As I stood in line outside of Cat's Cradle to go see Emmitt Swimming, I grew increasingly annoyed with myself. There was a much larger crowd than there had been for Combustible Edison and it seemed more collegiate, young, like a band playing in the basement of a fraternity. I decided to get in my car and go on home.
I bought a ticket and went inside.
A jam band from Atlanta was playing. I'm not sure if it is apparent from the posts on this blog, but I am pretty open-minded when it comes to music. I deny no genre. However, I must admit that the 'jam band' subculture is one that I've never come close to getting sucked into. I am a song guy. Improvisation is something great actors do on film sets within the boundaries of a script, not two Teds, a James, and a Rufus on bongos turning 'Highway 61 Revisited' into a 20 minute swamp stomp.
Not big on jam bands. Even good ones. The guys onstage were not one of the good ones.
I bought a beer and stood near the exit, still convinced that I wasn't there at all, that I was at home. The jam band seemed to be near the end of their set as they were all incredibly sweaty. I think this was supposed to add to our enjoyment, as if their sweat was proof of some kind of psychic artistry put into action. I just wanted to hand out towels.
From where I stood I could see out the tunnel hallway to the exit. A steady stream of what seemed like high school sophomores entered the club. I had been constantly struck in my first two weeks on the campus by how young everyone looked. It added poignancy to everything. They were little kids! I again wondered what I was doing out with a bunch of preschoolers when I'd planned to be asleep by this time.
I saw a tall guy who looked a lot like me walk by with a tall girl. He looked sad somehow, like he was not where he was supposed to be. I wished I was taller. This doesn't happen to me often, I'm usually pretty okay with what God gave me. I only saw the girl from behind and she had one of those bodies that seems attractive but on closer inspection is all angles, too much bone and not enough skin. Then when I saw her face their relationship became clear to me. She was arm candy to him and he was ashamed of it. I wanted to go tell him to own up, that I was in my own ill-fitting relationship, that he didn't need to put on a front. This advice which sprang into my head left me feeling self-conscious and hypocritical.
A light from the parking lot beamed in every time the doors opened. This left all concert goers silhouetted until they got within 10 feet of me. I had sipped about a quarter of my beer. I'd been in the club all of 15 minutes.
Her silhouette happened and it was like all the noise stopped.
As she moved through the dark passageway into the light that would reveal her face to me I felt this knot of fear well up and dissolve. When her features came into relief I sort of lost my mind.
I instantly told myself a story about her. She was the younger prettier sister of the tall guy's girl. She was supposed to meet them here. Our eyes met briefly and she walked past me to a wall length mirror.
Now I'd been surreptitiously taking passes by this mirror to check myself out since I'd gotten inside. When I went to the bathroom. When I went to get a beer. But I was impressed by how she simply walked right up, stared herself in the eye, arranged her hair, checked her face...why was I so sneaky? Why didn't I just walk up to the mirror and give myself the once-over if I was so concerned?
Then she walked off into the club.
I immediately felt panic that I'd lost her. I couldn't talk to her. I was a married man with a young child. I realized that I wasn't wearing my wedding ring. She'd think I was a sleazebag. A scenario unspooled in my head, one in which I lied through my teeth to her, told her a fake name, told her whatever I wanted to just to spend time with her. Who was I kidding? That wasn't my style.
So I went after her.
One sweep of the club. Nothing. Another sweep of the club. Nothing. A quick look at the girls bathroom line, waiting until the person inside came out. Nothing. She'd vanished.
I had made my way to the very center of the club, right by the risers on which sat the sound man's equipment. I faced away from the back room where the bar sold Pabst Blue Ribbon, one of which I still held in my hand. The same one I'd had since I arrived. I faced the stage where the jam band from Atlanta still noodled.
I felt incredibly sad then, and more alone than I've ever felt since. That's it. I'm going home. I drained the beer and put it on the riser to my left.
And at that very moment she was right behind me waiting to tap me on the shoulder.
Tomorrow: Emmitt Swimming, The Wig, The Almost-Fight, The Lie