Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM


If My Past Were to Sing a Song | “a tape for what i couldn’t say” by Them and I

If My Past Were to Sing a Song | “a tape for what i couldn’t say” by Them and I

There’s a box of tapes in my basement. It’s old and dusty, and the camcorder buried with it is far past hope for repair. The tapes are labeled in my mother’s loopy scrawl: “Christmas 2007,” “Reva’s 1st Birthday,” “Disney, 2008.” These are the beautiful things that somehow disappeared among my years of remembering times tables and the birthdays of all of my friends.

Little snippets of memory, like the way my young mother’s smile looked and the cowlick of my sister’s baby hair seemed to fall down the hierarchy of my memories. They were discarded into a small box in the basement of my mind labeled “PAST.” But everything comes back when I listen to “a tape for what i couldn’t say.” The crow’s feet dissolve from my mother’s eyes. The hair grows on my father’s head. My sister’s hands are soft and small; I can put them in mine and every angry word will dissolve on my tongue.  

The beginning of the song comes with the comforting click of a cassette, a sound lost on the naive ears of today’s young. The tape whirrs and time travels backwards. The melody starts with the chirping of birds. They sound like the ones that used to live in the woods behind my house. Sometimes on Sunday mornings when I’m home, I’ll hear them. I imagine they are the sons and daughters of the very same ones that used to wake me on the warm Sunday mornings of my youth.

There is a rustle of wind and I remember the bright neon of the grass and the electric blue of the sky. It doesn’t look like that anymore. I have to wear my pink-tinted sunglasses to even get close. When did the world become so gray? Is it just my eyes growing older, or does the Earth wilt with my spirit?

The guitar comes like slow moving water, the trickling kind that used to run through the dirt paths of the park behind my house after it rained. Carefully blended with the “ahs” of the background voices in harmony, it sounds like what I imagine would welcome me when I inevitably enter the other side. They say heaven is contentment and peace. If that’s true, then for me the door to heaven is the same color purple as the front door of my childhood home.

Babe /

Swallowed my words /

I choked on a though /

That I wish you had heard.”

It always seems to be in the middle of some intense childhood recollection that I remember the present. It is less of a crash down to reality and more of a slow descent. Them & I’s voice settles down on the instrumental scene with the same grace as my uncovered reality.

The truth is, nothing is the same. Nostalgia is fleeting and my youth has passed. My sister and I don’t play pretend anymore. Bickering turns to fights and cuts turn to wounds. Sometimes I forget to say “I love you.” Time seems infinite until it’s gone; I regret every unsaid word. Them & I recites that sentiment in the sweet, calm way I sometimes can’t bring myself to replicate. 

Stay /

At least for a song.

My mom always says to my sister and I, “Friends and lovers are fleeting, but family is for life.” We always roll our eyes, but she is right. Every final word and every cruel exit, though hurtful, never feels infinite. Some powerful ribbon ties us together with a triple-knot.

 Them & I utters one final gospel with the last lyric: 

You could never make mistakes /

But you could sure do me /


I’ve said so many things I’ve regretted in my life. I’ve uttered the phrases “I hate you” and “I’ll never forgive you” far too many times for the words to mean anything. But I’ve also been on the receiving end of that very same sentiment. It seems that to grow old doesn’t always mean to grow up. The ugly truth is that loving isn’t linear, just like the ascending and descending notes of the guitar tune. But, in the end, you can make me mad, but I would never be angry with you. I am full of rage, but every hateful molecule in my being is matched with a loving one. 

The song “a tape for what i couldn’t say” is only just over one minute long, but it captures the beat of my young, shallow, asthma-induced breaths. It paints the picture of my sister’s last gap-toothed smile. It remembers the moments my fragile mind has forgotten. I’ll always thank my mother for the tapes she collected of our youth. The dust on the box is now wiped away, the grain of the footage becomes pixels on my laptop screen. I replay our memories over and over, just as I do this song.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Riya Patchava
Riya Patchava, Writer
Riya Patchava is a writer and volunteer at Impact. She is a Creative Advertising major with plans to graduate in the spring of 2026. Along with writing articles, Riya can be found obsessively rewatching her favorite shows, shamelessly devouring fiesta-sized bags of Takis and making her way through her never-ending reading list. Some of her favorite artists are Lana Del Rey, The Moldy Peaches, Radiohead and Fiona Apple, who she often listens to on full volume to the point of physical pain. She can be reached at [email protected].

Comments (0)

All Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest