“Alright, but only one song.”
“Onl’ one, no?” Eddie tightens his wrinkly chin and says, “Gon’ be one it gon’ be my pick.” He points to himself, just above his white button-up shirt. A pack of cigarettes are poking from the top left pocket on his chest.
Andrew nods, agreeing. “OK, you pick then.”
Eddie’s grin deepens and he looks down at me with a suspicious sidelong glance. “One ta woo da’ ladies wit like you did las’time.”
“Rolling Stones?” Andrew asks.
“Uh huh,” Eddie says. “Dat da one, boy.”
“Which one?” I ask, propping my chin on top of my knuckles.
“Laugh, I Nearly Died,” Andrew answers. “You’ve probably never heard that one before.”
And he’s right. I shake my head gently. “No, can’t say that I have.”
Eddie nods to Andrew for him to follow him towards the stage. Andrew leans down and surprises me with a soft peck on the lips and then leaves the table.
I sit nervous, but excited on the chair with my elbows propped on the table. There are so many conversations going on all around me that it all sounds like a consistent hum of noise floating on the air in the room. Every now and then I hear a glass or a beer bottle clink against another, or against a table. The whole space is rather dark, lit only by the filtering lights from the numerous beer signs and the tall sections of glass windows that allow in the moonlight and light from the street to wash through them. Every now and then a burst of yellow light shines from behind the stage on the right side when people come and go from what I’m assuming are the restrooms.
Andrew and Eddie make it to the stage and start setting up: Andrew takes another barstool from somewhere behind the drum set and places it center stage right in front of the standing microphone. Eddie says a few words to the drummer—probably telling him what song to play—and the drummer nods. Another man emerges from a shadow behind the stage with another guitar, or maybe that one’s a bass; I’ve never really paid attention to the difference. Eddie gives Andrew a black guitar, already plugged into a nearby amp and they exchange words that I can’t hear. And then Andrew takes a seat on the stool, propping one booted foot on the lower spindle. Eddie sits on his afterwards.
They start adjusting this and tuning that and the drummer hits his cymbals a few erratic times. I hear a pop-squeal as another amp is either turned on or just turned up and then a thump-thump-thump when Andrew taps his thumb on the microphone a few times.
My stomach is already fluttering, nervous as though I’m the one up there about to sing in front of a bunch of strangers. But mostly, my stomach flutters because it’s Andrew. He glances at me from the stage, locking eyes with me once and then the drummer starts to play, just barely hitting the cymbals a few times in tune. And then Eddie starts to play the guitar; a slow, catchy tune that easily makes most of the people all standing around turn and take notice of a new song beginning—obviously one that they’ve all heard before and never get tired of. Andrew plays a few chords along with Eddie and already I feel my upper-body gently swaying with the music.
When Andrew starts to sing it feels like there’s a spring in my neck. I stop swaying and jerk my head back, not believing what I’m hearing; so bluesy and captivating. He keeps his eyes closed as he sings on, his head moving in time with the sultry, soulful beat of the music.
And when the chorus starts Andrew takes my breath away…
I feel my back gently pressing into the chair behind me and my eyes growing wider as the music picks up and Andrew’s soul comes out with every word. His expression shifts with each intense note and calms when the notes calm. No one is talking in the bar anymore. I can’t look away from Andrew to see, but I can tell that the atmosphere changed in that second when Andrew started that powerful chorus, that sexy bluesy timbre coming out of him that I never could’ve imagined he possessed.
By the second verse when the beat slows again, he’s already got the complete attention of every person in the room. People are dancing and swaying all around me, couples getting close with their h*ps and lips because there’s no other way to do it to this song. But me…I just stare breathless across the space, letting Andrew’s voice course through every loft and bone in my body. It’s like irresistible poison: I’m mesmerized by the way it’s making me feel though it has the potential to crush my soul and I drink it down anyway.
Still, he keeps his eyes closed as if needing to shut out the light around him to feel the music. And when the second chorus comes, he gets even more into it, almost enough to raise himself from the stool, but he stays put, his neck stretched out toward the microphone and every passionate emotion etched on his face as he sings and plays the guitar on his lap.
Eddie, the drummer and the bass player start to sing two lines with Andrew, and the audience joins in faintly.
By the third verse, I want to cry but I can’t. It’s like it’s there, sitting dormant in the pit of my stomach, but it wants to torture me.
Laugh, I Nearly Died….
Andrew sings on and on, so passionately that I nearly die, my heart beating faster and faster. And then the band starts singing again and the music slows to drums only; a deep, rough rapping of the bass drum that I feel underneath my feet within the floor. And the audience stomps against the floor in time with the bass drum and they start singing along to the repetitive chorus. They clap once at the same time sending a shear ripple through the air as their palms smack together. One more time. And Andrew sings: “Yeah-Yeah!” and the music ends abruptly.
There are shouts and high-pitched whistles and plenty of ‘yeah’s’ and a few ‘holy shit’s’. Chills are running up my spine and spreading through the rest of my body.
Laugh, I Nearly Died…I will never forget that song for as long as I live.
How can he be real?
I’m waiting for the jinx to go into effect any moment, or for me to wake up in the back of Damon’s car with Natalie hovering over me saying something about how Blake roofied me at The Underground.
Andrew sets the borrowed guitar down against the stool and walks over to shake Eddie’s hand and then the drummer and lastly the bass player. Eddie walks with him halfway toward me, but stops and winks at me before going back to the stage. I really like Eddie. There’s something honest and good and soulful about that man.
Andrew doesn’t get all of the way back to our table without a few people from the audience stopping to shake his hand and probably to tell him how much they liked his performance. He thanks them and slowly but surely makes his way back to me.
I see a few women watching him with a little more than appreciation.
“Who are you?” I ask, halfway just messing with him.
Andrew sort of blushes and moves an empty chair around so that he can sit in front of me.
“You’re amazing, Andrew. I had no idea.”
He’s very modest. I sort of halfway expected him to joke around by calling me his groupie and asking me to go behind the building with him or something. But he really doesn’t seem up for talking about his talent at all, as if he’s uncomfortable with it. Or perhaps uncomfortable with real praise?
“I’m serious,” I say, “I wish I could sing like that.”
That gets a reaction out of him, although slight.
“Sure you could,” he says.
I draw my head back and shake it heavily. “No-no-no-no,” I stop him before he gets any ideas. “I can’t sing very well. I don’t think I suck, but I’m not stage material, that’s for sure.”
“Why not?” Carla brings him over a beer, smiles at me and goes back to her customers. “Stage fright?”
He places the bottle to his lips and tips his head back.
“Well, I’ve never given it any thought past singing in the car to a stereo, Andrew.” I lean back against my chair. “I’ve never gone far enough with the idea to be personal with something like stage fright.”
Andrew shrugs and takes another sip before setting his beer on the table. “Well, for the record, I think you have a pretty voice. I heard you in the car.”
I roll my eyes and cross my arms over my chest. “Thanks, but it’s easy to sound like you can sing when you’re singing along to someone else’s voice. Get me alone without music and you’ll probably cringe.”
I lean forward toward him and add:
“How did this get turned around on me, anyway?” I narrow one eye playfully at him. “You’re the one we should be talking about—where did that come from?”
“Influence, I guess,” he says. “But no one can sing it like Jagger.”
“Oh, I beg to differ,” I say, drawing my chin back. “What, is Jagger your musical idol or something?” I ask half-joking and he smiles warmly.
“He’s up there with my influences, but no, my musical idol is a little older than him.”
There’s something secret and deep hiding behind his eyes.
“Who?” I ask, completely immersed.
Without warning, Andrew leans forward and grabs me around the waist, lifting me onto his lap facing him. I’m a little shocked, but not at all rejecting of the gesture. He peers up into my eyes as I sit straddled on his lap.
I smile at him, only able to wonder what brought this on. “What?” I tilt my head to one side gently; my hands are resting on his chest.
A flicker of thought moves across his face and he doesn’t respond.
“What is it?” I ask, more curious now.
I feel his hands lock around my waist and then he leans up and brushes his lips across mine. My eyes shut softly, taking in his touch. I feel like I could kiss him, but I’m not sure really if I should.
My eyes come open when he pulls his lips away.
“What’s wrong, Andrew?”
He smiles and it literally warms my insides.
“Nothing,” he says, slapping my thighs gently with the palms of his hands and so quickly back to being playful, not-so-serious Andrew. “I just wanted you on my lap.” He grins wickedly.
I go to wiggle my way away—not really—and he wraps his arms around my waist and just holds me there. The only time he lets me up from his lap the rest of the night is when I need to use the restroom and he stood outside the door and waited for me. We stayed at Old Point watching Eddie and the band play blues and blues rock and even a few old jazz songs before we left to go back to the hotel after eleven.
BACK AT THE HOTEL, Andrew stays with me over in my room long enough to watch a movie. We talked for a long time and I could feel the reluctance between both of us: he wanted to say something to me as much as I wanted to say things to him.
I guess we’re too much alike and so neither of us stepped over that line.
What’s stopping us? Maybe it’s me; maybe whatever this is between us can’t go any further until he senses that I know it’s what I want. Or, it could just be that he’s not sure of anything, either.