Written for a music prompts game. The prompt was “When My Boy Walks Down the Street” by Magnetic Fields.
In early cartoons, buildings and trees sway together to music while the main character walks along, usually whistling. Everything is perfect and happy, and even the sun will bounce along the clouds to show how good life is.
That’s what it’s like when my boy walks down the street. Flowers reach out for him to touch. Newspaper headlines change from death and doom to cheer and joy. Buildings stand up straighter. Musicals burst out on street corners. Cabs jaunt along, smiling from grill to tailpipe.
Maybe I’m the only one who sees it.
I know him the minute he turns the corner, and I watch him make his way down the block to our favorite breakfast café . As I watch I can see the sunbeams rush to warm his face and the passers-by wish him good morning and the birds perch on branches to chirp his name. “Chris,” they tweet, “good morning, Chris!” I can see it so clearly it’s a wonder he doesn’t stop to sing along like an urban, pants-wearing Cinderella.
If I drew this into one of my cartoons people would dismiss it as outdated — Nobody does anthropomorphic buildings anymore! It’s a relic from a bygone era! — but there’s a joy so palpable, so complete, that you want to share it with everyone, everything, everywhere, from the ladybugs flitting from rose to rose to the shopkeepers sweeping their front stoops to the clouds that spell out his name.
He sees me from half a block away and starts smiling. If this were a cartoon he’d start dancing, too, a tap dance down the pavement to say “I love you and I’m so happy to see you.” All the waiters in the café would dance out with him, white aprons immaculate in the morning sun, serving trays flashing and gleaming. The fire hydrant and the mailbox would sing accompaniment, yearning after him as he danced past, and all the chairs on the café’s patio would move aside to clear his path.
But since this is real life and dancing chairs are hard to come by, I just rise when he joins me and he kisses my cheek with a soft, “Ben. Hey.” We stand in the morning sun, heads tipped together, until Chris pulls back and sits at our table.
He drinks the coffee I ordered for him, and I tell him, “You’ll never guess the cartoon I was planning just now.”
I shake my head and smile too. A boy’s got to have some secrets. Besides, this cartoon may be how I finally ask him to marry me, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Our waiters serve us singing, and on either side of the street the buildings dance.