom, and the sudden rush of music that gushed from the speaker, jangling guitars,
voices in harmony, and a driven rhythm, so much and so fast, and strange and familiar at
the same time. It was every great song I had ever heard, distilled into the one that
crackled with an energy that caused the tiny speaker to quake.
I lurched from my chair, gaping at the radio as if God himself had taken over the
Joey was jumping up and down on my bed, his eyes popping out of his red face as he
threw his arms around at crazy angles. Two minutes and twenty seconds later, it was
Joey was trembling as if he had some kind of condition. He said, “Oh, my God, oh, my
God, oh, my God, did you hear that?”
I heard. We heard. Joey and I.