"It was in my hands."
"Oh, I know," I agreed. "I know it was."
"No," he said. I guess I didn't know. "It was in my hands, I mean, I actually held it." He held his hands up to his face and stared at them in wonder as though he couldn't believe they would actually let him down in his time of dire need. He was still upset, two days after the event in question had taken place. Sometimes I thought Jim looked like he was no more than an inch away from crying. It was kind of sad. Pitiful sad, not actually sad sad.
"Well, they'll get it back. I mean, you told them, right?"
He shook his head violently shaking his short hair in little trips back and forth. He put down his beer and walked, hands in his pockets over to my music collection, proudly displayed for all to see and browse though. All said, it was a good collection. There were no discs that I was embarrassed to let anyone see. Not even the Moog Cookbook album. It held a certain amount of kitsch value. "What's the point," he asked like a man at the end of his rope. "What's the point? I've been to every other music store in the city and not a damn one of them has it."
I had to admit, it was a difficult album to find. It wasn't that it was old, it was brand-new , and it shouldn't have been as rare as it was, but the artist was at the pit of his relationship with fame and as such, few stores carried more than a few of his works, and then they were usually his earlier more commercial stuff. I too had been to every record store I could think of looking for it and finally, out of sheer desperation hit the Virgin "Megastore" to see if they had it. They did. In my time of need, they had it. There were two copies on the rack and one was mine. I swore never again to say a bad word about the place even if I continued to avoid it like the plague it really was. It made life almost too easy and carried just enough indie rockers to justify a smidge of coolness that was, in reality, an evil kind of coolness. Evil bad, not evil great in a semi-bad kind of way.
Of course, when I found it, I called my friend. Had he heard it? Did he know who the guest guitar was? Was he as excited as I was? Did he want to know where I picked it up? Of course he did. He got off the phone with me as soon as he had it and rushed up to 14th street to pick up his very own copy. It was huge. It was his favorite artist and he had the completion of his collection to consider after all.
On the rack was the very last copy. The one I hadn't purchased. By his description it almost glistened. A light from the heavens beamed down to the very spot on which it sat. He broke out in a dash. From the entry way he ran all the way to the B section the gods had deemed worthy to hold the most sought after item since the grail. When he held it in his hands he felt a weight lift off his chest and the world suddenly become a better place. His faith in humanity restored. For a few minutes, he had explained this earlier, he just stood there holding it, examining the cover art, turning it over and over for any new detail he might have missed and he felt bad. Michael Jackson bad, not Nixon bad. It was after that when he got greedy.
I had warned him about this before. Jim has a tendency to get, well, drunk with power when he feels he's on top of the world. Sometimes it's funny. It usually doesn't come back to get him like it did that day but then, maybe he had it coming.
Instead of taking the CD firmly in hand and walking slowly and steadily up to the counter to purchase his prize and go home to listen to it he started to wonder what else that store of wonder might contain. He drifted from the CDs to the floor below to peruse the DVD selection and over to the books to flip through a design book or two. Jim, the poor bastard. One of the books was huge, by his description, and required not just both hands, but the whole of his upper body strength to look through it. The retail world, at least during my brief tenure as a retail employee, tends to look down on customers placing items as yet un-purchased in their bags or pockets so he put it down on the table next to where he stood. The book, I was told, was actually quite good with some nice works by some German and Swede artists and Jim spent a good deal of time looking through it. Were it not for its near hundred dollar price, he said that he would have bought it. "It would have looked better in my bathroom than the PC Warehouse catalogs on the floor," he said.
The problem was that he let the CD out of his sight. When he looked up from the book and a particularly nice work to look around he notice it was gone. Walking away from him was a guy, like him, in his early twenties waving the album to his friends screaming, "They have it here! They've got it here! There's one left," and several other variations on the theme. For an instant he contemplated intercepting the guy with a tackle to retrieve his prize, but his friends walked over to meet him and one of them was well over six feet tall while Jim stood a mere five-foot-seven. Jim let himself drift over towards the gathering and loitered in the VHS section while he overheard what they said.
"Can you believe this," the guy said. "I've been to every store in the Village and could find it, and here it was. I never come into this store. I never would have thought to look here."
Jim smirked. Every store in the Village was nothing to the quest he had endured. It wasn't fair, he thought. It just wasn't fair. He hoped that the guy would make the same mistake he had and let his attention drift for a few seconds so he could snatch it right back and sprint to the register so it was firmly his.
"Wow," said one of the friends. "You wouldn't think Frank Black is that hard to find. Maybe you ought to go buy it right now so you don't have to worry about it."
He watched as the guy moved his oily fingers over Jim's CD in what looked like a caress. Jim looked for something to use as a weapon hoping that it would even out the odds between the thief and his two friends. Nothing was in sight except a few box sets and a display rack he new he couldn't lift. He considered throwing videos at the group until they relented but panned the idea because with his aim, he stood little chance of doing much but pissing them off. Jim knew there was nothing he could do but watch them ascend the escalator and purchase his CD.
"That's really too bad man," I said with a smirk. I couldn't help it. Watching him lust after my glistening copy of Dog In The Sand was too enjoyable to pretend to feel sorry for him. "I could run you off a copy on my burner," I offered but he just shook his head.
"No," he said. "No. Somehow, it's just not the same."
MAIL this to a friend. They'll thank you for it later.