Lauren Becker

—for Ryan W. Bradley

Jonathan says records are way better than cds. It makes a lot of sense when I think about it. We like the crazy album art and grainy photos. He taught me how to hold them. He's careful, like a surgeon, putting needle to vinyl.

Jonathan is a frenetic multi-tasker who finishes nothing. It attracted me like crazy when we met in grad school. I got my Ph.D. in counseling. He works as a caretaker for two autistic kids. He calls them his weasels and they laugh those crazy laughs, but they do it all the time.

My favorite part is that heavy non-quiet before the music starts and when it ends. He doesn't know I let the records play past the end when he's not home. He knows how to start them right at the beginning of the first song. He is sort of obsessed. I think he's got around 3000 now. He listens to every single one of them. He only gets records he likes.

One time we got this Donny and Marie record from the flea market. The guy was packing up and said just take it. Jonathan acted all cool 'til we were out of the guy's sight. Then he stopped and stared at the jacket, hard. He turned it over and ran his finger down the list of songs, slurring the names like they were one big word. He told me later he'd had it when he was a kid, and he and his sister used to sing the songs and sway like the Osmonds. I was pretty sure I wasn't supposed to laugh so I smiled in a way he could read as either mocking or encouraging.  

He talks about the records like he talks about his weasel boys. They have substance and require greater care. He once said heft and character. He says the records' grooves are hypnotic. I never noticed, but they are. Sometimes we sit Indian style next to his heavy record player—a relic from before we were born—and watch more than listen. My eyes get dry.

When we listen to records, we don't do other things. It's the only time he is still. We don't always watch them while they play. Sometimes I lie in his lap and he pets me like a puppy, the rhythm changing with every song. It's not as relaxing that way, but it still feels good.

In the mornings, he rushes around, looking for his belt, his Coltrane T-shirt, his coffee mug, the arts and crafts stuff for the kids. He kisses me goodbye almost every day.

The weasels like to make mobiles. Jonathan told me they have, like, 50 in their room. They can lie on their beds and stare at them for hours. Jonathan has to offer them milk in small cartons and Lunchables to bring them out of their reveries. He asks what they were thinking. They say "nothing" and laugh their crazy laughs.

For his birthday, they made him a mobile of records. Their mom helped. They don't understand surprises or secrets, so they told him. He told them some details to remember to include. He acted surprised for their mom. She's really nice and exhausted. She thanks Jonathan all the time for the mobiles.

He made a mobile for me once, the day I finished my dissertation. He appreciates finishing. He wrote out rare diagnoses from the DSM—intermittent explosive disorder, dissociative fugue, Capgras Syndrome, alien hand syndrome, apotemnophilia—and told the weasels what to draw. Firecrackers exploding outside a guy's head, question marks around a guy's head, two guys who look the same, but one has a sort of evil smile, a guy staring at his hand, and a guy missing a leg. He told me they had a lot of fun drawing the pictures and said it was their favorite mobile. They drew two of each and made one for themselves. Jonathan told me they stare most at the picture of the two guys who look like each other. They never draw girls.

I don't ask if he'll work with the boys forever. He is happier in his job than I am in mine.

I think maybe he'll want to go back to school or find a job that pays better, with benefits, when I tell him I'm pregnant. He will want to take care of me and our baby. He will buy records with songs for little kids. He'll hold the baby and dance.

When I tell him about the baby, he jumps really high in the air, whooping, and makes the record skip when he lands. It's a Spoon record. One of his top five. He stops, then says it doesn't matter. He says he can't wait. He says he wouldn't even care if the baby was autistic or anything. He says he already knows he would be a good weasel dad. I know he would. I'm not so sure how he'll be with a regular kid.

He rubs my stomach, then goes on eBay, looking for a replacement record. I wonder what the baby will look like. Later, I lie in his lap and he strokes my hair while we listen to the Osmonds on the record player, watching them sway.

Lauren Becker lives in the East Bay Area. "Spin" is from her debut collection of stories, IF I WOULD LEAVE MYSELF BEHIND, which is coming early next year from Curbside Splendor.

Read more of her work in the archive.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Matt Becker.

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