I was walking out the back door when I saw Angel. Her full name is Michaela Arrisio DiAngelo Carlo, but we called her Angel and she went by DiAngelo at school. She was driving by in her convertible VW Rabbit playing that damn Garth Brooks tape again and I yelled out to her. I knew she was going to Kevin’s, but I asked anyway, “Where ya headed?”
“He’s not there.”
“What do you mean, he said he’d be there.” She braked and put the VW in park.
“I just watched him drive off with his brother and some friends.”
“Was she with them?”
“Yeah, but she was in the front seat with Bobby and paying no attention to Kevin.”
“If he wants Karen around instead of me why doesn’t he tell me?” She shut off her car. “I can read between the lines. Does he think I’m stupid?” No comment.
“C’mon in and have a drink and cool off.”
We sat around talking idly of our past romances and how they’d fallen apart much like she thought hers was and how we’d tried to bridge gaping chasms with band-aids instead of bridges. I remember her telling a story about her prom, how she had the perfect evening all lined up for her date, and he pulled out at the last minute. She didn’t see him for a few weeks, and when she finally did, he acted like he didn’t know her. She tried to get back at them, though, by sabotaging a few of his dates — you know, phone calls to his dates telling them that he couldn’t make it and then when he’d show up, they’d look stupid for not being ready. Finally, they had a major argument in the middle of the mall one day that didn’t do anything but vent some frustrations and make ’em both look stupid. She made it sound like the end of the world, and at the time, I suppose it was.
When you’re in high school, you think that the world is against you, and it usually is, but there isn’t a high school kid in the world that doesn’t think he can win. With age comes wisdom, and I was acquiring both faster than I liked.
I told her about the time that a bunch of friends went to see a movie, and afterwards, when I was dropping everybody off, me and Beth ended up parked outside of the boathouse at the lake at 1:00 AM. It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for her boyfriend, who found out when she dumped him. Beth chased me for a while, and I we even went out a few times, but in the end it was her old boyfriend she really wanted, and afterward she blamed me for causing her six weeks of hell. Funny, she never mentioned how bad she was feeling the whole time we were going out. I tried several times to make peace with her, but she still thinks that I tried to screw her over.
Angel was 24 now, but emotionally she was still 16. She graduated a year or two late from high school, so we were closer in school than you’d think. I’m 21 now and in my junior year of college. I stayed at home for school instead of travelling too far ’cause everything I wanted from college was in town, and besides, my band was there. Kevin and Bobby had lived two houses over from me for twelve years now, and I’d graduated with Bobby. We’d always been tight, but in college, because we didn’t see each other as often, we’d slowly drifted apart.
Around 4:00, Angel left. She had to get to work and I had a gig that night to get ready for. I needed at least four hours sleep — last night had been a long one — but I set my alarm for 6:00 and laid down.
Mom dragged me out of bed at 6:30 to eat. I’d set my alarm for 6:00 AM by mistake. Operator headspace. Dinner was blah, but that was par for the course. I grabbed my guitar, kissed mom goodbye and left at 7:45.
Angel was at the show, which was surprising. Marla and Jackie were there with Frank, which wasn’t. That was an interesting relationship. Marla and Jackie were second cousins once removed from their uncles’ wives’ sisters’ nephews’ dogs or something like that — related somehow — and Frank dated ’em both. Neither one of them seem to mind, and it’s been said that some of their dates that started as pairs at the theater end up as trios at their apartment. Bobby showed up with Karen and Angel saw them and moved across the room. A noble gesture to be sure, but the club was pretty small and it was about 35 feet, tops.
The show started at 9:00.
Afterwards, I was backstage with an arm around Marla and the drummer’s 17-year-old sister in my lap. Roger — her brother — was teasing me about going after her and ending up in jail. Joey was telling me not to listen to him and get laid if I could, and all the while I had Gerry, Frank, Ted and Debbie carrying on an unnecessarily loud conversation in my left ear. Actually, it was a slow night backstage — we usually have about twice that crowd hanging around.
Suddenly, Bobby walked up with a face that looked like a dreary Seattle afternoon and none of the usual Pancho Villa glow in his eyes. He wanted to talk privately and we went out back to my car.
“What the hell is up with you and Angel?” he asked.
“Me and Angel? Dude, you know she wants Kevin and she thinks Karen does, too,” I answered.
“Yeah, well Karen’s dating me, not Kevin and I think you need to back off of Angel for a while.”
“You sure you’re the only one dating Karen?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“We saw Karen and Kevin at our last show, the night before your test, and I’ve seen ’em twice at the steak house and another time at the flicks.”
“Bullshit. You’re just changing the subject.”
“Ask ’em. I’m not sayin’ it’s Kevin’s fault or Karen’s fault, just that it’s happening and Angel don’t like it. That’s why she was at my place today. She was headed for Kevin’s and I caught her before she got there and told her y’all were gone. I don’t put moves on girls that are taken, you know that.”
“What about Beth?”
“That’s exactly why I don’t put moves on ‘em.”
“Yeah, well, whatever. We’ll see what’s up. I hope you’re wrong.” He started to walk off and I called after him.
“If it makes you feel any better, I hope I’m wrong, too.” He just shrugged and shuffled off the where Karen was waiting by his car.
He wasn’t making threats, I knew better, but he did have a point, it looked bad. I’d have to avoid Angel for a few days but it’s be tough ’cause we shared a few classes. I went back inside and the ladies had occupied themselves elsewhere, so I mingled for a bit before grabbing my stuff to leave. There was a note under the wiper of my car. ‘Call me, Angel.’ Shit.
The whole way back home I was wondering if maybe Bobby was right about Angel wanting to be with me, but I dismissed it from my mind. Even if she did, I didn’t. Yeah, she’s quite the babe and all, but it would be like babysitting my little sister, only a little sister with her own apartment and her own toys to get you in trouble. All of her emotional baggage wasn’t worth a three week fling.
I got in and mom was kicked out across the couch watching ‘Nightline’. Mom always stayed up and waited for me after my shows. Dad had to get up early six days a week, but mom thought it was important that someone be there to ask about the show when I came in. If I came in. If I wasn’t coming back for whatever reason, I’d always call and tell her. “How’d the show go?” she asked, looking up as I came in. She was working on some cross-stitch thingee for her sister’s birthday.
“Fine, my solo was a little rusty tonight, but otherwise it was a good show.”
“That’s good.” She turned back to the TV. “Oh,” she looked up again, “Angel called and said to call her back ASAP.”
“She can wait ’til tomorrow.” I started to walk out.
“It’s not nice to leave a lady hanging, son” mom said.
“Even if she was a lady, she’s not my lady,” I called over my shoulder as I went upstairs, “I’m going to bed. G’night.” I put my guitar away and then crashed.
I was dreading having to run into Angel at school the next day, but it couldn’t be avoided. We had class together and I sat right behind her. The whole class looked at the prof and took notes, but we had a conversation I didn’t necessarily want.
“What’d Bobby want last night?” she asked.
“He wanted to know why you and me were fooling around. He told me to stay away from you ’cause of Kevin.”
“Yeah, well Kevin’s not a factor anymore.”
“You broke up with him?” I know I sounded more shocked than I felt. You could see it coming, but I think Kevin’s the first guy she ever dumped. Usually us male-types get fed up with her emotional swings long before she gets bored with us.
“Yeah, he called me last night and I told him to go to hell. That’s why I called you. Why didn’t you call back?”
“I was damn tired and I was going to bed.”
“You still should’ve called.”
“I was gonna see you today.”
“You still should’ve called. I needed to talk to you last night.”
“Angel, it’s not going to work. I know what you want, but we’re friends and I’m not going to date you. We’ve known each other long enough to know that we’d kill each other and our friendship isn’t worth three weeks of goofing off and a lifetime of wondering why it went wrong. I don’t want to chance it. I like you too much.”
“OK, how about just one night?”
Whoa! Did she just say what I thought she said? Damn, I’ve got Angel, the raven-haired beauty with a 36C, 26 inch waist and eyes to die for offering a one-night stand. OK, hypothetical question: what’d you do? Right, me too.
“OK, not tonight though,” I said.
“Tomorrow’s Friday, and neither one of us has to get up Saturday. Come over around 9:00. I’ll cook dinner.”
The rest of the day was a loss. For several years now, I’ve been trying to get ahold of Angel, but I never wanted to put up with her emotional entanglements. She just made my dreams come true. One-night stand, huh? So who’s standing? I didn’t plan to be.
I was sitting on a bench wondering if I could just sleep all the way to tomorrow night when Kevin walked up and jolted me out of my daydreams. He was wearing the black leather jacket that me and Bobby gave him for Christmas one year, and he had bags under his eyes that you could’ve measured in inches and his normally shellacked hair was looking pretty unkempt. Must’ve been a helluva night.
“Yo! Spacecase! You there? Whazzup?” he asked.
“Nada. How ‘bout yourself?”
“I got dumped last night.”
“I saw her in class and she told me there.”
“I’d been looking for a way out, too. You were right, she’s too much to worry about. I feel better with Karen.”
“That’s something else. Bobby knows about y’all.”
“Karen told him last night. Right after I called and talked to Angel, he called while we were at her place and she told him then.”
“Wait a minute, Bobby was with her last night.”
“Only at the show. I was at her place waiting for her, and when he dropped her off, he said he’d call her when he got home. I guess he thought she was acting a little funny.”
“Have you seen Bobby lately?”
“Not today. I’m staying over at her place another night to let him cool off.”
“I hear Angel’s after you.”
“You have now also heard that it is not a mutual chase society.”
“Only in the important half. I think I got my point across without having to refer to it in those terms, though.”
“How’d she take it?”
“Surprisingly well, considering she’s on the rebound.” I slipped him a sly smile.
“She’s not on the rebound. She dumped me remember.”
“Smartest move she ever made.” I winked at him.
“Gee, thanks, I love you, too.”
“I want you to know I mean that in the nicest possible way.” We laughed.
“Yeah, well, I gotta eat. Missed breakfast,” he said. “Later.”
I went home after my afternoon lab and worked on some tunes and then cut the grass. I’m pretty independent, but since I still live at home, I still cut grass. Or I pay rent. That was dad’s idea.
I went to bed and couldn’t sleep, thinking all the while about Angel. I finally took some Ny-quil even though I wasn’t sick, just so I could zonk out.
The next day was hell. I didn’t have any classes — I made sure Fridays were free so I could get to my gigs early if I needed to — but I had mucho errands to run. We had a show Saturday at the White Feather and I had to make sure the PA was lined up. The show was actually going to be on the lawn out back because it would be too hot inside. The gig was a “rent” gig. Play whatever the sheep in the audience want to hear because they’re paying $1500 dollars for three hours of music, or, in layman’s terms, about two months rent for everyone in the band. Most musicians scoff at such shows, but I still owed $200 on my Marshall and my share would knock that off and still pay for the tune up my car needed. I did consider giving my dad two months rent to let him cut his own grass, though.
After the PA, it was the grocery store. Mom was at work, but I wasn’t, so it was grocery cart time. What would have been an easy trip for my mom turned into a two-hour odyssey. There should be a law that all grocery stores be laid out exactly the same way. It was hell. You really don’t think about these things until you’re wandering the toiletries aisle looking for toilet paper, which is the next aisle over with the paper towels, and the chips are under “snack food”, but pretzels are over by the bakery.
I went by the liquor store to spring for a $30 bottle of good red wine for that evening. The manager knows me and knows I’m 21, but he carded me anyway, which made me think that the guy by the vodka was a cop. It’s not that I’m afraid of cops, I’ve just had a bad time with ’em before. They harass teenagers all over town because they know the kids are still minors and can’t do much if anything about the cops bugging ’em. Ever since I got a ticket going 36 in a 35 zone, I’ve been pissed — the mayor passed us while my ticket was being written out doing at least 45, but the cop never even radioed it in.
I left for Angel’s around 8:45 and got there almost exactly at 9:00. When I walked in she was wearing this blue strapless dress that concealed little and left none of the rest to the imagination. She’d put her hair up in a French twist, with two thin curls trailing down her cheeks. She wore no makeup other than eyeshadow and lipstick, but she didn’t need it either — hell, she didn’t even really need the lipstick. And she was playing that damn Garth Brooks tape again.
It took about two hours after dinner to end up rolling around on the floor with her — and we did quite a bit of rolling… I’d like to say that strapless dresses don’t come off quite as easily as you think they would. I never realized her skin was that smooth or her body was that sensual. Of course, I’d never bothered to find out either. Let’s just say that if I’m a good boy, I know where I’m going when I die. But then again, my being there with her probably eliminated me from the “good boy” contest.
The next morning I rolled over and she wasn’t next to me and I thought maybe it was all a dream — and then I realized I wasn’t in my bed and then I smelled coffee and guessed she was in the kitchen. We sat around talking over bagels until about noon, and I had to get to the show. She promised to be at the show, even though she wasn’t on the guest list and it was an “invite only” thing. I promised to add her name to the list and then took off.
The whole way to the gig I was thinking about her; not how she looked when she stared into my eyes while we were wrapped up in that fake bearskin rug of hers, but about our talks over dinner and breakfast. She went on about her job and how it was working at the law office; that she’d like to make a career of it and how finishing her degree was gonna get her a pay raise and a better position there. She bitched and moaned about the payments on her new VW — bummer, right, I’m still driving around a ’76 Dodge land barge. I realized that she’d grown up more than I thought. I wasn’t dealing with a spoiled teenager anymore — she was a woman and a damn attractive one. I pulled my mind back to reality. Angel was a great person, but it was over and we’d go on with our lives, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I’d always thought of her as having never left high school — missed that call, didn’t I? Not too many high schoolers I know work in law offices.
What the hell, I hadn’t really left high school either. My bass player was graduating that year and I still saw my friends around town. I guess I just never gave her a chance to grow up in my eyes. That was rapidly changing now.
Once I got to the show, I let the people know Angel was coming, and they said it was cool, so I went backstage to set my stuff up. Ed already had his bass plugged in and had his wah pedal going — he doesn’t use it on any songs, but he loves playing with it. The stuff coming out of it sounded like a spaceship battle from a B-movie.
I plugged into my tuner and then got my amp set up for warm-up. We started with “Black Dog” and then did “Sonata” by Scatterbrain. It’s a cool classical song that no one’s ever heard of. Art showed up about then — hell, he can be there late ’cause all he does is sing. We tried to teach him how to play a few chords on a guitar and he got that down but couldn’t handle playing and singing at the same time, so we just gave him the mike and let him run around on stage. We ran though “Hunger Strike” and “Gypsy” and then me and Ed started playing “Bring the Noize” and we had to do the vox ourselves ’cause Art doesn’t know the words. After goofing off, we played two originals and then decided on what order we were gonna play everything. We were doing 28 covers that night, and a whole 6 originals. Pretty lame for a band that normally does about 6 covers and 20 originals, but hey, money is money.
The show started at 8:00 and I saw Angel come in around 8:30. She mingled and wandered and seemed to be enjoying herself, but between sets when I went to go look for her, I couldn’t find her. Someone said they saw her go inside with somebody. I tried not to let it get to me and we went on with the second set. I saw her come back outside and I got on the mike and said, “This next tune is going out to a special friend who’s out there wandering around somewhere. I won’t mention any names, but her initials are Angel Carlo,” and I started playing “Never Enough” by the L.A. Guns. She blushed but otherwise took it in stride. I looked for her after the gig, but she wasn’t around, so I packed up my stuff and took off.
The next morning I got up and drove over to her place. She answered the door in a bathrobe and told me come on in. I walked in and flopped on her couch.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“Dinner tonight?” I answered.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked in exasperation. “You said we weren’t going to date because you were afraid it would kill our friendship. I’m still your friend, but that night is over and it’s not coming back.”
“I want it back.”
“I’m not going to be a mistress for you. I won’t be a call girl whose bills are paid in ‘friendship’ instead of money. I have more respect for myself than that.”
“I’m not talking about just one night.”
“What the hell do you want then?”
“Permanently?” there was an edge to her voice.
“Marriage?” she asked incredulously.
“No. Not now.”
“You didn’t want to date me, though.”
“That was before the other night.”
“So you get laid and think you’re in love? All I’ve got for you is a little sex here and there and we call it a relationship, right? Well, I can do better than that and I think you’re going to have to do better if you want to keep me.”
“You’re making this sound like an auction.”
“I’m looking out for myself. Look, dammit, I love you. It took a lot of time to come to that realization, but once I did I decided that I was gonna be with you somehow. You didn’t want to be with me, so I got what I could from you and then shut off my emotions and looked toward life in the future, and now you come back and tell me you really do want to be with me and what am I supposed to do? I don’t want to dredge my feelings back up and then let ’em get stomped on a month down the road, but you’re telling me to do just that and I don’t know if I want the pain.”
“No, let me finish. I never let any of those other guys mean too much to me because I knew it was never gonna last. I let myself fall in love with you because I never thought that you’d hurt me, you son of a bitch. I thought we were good enough friends that you wouldn’t do that, and now that’s what you’re throwing in my face, and you expect me to accept it at face value. I can’t do that.”
“OK, you’ve had you’re say and now I’m going to have mine. I never wanted to get involved because standing from the outside, it looked like you were still playing high school games, and now I understand that you weren’t playing those games, you just didn’t give a damn one way or the other. What made the difference, though, was the other night, and I don’t mean us making out, either. I mean the whole time we were sitting around just talking. I’d never thought you made it out of high school — emotionally — but I realized the other might that you were much more than that and the woman that I discovered the other night is one that I can love. One that I want to love, if she’ll let me.”
She sat down on the floor across the room from the couch. She stared at me for several minutes before getting up and walking into her bedroom and getting dressed. For the rest of my life I’d remember her sitting there staring at me — her body only barely covered but revealing more than enough curves to remind me why I noticed her first in that class so many years ago, and her hair, still damp from the shower and her eyes shining out from under it despite the scowl on her face. It was a beautiful moment that no picture could ever hope to capture. I knew from the look in her eyes that she still loved me. If only I could make her believe that.
She came back out and said, “I’ll call you later. I’ve got to get to work.”
“OK. Come by if you want, I’ll be in the garage all day trying to rewire that old Peavey stack.”
“Goodbye,” she said.
I was in the garage around 4:30 putting the finishing touches on the solder for the last of my Celestions. I finally got that damn amp working, and I even got a chorus unit installed so I don’t need to run it through my rack for concerts. Mom called me and said I had a phone call. I went in and grabbed the phone. “Hello?”
“Is this Brian Wainwright?”
“Yes it is, may I ask who’s calling?”
“Certainly, this is Wayne Barnhill, A&R representative for StarDog Records. I’d like to come by and see your band some time. We’ve heard good things about you and seen your MP3 download counts, and if we like what we see, we’d be interested in talking about a deal.”
“Holy shit! Are you serious?”
“We’re playing next weekend. I can give you the details if you want them.”
“If you could just mail them to us express with a press package.”
“Sure, I’ll get it out first thing tomorrow.”
“You have our address?”
“Yes I do. Should I address it to you specifically?”
“That would be fine. I look forward to seeing you perform.”
“Me, too.” He hung up. I went out to the garage to finish the amp and I got about halfway when it finally sank in. Here we were, a goof-off low-talent band who just happened to write a few cool songs and we were getting scoped out by StarDog, one of THE college music labels. At least a half a dozen bands got their starts there. Talk about a head rush. I finished the amp and tried playing something through it to see how it would sound, but my hands were shaking too much for me to play. I sat down outside against the garage with a beer and just started thinking about us as rock stars. I tried to picture us on tour with Guns’n’Roses, and it just wasn’t clicking. I figured, we release an album or two, tour the club circuit, and then go on with our lives, but dammit, I wanted to be a rock star. I finished my drink and went inside to call the rest of the band.
Three days later, Angel came by.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said,” she started, “and it sounds totally clichéd, but my heart says yes, my head says no. If anything, it’s you that needs some growing up. I’m out of the house, I’ve got a job that’s blossoming into a career, and I’m probably leaving town this summer to get some classes at State to help out there. Yeah, emotionally, you might be on the same level on me, but believe it or not, you’re still the kid here, and I need something more, I want something more. I think you believe that you love me, but you really don’t know, do you? I… I want to, but you’re still a, a kid, believe it or not.”
“Angel, I got a call from StarDog Records, they want to see us play live.”
“Haven’t you heard a thing I’ve said?”
“I heard it all. I don’t care. I still love you and I still want to be with you, and no amount of your convincing can make me believe that there’s an easy way to let go. I’ve got a guy from a national record company coming to see my band. Is that enough of a career for you?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.” She sat down on the couch across from the bed. I propped up the cushions on the bed and sat up. “I do know,” she continued, “if I thought we could honestly make it work, I’d do it. I just don’t see how we can be lovers and still keep our friendship intact, they’re too intertwined.”
“The only part of your reasoning that I find fault with is the fact that you’re not even willing to try.”
“I don’t want to throw my heart away on a passing thing.”
“I don’t blame you.”
“Then what do you want me to do?”
“You know what I want you to do. You just don’t know if you want to do it.”
“God dammit! I’m talking about the rest of my life here,” she exploded.
“It’s mine, too,” I said.
“I know that, I just… I’m not sure if I’m ready. Not for you — for anyone. I know what you want, and I don’t know what I want and it’s not supposed to be this way. I bought into all the fairy tales, you know, the love-at-first-sight schtick and the tall-dark-stranger-sweeps-me-off-my-feet story, and I’ve been waiting my whole life for that to happen. Then you waltz in, not out of the blue, but from the side of the dance floor, cutting in on partners until you get to me, and I don’t know if it’s real or a fairy tale and whether or not reality is what I want or if I want to hold out for my dreams a little longer. I’m going double-or-nothing with my heart and it’s scary.”
“That would be love. It can be a little scary that way.”
“How would you know?”
“I thought I was in love a few years ago.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Several years ago, I spent an evening with a young lady that I met at a party. I didn’t even kiss her that first night, but there was something special about her. I didn’t see her for several days, but the next time I did I got her number and we started dating. It was a whirlwind romance, and I got taken for a ride. I thought she loved me, but she was just using me to get back to her parents. I tried to call it off, but I never could find the strength to do it. She probably wouldn’t have let me, anyway, she had me whipped good. It really hurts to find out that the person you think you’re going to spend the rest of your life with really has no intention of staying with you, they’re just using you and are damn good at convincing you of otherwise. When I found out she was cheating on me, I managed to call it off. I didn’t realize how much of my life she had run until we broke up — I’ll be the first to admit I was blinded by lust — but the funny thing is, the whole time we were involved, I never wondered if it was really for me. It’s beyond me now, in the past, and done and over with, and I still wonder if I made the right choices. Should I have gotten involved? Should I have stood up against her parents for her? Should I have let things go as far as they did that night we were at her place and her parents weren’t?”
“Kinda like us?”
“Not even. I was with you because I wanted to be and I knew what was gonna happen even before I got there. The other time it was more of the runaway train effect, you know, one thing led to another, and… I’m sure neither of us was planning on it happening, but after that things changed — for both of us. With you I knew up front what I was getting into. The change was unexpected, but the risk was known ahead of time. With her, it was like trying to steer by the stars on a cloudy night.”
“Sounds like you made it out OK.”
“Yeah, I did, but it hurt something fierce, and it took the better part of a year to get over, and I realize what you’re going through because of it. It’s hard as hell to try and trust somebody after you’ve been burned that bad, but somehow love keeps you coming back for more and there’s no way to break the chain. You didn’t ask for any of this. You were trying to make yourself happy, and it backfired and you got what you wanted after all. You know the saying ‘Be careful what you wish for…’ well, you got it, and now you don’t know what to do with it.”
“Yeah, well, I need to be going.”
“Stay awhile, please.”
We sat there staring at each other and making small talk until it started to get dark. She left then and I went downstairs to eat dinner. Sometime late that night I packed up my acoustic guitar and a tape recorder and I drove out to this monument next to a small cemetery on a hill overlooking some farmland. On a clear day, you can see for a few miles, but at night, you can see for light years — straight up. Out there, under those stars, I recorded eight tunes on the acoustic. I even sang them — most of the lyrics were written on the spot — but they were some of the most achingly beautiful songs I’d ever done.
I don’t know whether it was pain or joy or a muse that inspired me that night, but the words just flew onto the paper, and from there onto the tape…
it’s been said that it’ll never happen again
but never’s forever and that’s too long
Too long to hope for
too long to hold on
too long to dream
and to cry
And then another one came to me, and another, until I’d gotten out all of the sorrows, the joy, the pain, the exuberance, the love and the tears. Eight songs later I was at peace. At peace with my emotions, with my feeling, and with life itself.
I listened to them once I was done, and I started to formulate a plan. Yeah, it was a long shot, but so was everything else in this business. I sat out there for another hour or two, playing simple little melodies and recording them for future use. I wasn’t planning on using any of them, but sometimes you can get good ideas from old stuff. I put the guitar down and just sat there staring at the stars and watching them make their nightly trek across the sky. I never quite dozed off, but I did lose track of time — something very easy to do out there, and before I knew it, it was dawn.
I drove home, and mom was surprised to see me come in for breakfast. “Where were you all night? I thought you went to bed.”
“I did go to bed, but I couldn’t sleep, so I went out to the cemetery and watched the stars all night.”
I ate breakfast and went to Banzai’s — the club we were going to play at that weekend — to see if they had everything in order, and I told them to reserve a table up front for the StarDog people. They were impressed that I had such high-profile folk coming to check us out.
That weekend came along pretty fast. The day of the show, I got there early to make sure my rig was set. About 5:30, the StarDog people showed up. I asked them to come out there early because I wanted to talk to them before the band got there.
“Hello sir,” I said. I was talking to Mr. Barnhill over a beer in the main room at Banzai’s. “I’m glad you could get here early. I wanted to talk to you about something unrelated to the band. The other night I was working on some tunes and I wanted to present them to you without the band involved. Understand that these are my songs, not the band’s songs, and I’d like to record them under my name, regardless of what happens with the band.”
“OK, let’s hear ‘em.”
I played the tape I made the other night, and by the end I’d swear I thought I could see a tear in his eye. “Mr. Wainwright,” he said, “can you go into the studio sometime to re-record these for us?”
“I can do that.”
“Mr. Wainwright… Brian, regardless of what the band does tonight, I’ll do what I can to give you a contract with us to record this as an album, and to possibly record another follow-up.”
“Thank you sir, it means a lot to me.”
We put on a pretty average show. We played all our originals and the one or two covers we were best known for. Mr. Barnhill said he’d call us back, and a half hour after he left, one of his assistants came backstage. “I really enjoyed the show, guys,” he said, “but it doesn’t look like Mr. Barnhill was impressed enough to offer you a contract tonight.”
“Damn,” Art said, “that kinda sucks.”
“Hey,” Ed said, “at least they came out, that’s a start.”
“It still sucks,” said Art.
“But,” continued the A&R rep, “I’d like to represent you guys as a manager and shop a demo tape of you around to the record companies. I think you’re good enough to get a contract somewhere and record some good music.”
“Let’s do it,” said Ed, his eyes brightening suddenly.
“Hell yes,” said Art.
“I’m for it,” I said, “but I think we need to talk it all out first.”
“What’s to discuss?” asked Roger.
Just then I heard a voice behind me. “Am I interrupting anything?” It was Angel.
“Guys, take over. I’ll be back later,” I said.
“But Brian…” Art started.
“I’ll go along with the band,” I said. “I trust y’all to not screw up.” I walked out to my car with Angel.
“How have you been?” she asked.
“I’m fine. Have you thought it over?”
“Before you say anything, listen to this tape. I recorded out at the cemetery the other night.”
“What is it?”
The eight songs, by now perfectly familiar to me, had a mesmerizing effect on her. One by one, they hit her the same place they hit me when I wrote them — dead center in the heart. By the fifth song, I could see tears welling up in her eyes, and I knew she’d understood the message. When it was over, all she could whisper was “I want a copy.” We went back to her place that night and I left sometime around noon the next day.
The A&R guy shopped the band around for six or seven months and finally got us a deal with St. Red/Rendezvous for two records. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. A week or so after that, Mr. Barnhill called back and the next month I went into the studio to re-record the tunes, and Angel redecorated the apartment to make space for my stuff. Three months after that, while the band was working on our first record, my debut album, Love and Stars, appeared at number 188 on the Billboard charts and had faded back off in the four months before our wedding.
I wrote this for a college fiction-writing class over 25 years ago. You can feel the adolescent angst kinda dripping off the screen, but the settings are still as familiar to me as the day I originally walked into them
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