The room is quiet, except for the occasional page turning or the underlying click-clack of laptop keyboards. The fluorescent lights shine over many toiling (or most likely slacking) high school students, their sweatshirts showing a school name in varying shades of navy, gray, or white. The teacher at the front of the room vaguely scribbles in the margin of some paper they’re grading, probably for the oh-so-lofty upperclassmen they’d rather be dealing with. Nobody likes supervising ninth graders.
I always sit about the fifth row up, in a chair that swings out to the right. I can’t concentrate if the chair goes the other direction. Today, however, concentration is not on my mind. I only have Spanish homework left, and my severe dislike of the subject prevents me from caring if I do a good job or not. The workbook pages pass quickly, with a little help from GoogleTranslate and the dictionary at the back of the chapter. There are more important matters at hand.
Back in the good old days of freshman year, my school hadn’t figured out how to block many music listening websites. There was Youtube, of course (and there still is, thank goodness), but for those of us who took our music seriously and didn’t want to pay, there was Pandora.
Laptop click-thunks open, headphones settle gently into ears. Click-click-click with the mouse and the lovely blue Pandora screen appears. Pandora, simple and brilliantly easy: input an artist, and the algorithms within the program spits back songs by similar artists. It’s better than listening to the radio, with fewer commercials.
So, what shall I listen to today? Well, let’s see what the algorithm gives me. Silence, then tick-tick-tick of a high hat cymbal, then the slow, dull boom-boom of a bass drum. I’ve never heard this song before. Before I can think anything else, fuzzy guitar distortion pounds my ears, and then a voice, gravelly and electronic, and then guitar the riff everyone knows, even if they don’t know where it’s from. I do know this song, but I’m not thinking anymore.
The guitar and the drums reverberate all through my body. I can feel the vibration in the floor. My boots are stuck to the ground, my head feels like it’s about to explode. I’m suddenly a million pounds. I can’t think, or feel, or do anything but listen. I don’t know if my eyes are open or closed, if I’m standing or sitting anymore. As the tempo rises and the guitars shriek, I’m flying too. Just as I’m sure the song is ending, the distortion rises and I slam back into my body, back from my journey riding the spikes and valleys of jagged vocals and throbbing drums. The song peters out with a long trail of background static and one last note.
I remember to breathe again. The feeling slowly returns to my fingers. My feet unstick themselves from the floor. The weight lifts. I experimentally shift in my chair, and my whole body protests. I’ve cramped up in the four minutes I’ve been sitting here. Dazedly, I gather my things for my next class, not sure what just happened or what I just heard. The song plays back through my thoughts. Belatedly, I check the song listing, and a surprised chuckle escapes my throat in this quiet room. The little box flashes an album cover, and the words “Iron Man” followed by the artist. I stop, and frown, and then smile as recognition dawns. Black Sabbath. Still grinning, I leave for my next class, humming under my breath.