Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash
Move On Up
by Jacqueline Doyle
On my 18th birthday my friends threw a party in my room in a big high-rise dorm in Ann Arbor and someone gave me a new LP by Curtis Mayfield. He was wearing shades and beads and yellow bell-bottoms on the album cover. I don’t remember who gave me the record, just that there were still turntables then, and there was a candle burning, and patchouli incense, and I went out in the snow that December night after the party with a boy I liked and left the candle burning and the record playing and we took a long, long walk and we could see our breath in the air, the snow was heavy and wet, and when I pressed my nose against a store window, the glass fogged up, and I turned to him and laughed and then he kissed me. I can’t remember the boy’s name, just that he had blue eyes and a cleft in his chin, and I know he didn’t become my boyfriend, but that was the year of boys, lots of boys. When we got back to my empty room, wool coats sodden with melting snow, the LP was still turning and it was covered with candle wax, a perfect circle. I kept it because the flip side was still fine. “Move on up,” Curtis Mayfield sang, “Just move on up.”
I was wearing purple bell bottoms with a front flap and two rows of buttons instead of a zippered fly when I met my first husband, who later gave me The Eagles’ Hotel California for my birthday, mostly because of the song that started “She came from Providence,” because he came to Providence to visit me and then stayed for two years. I vividly remember a party at the clapboard three-story house where we were living with six or seven people and two dogs and a lot of cats. That is, I remember candles flickering on the windowsills and the skunky-sweet smell of marijuana and dancing with him to “Hotel California” in the dark, almost empty living room after the party, but I must have the soundtrack to that memory wrong because we were living in Germany by the time that album came out, not in Providence. The candle melts, the record spins. My heart broke, my heart healed, the memories went round and round until I fell in love again and ended up in California.
My second husband and I were in grad school in upstate New York when we fell in love. We went out every Monday night to hear live blues, and when his hand brushed the bare skin on my neck near my shoulder, the hairs on my arms stood up, electrified, and I knew that I would sleep with him, but not that we’d fall in love and move to California and marry and have a son and still be together more than thirty years later. During those decades I stopped listening to LPs and switched to tapes and then CDs. Last Christmas our son gave us a new turntable and we’re listening to our old LPs again—Santana, Muddy Waters, The Doors, Chuck Berry, Curtis Mayfield (side A), others I’d long since forgotten. We never give parties, not big parties, but on my husband’s 49th birthday we threw an “Almost 50” party with catered barbeque and plenty of drink and long tables with candles in the back yard and a DJ who played oldies and as twilight fell we danced to Al Green’s “I’m Still in Love with You” together. The August night air was warm, fragrant from the waxy white blossoms on our lemon tree, his arms around me familiar, his touch on the bare skin between my t-shirt and faded jeans still electric. Fifty must have felt like some kind of destination, but the records spin, the years go round and round, good years and hard years, everything’s the same but unexpected, the candle burns, we move on up.
Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her award-winning flash fiction chapbook The Missing Girl was published by Black Lawrence Press. She has recent flash in Little Fiction/Big Truths, Ellipsis Zine, Juked, Sweet, The Collagist, and elsewhere. Find her online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on twitter @doylejacq.