Derek Hayes, Grammy winner and chronicler of the 70s and 80s, was an inspiration. At least, Sophie thought so, even if her classmates had never heard of him. Derek beat heroin addiction and several bankruptcies, but always came out okay, with a wry lyric or a brilliant riff. He watched the twilight of twentieth-century America through black aviator glasses and lost neither his courage nor his compassion. If he could do all that, Sophie could survive high school. Her burdens — the boys staring at her breasts in class; the girls who wouldn’t talk to her, but laughed behind her back; her mother’s tantrums and silent treatments if her grades were low or her room untidy — all paled next to Derek’s struggles.
Thankfully, Sophie was well beyond high school and her mother’s house when Derek Hayes died. It was October, and the news broke on social media. Sophie kept to herself all afternoon at work. If her colleagues saw her splotchy face, they would ask what was wrong and force her to explain. Telling them was impossible, of course. It was bad enough that they gossiped about her when they thought she couldn’t hear. She knew, though. She knew more than they gave her credit for, which was why she couldn’t trust them — had never trusted them, just like she hadn’t trusted her peers at school.
She darted out the door as soon as her shift ended, numb to the cold wind and the screeches of traffic. Canvassers accosted her in the street. There was some pointless, stupid election going on. She wanted to scream that it didn’t matter, that Derek Hayes should have been the President or the Prime Minister instead, but he was dead now. She set her teeth and made herself stay silent. She didn’t want to talk to anyone unless, maybe, she would call her boyfriend tonight, and weep. Now, she needed to be alone in her apartment.
But she hesitated at the shop window. Through damp eyes she had seen the aviators in the display. They were Derek’s trademark for more than forty years. If she bought them — if she were to wear them and go back to playing the battered guitar she had found on Kijiji — it would be a little like carrying on his legacy. Perhaps he would even start to haunt her or possess her, like an old horror movie. Let him. This was Derek Hayes, after all. She was not going home without those sunglasses.
She wiped her face with a gloved hand and entered the shop.
Rebecca Katz is completing her PhD at McGill University, in her hometown of Montreal. She recently sold her first short story to the magazine Enchanted Conversation.