“Who’s-” he muttered while turning the corner, then stood frozen in the doorway. The last thing he anticipated was Avi, dressed only in gym shorts with his ass in the air, face pressed to the ground, and light sheen of sweat built up on his skin. On the TV was a woman in spandex, doing the same pose from a studio with soft lighting and wooden floors and a few houseplants in the background. As soon as Mitch woke up from the world’s fastest blackout, he spun around, ready to bolt.
“Hey man,” Avi greeted before Mitch made his getaway. “I’m almost done. Jodie said I could do yoga in here, since there’s more room to stretch out.”
“Great. I’m-” Mitch squeaked. “I was just gonna- I was gonna play some records. I went to the store and…” He wondered if he should eat more, since he was still dizzy.
“Get anything good?” Avi nonchalantly asked.
“Some psychobilly. The Cramps, Tiger Army…” Mitch attempted to recall what he bought. Rustling through the bag, his fingers grazed the 7″. “Actually, uh…got you something, too.”
“Wait, for real?” Avi looked up from where he was folded in half on the mat.
“Yeah,” Mitch cleared his throat, but couldn’t shake this anxiety that surged with no warning. This was stupid. So, so stupid. He should have just sent the picture and not done this. “It’s dumb, but I found this, and I…” he swallowed, not saying ‘thought of you‘, which was much too familiar. Instead, he held up the single. “I didn’t even know that this existed?”
Languidly, Avi came up off of the mat and rolled his shoulders, then put his glasses on and walked over to where Mitch stood paralyzed. He was apprehensive to extend his arm and reveal what he bought, the sensation of deja vu crushing him. These days, it wasn’t often that he casually gave gifts, not when he’d gotten used to the courteous indifference of previous recipients. The thought and effort just wasn’t worth it.
But he let Avi take the 7″ from him, and kept his eyes trained to the ground while his face heated up. He braced himself for a polite ‘oh, thanks’ and the sting of internal embarrassment that would follow.
Instead, he got, “Holy shit! Is this a tiny Backstreet Boys record? This is amazing!”
Mitch’s head shot up. He couldn’t determine if Avi’s delight was sincere, but it didn’t seem to be otherwise. “It’s a 45,” Mitch slowly explained as Avi turned it over and examined it.
“I don’t know what that is.” Avi flashed a hapless grin.
“A single. There’s only two songs on it,” Mitch held up two fingers and continued. “I don’t even think this was ever sold anywhere? It’s most likely a promotional item that the record label sent out to stations.”
“How do you know all this?” marveled Avi.
“Iunno, I like music? I considered majoring in it, but didn’t think I could really make a career out of it,” shrugged Mitch. “I’m more surprised that you don’t know anything about vinyls, given that you’re a Washington guy and you’ve got that hipster haircut.”
“Lay off the haircut, brotha,” Avi’s face scrunched and he reached up to adjust his hair. “Takes a lot of effort to look this good. And goddamn does it get unruly when I don’t keep up on it.”
“That doesn’t explain your vinyl illiteracy,” teased Mitch, which earned him a scoff. “Anyway, you wanna check this out?”
“We just went over this, I don’t have a record player.”
“You can use mine, I can show you how. If you wanted.”
“Alright, yeah.” Avi handed the single back, and Mitch, getting progressively more lightheaded, placed it onto the turntable’s spindle and dropped the needle. He turned on the speakers, and the distortion effects for Larger Than Life played through them.
Avi’s enthusiasm matched that of a child on Christmas morning, split between marveling over how the turntable functioned and jamming out to 90s boy band music. He showcased no concern whatsoever about being barely dressed; sure, they were both wrestlers, being half naked and sweaty wasn’t exactly uncharted territory. Mitch had been around plenty of fit guys in his life in various states of dress. This wasn’t new.
He was fine with this very normal situation, that wasn’t even a situation.
Mitch was so wrapped up in the Not Situation that he almost missed how his phone vibrated. The number on the caller ID wasn’t one that he had saved, but it was one that he recognized. He slipped out of the room and answered it.
“Hello?” he greeted.
“Hi, is this Mitchell Calvert?” the voice on the other line asked, and he confirmed that it was. They exchanged pleasantries, and then voice proceeded to inform him that it was a therapist’s office in Wickburg returning his message, and a first time patient appointment just opened for the following week. “It’s usually about a month before we can get someone new booked,” the receptionist informed him.
Mitch accepted it, and split his attention between the music and Avi while he confirmed the appointment’s time and date. As he hung up, the front door swung open, and Jodie came through it with armloads of grocery bags.
“Is there a party going on?” she asked as she passed through the hall and shot Mitch a bemused glance.
“No? Yes?” Mitch followed her into the kitchen. “Hey, I made an appointment. I’m gonna see a brain wrangler.”
“Hell yes, dude! I’m proud of you!” she shouted over the music.
“And,” he picked at his stubble. “I ate breakfast. It wasn’t much, though-” he started to say, but was cut off by a gasp and then pulled into a bear hug. He laughed as a bottle of seltzer rolled towards him and hit his foot. “Dude, you dropped everything.”
“Don’t care,” she murmured, her face smooshed against the front of his shirt. “But yeah, the eggs are probably fucked now.”