Frank hung around TL’s Grill for another hour after Gary left, but he couldn’t get a conversation going with the night crew. They were too busy, for one thing, and they were younger, more interested in singing along to the radio and flirting with the young female customers. They were polite, but he could tell he was being gently tolerated. He needed to go home. He settled his tab and walked back to his house around ten. The burger, the shake, the beers, and the chat with Gary had considerably improved his mood. He might even open the blinds tomorrow, maybe even crack the window and let in some air.
He walked past the television like it was something he’d never have any interest in, like it was a Baptist church or a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Didn’t even acknowledge it. He went right for the stereo, turning on the power and the auxiliary switch for the turntable. He flipped through his vinyl and spent a long time staring at a Tim Curry record he’d never heard and didn’t know he had before grabbing three LPs and leaning them against his stereo. “It’s classics night,” he said to himself. He drank three bottles of Mexican mineral water, putting a splash of vodka in the third, while leaning back on his couch and listening to the three records (The Kinks’ Arthur, Curtis Mayfield’s Back to the World, and Kevin Ayers’ Joy of a Toy) in their entirety. He got up to use the bathroom every time he switched sides. He moved on to gin-and-tonics. He’d paced himself all day and night and was letting loose now, celebrating his return to normalcy. He wasn’t even thinking about her at all. He started playing his boozy records, but this time he dropped the needle onto the vinyl at random, letting it play where it landed. Like Flies on Sherbert, Hootenanny, Propeller, Ooh La La. He started thinking about Exile on Main Street. He almost never played that record all the way through. Tonight would be a good night to do it. I’m going to take this one-man party all the way to the break of dawn and then keep going. I’m going to play records until I drop from exhaustion. He was still playing records when his phone rang at two-thirty in the morning. He was on vacation, so he didn’t think anybody was dead. He answered it without surprise or curiosity. On his turntable, “Glad and Sorry” was stuck, and Ronnie Lane kept singing “thank you kindly” like an accidental mantra.
“Hello?” Frank said.
“Frank,” a female voice said. Frank scrambled to place it for a few seconds, before it smacked into him. Sandy.
“I hope you’re not trying to spoil my party,” Frank said.
“I don’t know what just happened to me,” Sandy said. She felt a surge of embarrassment and decided to come back to the subject later. “I never liked my name, you know. It sounded too seventies, like I should have been one of my mother’s friends instead of her daughter.”
“You said that to me once before,” Frank thought he said. “I don’t like it either. And I don’t like it that I haven’t heard from you since you moved out.”
Frank actually said, “It’s fine. Nothing wrong with Sandy.”
“Something really weird happened tonight,” Sandy said. “But really good.”
Why are you calling me? Frank thought. But he said, “What?”
She told him about driving around restlessly and about going to Roger’s to see if anyone was up talking or drinking or watching movies and she told him about the purple glow and the feeling of well-being and about not knowing how much time had passed and whether it was real or not and how she thought it was real but maybe it wasn’t and either way it was gone and she guessed it probably wouldn’t come back. Then she hung up.
Frank sat in his chair for a long time, listening to “thank you kindly” over and over, baffled and not-quite-sad. He wanted to tell her she was rude to his parents and left without a good explanation and her silence since she moved out was hurtful. He wanted to tell her she was interrupting a really great Faces album, even if his copy was scratched and skipped on a few songs, and that her purple glow metaphor for their relationship was so goddamn stupid and poorly thought out and reminded him of getting dumped at 19 by a girl with black hair who told him the world was a tree and their relationship was a friendship branch. Sandy with her caustic wit and fucked-up Southern gothic past and healthy dose of misanthropy telling him about a purple glow that was over and would never come back. It didn’t make sense. She didn’t make sense. He almost felt sad, but then he thought about that purple glow speech some more, and he felt pretty glad to be rid of a woman who would say something like that.
He played Exile on Main Street from start to finish, drank three more gin-and-tonics, air-drummed on his couch cushions, watched a stray cat play with its tail through his bedroom window, washed his face in the bathroom, went back to TL’s Grill for a breakfast of a Denver omelette, hash browns, and two buttermilk pancakes, walked back home again, turned off his phone, and slept for the rest of the day. He woke up in the early evening. He would feel bad again someday, but not today.