Concise Prose. Enough Said.
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The Day I Sold My Vinyl

By Whitman Bolles

The day I sold my vinyl (granted it’s not Kennedy or even Elvis departing, but I see it now as a turning point, symbolic and wrong) I was moving and too eager to shit-can my past. I was young and too mad to be fully in grief. This simple anti-musical act took five minutes but catapulted me light years forward toward the brick wall with my name on it, and I bet I’m not alone in this. I had two plastic milk crates, maybe a hundred albums, for which I received a crisp Ben Franklin bill. My mother had just died. My girlfriend of seven years had left me for a 50-year-old man. I was trying to quit drinking and not succeeding, sick. I had dreams about killing myself with the shotgun in my closet. I drank the liquid morphine left over from Mom’s cancer. Really. All of this led me to reject the one thing that helped, the one thing I liked: Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, the Buzzcocks, Bowie, the Dead.

Not because I saw the digital wave approaching and decided to ride it; I was punishing myself, amputating a part that only I had access to. I finished the degree but worked bussing tables, had made it through college on a typewriter which I also sold. I found a new apartment behind a house. Green apples dropped on the roof in the slightest wind. All my clothes and books sat in a corner in black garbage bags. The guy behind the counter flipped through my music, looked at me, said, “You got some good stuff here. You sure you want to sell it?” That should have been my clue. I was too far in, though. I thought I’d be showing them something. A big fuck you—I don’t need you, I don’t need anything. Watch this. Then stomp off in impunity. Listen to the apples fall and roll and rot. No Ramones, no Joni, no Van, not even Hank. My father had played me “Jambalaya” when I was eight. He was gone too. Half those albums were his. Willie Dixon, Chico Hamilton, Miles, Billie.

My new landlady invited me to a barbecue in the backyard. She wore short shorts, had thick, comely thighs. I went downtown and spent most of the hundred on high class beer. Drank eight pints in a couple of hours, bought shots for strangers. Smoked a joint. Crashed my bicycle on the way home. Scraped my shoulder, wracked my balls. Called a therapist the next day—very out of character. She was blond and wore hippie skirts and crossed her legs a lot. I kept going back. She had quit drinking herself. She asked me what I was here for, in this life. I filled a notebook with mad-scribble drawings and pussy poems, showed it to her. I took long walks, spent hours stretched out on my floor on a Tibetan rug. The neighbor’s wind chime sounded like guitars. I went to meditation class and got drunk alone afterward. Didn’t want to feel that bad but did. Got sicker. I flew kites with a PhD student, computer engineering. She was forty, a stoner, half Puerto Rican. I was 26 and had never had head like that. She swallowed it all, had me finger fuck her the first day we met. Right there on the couch, screen door open, Debbie Harry in the background. She burned that for me, my first CD. We’d take her dog, a sheepdog, out to catch the Frisbee. She told me alcohol was a living spirit that had to be respected but not necessarily associated with. “Put it in a paper bag in the pantry and leave it there. You need your power,” she said. I tried. She announced she was ready to have a baby. My therapist said, “Be careful. Women can be sneaky—take the jism from a condom in the trash, or from their mouths, and put it inside.” I got paranoid, got drunk, hurt her feelings. Listened to that Blondie until I couldn’t stand it. Went out and got Nirvana.

Eventually, I got sober. Fifteen years, one sad marriage, and two kids later, I replaced what I lost. Not the same, but that’s probably good. I’m lying on the floor again, contemplating the value of things. I teach college, write books in my windowless office, softly as in a morning sunrise. When my little boy comes over we dance to the Beatles. “You say it’s your birthday, it’s my birthday too, yeah.” We’ll light a candle and stick it in a Fig Newton, any day, every day. Why the hell not? My daughter is writing a story about two best friends who find a missing piano, ride a horse. I just saw online that one of those albums I sold, vintage, now goes for one hundred dollars. Metallic K.O., the Stooges’ last show. There’s a sweet woman in my life. She’s younger than me but smarter and more mature. Quite the Dylan fan, a scholar really. She teaches me about gratitude. A family of deer passes through my yard each evening and eats the flowers. Frogs sing in the woods, spring peepers. They sound like insects, but they’re tiny amphibians in trees. An owl tried to get my cat, right off the porch. It’s not the money, or even the sentimentality of remembering one’s youth. It’s knowing I have it in me to discard my dreams, or do what it takes to reclaim them. I still want to make stuff, create. I’ve learned I have something to offer, so something to keep.


Whitman Bolles lives in Chapel Hill, grew up out west, teaches English full time at a community college, has an MFA in fiction writing from North Carolina State University, and has been published here and there.

Photo Lost courtesy of Jake MacDonald, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.

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