I walked to my car and drove to The Pig. It was pissing down rain and seemed to be getting harder. I’m hoping Emily’s waiting because there wasn’t a place to park. The assumption had been made that I would drive. I didn’t protest. I watched her run out and step into a puddle. It was deeper than she thought. Her canvas sneakers got soaked and I heard her curse through the glass.

She got in still swearing. We didn’t hug or kiss. Jokes were more the song of the hour. “Have a nice swim?” I asked. She was too pissed to answer which was kind of a twist. Usually, I was the one sulking.

She tended to her shoes and then decided to give up. I asked her if she wanted to change. “No, thanks. I’m good. How are you this evening?” she asked with a smile. That warm smile heroin that kept me coming back for more. I knew what I was doing but I couldn’t seem to quit.

She was in a mood to be sure. Tips had been decreasing. That night was pathetic. “Nobody uses cash anymore. It’s all debit. So, instead of a dollar a beer I get fifteen percent.” “Is that a huge difference?” “Hell yeah.” “Maybe it’s the economy.” Portland’s always been a cheap town but it was getting worse. The younger they are, the more they don’t like paying. Even drunk, people were getting stingy.

We drove down MLK past the scene of the crime. It wasn’t quite in sight but still too close for comfort. I didn’t want to think about it. At least not right then.

We crossed the bridge and arrived at Dante’s. Even in the rain there were crowds outside. Some were trying to get in. More than a few were just smoking. I wondered which they needed more, the tobacco or the conversation.

It took some circling but I finally found a space. There was something on her mind but I wasn’t sure that I should ask. “You alright?” “Yeah, why?” It was a smile back but it wasn’t the right one. I knew something was wrong. I didn’t push my luck and decide to drop it. I didn’t want to know if it was something about me. Let me at least have this night before we have that talk.

Everyone knew her and we’re let right in. But we were too late to get a seat at a table and stood in the back. I always liked this club because you could sit and relax. That night, I’d end up aching from too much standing around.

The lights grew dim as a band began to play. It wasn’t her boyfriend. He’s the main act. Instead it was white lights and fog machines accompanied by a haunting score. A throwback to the old days but highly effective. Shadowy figures emerged in silhouette. It really was a vision to behold.

They remained frozen like statues in a thick layer of fog. One moved forward and commanded your attention. A boney figure, distorted by disease and ready to break. It wasn’t anorexia but something worse. He’s milked his malady for all it was worth. He was even wearing a dress.

The effect wasn’t funny or ironic but more like a shot from “Vampyr.” Keyboards and synths built the ominous sound. The stick figure singer added his distorted whisper to the scene. It wasn’t my kind of music but I was entranced. It was the best show I’d seen in a long time.
After three encores, the house lights went on. Everyone present still seemed in awe. “Wow, that was great,” Emily said. Her mood had improved and I spoke before thinking. I made the mistake of referring to a concert back in the eighties. Another charismatic singer had made the same impression. Psychedelic Furs lead Richard Butler. I might as well have put a label on my head with my age on it.

I saw a group of pretty young girls. “Are they legal?” I asked. “To drink or to sleep with?” I wasn’t sure if she was serious. So, I declined to answer the question. “The show is 18 and over. So, the answer’s yes to at least one of those.” I regretted bringing it up and dropped the topic. We’re comfortable enough with each other that there was no need to talk just to fill space. There was something on her mind but she’d tell me when she was ready. Until then I could only wait.

The crowd thinned out. I wondered if they would return. “Is Billy screwed?” I asked. She looked at me oddly. “What do you mean?” “Because he has to follow such a good performance.” I wasn’t certain but I swear I saw relief in her eyes. “No, he probably loved it. He’ll be fine.”

By the time he took the stage everyone was back in their seats. Accordions and acoustic guitars weren’t my thing. It was the Portland sound, circa Twenty-Twelve. But Billy had a voice, there was no denying that. I had no doubt the kid would be a star. He had the perfect face for magazine covers.

I wondered who decided to have these bands play together. One or the other would have been perfect. Having both in one night just seemed a little weird.


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