We never got a warning.
I was simply leaning on the counter, spinning around one of our notable laminated membership cards and discussing the philosophy behind Scott Pilgrim vs. The World with my coworker Greg, when it happened.
A bulldozer barreled through our store, right through the romantic comedy section. It was absolutely gut-wrenching to see our only copy of You’ve Got Mail get destroyed in an instant. I still remember the fear painted on Greg’s face; still recall seeing a flash of blue jump over the counter. Looking back, I don’t blame him. I would have done the same if I wasn’t frozen watching the drama section get destroyed. So many John Grisham adaptations. Gone.
It was only when the bulldozer backed-up that I was able to grab Greg by his collar and shake him back into reality. “What’s happening?” he asked me, his voice shaking. I didn’t even have a chance to respond to him as that monster of a machine came back around again, this time running over a cardboard standup of Neo from The Matrix.
Greg yelled at the top of his lungs. I will never forget that sound. It haunts me today. I dragged my fellow coworker across the store, through all the falling debris, and we huddled in a corner and watched the destruction continue.
We looked around at all the empty VHS and DVD boxes scattered on the floor. Classics like She’s All That, Tombstone, The Fifth Element, Meet Joe Black and others turned into nothing but litter. We weren’t boys anymore. That day we became men. I put my arm around Greg. He looked up at me and whispered, “I want to go home.”
I knew that we had to get out of there, had to move on from our home away from home. Somehow. A group of men in orange vests and yellow hardhats suddenly entered our once sacred ground and started tearing down all of our discolored movie posters that hadn’t been destroyed by the chaos.
Some of the men saw us huddled together in the corner, but they simply bypassed us and continued to drag debris out of there. “You monsters!” Greg yelled, almost choking on his own salvia. It was tough to see him this way. This wasn’t Blockbusters’ world anymore. Things had changed.
I remember slowly standing up and walking towards one of the men who was sweeping discounted candy boxes and crushed soda bottles that were slowly emptying their contents out onto the gray carpet. “What happens now,” I asked him. Without looking at me he simply said, “You move on, kid. You move on.”
“We’ll fight this. We’ll go to war,” I responded. This broke him from his work trance as he looked up at me and chuckled. “It’s over. Time to pack up and go home. You’ve made your country proud,” he said.
He went back to sweeping as I looked at all the horror around; all the debris continuing to fall. I looked at Greg who had become a deflated balloon, all slumped over. The wind rushed in from the now wide-open location. All of the noises from outside came barrelling in. I dragged my feet through the rubble and found myself on the sidewalk. I had to turn around, had to take another look at the place that had been a shelter for me for years.
I recall looking up at the big bright yellow words that illuminated the street. One by one the letters shut-off until there was nothing left.
Days later I hopped on a bus and made my way back home. I saw my mother from a distance hanging up white bedsheets to dry when she spotted me. She simply smiled while I waved. I made my way to her, carrying the burden from that dark day.