I’m just tryna drink. It’s late. After eleven. And this guy. I’ve never seen him in the bar before. This guy comes in. Sits right next to me. What the hell, the bar’s practically empty.
“Hey, guy,” I say. I’m tryna be as nice as I can. “There’s plenty of other seats in this place.”
Guy looks around. “Mmhmm.”
What’s that supposed to mean? This guy. I should knock him out. “Mmhmm,” I say back. Real mockingly, though. I want him to know he’s bothering the wrong guy.
He’s talking, again. “Listen. I have a jukebox in my house,” this guy tells me. What do I care? I’m thinking. So, I say it.
“Great. What do I care?” It’s a question. I’m not looking for an answer.
“I want you to see it,” he says. This guy’s whacked. “I want you to hear it.”
I turn my body towards him. He’s annoying the piss outta me. “Look, guy. I don’t give two shits about your jukebox. You can shove it up your ass for all I give a fuck.”
He takes his wallet out of his back pocket. From it, he pulls out a wad of hundreds.
“You come and see my jukebox, and these bills are yours.” He fans the hundreds in my face. I should really knock this guy out. “And you can buy yourself however many drinks you want to guzzle down your big mouth.”
Now I know this guy’s a nut. An eccentric, obviously, if he’s willing to give away that kinda cash. Just to have a stranger see his stupid jukebox.
He’s still waving the hundreds in my face. I snatch them out of his hand.
“All right,” I say, standing up. “Let’s go see this jukebox.”
We sit in his pickup truck. He drives. We travel for a long time. Two hours pass. Three. Guy’s not much for talking, now that we’re not in the bar.
His house is deep within the White Mountains. It’s pretty big. Not a mansion. But, definitely nice.
We’re at the front door. He fumbles with the keys under the moonlight. “Hold on,” he mumbles. “I don’t know which one’s right.” Guy finds the key for the door, and opens it.
We step inside and he flicks on the overhead light.
His foyer is empty.
“Come on,” the guy commands me. “This way.”
We walk through what I assume is the dining room. It’s empty. We walk through the kitchen. It’s empty. We reach the living room, and fuck it all, it’s almost entirely empty. Save for the jukebox in the center of the floor.
I look at the guy. “You a murderer or something?” I ask.
He shakes his head. “Never have been. Don’t really plan on starting tonight.”
I glance around the parlor. Think of the house as a whole. “D’ya at least have a bed?”
Again, he shakes his head.
“You sleep on the damn jukebox? What the fuck, man?”
“No,” he says. “I listen to the jukebox.”
“No shit.” I’m starting to think this isn’t worth the money.
“Well, you came all this way,” the guy’s telling me, like I don’t know that. “You gotta listen to the jukebox a little.”
I’m breathing, heavily. I sigh. “Yeah, I suppose.”
I walk over to the jukebox and flip through the records. Mostly old shit. Songs I grew up with. Ha. There’s my ex-wife’s favorite song. Oh, jeez. There’s our song. We played that for the first dance at our wedding.
I keep flipping through the records. There isn’t a song in this thing that I don’t like. Not one song that doesn’t bring me back. I get lost in memories, good and bad, just from reading the titles.
Ah, what the hell.
I play our song.
Then. I play another.
I lean on the jukebox. Swaying my head back and forth to the soft beat of the song.
The tune ends. So. I play another.
This goes on and on. Once one song is over, I yearn to hear the next. So. I flip to the next record. These are my songs. This is my life on vinyl.
Play… Play… Play… The sun rises. I am sitting, cross-legged, in front of the jukebox. Crying, intermittently.
The guy steps beside me and drops the ring of keys onto the floor at my thigh. I forgot he was here.
“I’m going for a walk,” the guy says through the music. “Probably won’t be back.” He taps the keys with his shoe. “These are yours now. Lock up when you’re done.”
Okay. Whatever. Don’t care. Just go. Leave me be.
He walks away. I hear the front door open. Close.
Next record. Play. Next record. Play.
I don’t know how long I sit there. Listening. Humming along. Feeling the songs.
The sun sets. The house is black. But, I have the neon light of the jukebox.
More hours. More songs.
The last record plays. And ends.
I don’t know how many hours I’ve been awake. I stand and stretch. My bones cracking. My muscles aching.
I pick the keys up. Before I leave, I touch the glass of the jukebox.
I’m outside. Cloudy night. Lock the door behind me. My body feels like jelly.
Sitting in the pickup truck. I’m driving south. Not sure where I’m heading.
There’s a bar on the side of the road. I need a drink. And a person.
I pull into the lot. Put the truck in park.
Inside of the bar, there aren’t many customers. Couple of guys at the counter. Tryna find the bottom of the glass.
I pull out a stool and sit next to one of them. I touch the money in my pocket.
He gives me a look.
Before he can say a word to me, I tell him. “I have a jukebox in my house.”