I was such a sensitive teenager. The wind could blow clear through me and take with it some angsty dust from my bones, I was a poem in the style of Bon Iver lyrics. But I was always this way. As a kid I was often found with my headphones on and my CD player in my lap. I carried my Fellowes EXO Shock Absorbing CD case with me everywhere. My player of choice was a Sony discman Sports edition, black and yellow like a bumble bee with a hefty locking clasp on the lefthand side which kept your discs securely in place. It was full of magical anti-skip technology (for we remember the days before the anti-skip, may they rest in peace).
Between my sport-locked CD player and my “shock absorbing” CD case I was ready for any disaster that could befall a middle schooler – most of these envisioned as, apparently, dropping my entire CD collection out of a five-story building. This collection got started when my mom decided on one of those mail-order subscription services. We were a little behind the times. We still had cassette tapes, many with songs recorded from the radio that were interrupted by some daytime DJ. Everyone else had CDs, they sold CDs at Walmart, even our new car had a CD player in it! So, we picked a bunch of things from a catalogue that would arrive one by one over the next year: Journey, Three Dog Night, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, and my top choices involved the Goo Goo Dolls, Hanson, and Savage Garden (it was the late 90s, leave me alone). I played Dizzy Up the Girl so many times I’m surprised it didn’t split in half.
For many years following my parents’ divorce I spent every other weekend shuttled, by law, to my father for his visitations. I learned somewhere in the middle that keeping my headphones on kept the noise out. That EXO case followed me everywhere: school, the mall, the playground, the bus, the courtroom, the hospital, the car, my father’s house, my father’s apartment, my father’s trailer. It followed me into my Jeep when I could finally take myself where I wanted to go. It was as sturdy as promised. When I started making my own money as a teenager and I bought my first sound system I was so very proud. By “sound system” I mean “big ass CD player with 3-disc changing technology”, the genesis of my first shuffle playlist. Come to my house after school, we’ll lay on the floor and listen to my anti-anxiety mix, baby. I’ve been doing this since I was 10, I’m a seasoned pro, you’re in good hands. There will be carefully crafted afternoon tunes from my collection to your ears. Love, Brittany.
Brittany Thomas is a queer writer born and raised in upstate New York who currently lives in London. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Bullshit Lit, JAKE, Scrawl Place, The Daily Drunk Magazine, and Queerlings. You can find her on Twitter @britomatic.