‘God Is In the Radio': A Short Story for Kelly
[Today is Kelly's birthday. I still miss her terribly. The following is a story I wrote in an academic setting and in her honor.]
God Is In the Radio
Radio waves are currently bouncing around your house, your car, and your body. There is music, information, the human voice, static and scrambled noise everywhere.
Before the FCC was formed to stop its menace, there existed a million-watt radio station. It was so powerful that it fried the brains of nearby birds, their corpses littering the base of the transmitter tower like sacrifices at a skeletal, metal temple. For miles, supposing you had any metal fillings in your teeth, you could grab barbed wire and hear the broadcast inside your head.
I love the receiver, the object that receives the radio waves and deciphers them into sound. I love best the stunningly and sleekly designed mid-century modern radio. Once I saw a mint-colored mod radio hollowed out and converted to a planter for hens-and-chicks. That caused me a twitch of pain through my neck and shoulders. Humans can have empathy for nearly everything.
Radios are used for news, like the soothingly flat and detached news I prefer, stoically recited by folks with unusual and exotic names, or “news” that’s some horrid, spitting rant that inspires old folks into new levels of disagreeableness. I don’t like to be told how to feel about the news, I want to chew it up and digest it in my own time, in accordance with my own metabolism.
I need more time to process a tragedy and less time spent angry about perceived injustices.
Radios play endless music, be it hits, be it oldies, be it "positive and uplifting." On weekends, there are pretentious snoozers that limp along all the way from Lake Woebegone.
Clock radios still exist as backups for cellphone alarms, and your cellphone likely has an FM receiver in it, it’s a radio, too. My mother listens to me on her streaming device so I sneak in “hellos” to her at least once a week. A few seconds well spent if she happens to hear it.
My receiver is my nightlight because it has a bright rainbow-colored amplitude display. I leave it on classical music at night so I can cover the noise of the man who likes to walk hard and frequently above me. I leave it on during the day, so my cat has a human voice to hear. I leave it on and on.
Distracted, I catch clips of a favorite song, just out of my audial periphery:
...I know that God is in the radio...
...The narcotic from me to you...
...Come back. Another day. Do no wrong...
I do wrong constantly, but I have always returned to my studio, even after my friend Kelly died and left it haunted with a thousand what-ifs.
What if I had been a better friend?
What if I hadn't been out with a rotten tooth?
What if I had said, or not said, something, anything, everything differently?
I know it's not about me. I was a footnote in her life; she is a chapter in mine. I allow myself the comfort that maybe, unbeholden to her physicality, she’s bouncing all around in waves, and if I’m open to her, I’ll receive her. In my mind, I can hear her voice as clearly as my own, unregulated, a million watts.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Resource information is provided for free as well as a chat message service. To speak directly to a professional, call 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone and help is available. Every life is important.