We wander the downtown, boarded up and abandoned except for the Greek diner at College and the newsstand across the street. We look at magazines, starting with the British music papers, reading up on bands no one heard of in this fading tourist town where nothing happens except cruising with the older boys on Tunnel Road, passing sad blockhouse tourist motels. The excitement of scoring high on the pinball machines at the Asheville Mall, with my hip swivels and you staring as paddles flip and mechanical buzzes and clicks add to the cacophonous riot throughout the room. It turns you on so much, you never really actually ever play. Instead we go to the B Dalton and shoplift books on magic, science fiction and fantasy novels. That you do so well; you have an innocent face, the I FOUND IT button throws the cashier off as we pass by with purloined paperbacks, knowing smiles shared over our loot. We are building a library together, incantations repeated later in my bedroom by candlelight in The Satanic Bible and identifying with the fucked-up-ness of Elric of Melniboné. We have this secret world created, wrapped around paperbacks and kisses.
We wander the downtown. The department stores all closed down, the government building at Grove shuttered, begging for a break in and exploration. Fantasizing of more flashlight ritual callings in the dusty abandoned offices, wondering if our Christian veneer has finally been scrubbed off by each time we hail Lucifer and Satan. One night a gang of us busts in, and we wander around the dark interior until a sudden noise scares the shit out of us, and we run like bastards through the door we came. We keep going up one street and down another. Nothing to do and take the bus back to the mall, catch up with some of the dudes, and cruising on Tunnel Road we go. Maybe some UNCA students are throwing a party in West Asheville, or maybe hang out at the drive-in and watch forbidden pornographic films. Get home before your parents return from respective late shifts, and me my mother from her bartending job. Under respective bedcovers we think of each other and write letters in our mind passed on with romantic gestures when we see each other again.
We wander the downtown, again; holding hands over pancakes and bacon at the diner. Take the bus south to Biltmore and go to the record store. Flip through records we could never buy, but have them play in the store. Stuff we never hear on the radio, even on WQUT in Bristol Kingsport Johnson City Saturday nights with us at Danny Kennison’s trailer because he lives on top of the hill and managed to rig a radio antenna to pick up a static signal over the FM band. There’s no Saturday Night Live on Channel 4 because the Christians got pissed off, but hey we found it, and Anton La Vay is the way passing bong hits and cough syrup for the codeine, drinking beers and Georgia peach wine. We listen to Melissa by the Allmans, and it’s a song that almost makes you cry, but that’s the only pretty song the Rambler plays, the rest is Sabbath, which we like, and the rest background noise as our tongues collide.
We wander the downtown, us together, and dreaming of getting out of this shithole town. At the pawnshop on Pack Square I try out a Les Paul, while you thumb through the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll fake book. We talk about starting a band but neither of us can actually play an instrument. The ponytail dude running the shop finally tells me to stop wasting his time. You kiss my hurt and say we’ll get him back someday. Because as Crowley said every man and woman is a star, and you and me are wandering dead cities, passing joints in parking lots with other teenage nothings, riding backseat in GTOs and Coronets and Chargers up and down by the same declining motels on Tunnel Road. Maybe Saturday night you’ll stay over again with Sherri Cummings, sneak out of and come over, climbing through my bedroom window like always and we can read magic never parted by candlelight.
Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union newspaper in New York City. His fiction is published in Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Alexandria Quarterly and others. Website: www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website Focus on the Story.