Callum Knows How to Parallel Park

Catherine Sinow

Met him at community college, Intro to Anthropology. Took his ID out of his pocket and learned his name, Callum is six foot even and can double-joint his elbows which startles our classmates to heaven. One night we meet on our bikes at a park near school. I have a silver beach cruiser and he has an old street bike, I learn it’s painted taupe when he rolls it under a streetlamp. He leads me down a paved road into a pine forest, thirty minutes and we come to a clearing with an adobe building, windows glowing, mountains behind that, three quarter moon behind that. We lock our bikes on a pole for a disabled parking sign and approach the entrance; the hanging plastic banner says, “Owl Records.” I have never heard of this place, and it’s eight PM. Hours: seven PM to three AM. Closed Sunday. The inside is tan tones and there are clouded plastic sleeves on all the records, the wooden shelves are waist height so you can reach and flip. A vocal jazz diva plays full and crackly on the system, the windows have metal bars on them and fluorescent tubes stripe the ceiling. Smells like dust. Every flip my fingers get stickier and I only find nighttime music: soft ambient like Chihei Hatakeyama, noisy post-punk like Unwound. Callum flips gently over in the jazz section, he’s so deliberate, got that music snob’s soul alive in him so thick it could override compassion someday, but not tonight. We pay for our records and when the cashier hands us our receipts we sulk toward the door, we’re kids with backpacks, suspicious any way you slice it. We enter the mint air, there’s fog and light rain hits my cheeks, the warmth from the record shop falls away behind me. I say I’m hungry and that I want to go to the sushi bar with the neon sign I saw on the way here, but Callum says there is food at his house and he gently takes my wrist. I say all right. I play it cool, but my insides are trembling, thrilled, because I am discovering I am wanting him. We unlock our bikes, we pedal against blackened wind and past bodies of water, not far into a neighborhood where every house is one story with low-angled roofs and mailboxes standing at the driveways. The kind of neighborhood once filled with kids jump roping in the street and moms planting violets on the lawns, now people are just waiting for their kids to go to college so they can get divorced and move away. There’s a warm porch light and the green door with its brass knocker is tilted open, screen door shut. Callum and I drop our bikes in the garage and go inside that way, we emerge in a tiny hallway with a closet on the left and come into the main space of the house. It’s warm in here, the floor is orange-brown wood and there’s a big lamp with an oval shaped shade hanging above the dining table. It’s a party and I can tell everyone is related, cousins everywhere, the TV is running and kids slouch shoulder-to-shoulder on a green suede couch, eyes like charging batteries. Adults stand holding champagne glasses. The women wear black dresses and pearls, making me hyper-aware of my fraying black zip-up and sneakers that should be replaced. Then Callum and I put our red plastic record bags in his room, at the foot of the red-sheeted bunk he shares with his brother. Says it’s where he sleeps, but not where he lives. Then he gives me a look like our night is headed somewhere. We step onto the back porch, more relatives talking with champagne and eating ribs with both hands, dabbing barbecue sauce around their lips. They wear overcoats, the awning protects them from the rain which keeps pounding down heavier. Accordion lanterns swing, glowing and dancing, paper surface pummeled by raindrops. We take a concrete staircase adjacent to the porch that descends into the ground, the metal door at the bottom barely has enough room to swing wide and the opposite corner of the swing-space is crawling with black gunk and I just look away. The basement is an empire the size of the house above it. Wooden walls covered in movie posters, an upright piano, a cluster of whirring heaters. A television with an antenna and hundreds of loose VHS tapes surrounding it, three different moth-eaten couches, innumerable clutter in boxes. All covered in the dusty chill of a bowling alley. None of that small-window-at-the-top bullshit, just sweet underground. And a paneled cube is the centerpiece of it all—Callum edges me closer with his palm on my back, a hot tub. Dull black water, he flips a switch on the wall and it comes alive, illuminating light blue, violent bubbles, steam.

“Want to take a dip?”


“Do you have a swimsuit on you? I assume you don’t.”

“You’re right.”

“Want to borrow my sister’s?”

“That’s fine. I’m wearing full-butted underwear anyway. Won’t see anything you’re not supposed to see.”

“All right then.”

“You just wearing your boxers?”

“Boxer briefs, mind you. That too weird for you?”

“No, I know a lot of guys who do that. Oh—ow.”

“Don’t burn yourself. Not about who can get in the fastest, you know.”

“I know. You’re not my mom.”

“I want to tell you something about this tub.”

“What’s that?”

“If I spend enough time in here, I start to forget. Thirty minutes and I can’t remember what I had for breakfast or what was on the news. An hour, and I can’t remember the name of my kindergarten teacher.”

“Do you remember her name now?”

“I lost it last time I was in here. It’s gone. Like that.”

“You could look it up if you wanted to.”

“Yeah, if I could find that yearbook. I guess I never felt the need to relearn it. But I have this theory that if I hang out in here long enough, all my memories will be eradicated. My name and my identity and experiences and everything. I fantasize that maybe the last thing to go would be the idea in my head that I need to become someone else. And when that’s the only thing I have left, I’ll get out of the tub. Given I still can get out of the tub, of course. Then I’ll just be a blank person. None of my terrible upbringing or anything, just a clean slate.”

“And what if you stay in beyond the last memory fading?”

“Well, I guess you wouldn’t know a thing. Maybe go catatonic with no sense to lift yourself out, and sink under the water.”

Catherine Sinow is a graduate of the fiction writing program at Colorado College. Find her other art at

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