“Nobody buys vinyl anymore,” I tell Mom when she starts threatening to sell yours. And even as I say it, I’m thinking they’re worth a fortune.
I’m stooped over The Last Waltz, Record 2, Side II, a strip of felt in one hand, a bottle of cleaning solution in the other. “The Shape I’m In.” Get it? Danger, the bottle tells me, Avoid contact with eyes.
I check the amp, the receiver. I stare at the needle. Behind the record player I find, coiled like a snake, a tangle of wire you never bothered explaining.
Mom finds you. She will decide later on that she sensed something. She will claim the dog growled, that the wind rustled the trees. I know what she means: she means we all saw it coming. I couldn’t tell you why I never mentioned the dream to her: sound, noise, vibration, bright lights, heaven. Being born must feel like this, or else giving birth. Here is this thing, finished and begun. Here I am. Here we are. Toward the end, I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with you. I clung to details instead, doctor visits and lawyer visits. One day I organized your record collection.
Now I ask, “Who are we supposed to call first? The ambulance, or do we go straight to the funeral home?”
Heaven will look like a spaceship: a blur of lights, four notes like a torch song to the Wyoming sky: “Life is a Carnival.” Take a load off. Toward the end, Dylan will show up. They’ll play all the hits. The crowd will go nuts.
I wish it brought out the best in us, but it has brought out more than that. While Mom sleeps on the couch, I walk out to the garage, to the bookshelf where you keep them lined up, pristine and priceless.
The White Album. Exile on Main St. Skull and Roses.
Dylan. Dead. Doors.
I hate what’s going through my head. Blonde on Blonde. Cash or credit.
The night before the day before you die, they run Close Encounters on Channel 7. The movie is one of your favorites: aliens land in Wyoming and give a free concert. Mom and I watch, with commercial interruptions, until she falls asleep. Around midnight, I tug on her arm and wave toward the bedroom where your breath—even I notice it—comes slower.
“I can’t,” she says.
She says, “The respirator.”
Lungs. Liver. Brain. Kidneys. Lungs.
Your ears don’t work like they used to, either: side effects, I guess. I’m almost sure you can’t hear Levon Helm thumping in the next room. And yet:
“You hear that?” you ask.
I am already trying to forget your finger cocked at me, your eye stabbing from its socket. “Again. Hear it?”
“Scratch in it.”
“I don’t hear it,” I tell you, knowing you’re right, knowing I do.
That’s how things like this go. Oscar Wilde’s last words were, “Either this wallpaper goes, or I do.”
Your last words are, “Listen better.”
Hear that sudden cutting out, this ending-before-the-end. Hear the dog growling. Hear the wind in the trees. Hear me talking in my sleep. Do you hear that? Here’s what I’m trying to tell you. Listen. Better.