Archive for May, 2010

May 6th, 2010


We sit at a small table near the elevated stage; the place is dark, sort of grungy, packed with people talking over the band. Behind the bar a waitress in pigtails pulls a beer then slides it, slopping foam, toward a smiling, red-faced man.

The band breaks, the drummer stretching, rolling his shoulders, the guitarist ducking beneath the frayed strap of his guitar, the bassist taking a long drink from a pitcher of water. I look up at the stage and find myself caught in the gaze of the singer. He’s a man who looks older than his years, with an unwashed mop of dark hair and a scruffy beard, and the most desperate, exhausted eyes. His mouth is tight, a little grim. His right arm has been cut off just above the elbow, the withered end of it visible beneath the short sleeve of his worn red plaid shirt. He has a broad chest and would be a robust, imposing man, if it weren’t for his sad eyes.

In his left hand he holds the microphone; it’s a black, solid-looking thing. I step closer for a better look, and the whole band is watching me now, silent. The microphone is etched around with thin lines of a dark, sparkling red, in a pattern I can’t quite pick out.

“It has your number,” the singer says, turning the mic. And there, a couple inches high in beautiful glinting red, is the number 13. I smile, and sweep a look over the band; they are still watching me intently.

“Will you take it?” His eyes are so dark and sad, boring into mine. I know I should be nervous under all this scrutiny; I know something is wrong here.

“Sure,” I say, “I’ll hold it.” Thinking he needs a drink, just a moment, thinking it is only polite. So I take the microphone and it is a solid, smooth weight in my hand. For just a moment I see something ease around his eyes, relief flood his face, and maybe sorrow, something like an apology, but then he has turned and stumbled around a speaker, over a cluster of wires, and he is gone behind the stage’s faded plum curtain.

When the set resumes I am standing there beneath the spotlights. The music washes over me and I sing; it is flawless, effortless, my voice slipping through the notes like it never would have before. My stomach is twisted with dread, and I can’t stop wondering about the haunted man’s missing arm. About the desperation that drove him.

And my memory of the dream frays apart. Later there is an interlude with a cheerful, oblivious blonde backup singer. I am able to pass her the microphone but she has only agreed to hold it for a minute, and sets it down without a second thought. And I remember much later, when I can finally let it slip from my fingers onto the floor, when I can get up and walk away, but I can’t now recall how I managed the trick of it.