My ill-tended fingernails cascaded in sequential sharp reports over a red, faded, formica countertop. With my left hand I supported my temple, and with my right forearm I held up the rest of my skinny upper body. Leaning on the counter was the only way to begin an 8 hour shift. The day was new, but that was no excuse to be enthused at my employment.
Just then the master of the domain (all dust atop listening stations) breezed in, trailing behind a burst of floral spring air. With his own fingertips he boxed a shiny promo disc case. An early release from the mainstream music mill, an industry teetering on the edge of the gaping BitTorrent precipice.
As the pneumatic mechanism above the plate glass door transitioned its charge from open to closed, he paused dramatically. Bringing the plastic coffer to his nostrils, he inhaled deeply and shuddered in mock ecstasy, as if auditory narcotics had rushed into his bloodstream.
“Uhhhhhhhhhhh yeah.” His eyes rolled back into their sockets, amidst this gaudy guttural release. “I know you’re gonna like this one.”
I had eyes of my own to roll, packet and parcel with my sarcastic, elitist internal dialogue.
From the position where he stood, my employer gingerly shifted sideways past a narrow opening between the long checkout counter and the front wall of the shop. Always in tidy chaos, the employee containment area behind the counter housed stacks of compact discs decorating a shelf above the most holy in-store sound system.
Facing that rear wall, he hovered above the CD player, and pressed the eject button. In parallel to hum, whir, and click, with thumb and forefinger, he began the extraction.
He pulled backwards in a gentle burst of force, to unearth the face of an early-century gangster. On the glossy cover, glistening hair in a familiar pompadour, the baby-faced Morrissey stared whimsically towards the barrel of his Tommy gun.
Shrouded in mauve and complimentary earth tones, he was ready to grasp, to slowly fit his fingers around the wooden fore-handle. He was about to tighten his grip, white-knuckled, and rear back. Ready to prepare himself to unleash whatever metaphoric bullets he may wish. His word was law.
I don’t remember what I said in response, nor do I remember my first impressions of You Are the Quarry.
I do remember one standout train of thought, moments on a sleepless night. I lay shirtless, sweating above the covers, on a hot Connecticut summer night. Imprisoned in an ancient house and a failing air conditioner.
I remember every other thought drifting across my current infatuations, just one of a simple multitude. From there I wandered to my fervent collegiate procrastinations. An essay due the next morning in some class whose details I would relinquish to a still-inhumed memory block.
I idly perused uncomfortable embarrassments, filed next to words as authored by Chain of Strength. Oh look! The name and polaroid of a beautiful girl I met at fourteen years old, whom I’d never forget, but will never meet again.
You know where we are, basically. It comes standard, like power steering, they’ll have you believe.
And as I fantasized and fought the first-world tears of a privileged life, so I heard it, loud and clear.
“YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN IN LOVE”
A qualified statement, yet I flinched. A bead of sweat proved itself too weak to cling to the roots of my scalp. Off it went, flailing into my left eye, regretting nothing.
“We are the pretty petty thieves” he sang. I pawed at my sockets, and rolled onto my stomach, providing clasped hands as a cradle for my chin. Maybe so Morrissey. Maybe so.
I can still see an interview in these reels, recorded late one late night, a chat between Morrissey and Kilborn. Bashfully, The Mozzer himself admitted the name of his current single, the song I then placed on repeat, ill-garnered via Soulseek or the like.
The first time I would profess love would be in similar fashion. Reluctance false, perhaps. But only for the sake of respecting my fellow man. As it would turn out, within the context of that song, protagonist Hector and I would share a title; First.
The First of the Gang to Die
From singleness, from bachelorhood, and a graduate to a resurrection, a new layer of life, adulthood and all its statistical glory.
There’s perhaps nothing wrong with returning back down through that particular event horizon and mortal coil, but Morrissey might advise you to return, cling to life, and warn those who tread behind you.