August O.Henry 2014

Page 64



The Mysterious Indoors By Dana Sachs

It was August 1979 and the Memphis heat was a monster. My friends Laura and Kathy and I didn’t emerge from

the air conditioning until 10 at night, when the city turned soft and amiable, easy on the skin and full of promise. For three or four hours, we would roam the bars of Midtown, listening to the bands we loved, dancing until our hair clumped with sweat behind our ears, until our bare feet turned black from dirty floors, subsisting on Tic Tacs and water. When the lights came on after a show, we dug around under tables to find the tortuous pumps that we had bought — optimistically and at fifty cents a pair — from St. Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army. We had known each other all our lives. Laura and I were about to start our senior year of high school; Kathy was heading off to college. Insatiable and fearless, they refused to go home until dawn. I was the sleepy, shy one. I trailed them in the crucial experiences of life (love and sex, namely), but felt too meek to catch up. Usually, they dropped me off at home at 2 a.m. before dashing off to a new adventure. Many nights, “adventure” meant using the Howard’s Donuts pay phone to call Randy and try to get into his house. Randy played bass in our favorite band, the Randy Band (I still don’t know if it was named for him or for the British term for “lusty”). Quirky and elusive, Randy was 26 or 27, long-haired and bespectacled, big-grinned but often silent, part John Lennon, part Cheshire Cat. He lived alone in a ranch house, his mother having died, his father having decamped to a girlfriend’s place in the suburbs. He had converted a spare bedroom into a recording studio and he and his guy friends hung out there all night. He made that humdrum neighborhood as cool as New York City. Randy was gracious with invitations but only rarely followed through. Phoning Laura in the afternoons, he would purr, “Call me later and come over.” But when she dialed his number at 2 a.m., he mostly didn’t answer. That was the game they played: Sometimes he let them in; sometimes he didn’t. That summer, I decided that seeing inside Randy’s house was a necessary step toward growing up. One night, then, I stayed in the car when they drove over. We parked Laura’s brother’s yellow Beetle at the curb and went around to the

62 O.Henry

August 2014

carport. Kathy knocked on the back door. No answer. “Randy!” Laura hissed, loud enough for him to hear but not loud enough to wake the neighbors. Kathy returned to the front of the house and tossed pebbles at his music studio window. I lay down on the front lawn, slightly fearful that the door would open. What did people do in that house? Unlike the mysterious indoors, nothing scared me in the yard and I stretched out like a sunbather while Kathy and Laura prowled near the shrubbery, eyeing the windows for movement in the Venetian blinds. Memphis is a city of fine trees, and on that summer night the canopy above my head formed a lacy screen across the sky. I could have stayed there for hours. Then the blinds moved. The door opened. I followed them inside. What happened in that house? Well, Laura and Kathy became domestic. Randy’s mom had decorated years before, and my friends seemed determined to restore the femininity that was lost when Randy turned the place into a bachelor pad. They replaced the toilet paper in the bathroom, rearranged knickknacks on the coffee tables, made faux canapés out of the Triscuits and Cheez Whiz they found in the pantry. Eventually, we entered the studio, where Randy hovered over synthesizers with guys we barely knew. For the next few hours, we perched on barstools, listening. Instead of whole songs, they played notes and chords, tunes that changed and matured through the process of creation. They were actually making music there. Laura passed around another plate of Triscuits. Kathy straightened a pillow. I ended up by the window, looking out through the blinds. Near me, Randy and his nameless friends tweaked at knobs and levers, filled the air with sound. Outside, through the branches of those big Memphis oaks, the stars watched over all of us. I was not quite 17 years old, in love with night and summer and sweat and music — in love with love, too, though I hadn’t experienced it yet. Was that dark sky more spectacular when I observed it through Randy’s window? More than anything, I wanted to believe in the wonder of the world. So, I thought, Yes. Novelist Dana Sachs has lived in North Carolina, Connecticut, California, Scotland, Vietnam and Hungary, but her heart retains its Memphis beat. Her latest novel is The Secret of Nightingale Palace. The Art & Soul of Greensboro

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.