* This is an edited version of an essay I wrote about 7 years ago.
And that’s a photo of me (far right) taken right about the time I was falling in love with the rock star.
“Win a Free Autographed Poster Now,” a pop up banner on my computer screen reads. He stares out with this serious Rock Star look that he didn’t have years ago when we’d meet up in small bars that paid his band a few dollars per set. I would stand up front, trading eyes with him, mouthing every word to every song he dedicated to me in a dual serenade that made my girlfriends squeal. He wore plaid then, not leather pants. His hair was thinning, not shaved clean like it is now, as if it is a statement rather than an avoidance. Did something happen to make him hard?
We met by accident. My friends arranged a trip to our favorite music venue for my 20th birthday.
“Who’s playing?” I asked.
“Don’t know,” they answered, and we peeled out of town on the way to drink music.
Once there, we danced in the self-absorbed way of college coeds, as if the band, then just two guys on guitars, was playing for us alone. He caught my eye, voice sweet, eyes soft. After the show, they told us they began the band as undergraduates. We bought CDs to support their dream.
I booked concerts for my school, and I knew they’d be perfect.
“How do we book you?” I asked. Alex, the one I’d noticed, smiled at me. His partner, Rick, offered a card.
We booked them a few months later. They played outdoors on the type of day where the sun would have seduced you if there were no other options. But there was another option, and I was taken with it. Alex and I flirted: a hand on the arm here, a brush of a hip there.
Two days later, the band playing the next weekend called to ask if they could bring an opening act.
“No charge. We just want to get them some exposure.”
My face flushed when I heard their name. That Friday, the flirting continued. I figured he liked my effervescence and compassion. I knew I liked his sensitivity and sweetness. I was in love with a rock star.
His band became popular at our school and played there often. Once, at sound check, Rick asked, “Your boyfriend coming?”
“Don’t have one.”
“Hear that Alex? She doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
We blushed; our affections close to the surface.
It continued. Friends and I traveled to shows, our names on the guest list. He would dedicate songs to me, and we’d listen intently to every single word and then danced as if we hadn’t noticed. After the shows, I’d visit him before he boarded the bus, alone. My Mamacita’s nena buena, I didn’t want to be just a groupie.
“Guess our new CD’s name,” he said one night.
“Rosie Molinary is the coolest girl I know, and I cannot live without her.”
The reality of my affections breached the surface.
“Very good name and fairly accurate. That’ll be the next one.”
I played it cool when people mentioned seeing my name in the CD’s liner notes.
On the phone, once, he said something I didn’t understand.
“I have no idea what you mean.”
“That was one of those things that after five years as a couple would’ve totally made sense,” he said, laughing.
Now, I know how these things work: I’ve taught high school and counseled college students. I’ve even seen The Batchelor. But back then, I didn’t know and I pinned my hopes on that sentence. He said couple, I told myself. And five years. My favorite song of his found its way on every mixed taped I made.
Then, months later, after another show, I walked outside sooner than usual. There, by the RV, Alex was embracing some girl– her hair long, dark, and curly like mine. Silent, I turned away, my crush leveled by the sudden realization that I wasn’t the only girl he was putting on guest lists and talking to on phone lines across the South.
Alex looked up.
“Thanks for coming,” he said to her, moving swiftly towards me.
He offered an explanation he didn’t owe me, saying things I no longer wanted to hear because I had been twisting them to suit my dreams. Disappointed and embarrassed, I waved him off, said I had to go. He reminded me of the next concert where I’d be on the list. I left, my heart caught in pieces in my throat.
Years later now, I am scrubbing my kitchen floor when Alex’s voice comes over the radio, flooding the room with the top song in America. My girlfriends call and say, “Did you hear him?” How could I not? He is on the radio every fifteen minutes, and I still know the words to every song.
I am engaged to a guy who doesn’t know that leather is used for anything other than shoes, who speaks his truth plainly, whose affection is told to me by filled gas tanks and washed dishes, but I flash back to when all I wanted was Alex, and all he wanted was the world to want him.
Distracted, I walk over to my computer.
WIN A FREE AUTOGRAPHED POSTER NOW. My screen blinks, screaming for me to get a piece of his action. Unfazed, I close it, refreshingly aware that reality is so much better than fantasy.