After all those summer nights, years ago, chasing the brooding boy with the guitar; after all those late shifts at work, slinging trays, sloshing drinks, planning to get to the next show over a polish of cutlery at 2 am; after all these years getting older and growing up, I finally found myself in front of him.
You know me. I was never one of those girls. I don’t swoon. I don’t fall over for boys – even if they happen to be on stage.
But when I saw him, with the dark curls and unassuming stride, heading in to the bar to get ready for the show, I squealed and nudged my friend Laura. Butterflies – good grief.
After he walked by me, disappearing into the back along with the band, I laughed at myself and resumed what was most surely a mature and sophisticated conversation.
The crowd grew more comfy as they waited under the soft glow of the stage lights and red curtains. Most were seated in round tables of three or four with candles lit. Late-comers leaned on the wall or hovered near the bar with a fresh pour. A pug and a French bulldog meandered between chairs and tables and legs, looking for scraps and briefly entertaining affection from the clientele.
Do you remember when I came to visit you that time when you were living in Toronto? Nearly the first thing you said to me was “Do you know who lives down the street from me?” You were living a whole other life. I was still in school (didn’t that go on forever?).
The woman at the door greeted a slow, steady stream of happy folks who ditched their winter coats for a beer. A young couple walked in with a bright-eyed baby who settled peacefully into mom’s shoulder once she found a seat.
I remember you lived with me that summer, and we’d drive my parents’ Jeep with the top down, singing about your summer hat and smile. We drove to Guelph (sold out), we drove downtown from work (too late) – we must have tried Toronto too.
It has been ages since I cared about music the way I used to. I am easily distracted by bouncy songs that my kids can learn the words to; songs that make me feel young; songs that you forget in a week’s time.
But then he plugged in the wistful ‘Us Alone’ sign, and started to play. I breathed in, and my chest ached for his music and for all that time.
One day, Naomi, when we’re grown up – we’ll go see him together.