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Two minutes seven inches of Heaven

Black PVC and a sliver of diamond resurrect singular first-time memories
I remember everything single thing about it. The squealing windscreen wipers on the bus, slightly out of sync, one completing seven cycles to the other's six. Condensation streaking down my window, collecting in the rubber seal then sloshing out whenever the bus slowed, accelerated or stopped. I was cold, my polyester cardigan, short cotton dress, insignificant shoes and soggy tights no protection against the autumn's chill. Squeezing his hand, I rested my cheek against his shoulder, savouring his heat where the narrow velour seat pressed the two of us together. Shop signs sped past; traffic lights flashed. The bell pinged and brakes screeched. He pulled me to my feet. The double-decker lurched. I toppled; caught the chrome rail. He laughed.

'This is our stop! Come on!'

Doors folded back with a wheeze of compressed air. I shouted to the driver.

'Thank you!'

He nodded a smile. 

'O' reight, lass.'

Feet splashed on the wet flags. I shivered; spread my tiny umbrella. He hunched beneath it, wrapped his arm around my waist and guided me into the throng of woollen overcoats, plastic rain hoods and trilby hats. A neon light led the way. Dodging the buses, we carefully crossed High Street, skipped onto the pavement and paused beneath the flashing sign. I collapsed the brolly, shook it out then stepped into the dazzling gloom.

Smoke-laden stuffy air clogged my lungs. I coughed. He shouted over the clamouring bustle.

'Wait here! I'll sort it.'

I nodded a shower of raindrops. He laughed, turned, and headed for the counter. Through the crowd, I watched his exchange with the spotty, floppy-haired assistant then tracked his arduous return. He was breathless.

'Number three.' 

I glanced up at the numbers above the booths; he snow-ploughed through the drifting throng, wove around the sagging racks, dragging me behind him all the way.

He pulled me inside and handed me the 'phones. For a moment, I was disorientated, amazed by how the arched doorless doorway somehow shut out the world. His dad's aftershave filled my nostrils; plush headphones suddenly filled my hands. Before slipping them on, I nervously checked my pockets; the ten shilling note, now crumpled and damp, was still there, along with a jangling handful of change. He was ahead of me, already tapping his feet, The Big O already filling his head. An eager nod of encouragement bade me copy him. Swirling strings drew me onto tiptoes. This was my boyfriend; this was our music; our moment. I closed my eyes and kissed his mouth; pressed my breasts against him and left him in no doubt of how I felt about him. United in acoustic isolation and half-hidden by shadow, we shared two minutes seven inches of heaven.

At the counter, I proffered my wrinkled note, but he closed his hand around mine, already had the six and eleven counted out and ready to drop into the assistant's welcoming palm. Record and receipt slid into the shop's distinctive red and green paper bag and were reverentially passed to him. Time slowed and stopped. The crowd ceased pushing and fell silent. Moist eyes smiling, he kissed my forehead and handed me the slender brittle bag. I reached out with a trembling hand, my mouth a big O, the import of this simple tender act lost on neither of us.

'Are you sure?' 

He nodded.

'Yeah.'

'Thank you.'

*

Electricity and diamond, magnetism and black PVC - some of the sexiest, most enigmatic phenomena on the planet - will conspire with the human brain to recreate one dead man's unforgettable performance for one unforgettable dead man. I slip the seven-inch disc from its tatty sleeve and turn it through my fingers; close my eyes and sniff it: buses and rain, smoke and his dad's aftershave. The old Dansette took some liberating from the loft; took even longer to clean. I plug it in and turn the rickety knob. A red light glows and it hums into life. Back in the day, it seemed revolutionary and sophisticated. Now, it looks cheap and plasticky, its movements primitive, jerky and clunky, yet I know its distinctive two-tone styling and unique crystal tone will draw gasps of reminiscence from the congregation of family and friends. I spear the hole with the chrome spindle and ceremoniously lift the arm. The table turns. I am a girl again and this is the first time; the singular moment resonates with a host of first times. Fingers shaking, I place the diamond in the groove. It thuds and crackles. I grimace and turn it down. It begins.

I won't be alright. Not even for a while. And I won't smile for a long while. But when I saw you last night, I squeezed your hand when I said goodbye. And though you know me better than anyone, you couldn't tell I was crying over you. I was crying with happiness too; happiness for all the incredible years we spent together. 

*****

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