The Boyfriend took me to see Lloyd McCarter on Saturday night, kinda because they're friends, but also kinda because when I listen to him sing Merle Haggard,
I feel like I'm back in Texas for a second.
We came in through the front door of the venue and the cold air nipped at our backs. The band's guitar player, Mike, smiled his way over to us and we chatted about cataracts, my writing, and teacher life. Craig made his way up to the bar and the air smelled like cotton candy. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him order our drinks with ease.
He didn't even ask me what I wanted. Three years with a person will do that to you. I quietly tucked that feeling away in my back pocket.
Easily, we found our place at the back of a small room with a stage and not enough tables. In a corner, I took my coat off and draped it over the sound booth. Craig and I smiled at each other and talked about nothing and everything and then the lights dimmed. I felt his warm palm slide around my waist. I felt his smile, genuine and warm, on my shoulder.
A band took the stage, and a girl with red hair walked out and captivated me.
In her hands were two Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, and her skirt from 1954 flared out around her calves. Her lips flamed up behind the microphone and her eyes, cold and wide, stared right over all of our heads at the back wall.
I leaned up against the sound booth and looked over my head. What was she looking at?
Nothing. There was nothing there.
Her hand clutched the microphone stand and her harmonies were a touch off - not in a note sense, but in more of a checked out sense.
Her hips swayed back and forth. Through three songs,
She was there. In the same room as me.
And yet, she was a billion miles away.
She looked like she was an accountant or an insurance salesman on a stage not meant for her. She looked like she did this on Saturday nights to remind herself that there is a giant world beyond her cubicle walls. She looked like she walked out on stage to remember what it was like to feel
I looked over my shoulder at Craig and asked him about her. "Why isn't she looking at us?" He shrugged at me, and behind me, she picked up drum sticks and softly played an emerald green drum in a way that reminded me of junior high kids still getting to know their sticks.
Their voices were muffled even through their microphones. The awkward pauses between their songs were broken up by her chugging more beer.
By the time she was halfway through her second can, she started talking to us like we were in front of her. Like she just noticed -
Just in time for her to spew, "This next song is about how all guys are dicks." She held up a hand with French manicure that didn't match the 50's housewife vibe she was trying her hardest to portray. "Not you guys, of course. Everyone else. Out there." Of course. Out there.
And she sang.
And I couldn't understand the words.
But she closed her eyes and she clenched her jaw in between verses and her drum was forgotten. And that's the kinda thing I do understand.
She talked about her son, but wore no wedding ring and I thought about her on the way home.
I wondered if she wrote songs on her arm like I write metaphors when I don't want to forget.
I wondered if she cut her hair in the spring when the sound of shears slicing through is the only thing to ground a girl and kill the ants climbing through her restless skin.
I wondered why she was even on the stage to begin with.
On Sunday morning - Revelation Sunday, as I jokingly called it, Craig and I talked about our pasts. It sure is easy to put things in neat little boxes, tape up the sides with "I'm fines" and move forward. And then, when the exhuming starts - when the halting words and closed eyes and head shakes start - well.
I felt like the girl on the stage.
Craig compared his past lovers to each other and it looked like hills and valleys in my head and I almost told him as much - until I did it myself and saw the same.
Or maybe it looked like waves - the sea touching the beach over and over again.
Closer yet to who it is looking for.
Reaching out closer,
getting it a little more right with each push.
He stared at the ceiling, absently running his fingers through mine over and over again. "I knew it would be a disaster. Every single day. I knew it was going to end in disaster, and I did it anyway."
I wondered about the girl on the stage.
"Did that ever happen to you?" He blinked his brown eyes and shifted them to look at me.
I closed my eyes and heard her voice calling into the microphone. Her Rs were slurred. "Screw 'em all." All I heard of her man-hating song was a haunting four notes over and over again.
I hadn't realized I was holding my breath.
"Yeah," I said, sighing.
"I did it anyway," he mused. Eyes back up at the ceiling. Head back to that year. My hand back in his. "And it wrecked me."
Conversation shifted to something else and the girl on the stage under the blue and red lights fell away.
It wasn't until today that I realized she wasn't staring at the wall behind me because she was nervous. She was staring at the wall behind me because she was bored.
I walked out of the bathroom on Saturday night, and she sat perched on a barstool surrounded by two or three men with their jeans rolled up and the whites of their Converse muddy. Her eyes rolled, and shifted to the bartender. Her drink sat on top of the bar, sweating. The men talked around her, but not to her and she wasn't interested.
They didn't notice.
And she sat there anyway.
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences.
He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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