You know it ain’t easy
For these thoughts here to leave me
There’s no words to describe it
In French or in English
Cause, diamonds they fade
And flowers they bloom
And I’m telling you
These feelings won’t go away…
So, it’s like that is it?
Maybe the stars had aligned or maybe it’s just the way it was always supposed to be. We dated a month and ignored each other for just as long. I hadn’t seen him since the last time we had gone out – that time we went skiing together. I was fed up with him not even having the courtesy to cancel. I called him out on it which meant, in the rules of dating, I had clearly chosen to come out as ‘the crazy girl.’ And frankly, I didn’t expect to ever hear from him again.
But I did.
And what did I do? Unleash the emotional barf zone and overwhelm him with my “real thoughts” and “feelings” that were unwarranted and had already been kyboshed. I mean, this was all in response to him giving me the ‘just friends’ talk. What was I thinking? *back peddle*
I was now sure to never, ever … ever ever ever hear from him again.
But I did.
Now it’s on him. He’s the crazy one, clearly.
He wrote back a lot despite his manager at work giving him a warning about spending time on personal email. I asked him if I could buy him a drink, knowing he’d be at the same show I had to cover that Wednesday night. It was a last minute decision. I gave him only two days to respond. Less than that, really.
So, I tried again.
His responses were coming in the middle of my manager’s meeting. I too was in trouble with my manager. We used to talk about it all the time, back when we actually seemed more ‘together’ or at least trying. I couldn’t be more on edge. I tried to speed read from my phone, tucked precariously under the table as if no one would notice that I wasn’t paying attention. He wasn’t going to the show – something about overwhelming projects and out of funds. Typical answer.
Still, my entire life is run with a certain degree of superstition – something I’m almost sure had to do with being born on Friday the 13th. And here I am, being superstitious about my superstitions. At this point, my so-called friend Jen (aka my roommates latest hookup) was supposed to be my +1 to the show. She was Citizen Cope’s biggest fan and despite being his #1, she had to cancel because her #3 had the stomach flu and came home early from school. The stars were aligned, right? It was surely meant to be.
I stayed at work late to write him back only to realize he probably wouldn’t get the email in time. I texted and somehow despite our, “friends only” conversation, plans were made. I offered him a free ticket with no obligation; something he could use for just a half hour and leave. I didn’t want it to be me, but I wanted proof that somehow, it was. I felt lucky he had responded at all and let’s be honest, I didn’t have a lot else to offer at this point. Somehow the whole idea of ‘in it for me’ hadn’t fully separated from the fact that my self-identity was so closely tied with the music business. It would be a mistake I’d make time and time again, and this certainly wasn’t the first.
I met him at his house with my new car that was somehow his most coveted dream car – the 2010 Subaru WRX Turbo. I had no idea! Cool points for me. So, I had him drive. I was still learning. I was that weird person that bought a manual transmission without knowing how to drive it off the lot. This way, I’d have to learn fast. Instead, my roommate and I had spent most of the month switching cars. I paid for my new hot ride while sporting his old, automatic Audi. Tonight was literally a first, and I was happy to not have to stall my way to the venue in complete embarrassment.
The venue was close enough to walk, but now driving the new beast was a thing. It had to be done.
That Cloud 9 feeling of coolness didn’t last long. I wasn’t on the guest list. This happened all of the time, and usually I would text my marketing managers as I walked away — insisting that there was no way I was getting and call it early for the night unless they miraculously were able to fix it before I got to my car. In other words, it was usually an excuse to go to bed at a more reasonable hour and not have to do a 2am write up on my third tour of the week. But tonight was different. I had to get in!
I felt like he didn’t believe me – like he was quickly deriving that all of this was a sham. There was no job in the music business or free tickets at Will Call. All of this was just to get him to hang out one last time. At this point, I was even questioning myself as to whether or not that was true. How embarrassing!
Apologizing, I shoved my purse into his hands for a brief second as I emptied all its contents into my hands. Shit! My phone was at 20%. This was my night.
“Thanks,” I muttered without looking him in the eyes.
Pinning my phone between my shoulder and my ear, I shoved my bag under the other shoulder as I thumbed through printed pages of venue and management information. I called the band manager, texted the label manager, and pulled the venue manager out of his office after the longest five minutes of my life. Waiting.
The venue manager gave me an attitude like I was just trying to con tickets from a sold-out show. I gave him my name, the manager’s name, and advised him to walk downstairs and ask the band if they knew me. I made sure that the last part was audible and I muttered the rest of my pleads under my breath like half-assed threats. This was one of those, “Do you know who I am,” moments, but usually, they turn out better than this. I was off my game.
The manager rolled his eyes and you could tell he was only walking downstairs to amuse himself with stories of another crazy fan standing outside. The crowd outside was getting more and more condensed and the sun had gone down completely. Ten minutes later the venue manager came back, knocked from inside the Wil Call window with a sharp, quick knuckle bearing knock. Buffalo stood in the distance, clearly trying to decide whether he was going to walk home or to the nearest bar and how he as going to strategically get away without me trying to follow.
The manager gestured for me to come over to the window as he apologized profusely. This was usually my favorite part, but I didn’t take the time to truly enjoy it this time around. He handed me two $0 passes and I motioned toward the friend zone to let him know we could now get in line. Buffalo was surprised. He starred at his pass with a certain amount of gratitude and awe.
“Is that your first zero-dollar pass?” I said it with a smile. I might’ve even winked. Oh God, did I really wink?
“Yes! Thank you so much!” He was excited.
“You should keep it then.” I tried to seem self-important like I was ignoring him after doing him a favor. I acted like I had somewhere to be and I didn’t care where he went for the evening. And I almost believed myself. That’s a start.
He followed me up the three sets of stairs to the 21+ level of the venue. We didn’t talk much. We just found our way inside and to the bar where he bought me a ‘thank you’ drink. If I had a dollar for every alcoholic gesture of gratitude, I swear.
He had some friends here. Friends I had never met. In fact, at this point, I almost didn’t believe he had friends at all. They were always supposed to show, but never really had. We found them near the front, positioned just to the side. The show hadn’t even started and for that, I sipped my liquid gratitude.k. Citizen Cope was the only band playing and I’d be dead meat if I didn’t get inside in time to cover the show for the label.
Casually, Citizen took the stage and played in a way that felt like all of us were gathered around a yellow, vintage couch listening to him strum an acoustic in his living room. He played a full, two-hour set and I counted every minute as two hours longer than we’d ever hung out before. Why was this so damn important to me? I had quite literally taken someone new to every show I had ever covered for years. I suppose it had never been such a toss-up as to whether those people were a bigger fan of me or a fan of the band. Tonight, I wasn’t sure.
I chose to stop questioning myself; stop overthinking the situation and instead, I danced. It’s all I could do to reassure him that things were cool and I wasn’t actually standing over here thinking over the meaning of everything. I’m not that type of girl. At least, not usually! So many other girls would have stood in a corner, walked away, or never invited him in the first place and expected the guy to notice them in their absence. So many other girls would have done all they could to exert every ounce of negative energy they could possibly muster only to insist “I’m fine,” if asked. But I’m not like that.
By this point, the music had me. The dim, blue lights captivated me and the lyrics persuaded me. I smiled and let my hair fall around my face and past my shoulders as I looked at the ground. Swaying.
Everyone around us was dancing, together. I was ok with that. His friends were coupled up. Everyone was so happy. Grabby. It’s like the room was pumped full of smoke laced with ecstasy. Even the gay couple beside us grabbed at other girls as if to say, “You sassy bitch,” before grabbing at each other. What was going on? I just smiled and laughed.
I fantasized about grabbing a complete stranger beside me. The music was that good and we were all friends now right? Here, in this almost living room set. Surely it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Twice I thought about turning around and dancing with Buffalo, but even I wanted to get past this and just agree to be friends. Everything would be easier that way. I just stayed in my own bubble, swaying and smiling. My heart wasn’t breaking and that was the most I could ask these days. Despite every sweet word that would otherwise have made it so – these moments weren’t killing me. I was happy he was here and I was happy that he came. One less night alone. That was all this was.
I was in my own world. I looked up into the lights and sang along. I had just learned the words from an early release CD the label had sent me in the mail weeks prior. They repeated easily enough and the tune was simple to learn. I wondered if anyone could hear me. I wasn’t even sure if I was whispering or if I had been belting the lyrics out loud. It’s ok. I can carry a tune in a bucket. I didn’t care.
I let my hips get into it. I was on my own with this one. I trusted that no one minded and anyone who may be watching would probably appreciate my manic pixie crazy girl dance party for one. He placed his hand around my hip. Firmly. He wasn’t shy. He asked me if I could see and insisted that I stand where he was standing because it was better.
At first, we were very close, trapped by the crowd. I found a space and moved away. We had just had this conversation, about being friends only. It was as much my decision as his. In many ways, it was more so mine. As much as I believe in something more and the distinct image of what it would be, I know as well as anyone that you can’t just build a relationship on a path of hope and good intentions.
Despite the glamorous ideals of how well we get along or how much we could do together career-wise or socially, it wasn’t meant to be. I knew that. We have a lot of things in common that I’d never really found in common with anyone else. But all dreams aside, at my core I had learned the secret to survival was all in the ability to say, “So What?” It takes two to want something. Right now, we wanted to be friends. The irony was that being friends actually allowed us to make plans, see each other, and talk more openly. Funny how that works.
That half hour of no-obligation hangout quickly turned into three hours where afterward we tripped out into the moonlight and walked down the street together, bumping into each other flirtatiously. We were still close. In some ways, we were closer than ever.
He answered his phone with a quick, “Yup!” And turned to me asking if I had plans. It was a work night and I knew we both had to be up early. We were both getting in trouble at work a lot lately, I really should go to bed.
Oh, screw it! “Umm, as long as it involves food…” no one would buy my innocent girl gambit.
We went back to his place where he made me dinner while I got to know his roommate and roommate’s brother. Clearly, they had heard about me before. That was a good sign. It was all a good sign. Maybe I wouldn’t be friend-zoned after all.
Hours later, he walked me to my car to say goodnight. I purposefully placed the car door between us as he asked me about an upcoming concert the next month and if I’d be buying tickets. And at that moment, I knew the answer. He wasn’t a fan of me. He was a fan of the band and tonight was about nothing more than due diligence. If I had a dollar…