Photo by me

Date Night: The Music Enthusiast

I almost didn’t go because I was exhausted from a busy schedule, and I had a 6am flight the next morning. But it was Govt Mule and the tour was Dark Side of the Mule. I had to go. I arrived early to snag a seat close to the stage. I walked up the 200 stairs and up even more to the seating. Red Rocks Amphitheater, not for the faint of heart. Standing close to the front of the stage, I looked out across the crowd to find an empty seat. Spotting one I headed up and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

“No, it’s open,” he said.

I sat down and the second guy to my right introduced himself. “Hi, I’m John and this is my son, Rob.”

I shook his hand as I said, “I’m Diana.” As I shook Rob’s hand I got a good look at him. Damn, he’s handsome. I felt a surge of energy. We struck up a conversation. Rob had arrived in Denver that day. He was moving from DC and scheduled his arrival to be at this concert. His dad flew in from Minneapolis to help him unload his moving truck. Govt Mule was a family favorite band.

Govt Mule had also been my first band at Red Rocks after I moved to Colorado. I remember looking around at the crowd thinking, “I found my people. Colorado is my home.” I sat next to two men that night too who asked why a beautiful woman like me would attend a concert alone. I answered, “I do it all the time but tonight is special. It’s my birthday so I decided to treat myself. I just moved here and don’t know anyone yet.” They made my night. One bought me a Moscow Mule to celebrate my birthday. Every time someone walked in front of us to get to their seat, he told them to wish me a happy birthday. This is what happens when you go to a concert alone. You meet people. I’ve never had a bad experience. I just never know how much fun it will be but it’s always fun.

“Where are you originally from?” I asked Rob.

“San Antonio.”

“I’m going to be there tomorrow,” I said incredulously. “I’m also from Texas. I grew up spending every summer in San Antonio with my grandparents. My grandma is a ceramicist. She belonged to some galleries on the Riverwalk, and I used to know it like the back of my hand.”

“I’m also a ceramicist,” said John. I used to do a lot with the River Art Center downtown but that was so many years ago.”

“Yeah, my grandma was pretty involved with them, too. I used to take classes there as a kid.” What a small world.

I turned to Rob, “What do you do, Rob?”

“I’m in IT. I work for a company that contracts with the IRS to handle their database for FATCA. Most people find my job pretty boring.”

“That’s okay,” I replied. “Most people think my job is boring too. I’m a CPA. I know exactly what FATCA is.” Wow, and the world just got smaller.

The three of us gelled so well that when the guys asked me to take their photo to commemorate their first time at Red Rocks, the woman sitting next to me asked if I wanted her to take the photo so I could be in it too. I quietly declined telling her I just met them.

The concert turned out to be my favorite of the year. Warren Haynes played an acoustic solo set. Then the band played a set. After a break, they came back out and played Pink Floyd for two hours, lights and all. There is something about hearing Pink Floyd at Red Rocks that is nothing short of spiritual. It was incredible!

The music, the venue, the weather, and the company that night fueled me. I had so much energy that every time I went down the stairs for water, the bathroom, or the merch booth, I ran up the same stairs two at a time. At one point, a guy sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder. “I’m Michael. What’s your name?”

“Diana. Nice to meet you, Michael.”

“I just have to say you have a ton of energy. More energy than anyone I’ve seen tonight.”

“Oh, thank you,” I replied laughing. I knew where it was coming from. Despite being exhausted, I was riding a high from meeting Rob.

The entire night I stood next to Rob, acutely aware of the space between us. I felt this electric energy, this pull towards him. At the end of the night, I gave John a hug and said, “Safe travels back to Minneapolis.”

“Keep spreading your joy,” he said in return.

I turned to Rob too shy to hug him and said, “We should exchange numbers and hook up for a concert sometime.” I pulled out my phone to create a new contact. Once I had the screen pulled up, I handed my phone to Rob to type in his information. He gave it back to me and I texted him so he’d have my information too.

I didn’t hear anything from Rob for a couple weeks. I didn’t think anything of it except maybe I was the only one who felt that energy. Disappointed, I thought it wasn’t meant to be and let it go. Then he texted, “Have you done one of those Red Rocks dinner sets?”

I had not. He asked if I’d be interested in going towards the end of the month. Yes, I was and the timing worked well for me too. That’s how I ended up setting a date with Rob six weeks away and two months after we originally met.

We didn’t text much in between. I’m not much of a conversational texter. I tried with Rob just to stay in contact and maybe learn a little about him. It had been a really long time since I felt a strong attraction towards a guy. It was exciting to feel that feeling again. I was worried that I had shut it down to protect myself, becoming an avoidant. It turns out Rob is not a conversational texter either.

Rob texted and asked how San Antonio was. I responded and asked if he had gotten all settled in from his move. He answered me a week and a half later. He did the same thing the next time too, starting a conversation, leaving my question unanswered only to pick up right where we left off weeks later. When I bought my ticket for the Red Rocks dinner set I texted him, “Just FYI bought my ticket this morning.”

He responded with “Sweet!” Well, what did that mean? Did he get his ticket or am I going alone? So I followed up for clarification, “Hope that means you have yours! Looking forward to seeing you again!”

He texted back, “Yeah. Sorry. I’m a terrible texter. All set :)”

Okay, well, at least he owned up to it. It perplexed me. I’m not one that wants daily texts. Besides, I didn’t even know him. Daily texts would just be too weird at this point anyway. But not responding at all, which he had done, wasn’t something I could deal with long term. A friend pointed out that he was on a computer typing things all day. The last thing he wanted to do was stare at a screen typing something out at the end of his work day. Ok, so I cut him some slack.

The date arrived and I met him at Red Rocks since I lived so much further away. It was the most convenient thing for both of us. He did text well that day to find each other and make arrangements.

When I saw him, he was just as handsome as the night I met him. I gave him a hug and we walked in together. Conversation was slow to start with both of us being introverts but the small silences never felt uncomfortable.

He broke the ice, “Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears?”

“Britney Spears. I like working out to some of her music.”

He continued, “U2 or Pearl Jam?”

“Pearl Jam.”

“What!?!”

“Yeah, I’m not a big U2 fan. I’d never pay to see them in concert.”

“Really?!? They’re actually really good live. How can you not like Bono?”

“I just don’t.”

“Ok. How about Red Hot Chili Peppers or Pearl Jam?”

“Pearl Jam.”

“What!?! You don’t like the Peppers?”

“I don’t dislike them. I’d see them in concert but only if I went with someone else who was into them. I’d at least pay to see them. Just not one I’d choose to see alone.”

“Ok, Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains?”

“Oh, tough one. I’d have to go with Pearl Jam.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I just really love them. I went to Boston and saw them at Fenway. I mean, it’s Eddie Vedder.”

“How can you like him? I can’t get past the scratchy whine in his voice.”

“I love his voice!”

“Alanis Morissette or Gwen Stefani?”

“Definitely Alanis but 90’s Alanis. Jagged Little Pill came out around the time of my very first breakup. I had it on repeat for a long time.”

“Favorite Texas musician?”

“Oooh, I don’t have an answer for that.”

“Mine is definitely Stevie Ray Vaughan.”

“Yes, I definitely like him. I saw Jimmie Vaughan in Austin. So good.”

“Favorite band from the nineties?”

“Oasis. No contest. Yours?”

“Nirvana.”

“Yeah, that’s a good one. They are high up there for me.”

During the 90’s cover band set, we reminisced the memories that surfaced from the songs being played. The band belted out Rock Your Body and I said, “Oh so many drunken nights dancing to this song in the clubs.”

“I think I’m going to need a demonstration.”

“Oh no! I’m not drunk enough for that,” I said playfully.

As Wannabe lyrics filled the room with “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want,” he asked, “Who’s your favorite Spice Girl?”

“I never had one. Didn’t really care for them.” I patted him on the arm and smiled, “I’ll leave them to you as I need to find the bathroom.”

I returned to the tune of Zombie by The Cranberries. The singer was actually really good on it. Clearly, she had talent with the angsty, grunge screams indicative in that song. “I love this song. The entire album really.”

“Yeah,” he said, “I think everyone was required to have that CD in their collection.”

When the set ended, we walked down to the main stage for a backstage tour. It was like walking on holy ground seeing this magical place where bands hang out before gracing the stage. There were just two green rooms — both with tables, black leather chairs, small refrigerators, and TVs. The thing that separated them from other backstage green rooms was how nice they were. They were clean, spacious, comfortable, and most notably rock formations coming out of the walls and floors because they were built around the natural rocks. We took photos and climbed over the only rocks at Red Rocks you can actually climb without being subjected to a $10,000 fine.

We walked down the hallway further until we found the path from under the stage to the front of the house or as it is referred, the “secret tunnel.” A sign hung at the entrance, “No drinking beyond this point. So start chugging.” At first glance, the tunnel appeared to resemble a gritty bathroom in a dank bar littered with graffiti on everything from the walls, pipes, floor, ceiling, and even utility boxes. Up close, the tunnel told a story, autographs of performers and crew. Red Rocks history one concert at a time. I stood at the entrance scanning the names and slowly moved forward in a hypnotic trance. I felt the energy left behind from the musicians who walked the same steps in the same hypnotic trance. I could see them taking their time reading the names just like I was doing and being in awe that they were taking the same stage as legends who inspired them. I felt their excitement as they picked their spot. I felt their humbleness at checking off Red Rocks from their bucket list of venues in disbelief that they were actually here, actually leaving their mark on the coveted wall.

I took a photo of the long tunnel. Rob was standing on the steps reading the names. Without looking at me he said, “Nine Inch Nails.”

“Where?”

“Here,” he pointed at the ceiling above his head. I snapped a photo. “And here’s Govt Mule,” he said pointing at the step he was standing on. I snapped a photo and realized it was dated at the concert we met.

I took another long shot of the tunnel to capture the awe of so many autographs with such little space left to write in. He was still standing in the middle of the steps, and by default in my photo. He raised his phone and snapped a picture of me taking a picture of him. I smiled at him and walked up the steps to join him as we continued on, looking for the bands we wanted to find. I had my eye out for Jane’s Addiction, Dave Navarro, The Revivalists, to name a few. I never found them.

The top of the stairs spilled into another room with more signatures. Someone called out to a companion that they found Stevie Ray Vaughan. “Where?” Rob asked earnestly. He walked over to where they pointed and snapped a picture of the autograph to his favorite Texas musician, a legend. It read, “It’s Stevie Ray Vaughan. Dammit. You call that a visitor’s center. Visit THIS. VAUGHAN.” Just above his autograph was a signature by Soundgarden from 2011. Just to the right of him was REM. Just below him was Bonnie Raitt dated 2006.

We exited the room and emerged in the open air at the front of the house. Just two months before I was sitting right next to the sound booth mesmerized by Trent Reznor’s pounding lyrics, heavy beats, and pulsing lights while he stomped around the stage in his boots screaming into his mic. How different it felt with empty seats on a pitch black night. We used our iPhone flashlights to walk up on stage. I walked to the center and turned around. Even looking out at 10,000 empty seats I sensed the spiritual, hallowed ground my feet were firmly planted on. I felt the energy of the bands who stood in the very same spot looking out across a crowd of cheering fans who came to see their talent, to hear their guitar riffs, to sing along to the soulful words they had written. Out loud I said, “I have a goal to stand backstage at Red Rocks.”

“That’s a good goal.”

“It may never happen, but I like to dream big.”

I’ve wanted to see one of my favorite bands live from backstage at Red Rocks from the moment I attended my first concert there. I imagine myself standing on the side watching the singer dance around on stage, the guitarist spin around getting caught up in his cord, the drummer feverishly bringing his drumsticks down as his head bounces to the beat. My body can’t help but move to the music, my mouth forms into a smile, and my eyes light up. A concert is so much more than listening to music. I feel the music. I become the music. I am the music. Every note touches me and hits me with emotion that I never knew existed. I feel the crisp, cool mountain air touch my skin, fill my lungs. I look up at the full moon overhead. I shift my eyes down until the inky sky dotted with bright stars meet the jutting, sharp edges of Ship Rock to the south and Creation Rock to the north. My eyes drop a little lower until I’m looking out to the crowd and see what I never get to see from the other side of the stage, the smiling faces. 10,000 people screaming, laughing, shouting, dancing, singing along, clinking beers, raising their arms in the air.

From backstage, I witness the transference of energy that feeds the band, the energy that feeds me, the energy that is reflected back from the crowd. The energy that moves through me and bounces off every cell in my body until I’m cleansed of impurities deposited by the daily grind of living that builds up over time. From this perspective, I finally understand the bigness I had always felt after leaving a concert. I never understood this standing in the crowd because I was just another fan in a very big venue of fans. I couldn’t see it happening: the transference of energy between musicians and fans, the sacred exchange I absorb, so big that the rush is orgasmic. Yes, I want this experience backstage at my most sacred venue where nature meets rock and roll.

Rob and I walked up to the top of the seating where the parking lot was located. We paused at the back wall that overlooked the trail system where we spotted a family of deer grazing in the quiet of night. He asked, “Are you ready to go home or do you want to head somewhere else?”

“It’s still early. Let’s go somewhere else.”

We picked a spot that he was familiar with, close to his place. I didn’t live in Denver so I didn’t have suggestions and had to drive that way to get home anyway.

At the second location we each had one drink, him a beer and me a spiced rum with coke. Terrible hip hop played on the overhead speakers. I noticed my body moving with it. I turned to him, “My body kinda has a mind of its own. It moves to music whether it’s good or not.”

“Yeah, I noticed that back at the 90’s cover band,” he laughed.

He asked all the questions again. When I’m nervous, I revert to being shy. All my questions are in my head but I can’t seem to get them to come out of my mouth.

“What was your first job in high school or college?”

“I worked at Hardee’s for a year. Then Target. Then at 19, I started working for a CPA and I’ve been in public accounting ever since.”

“At 19? How does a 19-year-old get a job in an accounting office?”

“I was already halfway done with college. I was smart and she needed someone,” I shrugged. “Though I do feel like I missed out on the grunge phase from back then. I always liked the bleached hair on guys.”

“I had that,” he said laughing.

“Yeah, I always wanted pink hair but I never could because I worked for a CPA. So I did it a couple of years ago since I don’t see any clients now for a good part of the year. I can get away with it.”

“Do you have a picture of it?”

I pulled one up from Instagram and he commented, “You look different there.”

“Yeah, the pink really brings out my blue eyes.”

“What are some shows you watch?”

“Handmaid’s Tale”

“I couldn’t get into that one. It’s too slow.”

“Stranger Things, Ozarks. My ultimate favorite at the moment is Shameless.”

“Yeah, that is really good.”

“I’m caught up on it and thought about watching the British version because I heard it was better.”

“It is. That’s the one I started with and couldn’t watch the American version.”

“Fiona is my spirit animal.” Uh oh, the alcohol, *ahem* truth serum, was affecting me. I said too much. For a millisecond I saw the glint in his eye as he processed how to take in that information. His lips curled into a mischievous grin, “Why is she your spirit animal?”

“Because she is strong, independent, smart, stubborn, willing to work hard for what she wants. Tell her she can’t do something and she’ll do it just to prove you wrong.” Whew, nice save. He doesn’t need to know that I also relate to how she jumps from relationship to relationship and has casual (great) sex in between or how she always falls for the addict or emotionally unavailable man. Fiona is the epitome of a glorified cable network version of me. Steven Spielberg couldn’t have created a better character to capture the essence of me.

He didn’t press further, nor did I volunteer anymore. I continued on with shows, “Love is really good.”

“Yeah, that’s the one with the dorky guy and the chaotic girlfriend. It is good.”

“Yeah, it’s so well written. I also love This Is Us.”

“Another one that was too slow for me.”

“It’s equivalent to a chick flick. I love how the stories intertwine. It always pulls at my heart.”

By this time we both finished our drink. I realized two hours had passed and I needed to let my dog out. We walked out the door and I started unzipping the coat I just zipped up. I awkwardly reached inside with my right hand to the inside, left breast pocket.

“What are you doing?” he asked, clearly amused as he laughed openly.

“Trying to get my keys out. I put them here so they wouldn’t fall out of my other pocket.” It dawned on me that he mentioned he lived just around the block. Yet, not once did I think we were walking to his place. The old me would have been hoping for the invite. The new me didn’t even think about it. I automatically reached for my keys with the intention of going home.

As we crossed the parking lot, he said, “The music wasn’t great tonight. Maybe next time, you should pick the music. Or we could go on a hike.”

“Ok, then let’s go see Manson next time.”

“I’d see him.”

“Or we could hike Red Rocks. I’ve wanted to do that, to see it by daylight.”

“Yeah, that sounds fun.”

We reached my car and stepped towards each other. I wrapped my arms around his waist and his arms encircled my upper torso. His hug was strong, firm. I judge people’s emotional openness by their hugs. I’m never wrong. Emotionally closed off people do not tolerate long embraces and their hugs feel like wet spaghetti, limp and soft. Sexually charged people hug longer, get too close, sometimes get a little handsy by rubbing your back, maybe moan softly. Emotionally open people hug with purpose. It feels warm, firm, often lasts longer, and sometimes accompanied by tight squeezes. His was definitely inviting and firm.

We parted and he asked if I was ok to drive. I was and climbed into my car. As I drove away, I thought back to the hug and how it didn’t turn into a kiss. Again, it never crossed my mind. The old me would have been waiting for it. The new me realized how awkward that would have been on the first date. I barely knew him. Both of us being introverts, it takes a little longer for each of us to warm up to new people. I didn’t know him well enough to want him to kiss me even though I was definitely attracted to him. I wanted to take my time with him. Friends first. Then see where it was going.

Feeling good about the date and nostalgic from jamming to music on the drive home, I sent him a text, “Totally jammed out to Jagged Little Pill and No Need To Argue on the drive home. Lol.”

I thought spending some time getting to know me might make him feel like he was texting a real person instead of a computer screen. But I received zero response. Maybe he already went to bed. After all my drive home was over an hour. By morning, maybe he felt it was too late. Whatever. The nonresponse didn’t phase me. I found myself not responding to some texts from friends too.

The next couple of days I thought about Rob, more than I care to admit. The Thanksgiving holiday was coming up. He mentioned he was going to Montana to visit family. I was headed to Nashville. I didn’t want to wait until after the holidays. That would be three weeks before I saw him again. I pulled up the weather app to see what the weekend forecast looked like. Snow and ice. Ok, so hiking was out. No concerts coming up. I resolved to see if he wanted to do dinner or a movie instead but it was too early. I won’t text him until Wednesday. I don’t want to seem too eager.

On Wednesday I texted him, “Was gonna see if you wanted to hike this weekend and then I looked at the weather. Up for dinner or a movie or both?”

Minutes ticked by, then hours. Nothing. Wait, today isn’t Wednesday. It’s Tuesday. Shit! Well, I screwed up. Maybe one day wouldn’t have even made a difference. I shouldn’t have texted him just because I didn’t want to wait three weeks. I had panicked. My fear of abandonment surfaced again and I let my fear drive my actions. I needed to be casual, let him make the move. I needed to learn to let my feminine side navigate dating. Men do not want to be chased. They like the hunt and I was making it too easy for him. I came off as needy and too available, especially after he showed signs of being cautious and taking things slow. I must have pushed him away with my boldness.

The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone. It has been over two weeks since I sent that text and still haven’t heard anything from him. So I’m left with what I did wrong. Well, not wrong per se. I journaled and meditated, asking myself questions that I wanted real answers to. Who was Rob to me? Why did we meet? Why did he show up in my life? What purpose does he serve for me?

After a few days, of asking these questions I drove around town running errands thinking about nothing in particular when I had a distinct thought pop into my head, “You need to forget about Rob.” Sometimes I ask questions and I intuitively receive the answer. Unfortunately, it’s not always the answer I want.

Forget about him? What did that even mean? Forget about him for two weeks? Forever? It wasn’t clear but it was definitive. I knew I could not reach out to Rob anymore. He was not available to me. I continued to make excuses for his poor texting, to find reasons to accept it. However, I was dangerously close to chasing a man who did not want what I wanted. I had to let him go.

It stung. He had so much potential. A carrot had been dangled in front of me only to be yanked away. I thought our love story had the beginning of something beautiful that started at my favorite venue listening to a favorite band covering another favorite band that I almost didn’t go see on the night he arrived 1,700 miles to a new city only to discover we may have barely missed each other in our days back in San Antonio. I thought our fairytale story was going to be written in the stars that dotted the inky black sky above Ship Rock and Creation Rock. But I was wrong. It was only a story told from a dark stage with 10,000 empty seats staring back, full of dreams and aspirations but nothing promised.