I usually enjoyed driving after a show. The roads were quiet, I was burnt out, drained, done for. Ready to sleep without thinking, hopefully without dreaming. Usually. But tonight, the woman in the passenger seat wouldn’t shut up so there went the quiet. We were back in my home town for the first time in nearly a year so though I should be tired, I wasn’t.
The show had been great, everyone loved us. I’d played my ass off, made the security team earn their money by going into the audience a couple of times too. It was our home town, they deserved something special, right? It’s not like I was looking for anyone.
“I hate this song,” Libby said with a sneer as she pushed the button to change stations. Yet again.
“Really?” I said without taking my eyes off the road. “That song paid for this car you know.” Our first really big hit and we hadn’t played it for the last six months.
“Yeah but I remember who you wrote it about,” she said huffily and I slid her a glance. Gorgeous stacked blonde with her arms crossed over her chest, glaring at me. Looks aside, she was an excellent publicist.
“I don’t,” I lied and looked back at the road.
“Yeah right,” she scoffed. “So why don’t you play it next show.”
“We’re focusing on the new stuff, no need to rearrange the set list now.” I shrugged her suggestion away and we drove on in silence until I pulled up in front of her building.
“Do you want to come in?” She asked as she reached over and placed her hand on my knee.
I played dumb, rather than reject her outright. Again. “Why? Is there something I need to sign?”
“No but –“
“Good night then Libby. Thanks as usual.” I interrupted her because really, did we need to have the ‘I don’t mix business with pleasure’ talk again?
“Sure thing.” She tossed her bright mane of hair and smiled as she climbed out of my car. I waited for her to get inside the door before pulling away.
Then I found myself driving familiar streets to park in front of a familiar building. I was driving a different car the last time I was here so I parked on the street feeling safe in my anonymity. The corner window on the top floor was dark so if she even still lives here, she’s asleep. There’s no flicker of light as if she’s watching late night television waiting for me. There’s no messages on my cell requesting ice cream. There’s just me, my regret, and my misery.
I remembered all those months ago sitting in a room after a concert, wishing I could talk to her. Staring at the good night message she’d sent hours earlier. I could call her, be the asshole who woke her up just to hear her voice. Instead I’d gone to the hotel, watched a movie, eventually slept. Then I’d woken up late enough that she’d be home from work. She was a teacher so anytime after 4pm her time was usually okay.
I’d gotten annoyed when it went straight to voice mail and hadn’t left a message. Then I’d waited until right before that night’s show to call so we couldn’t talk long. Punishing her for not being there for me earlier. She’d made excuses for my rudeness, blaming my old stage fright, and I’d let her.
“Call me after the show,” she’d said from across the country.
After the show which had gotten killer reviews I read her message reminding me to call. I waited to get back to my hotel room though and if the after show party went a little long so it was closer to dawn than midnight … well it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t call. I had been such a prick, so angry at her for not being there.
So I didn’t call and I knew she wouldn’t call when she woke up, wouldn’t risk waking me. When I called at 4pm that day she answered.
“Hey I saw the reviews. Why didn’t you call?”
“It was so late baby, I didn’t want to wake you,” I said like the grumpy shit I was being.
She tried to engage me but I was too busy being a self involved jerk. If only I’d been so self aware at the time.
At the end of the call she’d suggested she fly out for the weekend. I pointed out that with the time difference and the flight she’d miss the show Friday night then after Saturday night’s show we were hitting the road so really, we’d only have Saturday and I’d either be asleep or working for most of the time so what was the point? Unless she took a couple of days off work.
I knew she couldn’t when I said it but I had it in my head that she should. I wanted it to be like when we’d met and she was always there for me. If not at the show, close enough that I could see her afterwards. We’d met in spring and hated every moment we had to be apart. Then summer came and she was mine. My muse, my support, my everything. The song that broke us was written for her. She was there for the first big shows but all too soon summer was over and reality bit hard.
I said it was a waste of time and money and I wanted her to disagree but she didn’t.
“Don’t you want me there?” She’d asked instead, her voice subdued.
“Of course I do but not if it’s just for a night. If you can’t take time off and come early, don’t bother.”
Looking back I could see I’d committed the cardinal sin of believing my own publicity. I was such a big star I should have been her priority; she should have sacrificed everything for me. But she didn’t, so I stopped calling. Instead I sent her messages full of excuses as to why I couldn’t call. We were busy with publicity. It was too late. My battery died. Then I would ‘miss’ her calls, send more messages. The whole time blaming her for not caring enough, not trying enough.
Then the calls from her stopped too. Right after I went on late a late night talk show and told everyone watching I was single. I justified it as being good for the band. By then we hadn’t actually spoken in weeks, our communication reduced to her leaving voice mail and me responding with texts about how I was so busy. Then I would brood and complain that she didn’t care enough to chase me. So when the late night host asked about my girlfriend, I’d lied, said I didn’t have one any more.
Except, from that moment it wasn’t a lie. I’d waited for her text so I could call her and explain. I had my excuse ready, “it’s just good publicity baby”. A week later I’d realised she wasn’t going to call. I also realised what an idiot I’d been. The messages I’d sent remained unanswered, my calls went to voice mail. The gifts I sent her were returned. Meanwhile, we toured, the band got more popular, and I got more reclusive.
While Denver, Matt and Jase were dating starlets and attending parties, I was writing songs and apologies. I had a whole book of them for her. Whether or not she was interested in hearing them, that was the question.
Showing up at her door in the middle of the night might not be the smartest thing but I found myself unable to drive away, not when she was so close. I climbed out of my car, took my guitar with me and all too soon I was standing at the door to her building. I took a chance, punched in the security code I knew and took it as a sign when it worked.
I took the stairs, too impatient to wait for the lift then couldn’t bring myself to knock on her door. What if she wasn’t there? What is she was but wouldn’t talk to me? Even worse? What if she wasn’t alone?