Once, When I Was with the Band

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It was graduation night, and my parents and I went out with my friends to a pub in the Financial District in Boston. All my other family who had come to commemorate my big day had drifted back to their hotel rooms, too tired, they said, to celebrate.  Some of my friends stood at the bar waiting for drinks, but Scott, the one I waited for, still was a no-show.

Each time the pub’s door opened, my stomach clenched as I turned to see if he walked in. Scott had suggested this place because the bartender at our regular spot, Sean, worked here sometimes, too.  But the night slipped away, and Scott still had not shown up. Disappointment lodged in my throat, making it impossible to celebrate. Some Irishmen sat near the door, and they began singing Elvis songs to the cheers of their friends. The men sang and howled like wolves, and I thought back to the day I first met Scott, this musician I had fallen in love with, though I would never tell him.

***

My parents, visiting me in Boston for the first time, had toured all of my favorite spots. We had just walked back to Faneuil Hall from visiting the USS Constitution, and we were hungry. We strolled along a line of pubs on Union Street, heading for a fast food place that beamed at the corner, but the jangly sound of someone playing a guitar lifted in the quiet Sunday evening breeze. My dad, a musician who moonlighted as a telephone repairman, wandered towards the music.  As we walked, the acoustic guitar became louder and louder until we heard the tune of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.”

From the open window of the little yellow pub with “Hennessey’s” blazing across the top, the voice of a long-haired man yowled “AOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” He stood, legs wide apart, his long hair shaking with every holler into the microphone. I had never seen such a wild man. Then he turned, his light blue eyes mischievous, and smiled at us and jerked his head, motioning for us to come in. We listened outside for a few moments before my dad said, “Come on in here.  This guy’s pretty good.

“Inside, we chose a table close to the stage, noticing a large sign stretched behind the musician that read “Scott D.”  We ordered drinks and some food as Scott played his set. At some point, I noticed he stared at me.

At first, I assumed he stared at someone else, some other tall, thin Bostonian, but then our eyes met, and his eyes smoldered as they held mine. He didn’t nervously look away, and I saw something in his look that no other man had communicated: this man thought me beautiful. This man was everything I longed for—confident, good-looking, and brave enough to sing his heart out in front of a crowd. Looking into his hot stare, I knew he could teach me how to be all of those things; he could teach me how to be a woman. But I was not ready.

***

By the time the Irishmen had formed a circle in the pub, Scott strolled into the place, wearing a tie-dyed Beatles t-shirt under a blue jean button down.  His hair caught the dim light near the bar, a small halo trailing him as he sauntered to our table, staring at me as he did. I glanced down at my aquamarine dress. The gauzy skirt hung to my knees, and I worried I looked out of place. Scott hugged me first, and my heart dropped to my toes as he said congratulations in my ear. The warmth of his body made my brain buzz, and I teetered a bit, glad his arm still held the small of my back.

By this time, the singing Irishmen procured the pub’s house guitar, and the group strummed and slurred songs. Dad and Scott shook hands, and Scott moved away from me, my body immediately feeling his absence. I sat down, watching my dad and Scott talk about music. The Irishmen began singing a song, and Scott sat in the circle with them and sang and Daddy followed suit. Then, Scott was passed the guitar, and he and my dad launched into “Jailhouse Rock,” while the Irishmen cheered and danced. Scott’s hearty laugh floated above the ruckus, and we locked eyes again, somehow knowing that tonight was not only marking the end of my studenthood: we commemorated the end of things, though the ending hadn’t arrived yet.

After that first night we met Scott at Hennessey’s, I eventually attended his weekly gig. He and I became friends of sorts. I was usually the first one he spoke to during his breaks, I was one of the few who stayed past gig time and partied with everyone until dawn at his apartment. Scott made me feel special while remaining distant. Once I asked him why the two of us weren’t closer friends. I was hopelessly in love with him by this time. We stood close talking, house music blaring around us.  People gyrated, laughing, drunk as we were.  Scott’s eyelids drooped low, his voice only loud enough for me. He said, “I have few close friends.  I’ve seen so many people come and go, you know? People…they…they almost always leave. Eventually, you’ll leave, too. Right?” I only nodded, wanting to bury my face in his shoulder, feel his hair on my face, smell his shampoo, and cry that I loved him more than anything in this world. I would stay forever if he only would give me the word. I suspected he knew it, too, because he was careful what he said, never lying to me but always keeping something hidden away.

The Irishmen shouted requests for Scott and Daddy to play. Sometimes Scott strummed the guitar, sometimes my dad did, and sometimes they both messed up a little only to be met with a chorus of “It’s alright, it’s alright!” I eventually sat in the circle, singing softly to some Beatles songs, my pitch and rhythm wavy, reminding me of why I was reluctant to sing on a stage, though I desperately wanted to. Singing with the band, in my mind, would bring me closer to Scott. I just knew it. I would be the dazzling, confident woman he always knew I was instead of the scared mouse in front of him. I would be irresistible and forceful—just the woman I knew Scott wanted me to be. Closing my eyes, I felt the harmony, the chords, the joy in the night. The music vibrated from the floorboards to the soles of my feet upward; my voice rose and harmonized with the others. I closed my eyes, the lights of the pub warming my face, and when I opened them again, Scott and I stared at one another.  My heart grew until I thought it would split me open. But then his look changed; for one split second, Scott gazed at me like he knew I was already gone. Even though I sat so close to him our knees touched, I could feel the magic that had been building the past three years vanish like smoke

Later, while sitting in my study long after I had moved back to North Carolina, I found a picture from graduation night. I stand between Mom and Scott, the pub guitar in my hands.  I’m pretending to play.  Mom has her eyes closed, but we are all beaming.  Scott has his arm around me, and I imagined its weight across my shoulders, smelled his Suave shampoo, and heard his voice laughing. When I look at pictures from my time with him, I recount all the moments that have no pictures to go with it, especially the last memory I have of Scott

The last day, Scott arrived at my house to give me the gifts I had left at his house the night before. His house wasn’t far from mine, and he arrived bleary in a sweatshirt and jeans, his hair a little messy. “Have a safe drive,” he said, shaking my dad’s hand. He waved to my mom. I lingered, not really wanting to leave.  “I can’t believe this is it,” he said, pulling me into a hug. We hugged for a long time until Mom asked me if I was ready to go home to North Carolina. My heart in my throat, I nodded. I got in the cab, looking back at Scott, who stood waving until we drove out of sight.

“I believe he really loves you,” mama said.

“What?”

I turned to watch Boston fade away into the distance, all the missed opportunities with Scott hardening into my first regret that suddenly crowded my lungs, my breath painful rhythms of inhalations and exhalations. Nothing comforted me the entire ride back home, not even the memory of when I was with the band.

 

Carrah Lee Faircloth earned her BFA at UNCW and MFA at Emerson College. She lives, works, and writes in Southeastern North Carolina. Currently, she is at work on her first major project and regularly posts on her blog, Buoy Me.

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