Fenimore Cooper Jr. High was in the new part of town, and as such was pervaded by a new, clean, soulless feeling. It had no history. No stories imbued its plastic stacking bleachers, its computer labs.
Sedgwick lugged in his beat-up Marshall amp–his father’s. You could see, in the leather covering, years of rings from coffee mugs and beer bottles, burn marks from when it was used to hold an ashtray. Its glass tubes had held the riffs of hundreds of late, stoned nights, of shows; of the strained bends of a man struggling to define himself as he entertained others, to exist in place as time moved all around him.
It meant a lot to Sedgwick.
Sedgwick’s father had decided in his youth that making rent should be a monthly struggle, an item of low priority compared to the More Important Things: music, late nights, experiences.
He had loved Sedgwick’s mother with all his heart, and lived passionately and fully then.
When Sedgwick was born, he took a job at a call center. Suddenly his status mattered; he couldn’t simply tell a manager to “eat it,” walk away with a smirk on his face, and look for a new job after that night’s show.
Once he accepted this, he moved up quickly. He found that while the people around him accepted their fate blindly, complaining about the menial tasks that they were daily subjected to but ultimately not acting to change anything, he saw ways that things could improve.
He built good relationships and earned the higher-ups’ trust. But in the process he became distant. He was determined to provide for his family, but as he moved up and earned more his mind became more occupied with work than what he was working for.
The amp made Sedgwick picture a different version of his father. This one had trouble paying rent still. He taught his son how to play the guitar.
Sometimes this version still showed through. His dad could be convinced to play the guitar again, and Sedgwick saw the wild, free version of his father that he held in his admiration.
Sedgwick came running towards Hammer through the snow. His cheeks were flushed and he looked distinctly paunchy and unfit, not the confident figure he cut indoors. He had played soccer in high school, Hammer remembered, but clearly he had let his body go in four years of college. Still, Hammer was bizarrely glad to see him.
He managed to breathe, “what the hell?”
“Come inside,” said Sedgwick. “I’ll tell you what happened.”
What little I know, thought Sedgwick, leading Hammer back inside.
Follow Ed at @edjamesking