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Last weekend I went to a big stadium concert with a friend. We both lead quiet lives so as the day of the concert drew nearer we were not mostly excited about it as we were concerned about staying up so late. Would we make it? I in particular was wondering why I do things like this to myself. I was jet lagged and exhausted and I wanted to be the sort of person who “still goes to stadium shows” but maybe, I thought, maybe I am just too old to make plans like this because you never know when you’re going to be exhausted.
We decided not to see the opening bands and so passed through the doors of the venue at around 9 p.m., doing all the things everyone else did, showing our vaccination cards and accompanying identification and having our tickets scanned.
Then we found our seats, good seats, which, thank god, because they were laughably expensive. My friend had been the one to procure them and one of the running jokes of the evening was that I wasn’t going to pay them back.
Once situated it was agreed that a glass of shitty white wine would be nice but probably not worth the trouble of a long line. I offered to try since I thought I should visit the bathroom anyway. When I emerged from the seating area there were indeed long lines for everything and lots of fellow concert-goers milling about but I kept walking left and suddenly came to a largely unpopulated section. The bar line was non-existent and so was the line for the bathroom right across from it. The show was sold out so not sure why this was. It was as if I had entered another dimension.
I got the wine first and then realized I would have to take it into the bathroom with me. Was that an odd thing to do? I set the wine on the bathroom railing while I used the toilet. Then I washed my hands and the outsides of the cups, wondering why I hadn’t done this all in reverse order. I didn’t tell my friend “I took our wine into a public bathroom but there was only one other person in it” or anything like that. They’re not very squeamish but it seemed like the kind of thing maybe you just don’t say. Also I think my friend was impressed that I’d come back so quickly with wine so I should leave them with that pleasure/the points in my favor.
The concert began. Thank god this singer’s music is soothing smooth and synthy, because if everyone had been standing up and I was then also forced to stand up I might have collapsed. I remained seated, slowly sipping my wine. I’m a lightweight and soon I felt a sense of warmness and well-being and with the help of the music may have nodded off a few times. As I drifted in and out of consciousness I thought about how all day I’d worried this was going to be so hard and really it wasn’t hard at all.
During a few songs where I was definitively awake I made the observation that when the music was particularly intense or “iconic” or the singer was like “Hey Oakland, how’s it going” people waved around in the air some personal source of colored light. I didn’t really let the observation sink in, meaning, I think some part of me was puzzled to the tune of “why do so many people here have pink or green or yellow glowy things on their person” but at the same time I just couldn’t compel myself toward more advanced speculation. But then I realized that it wasn’t just a lot of people who had these bracelets. It was everyone. Everyone but us.
I turned to my friend and my friend turned to me. And then, more or less in unison, we said to each other “What are these gd bracelets and why are we the only people at this entire concert of 20,000 people who don’t have them? What the fuck?”
The concert pretended to end. We clapped to ensure the encore that was inevitable. “I’m docking four dollars off what I owe you,” I said to my friend. “As the ticket buyer you should have seen that we got bracelets.” My friend agreed this was fair.
The artist returned for the encores. Bracelets were brandished. “I just want you to know that you all matter,” the artist told the crowd, who cheered enthusiastically about mattering. “You’re all important! Every ticket, every T-shirt that you buy, every download, it all matters. It is hard here on the road but it keeps us going.”
My friend looked at me and said, “All Merchandise Matters.” We snickered. I like having a friend who can really sum things up.
The artist played her best song, one of the most beautiful and well-written songs ever written, in my opinion. She played her last song, a good song, but like all her other songs not nearly as good as her first encore song.
It didn’t take long to exit the stadium but we sat in the car for ages waiting to get out of the parking lot. It gave us ample opportunity to watch people walk by wearing the bracelets we didn’t have. Had they been mailed out? Did this many people, seeking to matter just a little bit more, actually purchase them? Did someone walk around handing them out and we just were never in the right place at the right time?
A man and a woman holding hands passed close to the passenger side window. I rolled it down. “Hey,” I said, “Where did everyone get the bracelets?”
The woman answered. She was 25ish, with long hair, bangs, suede jacket, a 70s vibe. “They were just handing them out,” she said. “When we came in.”
“To everyone?” I said.
“Yeah, to everyone,” she said.
“Weird,” I said. “We didn’t get them!”
‘Take mine,” she said, thrusting a glowing green thing at me. I put it on.
“How did we not get these?” I asked my friend. “Did we give off a vibe of not being fun?”
My friend said they didn’t know, but reminded me that I was now compelled to reimburse them the full amount.
I slept on a different friend’s couch. When I turned out the light in his living room the green glow remained and I discovered you could not turn the bracelet off. I put it under the couch and fell asleep. I’m sure it’s still there.
Pleased to see the time-honored technique of "minced oath followed immediately with a real swear word" make an appearance here. Sometimes your pieces read somewhere in between dream and fable/parable, and I count this among them.
I'm never sure how to respond when my underwear is all in a bunch from reading about gross displays of eco-uncaring...mylar helium balloons, glow sticks, all the bits of things crowds seem to love because it unites them. I think "why can't people be happy with their combined pleasure ..why the trash acoutrement" but it's useless to say anything.