This is a dream I have every now and again. The dream is true, but the details are not. If you can figure it out, please leave a comment or e-mail, because I don't have a clue.
I wake up in the morning with a song stuck in my head most every morning. It dovetails well with the same reoccurring dream I've been having for years. In it, I’m waiting to perform at a very small venue with a backdrop of bricks and mortar, sitting on the front row, my guitar in hand. A woman takes a place next to me. One can tell through body language that she finds me attractive, but before long I recognize she has some unexplained, severe medical problems. I’m not sure whether it’s periodic epilepsy, a severe bodily tremor, or some other short-term neurological disorder.
My friend and fellow musician, second on the bill, points this out, as if I ought to be cautious. I think she’s harmless. I try to be kind and receptive to fans, because as a fan myself, I have been treated coldly by members of bands or by solo artists. I introduce myself in between set changes. She smiles, looking me in the eye, but says nothing. I wonder if I should try again, but decide against it. Her eyes now focus deliberately forward, seeing nothing and everything at once.
She wears a short dress while sitting awkwardly on her chair. I can’t help but manage to easily look up her skirt, but the same would be true for anyone nearby. Once I knew a woman privy to the same accidental problem, someone who had such low body fat that her knees did not completely meet. I used to worry that she had an eating disorder, but I soon learned that her medical issues were more complex than that. It was easy for her to succumb to the same inadvertent problem with modesty.
My fan followed me everywhere that night, with great loyalty. It’s difficult for me to turn people away because I’m an intrinsically lonely person by nature. I wish I hadn’t spent an isolated childhood largely by myself. If I was more well-adjusted, I might be more discriminating in a healthy sort of way. My fellow musician friend learned over again, speaking directly into my right ear. Concerned, he told me to cut her loose immediately, but I responded that she wasn’t a problem to me, at least. She’d asked only to sit next to me. It’s difficult to be irritated by someone who never talks.
I picked up the guitar for lots of reasons. Blessed with musical ability, I never found my instrument until later in life. My mother started me on piano as a young child, but I was unable to integrate the left hand and right hand parts enough to be proficient. Almost every Americans wants to play the guitar, but most of them languish inside closets, once their owners find the challenge too daunting. I was one of the few who picked it up and kept at it.
At the end of every set, I worked the crowd. Specifically, I gravitated towards those in the back of the room who were clearly impressed, showing their thoughts plainly. The more disciplined musicians had small flyers and business cards printed up for situations like these, advertising other shows scheduled in the future. These they dispersed to anyone who might show half an interest. I was much less focused, likely to my own detriment. My interest was on whatever I could get. And before I write a single word further, let me say that finding a partner for later is much more challenging than one ever might think. Even so, I enjoyed the chase, even if the odds were steep.
My fan did not change position the whole show, through three separate acts. It was as if she expected me to return. Flattered at the single-minded devotion, I returned to my seat and patiently waited for amps and keyboards and snare drums to be brought in from the cold and set down strategically on the stage. She grabbed my hand in hers and held it there in my lap. I was shocked, but not unpleasantly so. It seemed so out of character that I couldn’t help but marvel that she’d had the courage.
I’ll concede that my first thought was to shake loose from her, since I wanted to play the field a bit longer. But as that old idiom goes about a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I began to take her more seriously.
I’d been the opener on the bill with three other local acts with slightly bigger names following me. Nothing kept me here aside from hearing the sets of other groups, most of whom I knew well because we always played the same venues. I estimated that the last band might play another hour and that would be it for the evening. I’d heard these songs multiple times before. If I ducked out the backdoor into the late autumn chill, it wouldn't matter.
C’mon. Let’s go. I motioned for the exit.
She smiled, keeping silent. She grasped my hand in hers, like before. I rarely ever opted for pure adventure, for any situation where I wasn't reasonably sure of the outcome. There had been no discussion of any sort, not where we were going, not what expectations had been set, not her thoughts, desires, or potential reservations.
She was pretty in an unusual sort of way. Her blonde hair was kept fashionably short and her clothes had clearly been purchased at a thrift store. On occasion, she seemed to have an involuntary case of the shakes or tremors, the same I'd noticed inside. During these episodes her facial expression turned momentarily frustrated and upset. But when they subsided, she resumed smiling at me.
Should we have a late dinner at a diner? This was often how I spent late evenings on nights where I was gigging. I kept obscenely late hours and they were the only places open at those times. She gave no indication of preference, and I supposed I’d need to make the decision for the two of us.
My eyes opened at that exact instant. I felt disappointed. Some dreams leave you desperate for escape. Others make you feel as though you were more than halfway done with an interesting book, only to learn that the rest of the pages weren't enclosed. The latter was true here. But the music remained, as though someone had pressed play, then repeat. At least I had that much.