Ginnie & Sebastian, the first chapter: CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE for the previous chapter of Ginnie & Sebastian
September 30, age 31
"Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name."
-- Mick Jagger
I am excited for tonight: Local Band Review at Potter’s House put together by moi. I am da’ bomb. I have seven bands lined up with a surprise finale – a local band called Marc, which was hugely popular back when I was a kid, reuniting after fifteen years to perform one song.
The other bands: Lucas, The Goon Dawgs, The Pfeifers, Braxton Hicks (I don’t ask questions because I don’t want to know), Alma Mater, The Haunt and, of course, Chris and his cousin August's group Magnusson, will each do three to five songs.
Kyle, the manager of Potter’s House, had suggested I MC since I was having trouble finding someone. It was hard not to laugh in his face. I told him, the last time someone allowed me in front of a large group of people, my knees locked, I keeled to one side and remained catatonic for two minutes.
Kyle had laughed thinking I was speaking in hyperbole. “Severe stage fright,” he said once he realized I was not laughing with him.
“Not stage fright so much as I just don’t like people looking at me.”
“I’m looking at you.”
“I don’t like a lot of people looking at me. I’m fine with a small group or if someone else is there to share the attention, but me alone, and people watching….” I had to stop talking about it.
“Duh, I know someone I can ask,” I said. “To MC.”
August’s older brother, William, had been a DJ for his college’s radio station. He was already coming, and, of course, for August’s friend he’d do it.
Everything is set. “GW” Wood, stage manager and director extraordinaire.
* * *
I’d realized I had the “cosmic intuition” for a while. Still don’t know what to call it. It’s not really a sixth sense or a third-eye; I just know things – sense them, really, more than know.
I knew August and Liz had split a week before he’d told anyone. He hadn’t even revealed the breakup to Chris or William.
At one Magnusson jam session, Chris started nagging August to bring Liz on a double-date with him and Christine. August kept saying they couldn’t – he was busy, Liz was definitely busy. Nothing suspicious there with regards to Liz. She was a traveling nurse and wasn’t always in town.
The Monday before Chris asked his cousin to double, I’d ran into August at the coffee shop. He smiled, said “hi.” I returned the gesture. Nothing out of the ordinary, but as soon as I saw August, before he saw me and greeted me, the thought came: he and Liz broke up.
“Is Liz out of town this month?” Chris asked during that jam session.
August, sitting on his drum stool, sticks resting on the snare drum, sighed. “Man, we can’t because there is no ‘we.’ Liz and I broke up.”
It took August a week to confess that to his cousin, one of the people closest to him.
Chris is a very private person as well. (How do I always find the quiet ones?) Chris and Christine both keep things close to the vest. Still, I knew.
I was at the Magnusson residence for yet another pizza and movie night: The Sound of Music. Chris was very impressed with my sing-along skills. “Well, okay then. So you sing.” He laughed. “Damn lady.”
“Please,” I retorted.
And I knew. There were no special looks. No extraordinary, tender gestures.
I shifted my eyes back and forth between Chris and his wife.
“What?” Christine said and wiped her face.
“Nope,” Chris said. “Now we’re intrigued. What were you going to ask?”
“You aren’t pregnant are you?”
Christine and Chris looked between themselves and me.
I scooted deeper into the soft couch. “Sorry. None of my beeswax.” I glued my eyes to the “magic box of light.”
The screen froze.
“Um….” Chris laughed. “How…?”
“We only just told our family. Who did you hear it from?”
My heels pushed hard into the cushion, but my body wouldn’t move through the sofa.
“Did August spill the beans?”
I levelled my gaze at Chris. “You think August is going to tell anyone anything?”
“I’ve met William, like, twice.”
“Chris, I’ve spoken to your mom once on the phone. No. No one told me. I just…guessed.”
“Guessed?” Christine said. Sitting together on the loveseat, the couple turned to each other. Christine shrugged, and then threw her hands in the air and squealed. “Yes! We’re going to have a baby!”
She and I sprang from our seats and gave each other a hopping-embrace.
“But you can’t tell anyone,” she said.
“Not a soul.”
I turned to Chris and squealed.
He put a finger to his ear and squeezed shut his eyes. “Do you think we could lower the decibel level?”
“You’re just jealous you can’t reach that pitch,” I said with my arms held open waiting for him to get off his butt and meet my hug.
Then there was the night five months later that I was driving home from the grocery store. I watched the bugs dance in the light straining from the street lamps. The rain from the morning still glittered on the slick streets. I reached for the stereo knob to adjust the volume. Dread plopped into my chest and spread like a stain through my veins. I didn’t know what was wrong, but something.
Chris and Christine’s house was the next right. They’d fix it. Their presence always cheered me up, like seeing that someone cared enough to leave on a porch light.
I rang the doorbell. Chris’ shadow darkened the frost-glass window. He pulled open the door.
“No,” was all I said. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
He hesitated at first.
I didn’t move. Didn’t say I was sorry. Didn’t open my arms.
Chris gave a whole body sigh and stepped back to allow me in.
Lead weighed my feet down. My heart pumped harder.
“Where is she?”
Our voices were hushed; the house was still.
I took my coat off, laid it on the back of the couch. Placing one foot in front of the other, I made my way around a corner and down an unlit passage to a room lit by only a table lamp.
Christine sat on a sage-clad bed with pillows between her back and the black, willow headboard, her legs crisscrossed; I stepped to the opposite side and faced her. With my feet, I slid off my shoes and crawled slowly onto the bed deliberately placing my hands and knees. I mimicked her pose and stared at the baseboard across from me. I bit my lip. So quiet was the room, I could hear each breath we took and each breath we exhaled.
Then I drew my knees up and looked at my friend: wavy, blond hair a little mussed, eyes red and cheeks splotched. She didn’t look any different. Just sad. Yet my soul burst and leaked over the bedspread to hers.
“Christine?” I spoke timidly.
Her head, illuminated by the lit lamp behind her, slowly turned. Her blue, watery eyes met mine for a breath before she turned back to face forward into whatever black void her heart had landed.
I watched my thumbnails and flicked them together. From the corner of my eye I saw Christine’s right hand resting near my foot. I took hold of her delicate hand and nestled it between both of mine.
Soft sobs escaped her, and she leaned into my chest. I held still to her hand that was now gripping mine.
Chris had come into the room. He removed his guitar from the single armchair and sat staring at his feet sucking on a calloused fingertip.
I removed my hand from Christine’s grip and placed that arm around her shoulders.
For a long time we sat, Chris in his chair and Christine cradled in my arms. All night.
Sometimes I just know things.
* * *
Tonight, things have been running smoothly, the songs have been cooking for about an hour.
I take a break from playing stage manager and sit at the bar joking with Tony and Andrea. Kyle sits down on the stool beside me, and, the split second before it happens, I know it will.
Kyle’s butt goes to meet the seat, but instead of staying in place, his stool careens to the left. Impulsively, I lunge at Kyle – as if five foot, three inch, one hundred twenty pound me can keep five foot ten inch, husky Kyle from falling.
As his stool crashes one way, Kyle falls the other throwing out his arms to catch himself. One of his arms smacks me in the shoulder shoving me against my stool, which clatters to the ground in the path of a tall, skinny dude. He trips but quickly rights himself on the other side of the fallen stool. However, Kyle lands on his knees, his hands tangling with my feet, which, in an attempt to avoid stomping on Kyle’s extremities, do not stay underneath me. Gravity pulls me backwards. I smack into the tall stranger who catches me at the expense of his backside meeting with the concrete floor.
Funny how time can flash and crawl simultaneously.
My back thumps against his chest. I unsuccessfully scramble to get up. I feel the vibration of the stranger laughing before my ears register the sound. I start giggling. Kyle turns on his back guffawing.
“Oh man,” he says. “Wipe out.”
Tony lays his head on top of his crossed arms, his shoulders shaking, and Andrea wipes a tear from her smiling face.
Kyle manages to stand and proffers a helping hand first to me and then to the stranger. “You all right, man?” he says still clasping the stranger’s hand; he places his other hand on the guy’s shoulder.
I don’t take in the response. I am overtaken by the scent of pine emanating from the man’s death-metal t-shirt; the hem of the shirt settles just at his hip. Dark wash jeans cover the rest of his lanky figure, and Chuck Taylors adorn his feet.
Standing near him, I have to crane my neck to see his narrow face, short, dark brown hair, blue eyes graced with long lashes (long lashes are wasted on men) and a smile that shines like the moonlight on a deep, dark night.
“Have we met?” I say.
“Don’t think so.” He doesn’t expand, only shoves his hand in his pocket.
“Oh. You just look familiar.” I put both my hands in my jeans’ pockets. “Thanks. For catching me.”
The smile returns. “My pleasure. Milady.”
The little school girl inside me titters. He called me “milady!”
He nods to Kyle and winds his way back to his table where a very pretty girl – like gypsy princess pretty – waits with sparkling eyes and smile. When he sits, she leans in for a peck, which he obliges. The stranger swings a long arm over the back of her chair, places his hand on her shoulder and turns his attention to the stage where The Pfeiffer’s guitarist rips out a solo. The gypsy princess makes a remark to one of the other members at the table, and the stranger watches her; the corners of his mouth turn up. Nuts.
The last band before the finale is on its second of four songs, and I start to sweat. My final act, Marc, still has not shown. I growl. August steps beside me watching The Haunt and nodding his head to the music.
“August,” I speak into his ear. By the way he jumps, I must have screamed his name. I can never determine what volume I’m speaking with live music blaring. “Sorry. I need a favor. The finale band is a no-show. Do you and Chris have another song you can do?”
With his arms crossed over his chest, August nods considering and drifts off, I hope to locate Chris. He comes back, taps me on my back and says, “We got it.”
It is time for the final song. August, sticks over his shoulder like a tuff trekking to a rumble, saunters to the drums. Chris passes me, and then suddenly turns to face me. I furrow my brows as he looks down on me. Before I know it, his hands grab my waist, and he hauls me to his burly shoulder.
“Chris! What are you doing? Put me down. No,” I say when I see that he is approaching the front mic. “No, no.” I kick my feet and slap Chris’s stupid, thick back until I hear some people in the front snicker. I settle for glaring at Chris when he sets me down. The lightening bolts zipping from my eyes have no apparent effect.
“This is the final song of the night,” he says into the mic. “We’re Magnusson, and for this number, we have a guest vocalist – Ginnie Wood.”
I think people clap and cheer, but I hear nothing over the ringing in my ears. My feet lose feeling, and my hands dangle heavily from the stumps of my arms. Clouds of black spot in front of my eyes. Sweat beads form on my upper lip, my eyebrows and my bare shoulders. I shiver.
Then Chris whispers in my ear. “Can you see anyone out there?”
I glance toward the audience. He is right. With the spotlight on my face, I can barely make out a few shapes up front. I am blinded to the mass of people.
“You’re driving the car singing along with a song on the radio.”
During this whole interaction, Chris strums on his guitar. I recognize the tune. I know the words. I play Chris’s game, singing along with song, punching the air to the rhythm of the drums reaching a crescendo – August’s drums, and lilting softly with Chris’ guitar. Then the song ends.
And with it the illusion I had created. I see people standing and clapping and shaping their lips into whistles.
Stiffly I walk to stage right, pick up my bag and do not stop my pace until I sit shaking at the steering wheel.
CLICK HERE for the next chapter in Ginnie & Sebastian