Gas Station Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Clayton White
A bell rings as I enter the gas station in search of motor oil. I’m not sure what kind to get, so I ask the attendant behind the counter, a chubby brown man with black hair down to the middle of his back.
He tells me to check my cars manual in n accent, and includes the word “man” in his sentence. He looks at me for too long with an expression on his face I can’t read.
I find the manual and head back inside. It’s so loud inside I jump. Hotel California is blaring, the guitar solo. The attendant enters from a backroom, singing along to the solo. “Bah nah nah bah nah nah nah.” and casually head banging. I try to ignore it and grab the oil I need.
He’s drumming on the counter as I approach. “Hotel California, man. I love the Eagles.”
I lie and agree. He takes my money and keeps it in his hand.
“You know, when I lived back... before I moved to America, I heard the Eagles and they were what made me want to come here.” He nods his head and stares at me as if to make sure I understand. “I fell in love with them, man.”
“Oh yeah.” I say, “They’re great.”
“Hotel California. Shit, man. One of their best.”
I get my change but he follows me down the counter toward the door.
“I love all of it. That’s why I came here. The Eagles. AC/DC. Led Zeppelin.”
I’m trapped in a vortex of band names, most of which I don’t like. Groups commonly found on black t-shirts and posters in teengers’ rooms. It’s as if he want to reaffirm his knowledge about rock and roll, or maybe he doesn’t believe that I believe he likes such music, and wants to prove himself to me. I nod and make approving mmhmms, essentially saying, “Yes, that is a band,” over and over again as I slowly make my way to the exit.
I’m at the door, trying to say goodbye without interrupting him. His eyes grow wide. “70’s, 80’s, 90’s. Dude. I like it all.” His head hasn’t stopped nodding, his long hair swaying back and forth. “It’s the rock and roll. Pearl jam. AC/DC. Guns and Fuckin Roses. Nirvana. Man.” He mumbles some familiar lyrics with his accent, but I can’t laugh. There’s a fear that keeps me from disagreeing with this man, or leaving before he’s finished.
I’m frozen, hands are on the door, slowly pushing it open. He stares into my soul. “Rock n’ Roll.” Fire erupts!
“Hell yeah. See ya, man.” I slip outside and I’m free but late to work.
Weeks later I’ve as good as forgotten the man when I pull into the gas station. I pay at the pump and as I’m filling up I hear the bell on the door ring and two dudes around my age walk out with chips and skateboards. One of them says “What the fuck, dude...” and they giggle and walk away.
Hotel California plays faintly through the shitty speakers at the pump. I look through the station window and see the back of a long, full head of black hair. It turns around, bouncing up and down off rhythm, and our eyes meet. I can do something to this man. Something cruel and disgusting. It would work. I formulate a plan and follow through variations and outcomes in my head as I drive to work.