Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Anna McElhenney: The Story

Lester was driving. I was riding shotgun. The girls were in the back. Anna and Emma, that is. The girls were doing most of the talking, but we were all pretty jazzed to be going to the concert. Lester, especially, had dressed in a way that would make all the cool kids wish they had owned what he wore. I think he was just trying to impress Emma. This was, after all, their twenty-third date. But hey, who's counting?
Lester had approached me soon after prom. He was the most nervous I had ever seen him. He just stood silently for awhile, using barely audible grunts to respond to a funny story I was telling. Afterward, he didn't laugh, but just said, "Listen, Ray," I want to ask Emma out. Is that okay with you?"
I don't think he heard a word of my funny story.
When we finally arrived at the venue, passed through line, and got frisked by security, we tried to push through the crowds to get to a good place to see. I watched Lester, holding Emma's hand, pushing himself through and I just stopped, letting them disappear into the mass of bodies. "What are you doing?" Anna screamed in my ear so I could hear above the music.
"I'm claustrophobic," I answered. "I don't think they even noticed they lost us."
Anna looked at me funny for a second, then yelled, "Come on."
I followed her out, through the back of the crowd, where I could actually breathe and she led us upstairs to some hip, modern couches that weren't comfortable, but sure did look cool. She sat down and I sat next to her.
From here, we couldn't see the band, but we could hear them pretty well. Also, there wasn't a whole bunch of ecstatic fans jumping up and down, sending that sweat smell into the air, and trying to sing along. I never understood why they did that. I thought people went to concerts to hear the band sing. If they wanted to sing, they could do that in the shower for free. Some people just got a lot of money to waste, I guess.
At first we just sat and listened. We let the sounds invade us. We even closed our eyes a little, but maybe that's just because we were tired from the long drive.
After awhile, Anna started to ask me a lot of questions that normally I wouldn't want to answer, but because of the way she asked them, I did. She let me tell her my stories and changed her facial expressions which meant she must have really been listening. She even touched my back for a few seconds when I was telling her a sad one.
After the concert and a whole lot of craning of the neck to see through the crowd, we found Lester and Emma. "Wasn't that amazing?" Lester asked. "What they did with those lights, those visuals were just awesome. Really made the show spectacular." I looked at Anna and she looked at me. "Where did you guys go, anyway?"
"Upstairs," Anna answered.
"We didn't get to see a single thing," I said.
"Are you kidding?" Emma asked.
We shook our heads.
"We must have really missed out," Anna said. But I didn't feel like I missed out and I could tell by the way Anna looked and the way that she said that, that she didn't really feel like she missed out either. So I smiled.
Late into the night, after we had dropped off the girls, Lester pulled into my driveway and turned off his car. I felt a bit uncomfortable and thought maybe he was going to try and kiss me, but instead he said, "Emma broke up with me. Says I talk too much and don't listen enough."
I didn't know what to say, which was fine because he just continued. "I thought I was in love, but I must have been mistaken. Love always hopes, but after she told me that I lost my hope in her. So, I guess I lost my love as well."
I thought about how it might have been different if I had dated Emma instead of Lester. I imagined myself being a good listener and that we could talk for hours without running out of things we wanted to tell to each other. I thought about how in time, I would ask Emma out myself and realize this dream, but quickly vowed to myself not to. I mean, come on, this is Lester we're talking about.