– Ryan Frisinger
Mick Jagger’s a nice enough guy, for a rock star. Chatted with him once over coffee—sort of. Listened to him all growing up, never dreamed I’d meet him. My old man, with his records and Rolling Stones tee-shirt—the iconic lip-tongue graphic diminished to a cracked tooth and single taste bud from years and miles of spin cycles—saw to it I was well-acquainted, prepared for the big day.
Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is, deployed from the hi-fi in our basement, ascended the stairs to bedrooms and kitchen. My father’s favorite, he’d skip ahead to just the right groove on the vinyl and rouse the sleepy, Sunday-morning household with wails and blares, as much from his throat as the set of Yamahas.
Afternoons, he’d fish out his old acoustic guitar, teach me a few chords. The wood trapping so tightly the decades-old burning of joints and teenage passion, that if I pressed my nose against the bridge, I’d cross into the past. Like a reverse crystal ball, pot-smoke parting to reveal what was. Two sets of carved initials on the neck of the instrument, my dad’s and another’s. When I asked who they belonged to, he smiled, laughed a little, and said, “Your mother,” which, of course, wasn’t true.
He died of a heart-attack on a Saturday night. That afternoon, he’d taken off work; came out to support my own teenage efforts at a rock band. My buddies and I played a downtown street festival. He recorded the whole thing with his cell phone; never took his eyes or smile off me for the entire half-hour. The morning after, once my mom, sisters, and I returned from the hospital, I contemplated firing up the stereo as a sort of last tribute. Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is. The record was halfway out of its sleeve, before I changed my mind.
Senior in high-school, boy to man overnight, I figured it was about time I found my own pair of initials to show me the ways of the world, take my mind off things. C.A. sat two desks over in chemistry. Lab coat filled out in just the right places. She’d come to see our band play once.
I approached her one Tuesday after class. “You wanna hang out sometime?”
“Thursday. My parents will be gone.”
She seemed to know what she was doing. Lights were off, music on when I arrived. Coolly, she invited me to the couch.
Recognizing the tune immediately, I wiped my sweaty palms on the legs of my jeans as I sunk in. “You like the Stones?”
“My parents do, and I know you do, because of that shirt you always wear,” she said, referring to the ratty keepsake I’d claimed as part of my inheritance.
We kissed and fumbled, groped and moaned—not because the passion had escalated to such heights, but because we’d heard movie stars make the same sorts of noises in films we weren’t supposed to have seen. Mr. Jagger’s howling vocals accompanied the pair of us down the first base line. Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is.
Auxiliary percussion—jangle of house keys, rattling door knob, quickening footsteps—provided a sudden and unwelcomed complement to the sweet melody. The shouting of names—not like I’d imagined or seen in the movies—ripped out-of-breath bodies apart on the couch. Shamed head hung, I followed the ferocious glare and pointed finger of her father’s hand out the front door.
“Tell your mother to expect a phone call.”
I never spoke to C.A. again. And, of course, those initials never made it onto the back of my guitar.
Our band broke up the night before graduation. It was supposed to be just another rehearsal. I spent an hour beforehand, writing out chords and lyrics to a cover song we wanted to learn—Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is—but, never got to. Donny showed up drunk, Neil never did, and Mike was dead set on ending it: “We’ll all be living in different places next fall, I don’t see the point.”
With no other plans for the summer, I took a road trip out to LA. Spent a day people-watching at a trendy coffeehouse in the Silver Lake district. Mid-afternoon, in struts Mick, shades and unassuming green scarf to hide behind. I’d know that face anywhere. Out of instinct, respect, I stood up immediately, like he was the President or something. Drying palms on pant legs, I started forward.
I wanted to tell him about the music—what it meant to me, to my dad, how it stayed with me even when my dad didn’t. I wanted to break into my father’s favorite song: Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is. Maybe Mick would join in for a duet. I wanted to tell him that underneath my jacket, I was wearing an old, faded tee-shirt that I wished I wasn’t.
Most of all, I wanted to tell him he’s a liar.
Ryan Frisinger is a professor of English, holding an M.F.A. in Writing from Lindenwood University. He is also an accomplished songwriter, whose work has been featured in numerous television shows, such as America’s Next Top Model and The Real World. His non-musical writing has appeared in publications like Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The MacGuffin, and Punchnel’s. He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his more-talented wife and couldn’t-care-less cat.