It doesn't matter how strenuously I'm working out during my exercise class: when the CD gets to "Eye of the Tiger," I smile, and I may even laugh if my lungs aren't otherwise occupied. I used to associate the song with high school football games, but then one of the students on the California Lit trip dreamed up (literally) entirely new lyrics, and then when she reported the dream (and the lyrics) to the rest of us, we laughed.
Here's the thing: I don't even remember the lyrics or which student dreamed them up. All I remember is the flash of joy the lyrics brought to the group, and it's that joy the song recovers for me.
A similar thing happened this morning when I heard the familiar doot-doot-doot-do-DO-do-do-doot-doot rhythm coming through the speakers and suddenly I was transported back to a junior-high math class in which a friend was trying to teach me the steps to the Hustle. I couldn't do it then and wouldn't want to try now, but "The Hustle" inevitably takes me back to that moment when a cheerleader stepped outside her usual social stratum and tried to teach me to dance. (In math class. Don't even ask.)
Now that cheerleader sat in front of me in that class for most of the year, which is how we got to be good enough friends so that she would buy me a Pet Rock for my birthday, and then when she was killed in a car wreck a few months later, I skipped classes so I could go to the funeral. I still have the Pet Rock (in its original box so maybe it's worth something, but the box is a bit battered so maybe not). The rock's name is Marvin.
The cheerleader's name? No idea. "The Hustle" brings her face back to me as clearly as if we were still standing in Miss Fike's algebra class, but her name has fallen into that black hole hidden in the darkest corner of memory's closet.
Music provides a powerful key to that closet, bringing to light scenes that have been lurking in the shadows unnoticed for years, but it also reveals the existence of the black hole. Who knows what's down there? For all I know, my old cheerleader friend is in that undiscovered country singing comical new lyrics to "Eye of the Tiger."