Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 7

On “Walking on the Moon” by Ben Jatos

 

I was 13 years old and a seventh-grader at Shumway Junior High School, a cesspool of pubescent hormones and knockoff Polo cologne. Julie Hood was also in my grade and she was a goddess. She had red hair that was feathered perfectly, wore gorgeous light blue James Jeans with matching eye shadow, and always had on sexy, auburn colored feather earrings. I was just a dorky kid who happened to catch her eye and she was my girlfriend even though I didn’t know what that entailed. We held hands sometimes and that was good with me.

She tried to kiss me once but I bailed. It was the beginning of our relationship and I went to her house after school. We dropped off our stuff and she went into her bedroom to change clothes before we went to go to her neighborhood park. She emerged wearing a white tube top and tiny pink shorts while I had on a blue Izod polo and dark brown corduroy pants. I started to sweat. We held hands and walked the two blocks to Hidden Park. I don’t think I spoke the entire time. I had never kissed a girl at the time and she had definitely kissed a few boys. I knew it was my time. We got to the park and she guided me to a fallen log where we sat down next to each other. She was right next to me with her arm around me while I just avoided her stare and sweated. I made small talk about our silly History teacher and tried to get out of my own head about how I was just a giant failure with girls. It was amazingly awkward sitting there, torn between complete and utter fear and raw desire. After about ten agonizing minutes, I told her I had to leave and ran the three miles home. I forgot my backpack at her house.

Julie broke up with me the next day in a note as she returned my backpack and I wasn’t surprised. I still loved her with every ounce of my being. The next girl I went out with, Kellie Bain, was a step down from Julie but I needed to kiss someone to get it over with and wipe off the stench of my previous failure. The day after we started going out, I walked her to her first period class and before she went in, I held her close and stuck my tongue down her throat. It was so cool and easy that I repeated it several times that day. I was now a kid who kissed girls. Yep. Sweet.

I broke up with Kellie three days later and asked Julie if I could walk her home again. She had heard about my kissing prowess and said that sounded fun. We set it up for the next day. I wore the same blue polo and cords because I wanted to redeem myself. Again, we went to her house where she changed into a black halter-top and denim mini-skirt. I was so excited. We walked to the park where I took her to the log and kissed her before we were even sitting. We stayed there for 30 minutes kissing and kissing more and grinding, which I didn’t even know was a thing, and it was pretty much the best day of my 13 year old life. Finally, she said she had to go and I felt like I had proven myself. We walked back to her house, where I grabbed my backpack and headed out for the triumphant return back to my house. It was about a 45-50 minute walk so I took out my Sony Walkman and headphones and pushed “Play” as I left Julie’s.

Regatta de Blanc by The Police was the tape in my Walkman that day. It was one of my favorite tapes and I listened to it often but I think this is the first day I truly heard it. The first song was Message in a Bottle, which was relatively famous and it had always been my favorite on the tape. It was about loneliness, and what 13 year old didn’t feel alone? The fourth song was Bring on the Night, which was my second favorite prior to this listening. But it was when Side A finished and I turned the tape over to Side B that my song world changed.

Sting, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers. They were The Police and their song Walking on the Moon was my song that day and for many other days since.

Giant steps are what you take
Walking on the moon

As those lyrics entered my head, I was literally taking the lightest, happiest steps possible. It felt like I was floating.

We could walk forever
Walking on the moon

This was like crack to my 13-year-old brain. I had just completely made out with the love of my life and redeemed myself and it was going to last forever.

Walking back from your house
Walking on the moon
Feet they hardly touch the ground
Walking on the moon

I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk because Sting was speaking directly to me. I WAS walking back from her house. My feet WERE hardly touching the ground. This was amazing that a song could so incredibly sum up my feelings and life at this very moment. The song was five minutes of perfection and for the rest of my walk home I hit rewind after the song finished. I listened to that song seven times on the way home and another dozen or so that night. I had a song.

In the adolescent years that followed, Walking on the Moon served as a victory song of sorts. I would listen to it after a good date. I’d put it on after a great day at school. Each of the roughly seven hundred mixtapes I made for girls throughout my youth/early adult days opened with that song. Thank you, Sting.

Now I’m 49 years old, with a wife and a six year old daughter. I still listen to Walking on the Moon, but only when it comes on Pandora. It’s no longer a victory song for me, but rather a memory jog. It reminds me of days when the world was mine. Of days when hope was real and tangible. It reminds me of days when walking home after kissing a girl meant everything.

About the Author:

Ben Jatos is a 49 year old high school English teacher in Vancouver, Washington. His work has been published previously in Slice Magazine.

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