After dinner and once inside the venue, he stands behind me as we watch the band I'd never heard of and slips his arms around my waist. I begin to panic wondering what to do with my own arms, and my thoughts become a neverending sea of schizophrenia as the minutes tick by. First I'm focused on the band on stage. The audience is cheerfully singing along to their every word, and I have no idea who they are. They sound like a poor man's Incubus or 311, the only references I have from when I last paid attention to new music. But they are apparently very popular if the turnout and the tour bus are any indication. Then I begin to appreciate the venue. It's lovely and modern, unlike the archaic auditorium I saw all my shows in growing up. It reminds me of a place I was taken to during my trip to San Diego over the summer. If we are losing our basketball team to Southern California because we won't build a decent arena, at least we'll have this place.
My attention then turns to my tiny kitten heels digging into my feet and the purse like a lead weigh dragging from my right shoulder. I feel myself begin to teeter in the stupid shoes and shift around trying to regain my ground. He holds me tighter and I'm certain he's taken my struggle to remain upright for a sign of something else. How long will the band play, I wonder, knowing it will be at least another hour. We are bathed in the red light from the stage as I look over desperately at one of the 4 bars I am merely 2 feet from. I want to twist out of his arms and run to the bartender to order vodka. Feel the nasty burn as it slides down my throat and turns to warmth in my chest as it simultaneously destroys my innards and my life. I could ease back into his arms and melt away from all of my tormenting thoughts until I woke up cold, clammy, sick and shaking, covered in my own vomit. I look away from the bar and back up to the stage.
Eventually it's over (but not before an encore), and he guides me back outside into the cold night to meet his roommate. The roommate is one of triplets, and I begin to wonder if I had relapsed inside as I shake each of their 3 identical hands. He invites me back to his place under the guise of meeting his Siberian Husky, Angel, whom he promises is a wonder of nature. Having been mauled by my coworker's Mastiffs, I'm not much of a dog fan, particularly of the dinosaur-sized variety, but I agree. Angel is quite beautiful, and she sits between us on the couch and chews on her squeaky tennis ball. I ask him if all tennis balls squeak, and he laughs as he asks if I thought Wimbledon would be as revered an event if all tennis balls squeaked. I guess I don't know my balls very well, I offer. Having made me laugh, I reach up and trace the scar along the side of his face with my finger and ask where it came from. A car accident, he tells me. He flipped his car several times along a mountain road, and when he regained consciousness, it was to titanium rods in his legs and staples in his head. Oh, I say, making a mental note not to drive with him.
Angel falls asleep, and I want to do the same, so I tell him I’m leaving. We walk to my car and he asks me why I’d carried my jacket around all night instead of wearing it. Shivering, I shrug and smile. It’s a question I’ve heard all of my life. I guess I just want the security of it, I say, I want to know it’s there. He leans in and kisses me, but my lips are unprepared and pursed. Rather than try it again, we make plans for the next evening. He will accompany me to my friend’s birthday dinner. Text me when you get home, he says.