The music filled the air and sound waves surrounding us as we danced together on the fields of trampled grass and kicked dust. No sooner than that concert began it ended, and I worried we would part ways and our existences only cross paths for an hour in the timetable of our lives. Even if nothing was to come from this new-found goddess, friendship or otherwise, witnessing beauty of this magnitude was an event alone I would never forget.
“We’re gonna go get a drink, do you want one?” Hazel asked me.
I was confused why she asked me that. I was only eighteen, and I certainly didn’t look like I could be legal aged. My face was rounded and chubby; a baby face for lack of a better term. I was practically infertile in the garden of facial hair and my face as a whole was pretty plain. Brown hair, dark brown eyes, and a splash of freckles on my cheeks even with the bridge of my nose. I had to be careful with my response, because if she found out I was younger than she thought she might not keep walking and dancing with me. That was all I cared about in my youthful wisdom at eighteen-years-old. I just wanted this goddess to dance with me for hours on end, sparing her time for a mere mortal as myself so her beauty was always directly in front of me.
“No, I’m okay for now. Thanks though,” I said, trying not to reflect my age or inaccurately portray an older façade.
“Okay then,” Hazel said as she and Kate turned around to walk off to one of the liquor stands so they could continue their intoxication. I followed after them, not entirely sure if I was invited, but drunk enough to know that if they didn’t want my company I would probably never see them again.
“So how old are you?” Hazel asked, reassuring to me that I was welcome company.
“I’m about to graduate,” I said, not lying. I was about to graduate high school, but for all they knew I was about to graduate college.
“Oh okay, we just graduated,” Hazel said.
“What was your major?” The question was directed at Hazel, but Kate chimed in to answer.
“Elementary education!” she shouted as she followed by chugging the beer she just purchased. Hazel started laughing at her friend’s lack of control and unrivaled enthusiasm when drunk.
“She gets a little rowdy when she drinks,” Hazel admitted as she softly laughed with an appearance from her heart-melting smile.
“I can tell,” I said not knowing where to take the conversation. Drunkenness simply disguised my social anxiety; it didn’t cure it. So while my confidence skyrocketed, my conversational skills greatly paled in comparison as I would often just discuss surface level topics with great vehemence. “Where did you go to school?”
“Tennessee State,” she said as we walked away from the liquor stand back to the main concrete path that led down the left side of the entire festival grounds. As soon as that question escaped my lips I worried she would ask the same question in return, and I had no idea where to say I went to college.
“Is that in Nashville?” I asked, trying to divert her attention away from the college and toward the city.
“Yeah it is! I love it there.” I succeeded for the moment in avoiding lying about going to college. Up to this point, I technically hadn’t lied. Lying is no way to begin a relationship, if this were to lead to anything, of course.
“I’ve only been once,” I admitted, “but I loved every minute of it. It was actually just two months ago.”
“What were you there for?” This conversation was going smoothly so far. I wasn’t thinking about it too much or forcing anything, though I was shaking with nervousness with every word leaving my vocal chords. She was outlandishly beautiful and I was just a boy wanting this woman, this goddess to be interested in my company.
“I went to a concert at Bridgestone arena in January with my best friend,” I said as I recollected that adventure mentally.
“I love Bridgestone! What concert was it?” she asked.
“It was Of Mice & Men, Rise Against, and Linkin Park,” I listed off as I told the story of mine and Adam’s last taste of freedom.
We continued walking along the concrete path as we looked for the stage Hazel wanted to be perched in front of.
“Band of Horses is my favorite band ever and we have to see them,” Hazel said.
“Okay then let’s go see them. What stage are they on?” I asked as I stared in amazement once more at the amount of sheer beauty surrounding Hazel’s being.
“Maybe the back stage, but I’m not for sure. Let’s just walk back there anyway.”
“Alright, I’m just along for the ride,” I said, signifying I was okay with seeing whoever she wanted to; I would be staring at her the entire time regardless.
We hiked all the way to the stage farthest from the entrance and settled in an open area not too far from the center of the crowd again on the left side. Band of Horses hadn’t taken the stage yet, so Hazel was excited to be able to see their entire set.
The stage crew was assembling the equipment, stacking amps, piecing together the drum set, placing the microphones in the mic stands with extra guitar picks stuck all up the cylindrical stand. After the stage was set, the sound crew and technicians came on to test the sound and tuning of the instruments. All in all it took close to forty-five minutes, a majority of which was just for the excitement to overtake the crowd in anticipation.
Just before the excitement boiled over into impatience and anger the band walked out on stage to a roaring applause and began playing music.
“Shit!” Hazel shouted as she turned around and looked at me. I could barely make out what she was saying, so I leaned my head into her to let her know to speak into my ear.
“We’re at the wrong stage! This isn’t Band of Horses!” Disappointment was painted all over her face more noticeable than that makeup that grabbed my eyes at first glance.
“Do you want to go to a different stage and try to find them?” I asked trying to bring that smile back to her face and making things better. I wanted to be her problem-solver, her fix-it-all.
“Nah. I’m not sure which stage they’re on, and if we found them we’d be so far back and miss most of their set.”
“If you say so,” I said. “Do you have any idea who’s playing here?”
Hazel surveyed the stage as the band was playing music. It was unfamiliar to our ears, but we enjoyed it. We were looking forward to staying and listening if the whole set sounded this good.
Hazel grabbed the attention of a girl in front of us by tapping her on the shoulder. Before the girl could turn all the way around, Hazel was already forming her question.
“Who is this playing?”
“It’s the Avett Brothers!” the girl responded with a mixture of excitement and disbelief that Hazel wasn’t familiar with the group.
“Thanks,” Hazel said as she turned around to her friend and me. “Did you guys get that?” We both nodded.
We mainly danced in place. The music was melodious and warm, but at a pace that made it difficult to dance. It wasn’t a sprint nor a walk, but jog-like. It radiated senses of enthrallment and serendipity as the music pulsed through our ear drums and flowed through our bodies together. The atmosphere was establishing the rudiments of youthful romance.
The ebb and flow of the show was reminiscent of a crashing tidal wave; roaring and vibrant one moment, tranquil and still the next. It was as if the band wanted its audience to experience the peaks of emotion and feel the journey between apexes. When the tempo escalated, it came with it a heightened sense of jubilation. Then, as the tempo slowed to a crawl, the desire to hold someone closer than the physical limitations our bodies allow came over me.
The piano sounded first. A beautiful, mellifluous introduction soon followed by the singer’s voice. I had never heard this song in my life, but it connected with me on a spiritual level. My soul knew this song and had played it for eternity with the instruments of my anima. I acted without thought and wrapped my arms around Hazel’s waist with the song serenading us in that moment that stood still in time.
We rocked back and forth as the song played on. I only became aware of the lyrics towards the last chorus. “Three words that became hard to say: I and love and you.” The moment was perfect as the moon shone above the Mississippi River and reflected against its water while I held this masterpiece of a woman in my arms in the midst of a masterpiece of nature. The piano slowed and the singer repeated the chorus a last time with a more emotional delivery, and as soon as the music stopped the crowd was silent in awe and poignancy. In that moment of silence just before the crowd roared in appreciation, I leaned in and kissed Hazel.
I was so nervous and so afraid that I would miss that my lips grazed hers for mere milliseconds, but it was enough to be engrained in memory forever, never to be lost.
That was the last song the Avett Brothers played. They cleared the stage and the crowd dispersed, everyone making their way to the festival entrance since the night was coming to an end. The three of us began our trek along with everyone else. I walked beside Hazel and placed my arm around her as we kept stride beside one another; she returned the gesture.
When we finally reached the front of the grounds, I realized we were about to head our separate ways.