Heart Beat

Published April 18, 2017, 1:44 p.m. - 50 views


The song blares from my car’s less-than-quality speakers. The lyrics are mostly in Korean, although every once in a while there’s a word or a phrase in English. It’s a song with a title I don’t recognize by a band with a cutesie name. I’m not really into it. But the lady is, and so it’s playing now. 
We drive back from dinner out of town, returning to school. While eating, we had a terse not-quite-argument about something silly. Or something serious. In any case, we’re both a little stubborn and more than a little confrontation-averse, so the mood now is tense, but not in a way that means we’ll be screaming at each other. It’s just quiet. Uncomfortably so. And in this context, the K-Pop music is making me question things on a deeper level. I realize of course that that isn’t quite warranted, but I’m a worrier: things get lodged up in my head with striking ease, and they take a lot to get dislodged.
What do we even share, anyway? Do we have common ground anymore? We’ve been together longer than most couples our age. A lot has changed since the beginning. The K-Pop thing came along a couple years ago, late freshman year, and I’ve never really related to it. I’ve always liked songs with guitars. Hipster crap, or old rock music or really anything with a slightly sad edge to it. Oh, and preferably in English. That sort of taste isn’t unique to me by a long shot, but it’s pretty dang far from the highly-danceable number currently pouring from my sound system. 
She usually runs the music in the car; I drive, she DJs. Given that that’s our format, the irrational part of my brain resents that she doesn’t pick something we’re both into. And that feeling of course leads me back to the big-picture worries: what are we both into? I know I struggle seeing the appeal of some of what she likes; does she even see the appeal of my interests?
The car ride ends, we part with a kiss and a hug. It’s all procedure now, I guess. Doubt keeps swirling, fueled by silence and isolation. 
The next day, a message: 
“Hey, we’re playing Overwatch in my room later. Want to come join?” 
“Sure!” 
The gaming thing is new, but welcome. She only recently got past her discomfort with virtual violence. And boy has she gotten past it. Her roommates have helped move her to the realm of controllers and load screens with gusto. Frankly I’m envious of their success: I always had a private hope that she would someday sit with me as we pass controllers around, or as we both play our own games together. I guess it just took time. She got there, on her own terms, and it makes me happy. 
I show up at her place and we start playing the game. It’s a lot of fun. Music plays and the beat goes along as we trade comments on playing styles, laugh over mistakes, celebrate victories. Dimly I come to realize that the song playing now is that same K-Pop tune from the car yesterday. I’ve been absent-mindedly tapping my foot to it until now. I smirk at myself, inwardly. I tend to make mountains out of molehills, like I said. I try to stay out of my head as the game keeps going. I succeed, mostly.
It takes so much work to keep the bond strong. It takes a lot of thought and consideration, and a lot of talking. Scheduling time together, eking out space in each of our lives to be with one another. These are the logistical issues that need solving, and we’ve gotten rather good at dealing with them. But for me at least the hardest challenges come from within myself. I let simple, small things – as small as a silly song playing in my car – devolve into full-blown signs of some inevitable end. And I try to wrestle them down alone, often without success. The solution to this issue, the resolution to these worries, is nearly always as simple and small as the things which bring them about. Hearing the same song in another context. Seeing her decisions or words in a different light. Being reminded that, hey, it turns out we really do share quite a lot after all. We love games. We love stories, and characters. We love writing. Books. Walks on a warm day. Cuddling up together. Making each other laugh. When things get tough, we need to return to the loves we share, and they are not quite so few as I have worried they might be. After all we love each other, K-Pop be damned. 


smith12@stolaf.edu

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About the Author

Jack Smith, class of 2020 is a major.

smith12@stolaf.edu

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