Justin Duke

Listening to Chance

The summer before I went to Seattle, I probably had my peak mix CD of all time (an artifact which, sadly, has been lost, victim to a shitty Dell laptop’s hard drive). The third song on the CD was Cocoa Butter Kisses, and I listened to it on every drive. M was in the passenger seat for so many of those rides, and while we never had the alacrity or the memory for Twista’s verse ,we’d shout the hook at each other whenever we could.

We spilled so much happiness out of the windows, driving on I-64, the sixty miles between Richmond and Williamsburg.

The first full day in Seattle, I was sitting in my new apartment — my first apartment — in Belltown, in the corner of the living room with the window that faced the Elliott Bay and the Space Needle. It was me, my dad, and a cardboard trove of unassembled Ikea furniture. He was working on the bed (“This one’s gonna be a bitch to set up”, he counselled me) and I was easing myself into things with the coffee table. I didn’t have any speakers, but I propped open my laptop and started listening to Long Time II. “Why are you listening to this shit?” he asked. 1 I smiled and went back to work.

M visited me in Seattle the week Wonderful Everyday came out, Chance’s cover of the Arthur theme song. This wasn’t a nostalgic track for me — I was more of an NBC child than a PBS child. But the corner of the track, when the drums come in, the most exultant moment in music — we danced in the living room, slow and fast and slow and fast. It was a couple nights before she had to leave, and we were playing house, and it felt like everything was as it should be.

(I think I might have made margaritas, as per the custom for us. I can’t be sure.)

The night my grandma died, I was in Florida, and the world was chaos. I’m pretty bad with emotions, and dealing with the first major death in my life while also handling my family was overwhelming in a way I hadn’t experienced since childhood. I didn’t know what to do — I still don’t know what to do. I snuck out of the house at five in the morning — after my brother and father had gone to bed and before my aunt would wake up — and went for a run. 2

I listened to Sunday Candy again and again and again.

I remembered when I was younger and when Grandma and Grandpa would take us to night mass on Christmas Eve. I remembered hating having to dress up, having to tuck my polo into my slacks. I remember getting back at night and curling up on the couch — Grandma would ask if I wanted water, or a cookie, or a blanket, or anything at all. I remembered her bowl of Wurther’s. I remembered her beige jacket, the one with the brooch. I remembered high school graduation and the way she looked at me.

I remembered brilliant colors.

I listened to Sunday Candy again and again and again.

Chance’s third album, Coloring Book, came out on Thursday night. I found out through Twitter — I dropped what I was doing (cleaning my bathroom) and fumbled my way to an Apple Music subscription so I could listen to it. It was so good. I can’t remember the last time an album made me feel this happy: I sat there, quiet after the final song ended. I listened to How Great on repeat a couple more times.

Then I listened to the entire album over and over until three in the morning, until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

I fell asleep smiling.


  1. My dad honestly doesn’t swear that much. Ikea furniture does strange things to people. [return]
  2. I didn’t have running shoes, so it was more of an emotional powerwalk. [return]
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