I lay down on the rug and try to stretch out. The sun beats down on me through the window.
"I don't wanna go to this jerk's apartment," I whine. I imagine all the potential horrors that could be awaiting me over there. I stretch over to the stereo and tap on the keyboard to wake it up.
"Play that DJ Jade that I sent you," Lime says from the behind the bed pile. Tap. Tap. Tap. There it is. Booming beats pound through the speakers into the air and through the floor. We listen for a few minutes without moving. I watch the dust zoom around in the air through the sunlight. I roll over and hoist myself up. I pull all my dried laundry off the cord and stuff it into my drawers. I write a note to Mix and put the cassette inside the bucket, unlock the pulley, and send it over. I think I see Mix's head but it is gone in a flash. I sit on the bed and push off my skates. I look over at Lime. She has already flung hers to the door and is curled up with a magazine. "I can't believe this fabric. They used to wear this stuff that looked water repellent but wasn't actually water repellent." She shows me a photograph of a very thin, very pale woman. Her body is twisted and one of her legs is lifted high and her foot is pressed against an unseen white wall. She is wearing a metallic plastic skirt, a matching top, and thick boots. It looks plastic, but it isn't shiny. There seems to be water droplets on it, I think. "The color is called 'ice blue,' it's all over in these couple years. Not sure why they called it 'ice' since it was more like silvery-baby-blue. Anyway, everything was 'ice blue' back then. Fabric, hair, eye shadow, lip stick, cars, computers, stereos. I love it. It's like- what made them think that silver was icy? People only wore silver jewelry then too. It's like they wanted to coat everything in silver. And everything looked like liquid metal, like mercury. I keep looking for a hint that people were secretly using mercury for things. There was a lot of mercury poisoning during that century. Maybe people were doing something with mercury in the underground and only certain people knew about it, so it didn't really get recorded, but fashion designers and musicians and film directors wanted to make a nod to it to prove that they were with the times and in on it, so it's all over these magazines. But we won't ever know what was really going on."
The fuck is she talking about?
"So when I saw that flyer for the party last night saying 'quicksilver' I was like whoa what the fuck? Maybe someone knows? But it turned out to be some big production company. I dunno. I guess it was really disappointing for me."
"Sorry," I say, still a little lost.
"But I had a lot of fun last night!" she adds quickly.
"I had a really good time too," I say slowly, trying to make sure she believes me, but she is already looking back at the magazine.
The bucket flies back through the window and swings to a halt next to me. Inside is a heavy rock of a machine, the cassette, and a note written in regular English.
"PLAY IN HERE. DON'T PRESS RECORD BUTTON. HAVE FUN! THANKS FOR DELIVERING THE HOODIE."
"Mix is talkative today," I mutter. I burn the note in the censer and smile and wave back to them. They are standing in the window, their hand waving violently. A huge smile is stretching across their face, exposing their green teeth.
I take the small stereo out and plug it into the wall. It's black and round and has two circular speakers on the end with a row of raised buttons on the top. Lime flops off the bed and we press the buttons. They clack down and only come back up when another is pushed. "Mix said don't push the record button," I say. Lime tries pushing it and it just pops back up without staying down.
"Must be broken," she says. Soon we find that one opens a door in the front of the stereo with a tray just the size of the cassette tape. I open the box and pull out the tape. "There are two sides. Do you think I should face the side that says Side A out towards us, like we are looking at it or in towards the machine, so the machine is looking at it?"
"Facing us. That's how CDs are. And they are from the same time so...?" Lime suggests. I feel like it's gotta be the other way. You are giving the machine the cassette, it must face the machine. And CDs have paint covering the whole top and the data on the bottom, so of course the data would have to face down where the laser is. But here the data is on the tape. But if it's on the tape, then does it read the data backwards if you flip it around? I already asked Lime's opinion so I can't exactly go and do the opposite now. I put the tape in so that Side A faces out to us and close the door. I look at Lime. "Well press the play button!" she squeals, her knees pointing up by her face.
I push the play button. That one was easy to identify. The machine clacks and clicks. The two wheels in the front slowly turn. We don't hear anything. I pick up the box to look for the volume button. I find a wheel on the side with little ridges that moves up and down. I slide it up until I can hear a calm voice singing over some drums. I set the small black stereo down and we stare at it as we listen. When the first track quiets and the second one begins, Lime turns and lays her head into my lap. I lean back on my palms. There is a guitar... or two. I can't believe rock bands sounded like this in the 20th century. A strange sound effect seems to move Lime and I wait for her to tell me about it but she stays silent. The vocals are quiet but strong. They sound like they are whispering through a tunnel and then suddenly they soar straight through us. My hands are getting numb at the wrists. The music stops and the machine clicks. I pick up the stereo to figure out how you connect headphones. There is a metal hole and the word "headphone" over it but it looks nothing like a corded headphone hole for what we use today.
"Do you have 20th century headphones? I ask her."
"I mean, not on me. But yeah. They are great, I have a pair that's pretty rare, the part that goes over your head, goes around the back of your neck. It sounds weird but it looks really cool. It's impossible to use them with any system younger than 200 years old. There was this period where manufacturers were only using cordless and it took another generation of users to want corded again and by then, they wanted a long lasting hardware. The original corded headphones used to break constantly, forcing the consumer to buy new, just like how the regular cordless ones are now but..."
I write down the name of the tape to get its file later. It's too bad we can't keep it for longer. I can tell Lime would love to hear it with her headphones, like how people did back then. Lime opens the door and turns over the cassette and then looks at me. She presses down the play button. An old synth sound starts playing. "That used to pass for violins back then!" Lime laughs. The voice starts again along with another weird instrument. "And that's an organ. Like a church organ." The vocalist's voice shakes and I wonder if she cried during the recording. Rock music vocals don't sound emotional like this. Well at least not sad. She sounds so desperately sad.
Then the music stops. There is a short space of silence and then a different voice speaks.
I can't understand what they are saying. Lime and I look at each other. She laughs.
"These old albums are wild!" she laughs.
The voice yammers on. I turn it up to try to see if I can recognize any little snippet.
"What language is that, even?" I ask. Lime stops laughing and starts listening for a few moments before shrugging.
The music suddenly starts playing again and the voice is gone.
I look at the card in the case but the song list isn't any help. I look at the stereo and press the weird buttons until I figure out how to back up the track and listen to it again. The music didn't even stop on beat. Was that intentional?
"You really think that is a part of the album?" I ask Lime. She shrugs.
"Come-To-My-Back-Door is going to be pretttty disappointed to find out someone fucked with his antique."
Maybe it was just like artistic whatever. Shit was weird back then. I turn the tape over and back it up to the beginning. It takes forever. The little motor wails as the wheels spin. Then suddenly it clicks. I take it out and put it back into the case. I really want to get rid of it all of a sudden. I just want to get this job done.
"So are you coming with me?" I ask Lime.
"On your delivery?" she groans. "That sounds awwwwwful. I don't even want to do my own deliveries any more."
I knew she wouldn't want to come. "So you are going to stay here?" I ask. "I have another pick up and delivery and then I was going to try to deal with these paperbacks tonight, unless you wanted to hang out. They are those old lesbian pulp novels. Like from the 1950s or something. Like back when they didn't even use the word 'lesbian' yet." It would be so fun to lay in my bed and read those books to each other and listen to music all night. Maybe she would re-dye my hair for me. It always looks better when someone else does it.
Lime gets up to stand in front of the fan. She pulls the front of her shirt so that it billows around her. Is she looking at Mix?
"How can this be a legal building without air cooling?" she whines.
"People lived in this city before air cooling," I remind her.
"It wasn't as hot back then," she starts. "I mean it was still a pretty hot city but not like it is now. And you know they thought it would-" All be under water. "-All be under water."
"Yup." I say. I have heard her tell me this so many times. She thinks its so cute and funny how people knew that the earth was changing and thought they knew enough to predict it- but they didn't quite get all the details right.
To be honest, I wish more of Los Angeles would be under water. Then maybe we could travel through underwater tunnels and stay out of the sun. I could sail to my jobs instead of skate in traffic. Mix and I could send a little remote-controlled boat across the alleyway instead of the bucket. Maybe the water wouldn't be that high. Maybe we would still have the bucket.
"Thanks again for letting me leave this stuff here," Lime says as she crams all the magazines back into the crate. "I'll take these CDs with me for now though. Good luck with your last couple jobs," she says, heading over to the door and opening it. What is she going to do for the rest of the night? I know she isn't going back home. She turns around to look at me. "You are probably going to sleep tongiht, right? Since you didn't really get to today?"
"I dunno, I'm feeling fine. We could still get together tonight if you wanted," I try.
"No, Sugar, I'll just feel too guilty. Maybe I'll tomorrow or something." She pushes off the doorway into the hallway.
I unplug the antique stereo and cram it back into the bucket with a note that says "Thanks."