Seth kicked at the railroad gravel sending small rocks flying and skipping over the steel rails and down over the side of the berm. The gravel echoed across the railroad tracks in the quiet of one a.m. He winced at his split lip and he remembered getting elbowed in the face. He exhaled, trying to clear his head. He tightened the knot from his flannel shirt sleeves around his waist and focused on walking. It was a long walk home even with the railroad track shortcut.
The concert was supposed to be the time Seth was going to make her love him. She’d be up there, on the stage singing in her normal frantic but amazingly sexual style, when she’d spot him in the crowd and fall madly in love with him. It was ordained. It was supposed to happen. Seth just knew it was going to happen that way. He’d dreamed about it so many times. He’d imagined it so perfectly. He even knew what they were going to say to each other.
Carrie Lee would stop the show right in the middle of her signature song, Love is a Knife, and ask for the concert venue to put a spotlight on Seth. She’d recognize him from his letters to her and she’d know that it was his 18th birthday. She’d insist a spotlight be put on Seth. The light would come on, blinding Seth for a moment. Carrie Lee would say his name and he’d be lifted up on the shoulders of all the other concert goers and body surf his way to the front of the stage. The burly bouncers would help him up onto the stage where he would be face to face with Carrie Lee.
“I knew you’d be here,” Carrie Lee would say.
“I knew you’d know that,” Seth would say.
“I got your letters,” Carrie Lee would say, “They’ve meant so much to me.”
“I know. I’ll always be there for you,” Seth would say.
“Happy Birthday Seth,” She would say.
She’d take his hand and pull him in close. She’d look into his eyes and then close them slowly as Seth moved forward to kiss her. Their lip rings would touch forever solidifying their universal connection. The band would start back up and Carrie Lee would hold Seth’s hand for the rest of the show. She’d kiss him at the musical breaks and in between songs. She might even cut the show short so she could get him back to her hotel room for all the awesome sex they were likely to have for the rest of their lives. It was so perfect.
Seth looked behind him along the train tracks to make sure a train wasn’t coming. Not that it would matter now, he thought. Nothing had worked out like he’d expected. His Dad dropped him off two blocks from the concert venue, which was cool, but his dad just didn’t get it. Carrie Lee’s music was raw and intense and there was no way his Dad could understand it. He never had music like that or felt that way about someone. But it was still cool that he was letting him go to the concert by himself and didn’t drop him off right in front of the doors.
Seth gave the guy at the door his ticket, went through the metal detector and into the intimate concert space. It was packed with all sorts of punks and rockers and weirdoes that Carrie Lee’s music inspired. It was Seth’s first concert so he really wasn’t sure where to go. He followed a small group of guys that were sort of dressed the same as he was. A flannel shirt tied around their waists, messy hair, old board shorts and skater tennis shoes. He figured he’d just hang back with them until the show started and then he’d let destiny unfold.
Things started getting awkward really fast. He found himself caught up in the rush of people moving toward the front of the stage. There were just so many more people at the concert than Seth expected. He thought this was an intimate show not a hootenanny for a bunch of yahoos. He was pushed and shoved and practically mauled in the crush of Carrie Lee Fans as they forced their way closer to the stage and the metal barrier surrounding it. He tried to push back since he wasn’t standing in the spot he imagined in the crowd. He was too close to the right side of the stage when he imagined he’d be closer to the center. He tried to push his way in that direction but the lights went down and the intro music started.
The crowd started cheering and it was deafening. Seth jumped when the speakers blasted out the bass line to Carrie Lee’s song, Finger This. He’d never felt a bass line pass through his body before. He felt his heart rattle in his ribcage. He looked up toward the stage and saw Carrie Lee skip out with microphone in hand. She was dressed like a Japanese Anime Maid; it was not how Seth had imagined her. She thanked everyone for coming to her show and the band started in earnest as Carrie Lee started hopping and gyrating across the small stage. Seth felt the crowd swell and he felt crushed. He looked up toward Carrie Lee with pleading notice me eyes. He begged God for her to notice him; to see him and know that the man of her dreams was in the crowd and ask them to give him space.
She kept singing and Seth could hardly tell what the song was. It sounded like something he’d never heard before but people in the crow were singing along. It was something from her first album, an album Seth didn’t even know about. He tried to make a space for himself in the singing crowd but he couldn’t get any room. He felt like he was going to lose it. He was sweating and felt lost in the noise and confusion. He turned away from the stage, still hoping that maybe Carrie Lee would see that he wasn’t facing the stage, the odd one in the pack, but she didn’t. Seth started pushing his way toward the back when an elbow came from out of nowhere and caught Seth in the jaw. He’d wandered into a small mosh pit and got hit right in the face. He fell backwards and into the crowd who pushed him back into the little mosh pit where he bashed his head into another person’s head. He fell to his butt into a puddle of beer. No one helped him up. They danced around him as he tried to crawl to the sides to get away from them.
Seth spent the rest of the show, nursing his bleeding lip and rubbing the top of his head where he’d connected so hard with some other dude. Carrie Lee never looked his way. She never asked if he was there. No matter how hard Seth pleaded to God to let her see him there in the back she just kept right on singing, dancing and flirting her way out of his heart. Seth was embarrassed and hurt but wouldn’t let it show. He sort of sang along and tried to look cool along the back wall along with the old people. He stayed for the entire show. He stayed for the encore. He stayed so long that the bouncers had to sweep him out along with the drunks and high kids. He never saw Carrie Lee other than on the stage. She didn’t greet her fans. She got on a bus and was gone.
Seth called his dad. Said he’d had a great time, but he was going to take an Uber home. His Dad said it was no trouble to come and pick him up. Seth didn’t want his dad to see him so upset or that he had a busted lip. So he said he’d just Uber it. His dad said that was cool and he’d wait up for him. Seth tried to keep it together and said thanks. He started walking toward his neighborhood. He walked through neighborhoods he’d only been driven through, saw the late night spots older people talked about but he was too young to know about. He just kept walking till he got to the train tracks and his direction home. He could find some peace on the train tracks and clear his mind. It was a place where he could try and figure out the hard lesson he’d learned.