Troy always got the better of me at trades. Playful adversaries back then, we’d sprawl lengthways on our hips, set squares of arm propping us up head-to-head over the thing we both wanted – an LP, a Beatle book, an album insert, some silly thing we’d bore with and want to swap. Troy’s granddad shirt would v open with his stretched-out-cat repose, exposing the scar that ran up his sternum; a small rule worth of bubbled blisters, a vertical zipper of flesh. Troy was The Boy with the Hole-in-the-Heart, and he wore his scar tissue as proud as any sheriff’s badge - though he was more Milky Bar Kid than High Noon of course. He wore thick, milk-bottle bottom glasses. They exaggerated what was only a hint of a squint without them. Each faded denim iris was projected slightly more askew by the extreme magnification of the lenses. They seemed to float, two gently straying goldfish bowls full of eyeball.
Always intense negotiations, our protracted haggles could drag on for days – your Walls & Bridges for my Red Rose Speedway; my Some Time in New York City and Wings' Wild Life AND Live Peace in Toronto for your Love Songs. As the stakes rose, his front teeth would gnaw down on a plump raspberry dimple of lower lip, tongue clicking as if echoing that of some internal abacus calculation. We’d each retire to umm and aah our respective umms and ahhs, Troy Stone, The Boy With the Hole in the Heart, plotting the elaborate temptations, the tie-ins, add-ons and cast-offs-willingly-surrendered that would seal the deal. Eventually, overwhelmed by the audacity of the whole enterprise,the vast and elaborate honeycomb of the newly ownable opened up before me, I would succumb, only for regret and (shamefully) rancour to brew and fester until, a day or so later, I could see the trade starkly for what it was and feel all the poorer still.
For not only had I allowed myself to be denuded of a record or annual or whatever it was that, just by owning I had inhabited and which was in some way I could not - and cannot still - articulate, somehow an expression of me, of my personality; I had, furthermore, compounded that loss by colluding in Troy's evident gain. I became, therefore, an abject George Bailey to Troy's Potter, having ceded to him the one thing that he didn’t already possess. All kids are fickle, I suppose, yesterday’s no-brainer forever elides into today’s deep regret. But more often than not, in these transactions, I seemed to miss what I’d parted with more than I was ever enraptured by what I'd acquired - once the thrill of the cutting of the deal had subsided. Maybe some people are just born better at knowing what they want and then going out and getting it. But this should have been a useful lesson, had I taken the trouble to learn it early. Don’t give up what you value. It’s never worth the loss. Like the man said, "you don't know what you got, until you lose it." The thing is, with so much stuff out there to have, it wasn’t so easy - even back then - to know what was worth clinging on to. And sometimes it can take a while to realise you've lost something at all. By then, of course, it's usually too late.
© 2006 Swipe Enterprises