Friday Story — Vinyl.
Ethan lay back on his couch, his feet hung over one side of it. A large fireplace roared in front of him, coating his body in an orange wash of light and warmth. He sipped an oversized glass of pinot, savouring the tannins that filled his mouth before he swallowed. The lounge was a dark wooden-panelled affair. A vintage lamp above a turntable was the only other source of light in the room. There was no TV, just a stack of oversized cabinets and large draws that were packed with his treasures. He closed his eyes, plunging himself further into darkness, wanting to get the most out of the story he was being told, by Bob Dylan. Bob had roads to walk down, choices to make inside the infrastructure of life.
Ethan found himself in a similar place. He listened as the needle glided smoothly across the vinyl, rising and falling as it collected then fed him the notes of music hidden between the grooves of each track. His small portable Crosley was plugged into oversized Bose speakers that filled the room with music. He got up to refill his glass, opened the draws and doors of his cabinet, then ran his fingers across the many records filed inside them. They had been catalogued by events and moods in his life. One tended to affect the other. The present was a testament to that. He listened as the Fab Four talked about accepting the universe and all that occurs within it on ‘Let It Be.’
She had left. He hadn’t wanted her to, though he often struggled to express himself. To feel like he had to put himself out there, toss his love in the air for all to see, raise flags and set fire to it so the world, mostly hers, would know. Couldn’t it just exist? He found half a pack of cigarettes in an emergency draw that only he could open. The tobacco was probably stale, though it was times like these that he didn’t really care. He replaced The Beatles with Angus & Julia Stone’s ‘Yellow Brick Road.’ A raw track that dripped with honesty, something Ethan felt he’d been missing for a while. If he was honest with himself and he should be, he wasn’t young these days. Kids, that whole window had pretty much closed, unless he jumped someone ten years younger than he was. And why would he? Why would she?
Is this what a future life looked like? Driven by the need to be seen versus being heard. Planned around convenience as opposed to common sense? The titles of songs being replaced with numbers. Singles that picked the eyes out of the whole and gave you something incomplete. Remixes that appeared two-seconds after the original had been played. The go-to-market strategy where who featured alongside your chosen artist, was more important than the song itself.
Ethan woke with a headache. He was still on the couch having found a blanket at the other end of it. He sat up quickly, too quickly. The red light of the Crosley had been switched off. At least he’d had the presence of mind to shut it down. The thought of a needle on the record bumping its way through the night would have upset him. She’d arrived not long after. She was there to collect the last of her things. He said nothing as she did it, just watched her silently from the couch, cigarette in hand. She’d told him to grow up, to move on as she had (like he needed reminding), pulling the curtains open as she spoke. He pretended not to listen, just rolled on to his back and watched as smoke rose between his fingers, saw it curl as it hit a draft then flatten before it reached the ceiling. Ethan ignored her as she closed the door. He’d stay on the couch today. He thought he could hear rain anyway.
This time he hadn’t managed to switch off the red light. A year had passed, though it hadn’t been because he was drunk or sedated, he’d been occupied. Blissed out on the warmth of a newfound friend. He’d woken with a clear head and Sophie was still here. Ethan made her eggs, fried, the way she liked them though soft in the centre; toast with no butter; coffee with no milk and the smallest amount of sugar. He opened the curtains of the lounge, collected glasses from the night before he saw the red light. The needle was probably ruined, the inner circle of the record trashed. He’d never liked Morrissey anyway. It had been a gift. He tucked it away.
Sophie had laughed at his music, his attachment to it, his tendency to wallow in it. She’d teased him about living in the past, how he was hiding from the future. Without even knowing it, he’d agreed to change. It was a knock on the door that Ethan had been dreading. A DJ by the name of Sweetpants stood there, wearing a matching shirt and pants covered in parrots, a gold chain wrapped around his neck, gold Ray-bans on his face, grinning through deep sideburns and something approaching a moustache. Ethan would be travelling. He had no idea for how long or to where. Sophie had booked everything. The house was packed, as were his records. The records were funding most of it. Ethan handed the first crate over, watched as Sweetpants rifled through them, cringing as he thought about the turntable they’d end up on before the DJ pulled out Stevie Wonder’s ‘Innervisions’ and hugged him for it. Faith restored, he lied about handing everything over and watched him drive away. His doubt being squeezed out by the lightness that came with their departure.