Anniversary

For god's sake, we've been together for eight years. Hell, we've been together almost nine, but today we drove like bats out of hell to Reno, went to the goofiest chapel under the sun, got hitched, and went to Napa Valley for our honeymoon. It was only a day, but who cares? And I had the worst bladder infection of my life, but so what? Sure, your best friend told us "Well, you can always get it anulled," but we showed him, didn't we? And we keep on showing, having now outlived every other relationship around us. Which is pretty damned sad, but GO US! In honor of our great love, I will now recount, in vivid technicolor detail, the day we met.

I was supposed to see L's band on a gloriously warm night in deep July, but I was incredibly cross. I was getting ready to move to go to college, and my life was in flux. A friend was supposed to come with me that night, but when I went to get her she was also vexed. I went alone, to meet other friends of mine who had turned me onto his band after years of trying to convince me that it was not butt-rock. It had always been the name that threw me, but had I actually looked at it, I would have noticed the brilliant addition of too many umlauts, and realized that they were a geniuses, not butt rockers.

This was the second time I had seen him perform. The first time was a few months earlier and I had been utterly humbled in my butt-rock opinion. It was a band that spoke volumes to my anti-establishment but ironic view of the world, political but ridiculously funny simultaneously. And he was a vision in crazy, channeling who knows what angry beast to shock people out of their complacency: everyone in the audience would become a radical, even if it was just while he performed. He howled and growled and arched that eyebrow, and his bald head glistened with sweat and light and water that dumped on himself between drumming and singing (he would quibble about the "singing" part, but who cares, it was awesome). There was synchronized video playing behind them, full of juxtaposition and irony, and I watched, mesmorized.

I met him after that first show, because my roommate's band had opened for them a number of times and bordered on band-worship. I stood there, looking around, wondering when my roommate would get around to stop toadying and introduce us. It never happened. Instead, L. had to introduce himself, and we exchanged a few words. Nothing else came of that first meeting.

This was my "long red bob" phase of hair. About a month later it became my "short peroxide buzz" phase. By the time July rolled around and I went to see L's band again, I looked like the "littlest lesbian," down to my Docs and wife beater. On god's green earth, there was no reason for any man to think I was batting on their team, and truly, I wasn't. I was on my own team, and wanted nothing to do with romance. I was finished.

But I was committed to see the band again, so I pulled up my socks and showed up, despite my black humor.

I was late, of course, and only saw the last three songs. So I huddled next to heaps of drums and equipment in the back, seething and wondering why the hell I had come out at all.

My crappy night complete, I decided my mood was so foul that getting drunk with my friends didn't even seem like a good idea. I thought I'd better leave and go sulk elsewhere, and after the band had dispersed and the other band was setting up (Neurosis, my husband tells me), I made my way through the packed bar to say my farewells to my friends, whom I hadn't even spoken to yet.

L. was standing at the bar, talking to someone and ordering a drink. Since I'd met him before, I raised my hand in greeting and kept making my way through the crowd. I had reached the foyer and almost the table where my friends had gathered when L. came up behind me, a huge grin on his face. Off stage he looked utterly different, the roaring beast not only tamed but completely missing--leaving only this beaming, bespectacled, intellectual-looking man. He walked up to me. In a cliched Hollywood moment, I looked around, not quite knowing who he was speaking to. "Excuse me, have we met before?"

"Yes," I replied.

His face registered confusion; what he thought was just a line was in fact a question I could answer in the affirmative. "We met when you played here a few months ago. You were talking to my roommate about computers." He was searching through the files and coming up with nothing.* "Really?" he asked.

We chatted for a minute, and then he asked me if I wanted to grab a bite from the bar kitchen. "Wait, do you want a drink? I can get free drinks with these tickets." He dragged me off through the crowd back into the bar where he searched for one of his bandmates, who he hit up for his unused tickets. I stood behind him feeling foolish.

I presume we got drinks, though I don't remember anymore, but we went into the restaurant where he ordered vegetable fritters (this was back when our idealism and high morals led us both down the road of vegetarianism. When we became a serious item, I'm afraid that high morals became high hedonism, which included, among other things, andouille sausage. Sadly, the andouille won the battle and we're both serious carnivores again). We talked endlessly, although I felt rather conspicuous and bizarre. He noted that the fritters were less about vegetables than their batter: "It's like fried fry," he said. "They forgot to put the vegetables in." I wondered if he needed to do anything, like talk to his bandmates or break down his equipment. "I was being interviewed," he said. "But fuck it. A. can deal with him."

Let me state for the record that by this point I was absolutely smitten. He had me at the word, "Hello." I was also completely finished with relationships, as I'd been around the track with a couple recently, and it always ended disasterously. At the point we had met, I had been happily single for eight months, and was looking at eight years. I had made an oath to myself after yet another pathetic relationship: no more cheap depravity when it came to men; no one night stands, no long distance relationships, NO MUSICIANS! Notoriously unreliable, emotional car wrecks were a thing of my past, and Dammit! Musicians were the worst of the lot. NO MORE MUSICIANS!

So here was this adorable man who was beaming at me over fried fry and a Cape Cod, who managed to break every single one of my rules. I hated myself, because clearly I was insane, and was reciprocating interest in a fling which was, quite obviously, fated to miserable failure.

The fried fry was finished, and I asked him again if there was anything he needed to do. I kept trying to give him the graceful exit point, the ability for him to say "See you later" without the awkward, "You sure are glowing a lot in my general direction. You're freaking me out" conversation. He told me he had to find his bandmates to load out their equipment, and probably find the interviewer again, but that he would be back, DON'T go anywhere! We agreed to meet at the table my friend were sitting at.

Having never made it to their table in the first place because I was intercepted by L., I didn't even know if they knew I was at the club. Oh, they knew. They had watched the scenario play out and saw us wander into the restaurant together, many of them agog. These were, after all, the people who worshipped his band. One said when I walked up, "That's L. You know that, right?" I just beamed like an idiot, I'm sure. I also didn't expect to see him again after he had departed to find his bandmates, but he darted through the crowd like a shot. "There you are, let's get a drink." What can I say? I'm like CATNIP!

We moved from one secluded table to another all night long, me unwilling to believe that this was actually going to work, but unable to stop myself from taking it as far as it might go. We lit up every area we were in. He smoked my cigarettes (he didn't smoke), and we talked about completely geeky topics ranging from media criticism to political attitudes to our personal histories. It was not a very "rock" conversation, it was like a couple of nerds at a Kaffee Klatch. I was in heaven.

By the time Neurosis had gotten off stage and the club was shutting down, the moment I had been waiting for was upon us: the one where he left with his mates, and I pined after finding the one good man who happened to be a freaking musician. We said our goodbyes rather unwillingly, and he gave me his pager number on the back of my cigarette pack (remember pagers? How quaint!). I got in the car with my roommate's girlfriend. We were driving away while she grilled me about L. when he came chasing after her car. He jumped in the back seat: "I'm coming with you," he said.

I was, needless to say, thrilled.

When we got back to my less-than-embracing apartment, I was pretty uncomfortable (no nice shared area, nosy roommates, etc.) so we sat on the hood of my car and blathered for a while. Then, completely unlike me, I thought of this special secret lakeside beach; it was a public beach wedged between two chichi private properties. We could drive there and be out of the eyeshot of super-curious roommates, with the bonus moonlight-on-the-water feature.

We sat on a log talking about this and that, the moon in the sky, the air cool with a damp shoreline chill, me full of giddiness and beer. We fell silent. He seemed as nervous as I was, both like school kids. I think he actually asked if he could kiss me. I found this both insane, because I thought I couldn't be more overtly gaga, and unbelievably sweet. I don't think anyone had ever been so thoughtful and shy as he was, this man who hours previously I had seen channeling Genghis Khan on stage. It was a dichotomy that was extremely alluring, I have to admit.

We went back to my apartment, after the kiss had established for certain that we were both, ahem, interested.

*cue porn soundtrack*

Bow chicka bow wow.

So, yea, I had broken all of my precepts. He was a musician, he lived in another city, and I had slept with him on the first meeting. But something about him felt like the one piece I had been missing for years, some part of me knew, almost in a deep biological way, that I was supposed to try and make it work out, despite all signs pointing to a set-up for misery. You'd have to be crazy to think it would work under these circumstances, but damned if my whole body wouldn't let me give up wanting to make it happen.

When I went to work early the next morning, I left him sleeping there. I knew he would be gone when I got back, because he was, after all, a touring musician. I resigned myself to the thought that we had had one amazing evening, and that would be it: he would continue touring, meet some other girl, I would go to college and meet some other guy, our lives which intersected so perfectly would only do so for one moment. It actually broke my heart to think that was the only time I might see him.

He had left me a note on my pillow. It was a drawing of a bouquet of flowers with his phone number on it. I've never received a bouquet that smelled as sweet.

So that night I went and got hammered, moping into my beer while I pined about this guy who I was never going to see again, but I felt pretty sure was the one. At the same time, somewhere on I-5, he was calling me from a payphone thinking the same thing about me. He didn't leave a message. But eventually he got through.

Clearly. *He can be forgiven for this; after all, I looked completely different. When we talked about it in more detail later, he actually did remember me and thought I had been dating my roommate at the time.\