It took a few weeks for it to register; the darkened interior of the convenience store at the end of the plaza, the one we used to go into every Friday when the boys were small, backed up what the sign posted in the window was saying.
For Lease, the sign said, two simple words. “Another gone,” said the voice in my head. “Say farewell to another marker on the road of change, the twisted path of growing up and moving on.”
Six Penny Mini Mart had mostly become the cigarette and lottery ticket stop that most variety stores have turned into. I used to buy multiple weekend newspapers at this place, the one I’d come to consider my local. Sometimes milk, sometimes bread, and of course there were the years when movie rentals took up half the floor space.
As Ari and I drove past it the other day, I lamented that it had shut down.
“Oh,” he replied. He shrugged.
“We used to go there every Friday night. Don’t you remember?” I asked him.
“Well, yeah, but when was the last time you went in there?”
It had been a few months, and that stop had only reminded me it had been years before that since I’d set off the bell on the door.
I’ve often accused my sons of believing that my world stands still if they are away, as if I can only reach full animation if they are with me. I’m guilty of the same thing, though, of believing nostalgia and memories are enough to fuel the places — and the people — who have disappeared from my life. Seeing that For Lease sign was like stumbling over a miscounted step in the dark; it’s something you take for granted until you’re brought up short.
Every Friday night, the boys got to choose a video to rent. It only cost a buck if we got it back by noon the following day, and at a time when the video giants were charging four dollars and even five for a movie, our tiny entertainment budget appreciated Six Penny’s offerings. Not always the most current, never more than one copy, but for two little boys and their frazzled mother it was fine. Before I could even open my mouth, Ari spoke.
“‘Joe’s Apartment.’ Don’t say it,” he laughed.
Every Friday for an entire year, they’d chosen the same movie. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it; it was fairly terrible but featured a guy with a horrible apartment and included its own theme song called Sewer Surfing. There were cockroaches in it, if you need further recommendation. They loved it.
“You know, I’ve ordered that movie every Christmas for years from some shady place or another, trying to get it into your stockings,” I told him.
It’s true. I’ll find it deep in some listing, usually for a few bucks, and order it. It’s never been delivered and I forget about it until the next year. I’ve gone from paying about fifty dollars — a week at a time — for a one buck movie, to paying a few bucks repeatedly for the same one. I want to say it was “Citizen Kane” or “The Grapes of Wrath,” but it’s not. It’s “Joe’s Apartment.” And we still have never owned a copy.
“I think you can quit ordering it now,” said Ari.
“I think it would be fun for you guys to watch,” I said. He shrugged again.
I’m going to still keep an eye out for that movie, even if I have to give it to Ari’s kids one Christmas so they can make him crazy with it.
Every family needs traditions