I was glad to see the dancing girls. Before the dancing girls, there had been empty dance floor, a ten by twenty feet space between the stage and the bar where no one stood. There were lots of people at the bar and at the tables in the front of the restaurant, and there were even more people milling around in the square outside. So many people, and yet none of them wanted to stand within twenty feet of the band. Most likely, it was a vote for conversation rather than a vote against the music, but still, it looked bad. I sat alone on a bench to the side of the dance floor, five feet from the stage. I thought about standing in the empty space, a vote of confidence for the band, but I hadn't even finished my first beer yet. Let me have another pint of confidence, and I'll get up there.
I'm actually a very confident person. No, really.
So I was glad when two girls, well, women, got up and started dancing. They weren't exactly the kind of girls that would encourage young men to come closer to the stage. But even if they were a touch overweight and in their 30s, doing interpretive dance, it was better than empty space. One was dressed in all black, a rose tattoo peeking out of her tank top. The other wore a flowing dress and a fake gardenia in her short hair. Could I get away with that look?
One of the women, the one in black, came up and gave me an encouraging rub on the back. "Come dance with us! You don't have to sit here all by yourself!" This was Cheryl. I smiled and nodded. What I wanted to say was that I was actually a very confident person who was not afraid to sit all by herself.
So I got up and danced. It was not the twirly-arm dance that Cheryl and her friend were doing, but more of a gentle bounce to the rhythm. Honestly, it was a lot closer to standing still than it was to dancing. Cheryl introduced herself and her friend with the gardenia, Tammy. Then she asked when my birthday was, which I thought was an odd choice of small talk for someone older than five. But really, it was the kind of question you ask to steer the conversation, and so then Cheryl told me about her birthday extravaganza last month, which lasted four days. She rubbed my back a couple more times. Someone with personal space issues would not like Cheryl much.
She finished the last of her pink cocktail, then asked me whether she ought to have another.
"I can't make that decision for you." Kind of a square answer, isn't it?
In the end, Cheryl decided to have just one more. She offered to get me one, too, and I was tempted by the floating orange slices, but I know better than to switch to liquor after beer. She came back from the bar and told me that the old guy sitting there had told her to get as drunk as she wanted, because he could drive her home if necessary. Ah, a Good Samaritan. She seemed equal-parts creeped out and flattered.
"These guys are good!" she exclaimed about the band. I smiled and nodded.
"Have you seen them before?"
I suppose this would have been the moment to mention that I had seen this very band three hundred million times before. My long-term relationship with the bassist of the band would also have been relevant information. But I didn't say any of that. I can say it was because the music made conversation difficult, but really it was because I didn't want to.
After a little over an hour of live music, the guitarist announced that it was time for them to take a short break. Cheryl and Tammy retreated to the bar to get refills. I waited in the middle of the floor for the bassist. He hopped down off the stage and met me with an encompassing embrace and lingering kiss, which is a poetic way of saying that we made out for a while, just a couple of seconds. I imagine that if Cheryl viewed this scene, she wondered why I hadn't mentioned that I was on a making-out basis with part of the band. Or maybe she didn't see it at all, being busy talking to Trevor, the guitarist, while Tammy seemed engaged with Dave. I couldn't help thinking that I got the pick of the litter. It helps that I put my bid in years ago. Maybe Cheryl had decided to befriend me, because as a trio, we would have more luck collectively hitting on the band. Maybe they'd already picked out which ones they wanted and were going to leave me with whichever one was left, most likely Dave, who is a fine fellow, but the eight-inch beard can be off-putting.
Josh and I spent the break talking to each other and basically ignoring everyone else. After ten minutes or so, the guys got back onstage and the show started up again.
"Is that your man?" Tammy asked. Seems like an obvious question. Or maybe she thinks I have such incredible skills of seduction that I can get a rock star to jump straight from the stage into my arms. Maybe she wanted pointers.
"I know." Heh. "I mean, thank you."
"You can tell he really likes you, that he really loves you because he keeps looking at you and grinning." She is not the first to mention the way Josh looks at me during shows, picking me out among the crowd in between scans of the audience and concentrating on his bass or the other band members. Once, a girl, who was very drunk and very concerned about being twenty-five and single, repeatedly screamed at me during a show, "He's looking right at you!" as if I should have been in the throes of an ecstasy-induced seizure from his glances alone. No, I don't go into seizures, but I do relish those moments. They are like stolen moments between us, when everyone else in the room seems to melt into the background.
Another girl approached the stage and beckoned to Josh. He leaned down to hear her, and I heard "Can you play..." I groaned. I hate it when people make requests. Would you ask the Beatles to play the Rolling Stones? Of course not.
Tammy heard my groan. "Oh, don't worry about her. She's just some dumb girl."
"Oh, no, it's not that, it's just that she's making a request, and-"
"And look at her dress. Really, nothing to worry about." Again, I felt the urge to reassure someone that I am actually a very confident person. Also, I don't think guys care about dresses.
The show ended a little after 1 AM. Cheryl was sloshed, having renewed her "just one more" policy several times. Tammy was only half-sloshed. Assuming they did not want to accept a ride from Creepy Guy At The Bar, I hoped they had sober transportation. I sat next to Tammy at the bar while I tried to get the bartender's attention so I could close out my check and get some water. A few seats away, Cheryl giggled and talked to Trevor.
"I like their music, but I can see through those boys like cellophane," Tammy said, looking across the bar at her friend, who had put her head on Trevor's shoulder. Who knows how many times she had rubbed his back?
"What do you see?"
"He's trying to get her to say they can sleep at her apartment. And if that doesn't work, he'll try and get her to buy them a hotel room."
"That's...possible," I admitted. Tammy probably thought the guys were after sex, though I was almost certain that they were just trying to avoid having to sleep in the van again. I wasn't sure if Trevor would be so bold as to ask someone to buy them a hotel room, though I had just seen him try to finagle a free drink from the bartender, claiming that he had a "cute face." Does that ever work? Would he play up his cute face to a drunk girl in exchange for a piece of floor to sleep on?
"I hate groupies."
"Yeah. They don't care anything about the guy. They don't care what he likes or that he writes poetry or what his personality is like, they just like that he's on stage." Maybe Tammy thinks that all musicians like poetry. "But my best friend is wasted," she continued.
Josh came over to talk to the bartender about leaving their equipment there overnight and picking it up in the morning. He was accosted by Tammy.
"You tell your bearded friend that he should have paid more attention to me," she said. I guess she thought she was taking a principled stand by not throwing herself at Dave, who may or may not like poetry. There was more of her speech, perhaps a couple more uses of the phrase "your bearded friend," but I didn't hear it. And I hoped that Josh did not relay the message to Dave. I didn't want to think of the uncharitable remarks that boys might make about girls with low self-esteem.
Finally, having been assured that the equipment would be fine, Josh turned to me and said, "You wanna get out of this-"
We walked out the front door of the bar, and as we crossed the now-empty square, he took my hand.