In one of my cardboard boxes, I found a folder with some work samples from my time as a book club manager at Scholastic.
While rifling through the R.L. Stine Goosebumps newsletters and colorful seasonal book catalogs I used to edit, a typed out note on white paper fluttered through the air and landed on the floor. It took me only seconds to realize what it was: a note from my former co-worker, Nelson, a kind man, the production manager of the creative team.
The words gracing the page were in Spanish, and though I hadn’t thought of them or heard them in years, I knew they were the lyrics of a song.
Nuestro tema esta …
Cantado con arena, espuma y aves del amanecer.
I rushed to the computer. Standing in front of the monitor, I typed in YouTube, then the words:
The song appeared in the search bar. I held my breath.
You know the kind of breath holding I mean?
When you know you’re about to get the wind knocked out of you … but in a good way?
I pressed play and waited to get the wind knocked out of me.
And, as I could have predicted, I was overcome … a wave rolled over me.
I closed my eyes. And smiled.
* * *
The song, by Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez, was on a mixed tape someone made me. Smitten by Rodriguez’s voice and guitar, I brought the tape into work and asked Nelson, a native Spanish speaker, to listen and transcribe the lyrics for me. (This was back before there was “lyricsfreak” and other easily available websites.) Even though my high school Spanish was rough, when I got the words from him, I immediately understood enough of the sentiment, and some of the imagery to know for certain it was a love song. A metaphor. A painting in words. Pure poetry.
” …besos a las seis de la manana”
Best of all, with the words in hand, I could sing along to the achingly beautiful voice.
Which is what I did for weeks and weeks and weeks until I eventually lost interest … and track of the song.
* * *
“Nuestro tema esta… Nos cuesta tanto
Que ya es un sueo y una cancion.”
Back in the present, I hummed along, thankful for the easy access of YouTube (and wishing I had never given away my Yellow Sony Walkman…who would’ve guessed?)
I only became aware of my breath again when the song was finished. I had apparently let it out at some point. My chest was relaxed; my shoulders loosened. My soul lighter. The wave had passed over me and back out to shore.
For this is what “Nuestro Tema” always did for me. Let me believe I could let go of some of the weight of the beauty and agony of this world, knowing that others were bearing it for me.
I couldn’t have told you all that then, though. That stuff about the beauty and the agony. About carrying the weight of it all on my shoulders.
I didn’t understand it then. The weight of all that beauty … that agony. The ability to let it go when we listen to music or allow our hearts to swell with someone else’s description of it.
All I knew is that I loved the song so much I had to know the words.