the luckiest

LOTG 9.12.15 (3 of 4)-2

“i don’t get many things right the first time
in fact
i am told that a lot”

-ben folds, “the luckiest”

She’s on the right side. I know she’s on the right side.

Why do you think she’s on the right side?

She was on the right side with the Shakey Graves concert.

Well, this isn’t Shakey Graves.

Sigh. Conversations in my head always seem to resemble family arguments from years past. Voices are strained and combative. Somebody’s always got a frying pan in their hand.

Well. Try listening to your gut.

Pause.

She’s on the right side.

Okay then.

I grab both shoulder straps of my American Apparel backpack. The field is full of naps of necks and backs of heads.
Thousands. Of backs of heads.

Shit.

I glance at my iPhone. Thumbnail of a red battery bar left.

“And facing the stage are you on the left or right side?”

Still no reply.

Okay.

I suck in my breath.

Going for it.

I fumble the camera looped around my neck. The friend that spares me from feeling alone, even when I’m thousands of miles from my hometown.

Especially when I’m in my hometown.

How the hell are there so many of them?

The naps of their necks are clean. Their faces free of raised-eyebrow and furrowed-brow lines. Eyes that lack any cigarette singes of hurt. No trances of decades lived yet.

The last radio hit Ben Folds had was when these kids were guzzling Gerber vegetables. Shit.

I’ve underestimated the Brick man.

The band has taken to the stage. Their black suits and formal dresses clash against the audience’s checkered shirts and faded denim.

Damn it. I told her I was going to met her in front of the stage at 9:30. There’s no way I’m going get down there by 9:30. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

Stringed instruments make up half of the onstage semi-circle. A cello. A bow.

The other half is shiny. A silver flute. A black clarinet.

Ben Folds has on a dark blazer.

“Here at the courthouse.”

The big screen next to the stage zooms in. His eyes blink from behind thick glasses.

“I got two divorces here. And kissed the ground under this stage.”

The polite Nashville crowd sputters, unsure of what noise to make.

Ben continues on.

“This song is about Kesha in New Orleans.”

I went to school with that girl. What a weird town.

Ben plucks at his piano keys.

“Take it easy
Take it slow.”

The young audience heads bob along.

“…And I’ll be back on your sofa in a puddle in a couple of weeks…”

My head surveys. Watching the crowd.

Ever so often, a body will wiggle free, swimming towards the exits. But each swimmer goes solo. No open field pockets get created.

No people trains head towards the stage either. I’ve gotten decent at jumping on trains headed towards a stage–the easiest way to get up front. But there are no people trains running tonight.

Seriously. This is pointless. There are so. Many. People here. I’m never going to find her at Blues on the—fuck. Nashville calls it Live on the Green.

God.

The hit comes like a steel shovel against my kneecaps.

I miss Austin.

My shoulders heave.

My throat reels, raw from the weeks of the sinus infection that won’t quit.

I could leave.

But the thought of letting her down—

How will I ever get to the front?

One person at a time.

Sigh.

Enjoy the experience and the moment for what it is.

You know, there is nothing normal about talking to yourself in this manne—

“Rock this bitch!”

Ben’s mouth is eating the piano mic. Making up a verse about a disruptive drunk man in the front row.

“…you should know better than to interrupt my waltz!” 

He sings in a playful, yet purposeful prose type-of-way.

The crowd leans in, feeding off the energy of the moment being created. One that hasn’t been created before.

“Rock this BITCH!”

On YouTube.

“ROCK THIS BITCH!”

Or in Austin.

A smile starts and I sing along with the crowd.

“ROCK THIS BITCH!!!!!!!”

A girl leans closer to her boyfriend. I step forward.

Notes fade on and songs soak the face field that gleams with amusement.

A family with a little one calls it a night.

I float into the open spot.

Ben Folds and his orchestra play on, .

I push forward, gaining a half step.

I stop pushing.

Soak up the music that isn’t familiar. The faces you don’t know. The air that isn’t Texas.

Most of my minutes are spent standing.

Waiting.

Not moving anywhere.

But enjoying it.

And slowly–it’s forty minutes into the set and almost accidental now–the front barricades and security are in eyesight.

How did I—

A backwards hat with a white animal icon.

Wait a second—

I strain my neck.

Is that a West Texas—? Nobody in Nashville has any business owning a West Texas A&M hat unless someone from Texas gave it to th—

“I’m so sorry,” I sputter.

I’m leaning into the girl next to mine’s space.

“That’s my little sister up there.”

She nods back.

I strain my neck again.

The guy on the other side of me looks over.

“Sorry.”

I’m invading his air.

“My sister’s up there.”

“Who’s your sister,” he spouts, grinning.

Smart aleck.

“She’s up there.”

Keep an open mind.

“Faith Roberts.”

His eyes smile and he laughs
.
“I know Faith Roberts. We lifeguard together at theY.”

“I work at the Y!”

Pause.

“Can I?”

He grins and nods.

And I step forward.

“I’m sorry. That’s my sister. Can I?”

They push me through.

I reach the backwards hat. My arms go around her frame.

“Faither!!!”

She turns, surprise and assurance in her eyes.

“Laura!!!!!!”

My arms cling to my favorite thing in Tennessee. She clings back.

“How did you?!—“

“I told you I would.”

_______________________________________________________

Not far from us is a man and a woman. The woman wears a white gown with a jeweled headband on her forehead. The man is in a black tuxedo.

Their hands hold a sign. The words “The Luckiest” are included on it.

“Sign! Sign! Sign!”

Everyone is chanting and pointing.

“We have a sign,” Ben Folds announces to his sea of faces. “I can’t read it.”

He pauses.

“Oh, somebody just got married. That’s awesome.”

His voice reads like a White House press conference.

“Congrats to you guys.”

Court steps. Divorces.

Ben plays his song about the army.

A bow.

An exit.

The night has come to a close.

Ben’s figure enters onto the stage. Solo. He sits at the piano.

“This is for the couple that just got married.”

His head tilts.

“If you know this song, could you please sing along?”

He stops.

“For them.”

And starts.

“and where was i before the day that i first saw your lovely face
now i see it every day
and i know”

Somewhere in the crowd, the couple with the jeweled headband and the black jacket dance, their eyes close and their foreheads against each other.

“that i am
i am
i am
the luckiest”

My camera and I lean into my sister.

Her back heaves.

And together, she and I, and the rest of the September crowd without face lines, find tears glistening at the top of our cheekbones.

Live music doesn’t care if you’re in Austin.

Or Nashville.

Or somewhere in between and still trying to figure it out.

It just cares that you listen.

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