I've just come from my room, looking even spiffier than I did last week, and there's me da in his chair looking three times as spiffy. Auntie Bev is standing right behind him, decorated up like last year's Christmas tree at Roger's Corner Store.
"We'll take my station wagon," she says, her face beaming. "We haven't seen a show in years, baby. It's very excitin'."
They're waiting on me to say something. To give my consent. But what am I supposed to say? He's my da and lord knows he don't get out of the house much. If he wants to see a show, dammit, he deserves to see a show.
"You look real good, Da," I say. "You too, Auntie Bev."
Auntie Bev makes a noise that's akin to Oh, this old thing and she blushes. Da enjoys the compliment too. I doubt if he's been told he looks good in a long time. I feel bad about that. I'm gonna make it a point to compliment him more often.
The pub isn't as busy as it usually is, especially on a Saturday night, so we're able to get a table near the stage. Of course, Da would have gotten us a table even if the place was packed to the rafters. He's well-liked around here. He's chatting it up with anyone and everyone who passes our table, whether he knows them or not. Auntie Bev is flirting with the patrons like she's a high schooler, and it's a bit embarrassing. Even so, she classes up the joint significantly. That's saying something. We order drinks and settle in.
Nick arrives and starts setting up. My eyes don't leave him once he walks in. He sees our table and gives us a nod. Da yells, "Hey there, Nick!" and I feel my face go red. Then Da nudges my arm and says, "Look, Adam. It's Nick."
"He sees him." Auntie Bev comes to my rescue. "We all see him, hon. He's on a G-D stage."
"I know that, you all bitty," Da says, thankfully a bit more quiet. "But Adam here needs all the help he can get."
How humiliating. Endearing, but humiliating nonetheless.
Things quiet down and Nick begins to play. It's a small set of six songs and me da is crying not even half way through it. That's where my soft heart comes from, his side of the family. They're to blame. Nick has glanced my way more than once during the set and dammit if that don't make me feel special. I sit up a bit straighter for it. Of course, Da and Auntie Bev keep embarrassing me, so in the end my stature about evens out.
He's done and is met with scattered applause. I find this infuriating. So does my da and Auntie Bev. They cheer loud and long, God love 'em for it. "Damn good!" Da hollers. "Real damn good!" And he means it. He's wiping away the tears from his eyes as he applauds.
Nick puts the guitar in its old character of a case and then makes his way to our table. Of course, no one in the pub gives a shit that Nick has chosen us to hang out with, but I feel like I been given an award or something. I got this tingling in my belly, like a tiny pine cone doing flips, that gives me a happy grin.
"Have a seat," my da says to Nick. "That was real damn good."
"Thank you," Nick replies with a half-grin. Like he's surprised at the adulation. If nobody's ever given that boy a standing ovation, well, that's some bullshit.
"Wasn't that real damn good, Adam?" my da asks me. I can't be the only one who sees the pointed finger and raised brow in the question.
"It was. Sure thing, Da," I say. "But Nick always gives a great performance."
I get the full grin for this and my tummy nearly makes me laugh out loud.
"Good," my da says, more to himself than to me. "Good."
"Why don't we let these two talk?" Auntie Bev says. "I need to get drunk, and I hear they got a new MegaTouch machine. I just been dying to play it.."
"Well, wheel me to the bar, woman," says Da. "But first," he says, halting Auntie Bev as she starts to wheel him away (and I think to myself, "Oh, shit. What's he gonna do?"), "Let me invite you for dinner, Nick. My boy was supposed to ask you over last week, but you know how things get. Life's a real bitch that way."
"I'd love to come over," says Nick. He looks me in the eye. "I'd love to. Yes."
"Good," says Da. "Now that's settled. To the drink!"
Auntie Bev wheels my hero da off to the bar, both of them singing some expletive-rich song about alcohol and happy times. Me and Nick look at each other and laugh.
"Listen," I say, still nervous as all hell, but getting better. "I was gonna ask you over, but I chickened out and...because I wasn't sure if you...I mean..."
And he leans in and he kisses me. On the lips. Right there in the middle of the pub. My heart is exploding and it feels like TNT, but there ain't no way TNT could feel like this. And now I'm laughing out loud and my eyes are welling with tears. I put my hand to my mouth so I can feel where his lips touched mine and I'm wondering why I'm reacting so. I've played this scene out in my head numerous times, but it's never been like this. This is so much better. "Thank you," I say, because it's all I can say.
"Ain't you never been kissed before, Adam?" he asks.
"Not like that. No, sir." I can barely speak. It's almost a whisper.
"Well, then, you've got some catching up to do."
And he kisses me again. This night...well, it's just become the best night of my life. I look to the bar and see my da and Auntie Bev. He lifts his beer to me and I see his eyes all watery and filled with...joy. What a night, man! What a fucking awesome night.
Teej is fond a Jane Fonda
She makes him do the conga
In a line that's longa
And that's just wronga.
If I were on a stage
With Geraldine Page
I would need a cage
Because she dead and I don't want to touch her.
Rockin round the Christmas Tree
With little Brenda Lee
Save your jealousy
We're three months late.
I'm rhyming like Dylan
Not Dillon but Dylan
At least that's how I'm feelin'
The times they are a-healin'.
Aimee I'm your man
Your man not your Mann
But I take it in the can
so, it's not like I want you in the weird obsessive way or anything, I just really reaaly really love your songs and if you don't respond to my Facebook posts I will DIE!!
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Your name's a pencil sharpener
This poem's death harbinger
Jesus was a carpenter. So was Karen.
Makes the people
Tra la la. La la la.
I've seen him all week, passing him as we work here in the mines, but we avoid eye contact. At least I do. It's not that I don't want to try and strike up a conversation. But what would I say after last weekend's disaster? I've not got the gift of words like he does. And, you know, I been thinking, he's the songwriter, why doesn't he try and chat me up? But there I'm getting ahead of myself. Huh. I don't even know if he likes me at all. Not in the way I feel about him. Maybe he smiles at everyone and I just don't see it. I'll have to watch him more closely.
More closely? Shit. How much "more closely" can I watch him? I'd have to be glued to his pretty face. Every moment I ain't working my eyes are on him. Or at least searching for him.
I wish I was the easier sort. The kind of laid-back fella who gets everything he wants with a wink and a smile. Things just come to him because he has no problem asking for them. But then, those type of guys don't work in these type of mines, do they? And if I didn't work here I wouldn't ever have met Nick.
Still, dammit, why can't something just come easily to me. Just this once.
There's a tapping on my shoulder. I think it's the foreman telling me my break is done with, so I turn around to say "I know," but it ain't the foreman standing there. Instead, it's my brokenhearted wordsmith, eyes a-shimmering.
Instinctively, I remove my miner's hat and push back my hair. "H-hey there, Nick," I says.
"Hi there, Adam." My name. He knows my name. He said my name. It's like I've never heard it said by anyone before. Don't it sound pretty coming from his lips. Suddenly, all the noise, all the miners, everything around us, doesn't make any sense at all. It's just filler.
"I-I want to apologize for the way I acted the other night," I says. "At the pub, I mean. I had something to ask you, but..."
He smiles and my mind goes quiet. No. Numb. That's the more appropriate word. What was I going to ask him?
"It's no problem," he says. "I enjoy seeing you at my shows."
"Truly? I mean, really?"
"Really and truly." His eyes are searching my face for something. "It's good to see a...your face. You'll be there this weekend, right?"
Truth is, up until this moment I wasn't certain if I was going to make it. I'm still carrying around the shame of cowardice from last weekend. But I blurt out like struck oil, "Absolutely!"
We're standing here, grinning like two fools, and it's the best half minute ever. I could live in this moment, dirt-covered and all.
"Back to work!" shouts the foreman from somewhere behind me.
Me and Nick nod at each other. "See you this weekend," he says.
I just keep on grinning, but I think to myself, "Best break ever."