The summer of senior year in college is generally a time to get out any last minute basic-college-girl needs before true adulthood sinks in. However, in my case, I never expected that urge to lead me to a country singer’s tour bus. The month of August is hot enough without a bottle of Jack Daniels and a smooth, southern drawl.
I drive two hours South with a friend to see a concert of a nameless, faceless man I had never heard of; but, the words 'free tickets' inspires me. I have never despised country music, yet I never thought it was worth Ticketmaster's processing fees. Nonetheless, I have the day off and always love a good road trip. So I slide on my $300 boots from Nashville and keep the drinks coming until my red lipstick fades and I miraculously can sing along. I watch as a 6’4” cold glass of water struts around swooning everyone in his path. After the show, he does a lap across the stage to charm his adoring fans by signing cleavage and cowboy hats. My friend hands over her Red Sox ball-cap as I daydream about a cold, gin-and-tonic. She wakes me from my reverie so I can meet her celebrity crush; ergo prompting Cowboy Casanova to offer me an autograph. Not wanting a foreign signature on my high-end boot, I loftily decline and ask for a kiss on the cheek instead. Impetuously, I gain a false confidence, grab my ticket stub and scribble down ten digits--off goes my “ticket to fame”.
Are you the girl who kissed [him] on the cheek?
That was me alright. The next twenty minutes leads to five perfectly crafted messages and our invite backstage. I trade in my gin for Miller Lite and my innocence for faux fangirl. Between solo cups in the backstage bar and pitchers of JD at the VIP club, memories blur into a blonde-bearded face and a famous name. I learn about the dog tags he wears, the death of his father, his farm in Tennessee, past girlfriends, and other drunken stories slurred with a North Carolina accent. He pulls me in with the sweet public displays of affection and soft serenades of old country songs. After the first few hours, I feel like I know him better than his #1 Fangirl. Minutes turn into hours and before I know it we are packing up. Naturally, I tag along and find myself aboard a patriotic, nicer-than-my-apartment tour bus.
Endless conversation and laughter make for a long night.The two voices in my head bicker about how to far let this go. My instincts and overall aversion to intoxicated men insist I join my friend back in the living room. Whereas, my natural curiosity and lust for adventure dare me to proceed. My moral compass decides on a modest, middle-ground--no harm in a few sloppy kisses and a good story. However, when Mr. Country strongly encourages me to go far more south than Tennessee I decide the party was over. Famous or not, I am now genuinely annoyed by the man and his unorthodox requests. So I planned my escape route.
As three in the morning rolls around, I grab my friend and head toward the door. They have a long trip back south and us up north. With a kiss on the cheek, exchange of numbers and a quick selfie (per his request), we are Boston-bound.
Great hangin with ya. Drive safe
That is the first message of a three-month exchange between the country star and myself. This extended game of cat-and-mouse consists of spicy conversations, a detailed recap of August 19th, and desperate attempts to not sound like a crazy fangirl.. He tends to be a hard-to-reach man, but every text flashes that Top Country Billboard name in my contact list.
Only a few months later, Southern Charmer makes his way up north yet again and proclaims his excitement to see me. Tickets were placed at will call under my name and I try my damnedest to erase any expectations; after all, the psychology major in me knows his type. Still in a birthday hangover from the night before, I lazily sing along to the same covers from Garth Brooks, Blink-182, and Tom Petty. Backstage, I recognize the same bar and bandmates, the same drawl and dog tags. However, the tall brunette taking tequila shots in the corner looks far from familiar. I do some socializing at the backstage party and learn a thing or two about the girl in snakeskin boots. At first, hearing she was just his opening act, my anxiety lessens. The tour manager quickly dissolves all sense of hope when he reveals that the two singers are sharing more than just a stage. At this point, I wish my birthday party did not destroy my liver the night prior because a shot of anything would make this night easier to bear. As I swallow my pride and a wave of nausea, I make my way toward the leather couch. At this point, the man of the hour spots me and approaches. With an short embrace, a kiss on the cheek, and playful banter we replay our last thirty seconds together back in August. There is smiles and small talk for all of four minutes until southern belle distracts him.
My frustration rises as fast as my patience level drops. I spend the next fifteen minutes arguing with myself about whether or not I should accept defeat and leave. I eventually announce my departure--after a total of thirty-five minutes backstage--only to be led into the most uncomfortable encounter. I listen as he sprawls out excuses for his distance and utter lack of respect. “This is what life on the road is like, I never know what to expect. I don’t want to hurt or disappoint you.” I bite back tears of hurt and disappointment: “I get it. You’re you. I’m me. I’m a big girl. I can handle it.” Our last spoken words are tragic for both my ego and the course of that night.
I dismally miss every exit driving home and turn my phone off to avoid making a foolish mistake. However, I replay the night over an unhealthy amount of times and I cave after thirty-six hours. It is a shame the other night didn’t work out . . .
His tenacious spirit makes an appearance with a snarky retort claiming he warned me about his wanton ways. The last blue bubble to be sent displays my attempt at aplomb; ultimately, teaching me the most effective way to get blacklisted.
I have too much self respect to deal with this right now.
Enjoy your high-school-aged girlfriend, [nameless, faceless man].