A Night at the Orpheum

We crossed the Boston Common and got to the Orpheum early enough to stand in line with a sense of ease, enjoying the hum of the city, the balmy evening air and the sociability of the pre-concert crowd. The letter, tucked away in my bag, was quietly giving me a sense of mission. I was different from all the other concertgoers, connected by secret wiring to the heart of the crowds' flesh and blood center.

At our leisure we would go to the front of the line to find complimentary tickets set aside for us. Our mutual close friend had promised she would arrange it.  Surely he'd be as pleased to see us again as we were to see him!

The tour bus was already there parked to the right of the ticket line, with its tinted glass windows suitably darkened. Was he resting inside, maybe tuning up his guitar, or looking from behind a curtain? Could he see me?  My heart raced at the thought. It was important to remain vigilant as I positioned myself for his possible viewing. Would he recognize me? Of course he would. Above all, I wanted to look happy and carefree. Wasn’t I happy, wasn't this happiness? Here I was, after so many years of senseless pandering to musicians above me in the musical hierarchy; honing in at last on a real relationship with royalty! How could it be considered a false pursuit if in the end true love was attained?

I shivered remembering that soon I'd be saturated in my hero's aural vibrations and that that would lead to and culminate in my eventual journey backstage beyond the security line into my celebrity's inner sanctum. Like a dog waiting for a bone conjured up from hunger and butchered in its own imagination, I was already dining on my fantasy. The hard part was clearly going to be figuring out how to ditch my husband.

We chatted casually with strangers for twenty minutes or so, then excused ourselves to make for the reservations kiosk. I urged my husband forward through a crush of people to negotiate with the impatient ticket dealer whose upper body and face were behind bars and whose hatred for the public was glaring. The foyer suddenly felt uncomfortably warm and the worn carpet seemed dirty like a carnival had been through. I could see my husband trying to get the man’s attention and ask him what seemed to be the same question several times. Then I saw the man wave him off, signal him to stand to the side and let other’s come forward. My husband looked frustrated. I pushed my way across the floor.

“What’s up?” I said innocently.

“There are no tickets under our name. Nothing.” he replied.

“Not under my name, not under your name?” I persisted. “I guess his people didn’t get the message. But I thought she emailed him directly. Are you sure?”

The crowd continued to pulsate, bodies bumping and mixing with hot air and laughter and slangy voices. A feeling of unclear emotion and unwanted exposure made me flush. From this river of humanity, I wanted out but was in.

A couple tickets were still on sale which we took. They led us on a windowless maze of staircases, past disinterested ushers and grimy sconces to Row Z in the 2nd balcony. We sat down behind a group of middle-school students who seemed used to camping out next to the ceiling, and quite accustomed to multi-tasking between adjusting their ear-buds, answering cell phones and passing out pieces of chewing gum. It was a long way down. I could just see the stage around a structurally necessary pillar. The steep drop-off plunged at an improbable angle creating visual nausea. A pool of red light spilled like cough syrup across the drum kit and surrounding microphones. This was the view that told the story of how far things can fall.

A brief announcement by what looked like a man in a suit, a diminished figure made shoddy by the dust floating between, was followed by a powerpoint presentation of upcoming shows. We were beginning to sweat and tug at our clothing, trying all the while not to breathe much for apparently our location was the final destination for all things air born in the theater. While I was readjusting my pant legs an even smaller figure came onto the stage. Could it be he who wandered my visions, my dreams? Squinting into the green stage glow, my inability to gauge his actual size became off-putting. 

I searched further to feel the thrill of his presence. Soon the strains of familiar riffs and ticks began to bounce back and forth across the cacophonous space, bringing an almost furniture-like comfort. Yes, it was him, my angel, my star. The one who had so inspired me to take up the sword of songwriting again, after a long hiatus. I could almost see his instrument; as he turned it, the stage lights sent solar flashes into the sky of the dark building, momentarily blinding me. In a panic I struggled again to manifest the fact of his body in my physical space somewhere across the stuffy yard. My trying - surely he was aware of it and was equally pained to be missing his mark?

The band played on. After three songs lasting an eternity my attention was slowly migrating towards my husband, who turned and looked at me with a question in his eyebrows. After four songs, much fidgeting and repeated glances towards the exit sign, I managed to mouth the words we both knew were coming. 

“Wanna go?” 

Our escape into the hushed corridors was rapid as we followed our instincts, taking the maze backwards with a palpable, animal sense of scurry and relief. Down below, the lobby was empty except for a lone member of the cleaning staff pushing a carpet sweeper dully across the floor and two girls behind the candy counter giggling and gossiping.

“Just a minute,” I said to my husband as we were about to escape to the cool night air.

The toilets were housed in a small, marble hall, with a complicated entrance through several smaller rooms. My hard soled shoes clacked efficiently across the solid tiles and I let myself into a stall, gently lifting the old silver latch, somehow soothed by the simple sound of its function, in contrast to my own fragility and effort to manage the lump in my heart and my stomach.

Sitting square as a tree, I rested my head against the smooth, cold stone of the gigantic door, breathing quietly, alone at last, aware of the muted thrumming of a rock band somewhere distant like a dream. Like gold this momentary sanctuary of self-reflection and peace came at a price. I sighed, thought about crying. The water for washing felt good. Tearing the letter into as many pieces as I could, I threw it, along with my used paper towel, into the metal waste can.

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