e looked through storage bins for hours, but he couldn’t find the boombox
anywhere. By then it was the middle of the night and he’d lost most of his nerve. But not all of it. His nerve was like a cockroach after an atomic test.
He found his grey trenchcoat. His Clash t-shirt. His body wasn’t a good fit for them anymore. He went out to the garage and pulled the cover off the Malibu. He was walking his life in reverse.
He had to push the car down the drive, jumping in and coasting to get the engine to turn over.
It was a long ride upstate. But he felt the town line roll underneath him like a dead animal. He slipped into the old ways easily. His nostalgia was inscribed into the Morse Code of potholes. The hypotenuse of a street lamp.
Her parents’ house was just where they left it. He pulled up behind their SUV, parked in front. He looked at the stickers on the rear window. The dog, the two kids. But the woman stood alone. She was holding a fragment of someone’s hand. The arm and the rest of the body had been ripped clean off.
He swung around and came up the next street, pulling up to the wooded lot at the back of the house. He turned the engine off. The car wouldn’t start again. He wouldn’t need it. He was all in. He was all out, too.
He grabbed his cellphone and a plastic cup from the garbage on the floor. He swung out the door.
The lights were off. There was a whisper of blue across the sky. Dawn was a rumour in an ugly barroom.
He knew which window was hers. Had been hers when they were just kids. He skimmed through his playlist, found the song and dropped the phone into the cup. He held it up over his head with both hands.
The music had the strength of a death rattle. He missed his boombox. A dog barked. Maybe he should get closer. But this was the pose, right here. This is what had worked before. And before. And before. It was like a magic spell. A red button. Someone else’s words for his mistakes.
When it was over, he played it again, and put it on repeat. The light in her room stayed off. He imagined her anger was a great silence he was stabbing into. He would not give up. He would not give up on their love. It was like holding a rotten piece of fruit and willing it back to ripeness.
One of the neighbours was out in a bathrobe, looking at him over the fence. She held a cordless phone like a live grenade in one hand. She was calling the police. She couldn’t tell the difference between perversion and love. He wanted to shout, to throw something, but he didn’t want to interrupt the song. This spell he was casting.
His arms were getting tired. But he could hold on. She’d have to wake up eventually.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.