weez (of caught daydreaming) wanted to write something with me, and you can only imagine how excited i was when she chose “car radio” by twenty one pilots as our prompt. the only twenty one pilots song she knew. (for now, at least;)
and she came up with the coolest idea – writing from the perspective of the person who stole the radio.
if this is beyond confusing to you, listen to the song first, i beg you. it’s right here.
if you can’t listen right now, the lyrics to the song are here.
so here is my attempt at this fabulous idea of weez’s. hers will be linked below 🙂
he didn’t deserve it any more than i did. besides, i just hated that kid. he had this way of catching your eye in the middle of a daydream, and seeing right into your thoughts. he never said anything, but i felt like he had stolen from me in those moments. i hated him for it.
he was also too confident – not in himself but in the goodwill of others. he left his car unlocked, his textbooks on tables. that simple, unreasonable faith prickled on the back of my neck and kneaded my stomach into angry knots. if he decided to leave his trust in humanity, then i was determined to give him what humanity will inevitable give: regret. i wanted to see his face as i chewed and spit out the faith he had placed in my hands.
he didn’t deserve it. any more than i did; my car was more banged up than his, plus my radio was missing before i even handed over the cash.
the stupid kid, he left his car unlocked. he was practically asking for it.
it was a simple job, something i could do with my eyes closed; a couple basic tools and two minutes and that was all it would take.
. . .
two minutes, and i was across campus in another parking lot, panting in the front seat of my senile honda. for some reason my heart was beating like i had just finished a marathon, even though i did jobs like this all the time. the radio was in one hand, a cd in the other. i hadn’t found any cash or anything lucky in there, just some trashy disks. one looked homemade, with his name on it, so i snatched it. maybe i’d find some dirt on this kid. i needed to find some dirt on this kid; he was too clean, too soft. too christian-scholarship-athlete-honors-example kid.
i hadn’t touched a cd or listened to the radio in years. first of all, music wasn’t my thing. i didn’t have the time to waste on it; it distracted me from the task at hand.
but – this kid saw something in music. i swear, the buttons on that radio were the most worn down i had ever seen. i craved the idea of taking that luxury from him. because, it’s a luxury – distraction is. and i, of anyone, deserved to treat myself after everything life had thrown at me.
i looked down at my hands. they were trembling, and i didn’t know why. unexplainable things like that get on my nerves. so i quickly tossed the radio and cd on the passenger seat. too much thinking – it was messing with me. i jammed the keys into the ignition and roared my car back across campus, where i knew the kid was just getting out of class.
the exit doors opened and i saw his face, and i hated that face more than ever now that i had broken his trust. and he didn’t know it yet. the simplicity, the oblivion as he shielded his eyes from the sun: i had never felt hatred so keenly. hatred – and something else. i couldn’t name it, but it make my palms sweat. it was a catalyst to the hatred.
in what seemed like an eternity he had crossed the distance to his car. his hand was on the door handle. suddenly I realized that i was gripping the wheel so hard that my knuckles were white. i cursed myself and swerved into a parking space. the tires screeched too loud, and i glanced with panic over to where the kid was. but he hadn’t noticed.
he was standing outside his open car door, fixed. a black backpack had slipped down his arm but he didn’t seem aware of it. his face was completely expressionless, eyes lost in the glaring hole in his dashboard, desperately grasping for something. but that something was mine now, resting like a boulder on my passenger seat; suddenly, oh, so heavy.
i wanted to feel gloating and successful in that moment. i wanted to be hit with the wave of dopamine that would rush in when i saw the anger i expected in his eyes; as his trust was shattered. i wanted to be proud of the fact that i was the one who was teaching him a lesson, a life lesson.
but there wasn’t any anger in his eyes. they seemed to have been consumed by the hole in his dashboard, and then dulled. he slowly slung his backpack into the backseat and sat down – slowly. for a minute he stared into space, and then slid the keys into the ignition and backed up. noiselessly.
i felt cold. clammy. my palms were damp as i wiped them on my knees and then grabbed the steering wheel in frustration. thoughts – they were crowding around me, pushing; trying to scale the wall of nihilism i had surrounded myself with for as long as i remember as a defense. i didn’t even know why it was being threatened, why this stupid job was messing with my head.
distraction: what i had just stolen.
i lunged over and grabbed the radio with a force that surprised myself. suddenly i was aware of the hatred again, the fuel it provided me. i latched onto it, and felt myself sinking. away from thoughts, though.
distraction. the radio was in my hands now, and in a few moments i had installed it. the buttons were so worn down that i couldn’t figure out how to turn it on for a minute. but the years of dissembling and fixing and sabotaging and selling came in handy.
a voice like liquid sour candy filled the car. sugary to the point of bitterness, and combined with the obnoxious synths that reminded me of why i hated music. it wasn’t a distraction, it was a like a dog whistle that filled my head with high-pitched whining. i scrambled to turn it off.
i grabbed the cd. it had his name on it, but was otherwise unmarked. i had no idea what could be on it. but i was desperate for distraction. desperate to find satisfaction in what i had stolen. desperate to justify.
this time, music filled my car. and it was his voice; i knew it from those rare times when he answered questions in class. the professor’s eyebrows always raised a certain way when he spoke in class. i never understood why, and that was another thing i held against him.
but this was definitely him. and not even a shadow of the sour candy type of music. it was piano, and drums, and some amateur mixing. and it was heavy – so, so heavy. not like metal is heavy, but his words – each of them were weighed down. each of them seemed to sink into my chest. the radio seemed to be pulling my entire car into the ground.
i didn’t know what was happening. but i stopped resisting, and suddenly tears were being dragged down my cheeks, for the first time in years. those walls of nihilism; they were crumbling away with every word. i slumped back on my seat.
the next day, i was in class on time, waiting for the kid to show up. we had one period together – one opportunity.
but he came late. stumbled inside with a hoodie over his head. all i could see as he passed by me to sit in the back rows were dark circles under his eyes. i knew that i was responsible for them.
i didn’t hear a word of the lecture. i knew that he didn’t either. all i could hear was his voice ringing – singing – in my head. all i wanted was to rush over to him, throw the car radio at his feet. get rid of the enormous weight i had carried around all night.
class was over. i immediately turned around –
and he was gone.
he never came back.
the car radio sat in my car for a while. every time i looked at it, it became heavier. until one day, i just threw it off a bridge. i watched it sink into the river and knew that nothing could drown the weight of the world that this kid carried on his shoulders. that he carried in his words.
i had taken his music – his distraction – from him. and i would never forget what i had done; but i would never regret it either. that car radio belonged on the bottom of the river.
now he just sits in silence.
this was somewhat based on a true story. while in college, tyler joseph’s car radio was stolen from his car. and soon after he quit school and went full-time with his band twenty one pilots.
he had previously recorded an album of his own, called no phun intended.
he went on to change the world.
now go read weez’s words: https://justcaughtdaydreaming.wordpress.com/2020/08/19/i-stole-his-car-radio