Under dim lights, I felt lost in a world of changes with a sense of spit all over the pages. Ramped up and crazed after an hour or so of wonderment fueled by scotch. Thinking of what trickery in the playing out from the ageless classic melodrama on the television broadcasting above the bar.
I am old enough to remember cathode ray tubes. Recalling black and white screens with discernable lines and the sound of the click presaging a grayish-white horizon line, diminishing to a single dot of light before the fantasy reached its climax as a sightless oblivion.
Now the screen is high definition, a more expressive form of produced non-reality. I’ve grown less attentive with time.
I pay the check, signing my name. I came up with that signature in seventh grade. That was a long time ago. The world was color, the cars square. You could still see tail fins on the road, but few and far between.
The old lady across the street had the original Ford Thunderbird. It was cream colored. Red leather interior. Well-kept. The plate on the door on the driver’s side stated number 58. Her late husband was a car dealer. That’s how she got it.
She was a little dotty by then. She could no longer drive, but she would come out and show people stopping by to see it. She would open the driver’s side and point to the plate.
“Number fifty-eight,” she would say with pride.
The car was sold by the time my mother lost her job, and we had to leave home for Texas. The estate took it, I guess, because mom said she died. I didn’t pay too much attention, maybe a sideways glance of recognition.
The last time I saw it was when I had tickets for the KISS concert at the auditorium, a crush on a girl named Mara, and reading fantasy novels shoplifted from the mall bookstore. It was a time when information overload was mainly from intellectualized experiences gleaned from literature and seeing your surroundings.
Doing things: walking through the woods behind the subdivision, swimming in the river above the falls, sitting on hoods of cars with friends I barely actually knew, passing doobs and coughing up phlegm and getting a headache through the dirt weed high.
I fled the bar into the street, 55 and spry under darkness with a bit of a buzz from harsh scotch. The alcohol eases experience and burnishes the sharp edges of memory. I like to think about things that might have happened rather than the truth—my television programmed with Mara and me, meeting Gene Simmons during the soundcheck, that thrill of hearing The Ramones for the first time at Danny Kennison’s house that afternoon when mom came home to tell me that she lost her job.
The old lady opened the door. “Number fifty-eight,” she said. The key was in the ignition. I slid into the seat, my body snug in the palm of red leather.
Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union newspaper in New York City. His fiction is published in Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Airgonaut, The Alexandria Quarterly, and many others. He also blogs at the photography website Focus on the Story. Website: www.mleephotoart.com.