A thin blue ribbon of smoke rises, twisting and winding its way toward the ceiling – the ceiling, left unadorned, with exposed steel beams and cracking plasterwork. The acrid smell of incense, masking the subtle sweetness of the marijuana smoked here moments before. That much hasn’t changed in all the years. That much has stayed the same.
He doesn’t know exactly why I came in here – I can see the sneer on his face; he can tell, he can read my half-remembered nostalgia for the past. So much has changed, both in the outside world and inside this vast temple. So much has changed. The smell of the incense, intertwined with the coiling pillars of dope, an escape from the pretend world he imagines lurks outside. The dust motes scattering. The memories of my youth, memories of when I set out for Brisbane – The Big Smoke, we called it back home, when I walked away from all I’ve ever known. When I set out for University. Memories of those days before I met Elsie, before I settled down, joined the firm. Before all my money, before I found my wealth. Before the world changed. Before I was a respectable member of society. Before I looked like a policeman.
I can remember the first time I came in through that grubby glass door; it was hard, in those days, to be different. I walked in and the Sex Pistols were on the record player, and I thought to myself, for the first time, that I was home. I remember shuffling through the records stacked ten deep on the folding tables, looking for the new Stooges LP or for the Pineapples from Mars. I remember her.
She had jet-black hair. Like a raven’s wings, beautiful. Cut short, aggressively masculine. She wore a ring through her nose and a “fuck-off” stare that jabbed deep into my brain like a needle. I had to have her – I never did. I often wonder what would have happened if I took her home, took her on my mattress, surrounded by Law textbooks and scattered LPs. If I had known her. I never did – she sneered when I said Hello, I was too middle-class, too mainstream.
It was true.
Maybe that’s why I’m here, I’m certainly not here to browse through the record covers or those god-awful CDs those modern groups put out – it’s nothing but noise, no musical talent at all. I place the demolition order on the counter, and that young punk stares at me with disbelief in his eyes. “This place is an institution, man! You can’t fucking do this!” He is getting frantic, his world crumbling around him. “How did you get here, man? How did you become what you are? Fucking suit.” I just smile, and tell him the length of his personal countdown. “We have to save the songs. They need to be protected!” He has fourteen working days to leave. I tell him they’re going to build apartments here, or an office block. Something useful, I tell him.
I don’t tell him the truth, the real reason why.
I don’t tell him it’s because of her.
This story is brought to you by the wonderful prompts over at All I’ve Ever Known, Countdown, To be Protected, Save the Song and Escape From Pretend. I also used the prompt <strong Wealth. HAPPY RECORD STORE DAY EVERYONE! Go to your local independent Record Store today!