alive in the 80s

The way the cord on land lines used to curl, twisted up from all the pacing, dangling from the phone’s wall mount in strange loops.

The extending and pivoting of “rabbit ears” on the TV, hisses rising and falling in static, never quite resolving into clarity. The heavy “chunk” of a changed channel, the dial settling heavy into place, resistant to any further change without steady pressure.

The rubber-band tension holding an action figure together, no matter how you twist their legs. The fixed grimace of the hero, freed from a blister pack prison, a slim comic falling out behind them as they fall free. The cut-here dotted line on the cardboard backing with a three sentence backstory. Enough to fuel worlds of imagination.

The wide freedom of a parking lot at night, every adult and their car long gone, carving wide circles on bikes, pedaling under the curved humming lamps. Tires on gravel, tires on grass. Bunny hops off the curb that go nowhere.

The one kid that has pegs on the back wheel, but they leave their little brother at home when night falls, so there’s no one to stand on the pegs, hands on the kid’s shoulders, the front wheel swinging hard to pick up speed with the extra weight.

The strange country that is a girl’s room when you’ve only known boys’ rooms. A cousin, maybe, and the parents have shooed you out of the room where the wine bottles are opening. The dolls with the colored hair, smelling like fruit, smelling like candy. Tiny plastic combs. Books about girl detectives.

A girl who knows girl games and has no idea how you fit into them, so you look at dolls and learn their names and from the other room, the laughter of adults.

There’s a pool. Swimming later.

Cassette tapes came without cases, packed vertically in a plastic sleeve, bright red stickers saying Made in China. Two fingers resting on the Play button, the Record button, waiting for the DJ to shut up before pressing down hard, the chunking click of the head hitting tape as you get /most/ of your favorite song off the radio.

Later, the ballpoint wiggles, not wanting to commit ink to the tape’s label, the slick sticker repelling the name: SUMMER 88 JAMS

So many tracks where the DJ comes back before the song’s over, before you can punch the Stop button.

You tried the trick where you press Pause, then Play/Record, but coming off pause causes a spinning-up distortion, like the song’s a cartoon coyote revving up to catch a cartoon roadrunner, bowls with brightly colored breakfast cereal turning the milk colors, Saturday morning and the pajamas stay on ’til noon when the cartoons finally run out.