If You Read This, Stay Positive

I am a liar. For years I’ve told a certain story, the events of which are all true. The lie exists in the tone. I’ve always made this tale out to be something good; a nugget of life that I look back on fondly. But the truth is that in the seconds and minutes that this event is comprised of, beyond the false inflections, my heart was broken.

I was twenty-two, if my poor sense of time isn’t failing me. I was going to my first concert without the company of a friend. I had just discovered the band The Hold Steady. I wouldn’t have considered myself a fan quite yet, but I was intrigued enough to lay the money down and see them.

I took the trip to Turner Ballroom to see them. It’s a small, old world, venue. As the people began to pour in I realized what people meant when they called a place “intimate”. I could practically smell the Pabst Blue Ribbon that had been sweated out during shows long over.

I sat through the opening act, a band called Donkey, I think. I’d like to believe that under different cercumstances I’d really enjoy their music. But I, like most others were there for other reasons. That’s the curse of being an opener, I guess.

I wish I had the time to speak to all the other souils in the audience. The time between bands only gave me the chance to talk to a few. For example, a group from New England who had followed the band up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Unsatisfied, they journeyed into the fabled Midwest in search for as many highs this band could give them. I was questionable of their devotion.

Finally The Hold Steady took the stage accompanied by the expected and appropriate cheers. I have to admit I joined in. I’m not sure if it was because I was actually excited or if it was because I longed to be a part of tis group of searchers.

The first thing that struck me was the lead singer’s, Craig Finn, spastic motions. He moved like a puppeteer struggling to give life to hundreds of marionettes wearing black t-shirts and Converse sneakers. But the crowd didn’t need any strings or instructions, it was as if we all knew what we were supposed to do. Listen to the music, then give in return our sweat, spit and blood.

As the concert raged on I began to understand the appeal of the band, the reason middle aged men would travel across the country to see them. It wasn’t the traditional good looking front man, because that didn’t exist, it wasn’t expert guitars, bass or drums either. It was the stories. Not just the ones being sung, but also the countless little tales being played out all around me. The Hold Steady wasn’t the storytellers or the directors, they were the soundtrack and as the show was nearing its end, my scene was next.

I had found myself in relative seclusion after peeling myself from the mass of frantic spirits in front of the stage. The chaos still continued in front of me. Then suddenly little bits of paper began to flutter around me. As I looked closer i realized it was shredded newspaper. The events of the world, the millions of lives contained within, sacrificed for confetti, and rightfully so. Ink stained, party favors fallin at our feet as if we were victorious in something other than finding a place where we could press against others without shame.

She emerged from the crowd, like some punk, emo newborn, all hot and wet with blue and pink hair. Her eyes glowed behind thick black eyeliner. Bits of newspaper clung to her ear piercings like snow on a chainlink fence. I never caught her name, but I like to think it was something like Brittney. I’m not sure why though.

I saw her first, all she saw was me seeing her and that’s all it took. I wish I could say that everything went into some lens flare filled slow motion shot. But her steps were fast, so was the song. She reached me quickly and before I could feign resistance her lips were against mine. The vanilla chapstick was a surprise.

There were words afterwards but they didn’t matter at that point. What mattered was the quick steps that took her away as fast as they had ushered her to me. I’ve never been left behind quite like that before and I pray I never do again.

The band finished up and the applause couldn’t milk two encores. It was then that i realized that I could have loved that girl.

It wouldn’t have been a good love. She’d learn that I love the morningtime and she’d kiss one too many boys at The Hold Steady concerts. We’d scream and fight and I’d set fire to all her perfectly torn band shirts. She’d claim that I just didn’t understand what it was like to be part of her scene. I’d add another lie to the list and claim I did. My fiction would end with me wishing the reality had happened.

Yet, that tragedy was preferable to being left alone to enjoy the kiss under the lit house lights.

\ Things worked out for me though. I no longer wish for that bad love, not after getting a healthy dose of the healthy type. But I do think of that girl. I worry about her. Maybe she found the person she could kiss under normal 50-watt house lights as well as concert lights in front of a pretty good band.

 ***

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