Got it all at Goodwill.

Photo by Dustin Tramel / Unsplash

by Big Hark

Let me tell you the story of my twenty-first birthday back in nineteen hundred and ninety-six. Milestone year, that one. Milestone party. Hosted the thing in a dormitory single on account of a John Travolta–loving coed who wasn’t old enough for taverns yet. Seventies disco, the theme. I wore green corduroy bell bottoms, a blousy blue butterfly collar, and groovy white platform shoes that smelled like cigarette smoke and basement flooding. Got it all at Goodwill. Door prizes, too. I gave away a motorized disco ball and another set of platform shoes. Even had the platforms bronzed. Well, the one. The bronzer lady wasn’t going to let me do any at first because platform shoes are way, way bigger than baby shoes, but I explained I was in love and trying to win back a girl who was sad and pretty in a way that left me broken, and then the old gal asked about my pickup. She wanted to know if my parents bought the piece of shit leaking oil there in her driveway, and when I said, no, ma’am, they did not, she softened. Small town? Yes, ma’am. Going back there? I am not. Tell me what you want from life. So I did. I told her everything. My studies and my post-school plans and my party and my girl. The bronzed shoe prize. All of it connected. She smiled. Reached for my hand, and when she got it, kissed my forehead. She took pity on me. Said at my age she tried to win back a sad and pretty boy with the best friend line Barbra Streisand
used in The Way We Were, and even though she thought my prize idea was corny and stupid and not going to work, she’d dip my one shoe for an extra forty bucks. That prize wasn’t stupid, though. It kicked ass. When it came back from the bronzer, I knew right away I had a winner on my hands. That platform was first place and the disco ball second. For best costume. Dude in a Huggy Bear fur coat took it home. Sad girl’s new friend. Huge hit, that costume. And that’s what I wanted—people having fun and getting into it. Going to Goodwill first like I suggested. Coming to my Seventies dorm room disco party. Having a gay old time.

Big Hark is a writer from Chicago.