I sat legs crossed on the floor of my bedroom, record player in reach, pulled the vinyl from the sleeve as if it were going to glow, like new vinyl always glows. I considered the cleverness of the mostly-orange album cover for a record called Green. I wondered what the point was in being clever. If there was one.

I set the record onto the player, lifted the needle arm, eased the needle onto the vinyl. The crackling started, the beautiful crackling only vinyl can make, the crackling that came from all the records I’d heard before, the Kiss records, the David Bowie records, the Queen records, the crackling that said the record was alive, ready to breathe, ready to scream out. Ready to make me feel things.

The songs sang one by one and I slipped into them. There was no time, no place, no hallway outside my door, outside my room, no stairs at the end, no steps down down down to the ground. There was no mother at the bottom. No fucking mother at the bottom.

I played it over and over, the last song on Side One. The Wrong Child, it's called.

A boy is stuck inside his house. He can see the other kids from his window, but he’s stuck. He’s never been outside, can’t go outside, never will go outside. He wants to know what it’s like to be part of it, to be with the kids, to be like them, like the others. He imagines the feeling. He sings,

I said I’m not supposed to be like this
Let’s try to find a happy game to play
Let’s try to find a happy game to play

At the end, the very end of the end, the last line, he shoves the words out from his chest, his voice strains, goes raspy, then gives out, like the boy’s voice would give out.

I’m not supposed to be like this
but it’s okaaaay-eee

I moved the needle back to hear it again. Then again and again and again. I sang along, tried to mimic the give-out, to match the strain, the breaking, to make the breaking my own, to sing it to my audience, to make the audience mine, to make the song my song.

I’m not supposed to be like this, but it’s okay.


Robert Hoekman Jr is the author of nine books and the cohost of Spillers and the Spillers After Show podcast. He has won awards for writing and podcasting. His work has been featured by Fast Company, WIRED, Huckberry, Bike Exif, Iron & Air, and many others. He’s currently writing a novel, like everyone’s writing a novel. Learn more at www.rhjr.net.