“I like the second song best. It’s the jungle song on this one,” Ash says. She tosses me the CD. I fumble with it and drop it flat on her carpet. On it, she has scribbled Pink Floyd, The Greatest Hits as a joke.
“What’s the jungle song?”
“It’s a theory I have. That every mix-tape anyone makes has one song that sounds like the jungle on it. I think you’ll like the jungle song on this one. I gave you ‘The World Is All There Is’ by Fool’s Gold.”
“Is the world all there is?” I ask as I sit down next to the CD and rest my back against the foot of her bed. Long shadows cast on my legs. I wonder what time it is. I wonder what day it is.
“It’s a song, Cardo. I don’t know.”
I pick up the CD. I rub her scribbly writing, and the ink smudges. I look up, and she stares at me.
“What’d you use, expo marker?”
“Maybe, does it matter?”
I shrug. Ash goes back to throwing more of her closet into a box. She stacks it on top of the cardboard mountain accumulating in the corner of her room. Her life is stuffed into cardboard boxes from a UPS in Bel Air, soon to be a few cardboard boxes in a dumpster in Brooklyn.
Bel Air to Brooklyn. What a fucking joke.
She comes up and sits next to me. Her dress goes up a little bit, and I catch the tattoo she has on her thigh. It’s a bird nest that she drew. One of the eggs hasn’t hatched, and she says that’s her—an egg incubating in it’s own world, not ready to come out yet.
Yeah, that’s what she tells me.
“Don’t forget how much I love that tattoo, okay?”
She pulls down her dress. It has a bunch of little rainbows on it. I love it too.
“I won’t. You, just don’t forget to listen to that jungle song.”
I look around the room and see piles of old laundry and trash everywhere and think about how depressing this conversation is. I don’t like it, and I don’t think Ash does either. Sad, sad, sad, sad, no thanks.
“Hey, let’s listen to it now.”
Her face doesn’t change. She isn’t surprised, which makes me a little sad. In fact, she laughs a little. “Okay.”
“Do you have some speakers?”
She gets up—holding down her dress to her body very particularly. She lays out her hand like she’s presenting a pearl and I place the CD carefully like it’s an atomic bomb.
The pearl and the atom bomb. Sounds like a Bradbury book.
She walks over to the huge stereo by her window.
“Oh…” I say, embarrassed at not having noticed the monstrous thing. I watch her like she’s an engineer—pressing the eject, putting the CD in, closing it shut, twisting the volume nob up loud.
The song plays. I smile at her knowing eyes. Jungle song. I get it.
We dance like Southerners. We dance like our parents. We dance like there’s fire under our feet. We dance like we’re autumn and spring and summer but not winter. We dance like couscous in boiling water. We dance like bachata and salsa and tango. We dance like we’re in a lion fight. She sings along because she knows the words, and I pretend I do too.