I met her right before.
My band was playing in a kitschy 50′s diner, dressed to the nines in bowties and matching grey wool pinstripe suits. We were playing Buddy Holly covers and I had on false, thick-rimmed ray bans. No glass, just plastic. The black frames around my vision made everything look like it was on TV.
In the back corner, she sat with a malt glass and a frosted silver tumbler, texting on an anachronistic cell phone. The place was empty, just like every Wednesday night. We were supposed to bring the family diners, but no one wanted to come this far outside of town.
When we finished playing, I unplugged my guitar and crooned “Peggy Sue” while I walked to her, strumming my de-electrified Fender and exaggerating an Elvis swagger. She giggled. She wore simple, shiny, white high heels.
“You should save all that for the stage,” she said. I slumped into the red vinyl booth. I took out a switchblade comb from my inside jacket pocket and combed my hair once through.
“You’re the genuine article, aren’t you?” She said. She wore a red dress with tiny white polka dots, a white bow in her hair. She sipped at her milkshake.
“I like to think so,” I said. I pulled a straw from the dispenser at the table and wordlessly asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing. She took the straw from me and took off the wrapper.
We talked the rest of the night, drank 3 malts between us. Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla. When the restaurant closed, they gave us a sack of fries to go and we went to her car, which was vintage. Blue. An old Chevy boat, complete with fins and white-rimmed wheels.
“It’s my Dad’s,” she said.
We threw the fries onto the white leather in the backseat, and I pulled her close to kiss her, but her phone vibrated in her purse.
“Aw, darn,” she said laughing. “It’s Dad. I gotta run.” She turned to get into her car, but I grabbed her elbow.
“When can I see you again?”
“Tomorrow night, here. Eight o’clock.”
“I’ll be here.”
And I so wanted to be. In all my wildest dreams I never thought I would meet a girl like her, my own Peggy Sue. I drove home that night in my old yellow Datsun and thought about everything I ever wanted to say to a girl like that. I fell asleep that night imagining taking her to a sock hop joint I knew, putting the Everly Brothers on the radio and dancing together, slowly, like in a dream.
When I woke up the next morning, everything felt wrong. The air felt still and strange, like when a box fan suddenly stops. I got up from bed and took a deep breath, remembering my Peggy Sue and ignoring how awkward it felt to move.
The first moments of that inability to move passed quickly, and I went downstairs to open my refrigerator and look for something to eat, but the television was on. My parents were home, which was even weirder than the feeling in the air.
“What are you two doing here?”
“Our cars. Gone.” My Dad answered, slowly and without any surprise. On television, an anchorwoman walked down a street in San Francisco, and a cameraman followed.
“All cars – disappeared over night- no explanation.”
She repeated similar sentiments after that and tried to interview stragglers, people that seemed to act like they’d never been on their legs before. An interview with a man on the street went nowhere.
Cars were gone. No cars anywhere. National emergency, a nation immobile, et cetera.
All I could think of was my Peggy Sue. The old 50′s diner was about 20 miles outside of town, so I got onto one of our old bikes from the garage, and started pedaling.
It was desolation. The suburban streets of our town looked far wider without any cars congesting the street. Hardly anyone was out and about. I assumed that the news channels had everyone struck dumb, waiting for an update. I passed into the outer limits of the city and watched a mechanic lay down on the cement outside of his business and look at the sky.
But other than that, hardly anything. A lone photographer, a homeless man. I biked slowly, trying to remember the way to the diner without using the highway. It would be safe, maybe, but I didn’t want to risk it.
It’s peculiar, the sort of focus a girl can bring. I had little to no worry about the loss of my yellow Datsun, although I did think about Peggy’s beautiful Chevy. Where had that gone?
It wasn’t an immediate concern. Her real name, which seemed quaint and magical to not know yet, became incredibly important to me. I started to think laterally, trying to move like a detective.
I got to the diner around 6pm, after getting lost a couple of times and stopping at a fast food place to get food. Only the manager was there, but that was because he lived right across the street.
At the diner, which didn’t have a name, just a neon sign that said “Eat” in pink letters at night, the doors were locked. Questioning the staff on Peggy’s real name, real life, became out of the question.
I waited the restless two hours until eight. I did figure eights in the parking lot on my bike until one of my tires went flat. At nine, I started crooning every Buddy Holly song I knew, which took about an hour.
Buddy Holly songs are short.
The air still felt strange. Thick, but not humid. I walked to the edge of the parking lot, listening. It was the most quiet I’d ever heard the world. I could hear televisions that must have been miles off, but no wind.
I heard footsteps approaching. The clack of heels on pavement. Then singing.
I ran down the road.