The song is an enchanting time machine. While I was driving my work van full of kids the other day, a song came on the radio that I hadn’t heard in about a decade. It took me back. For a moment I was an awkward young teen at a dimly lit and dismally decorated dance, held in the dank basement of my town’s YMCA. It was a Friday night in the late ’90s. In present time I almost crashed into an oncoming car, which would have had horrible implications for my career, not to mention the lives of the eight children in my care. But I was teary-eyed. I was reliving a night that would forever warp the way that I would feel about “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Aerosmith’s power-ballad written for the movie Armageddon.
Previously, said song had the same effect on me as it did most teenagers living in the suburbs of Boston. “Aerosmith used to be so cool,” I would say, thinking of my greatest hits tape I bought in the bargain bin of the local record store. “They really used to rock hard. What is this shit?” It would be this shit that would make me hide in the moldy locker room, adjacent to the dance, and cry my sorry eyes dry.
The day before the dance, Kera Russet promised me a slow dance. Kera Russet was a normal 7th grade girl. She was concerned with TRL, doing well on her school work and making plans with her friends. She was short and absolutely adorable. I was totally smitten by her. And, as with most infamous romances, mine was unrequited. With the excitement of the YMCA dance looming in our immediate future, Kera told me that she would save me a dance. I did not sleep that night.
Although I wore my coolest Jinko pants and used a liberal amount of my father’s aftershave, life did not follow my intricate planning. Granted, had I gotten my promised dance, Kera would have been seduced by my ability to sway from side to side as I held her waist and stood arm’s length away from her. And had she been seduced, surely, more than ten years later, Kera and I would still happily be swaying to the current Top 40s. Our mirthful future all but sealed, I strutted into the Y, making sure to pull my baggy pants up to my thighs, with a naive confidence.
“Um, David, that was a car.”
“Yes, Patrick,” I said, responding to the child sitting behind me in the van while wiping my teary eyes. “That was a car.” I was annoyed. Patrick was interrupting my moment. I spent $5 to get into the dance. Once inside, I hung around the wall most of the evening with the other kids who were too cool to dance but decided to pay to go to a dance anyway. I bided my time. I don’t recall if I hadn’t yet seen her or if I was waiting for a particularly special song to dance to, but the evening was quickly approaching its end. The DJ announced the last song.
I could stay awake just to hear you breeeathin’
My heart kicked at my chest. My head spun around, the dance floor circled me. All those uncoordinated feet! Which belonged to my sweet, sweet Kera?
Watch you smile while you are sleeping, while you’re far away and dreeeeaming
I grew panicked. I was losing valuable time.
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender, I could stay lost in this moment foreeever
And then I saw her. She looked beautiful, but her hands weren’t where they were supposed to be. They should have been on my shoulders, arm’s length away from the rest of her body. Instead, she was arm’s length away from Dirk Sinclair. I stood there for a moment, dumbstruck.
Where every moment spent with you is a moment I treeaasssuuurrrre
Feeling my lip quiver, I though I would take the solitary road to the men’s locker room before anyone saw me cry. It was better that people thought I was too cool for this stupid song than heartbroken. I sat on a bench alone and cried woefully as Steven Tyler brought all the wrong emotions to my ears, muffled only by stucco walls.
Don’t wanna close my eyesI don’t want to fall asleep Because I’d miss you babe And I don’t want to miss a thing.
“David, are you crying?”
“No, Patrick. Change the station, this song is stupid.”
One day, maybe Patrick will know how that song makes me feel, even a lifetime after its original airplay. Maybe when he hears the same song in days to come he will feel the impending fear of near head-to-head car collisions. I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I like to think that there are songs like these out there for everyone. Songs we may love or not really care for, but that take us back to a brief moment in our past. That bring us back to a more innocent time, a happier time, or a heart-wrenching time. Kera, if you’re out there - I still miss you babe, and I don’t want to miss a thing.