Of all the things you can look at in a Wa Wa I'm looking at a young man who's covering his ears while standing in the line leading to the cash register. He’s piqued my curiosity, so I sidle up alongside him and subtly nudge him and ask him why. "Why are you covering your ears, man?" "What?" I say louder, “Why are you covering your ears?" The guy nods towards the window.
Out in the parking lot, his ears now freed of his hands, the guy tells me how he often hears songs when he's driving. I ask him if he means songs playing on the radio. "No," he says. "I hear my own songs, in my head." He expounds and then tells me he was singing a song that reminded him of the Caribbean Island of St Thomas as he was driving here this morning; it was a new song that came out of the rhythm of the wet tires as he drove, he said, but as soon as he walked into Wa Wa, it was swallowed by an onslaught of electronic noise.
"But you had your ears covered," I protested. "No, not in time, I didn't cover them up fast enough." I laughed, and he noticed. "It's not funny," he said. "I lost it, and now it's gone. Gone! And it was a good song. It was St Thomas." I was listening now. "And it was mia cancion, and I should have known better. I've lost songs in there before. A lot of ‘um! I've lost a lot of good songs in Wa Wa's!"
"I'm sorry," I said, not knowing what else to say, and he shrugged again as he stepped around me and walked towards his maroon Honda. "But that's it!" he called back to me. “No more! The next time I come here I'm going to cover my ears as soon as I step out of the car. I'm tired of this, sick and tired of it! I come here because I like their hoagies, but I'm not going to lose any more songs in Wa Wa!"
Ron Kostar is a writer and musician who lives in the historic WPA town of Roosevelt, NJ. He has published poems and short stories and articles on sports and art in several magazines and newspapers, including the Roosevelt Bulletin and Trenton Times, YB, Askew, Tiferet, the BluePrint Review, For Here or To Go, In the Mail, the Kelsey Review, … and love, the Princeton Review and US 1. After years of teaching writing and a cross-discipline course centered in literature, he currently teaches English to adult Spanish students and is the clarinet player and vocalist for two swing bands. Ron has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University. He and his partner of many years, Deirdre, a painter, have two grown children.