Guilt Made Me Do It
By Venus Wright
A small silver bell above the door made a twinkling sound as I pushed through the door.
“Good mornin’, how’s it going?” Said a lazy-voiced man behind the counter.
His long hair, circle-frame glasses and an orange T-shirt, with its sleeves rolled gave me the sense of a second-rate Urban Outfitters model. He seemed nice enough, but also like the kind of guy to reject me for not knowing any Smiths songs. One to tell me, “we’re just not on the same wavelength,” when we would hang out for the last time.
I smiled in response and he went back to his cup of coffee and slim red book.
I went to the wall of records on the opposite side to him and began flipping through “G”. I flipped quickly enough to register the covers but barely read any of them. I recognized the creamy pastel pinks and purples of Dreamland at the bottom of the row I was looking at, my fingers immediately attaching themselves. I shifted the records behind it and brought the fuschia vaporwave album cover I was looking for to my direct view. I smiled and felt my heart pang in excitement.
Dreamland by Glass Animals on vinyl, it’d just come out. I’d been checking their Twitter daily for updates, even though it was always just the same announcement date of their album’s release, and now I held it in my bare hands. I stood for a moment just staring at the album, the artwork, blown up to a size I wanted to put on my wall. I flipped it over for the back cover art, just as beautiful, and my smile fell.
The store’s white sticker on the bottom left corner stated “$49.99”. My heart panged yet again. I knew it was new, but Jesus Christ, I needed to be able to buy groceries this week too. I flipped the record back over to the front and took in the floating fuschia head above the vaporwave pool. I’d never been able to see all the pool’s ripples behind the head until now, nor each blue and pink and purple within each ripple. I slid it back into its slot among Gorillaz and Gengahr. Moving to the next stack, I pretended to browse through them for a moment before walking to the stacks of CDs closer to the checkout counter. And the hipster who probably assumed I knew nothing about music, still sipping on his coffee. His eyes rose up from his book every now and then, but his interest only seemed to stretch as far as an interaction that may benefit him, or just part of his job title.
I looked for Dreamland in the CDs with no luck. Only Zaba and How to Be a Human Being, both of which I already have. I pushed the CDs all back to their original position, and I felt the hipster’s eyes on me. I sighed and kept moving. I came here for Dreamland, nothing else, but yet I am walking to the keychains on the wall next to the checkout counter. They all hang on organized hooks, some with cats in ramen bowls, others with album covers and others with little creatures, dragons or hamsters or cryptids, listening to music, little headphones and closed eyes.
My eyes scanned the section of wall with album covers, and I frowned as the only Glass Animals album they have is Zaba. I pulled it off its hook, the tag on the ring reading “$5.99”. For a keychain? We don’t even live in a tourist town, this is South Berwick for God sake. I took a breath, saying oh well in my head, and grasped the small square keychain in my hand. I walked to the counter and placed it before the hipster. He looked up from his book and put both it and his coffee on the counter. He peered at the tag and inputted it to an antiquated cash register.
“$6.31,” He said.
He looked at me with complete disinterest, just another customer, not someone like him. Not someone that came in here for their love of music. I wasn’t even buying music, so how could I be? He probably assumed I’d come for the looks of it, that I didn’t have what it took to appreciate music like he did, some bullshit like that.
I pulled a five dollar bill and two ones from my wallet, held them out so he could take them. I gave him a stiff smile as he passed me back my change, possibly stiffening as I took the keychain from the counter.
It’s fine though, he gave me the same smile as he said, “Have a good one.”
I may have muttered, “you too,” but I didn’t hear it over my thoughts and the sour feeling in my gut pushing me out the door.
I didn’t have to buy shit, I didn’t want to buy shit unless it was that vinyl, but I wanted him to like that I contributed in some way. That I had a purpose in going there, I didn’t just walk in to waste time like some kitschy shop, but to buy something, support a business I love. I didn’t want the stupid keychain. But if I hadn’t bought anything what would he have thought of me then?