There he was, smoking a cigarette in the cold. Thirty five degrees but with the wind chill, something like seventeen. No jacket, no sweater. No coat. Only a long-sleeved flannel shirt, rolled to the elbows. And he flicked closed the rusted, wick lighter and he blew smoke out his nose.
“That’s him. Aw shit. That’s totally him.”
“Right there, smoking. Oh man, that’s him.” I was losing my shit.
He looked around. No eye contact with anyone, barely anyone for eye contact. And then, she wasn’t standing next to me. She was right in front of him. Shaking hands. He gave her a cigarette. She walked right over and bummed a cigarette. From him. Like asking Bill Gates to spare a dime. Like asking God to give a damn.
In the dark, I watched. I waited. My tickets in hand.
* * *
A casual music fan, I am not. When dropping coin enough to see a show—and in the age of Stub-Hub legalized scalping, that can be several coins—I expect a show. What I don’t expect, listening to a crew of drunks run their mouths—this is not a bar. Listening to a couple poseurs chat it up, just here for bragging rights. Listening to a few kids who don’t know shit about rock and roll as they talk through a set. Their mommies—holding car keys—gossip in the row behind. I am not a casual music fan. And casual music fans I do not suffer.
Cell phones sounding off.
Grooving hippy dancers. Feeling vibes.
That prick yelling, “Play Free Bird!”
At one show, a mother held her baby’s arms—barely old enough to stand—and danced around the pit. This until security interrupted. Said she’d have to pop some ear plugs in the kiddie. My thought: If you can afford concert tickets, you can afford a babysitter. Me, I can’t afford distraction.
* * *
Onstage later, he wore the same flannel shirt from the alleyway. I had asked for the cigarette butt she’d bummed. She called me disgusting. I had reached down to grab his butt. Her look froze me and caused second thoughts. But later, in the concert hall, what did that matter.
A few power chords before the drums kicked in, steady behind. Until the first chorus when the bass and lead guitar joined and the keyboardist started messing around. That was when I grabbed my pipe.
One hit, deep and held onto. A quick spark of my disposable lighter. Exhaled upward and I pass it to her.
And from thin air. Like how a near-death experience must look. I see nothing but brightness.
Right there, flashlight in my eyes, a black-shirted security guard. Myself, hands in the air, like don’t shoot. The goon stares me down for a few beats too long. He looks hard. I look high.
And this at a rock show. A full-grown man can’t smoke a bowl. Because somewhere, there’s a baby with earplugs.