The show was over.
The applause hit.
And she gently landed back on earth – like an old pro.
The stage under her high heels went cold, and the exhilarated crowd filed out of The Hanged Man, lighters and cigarettes ready, plotting the next act.
And that was her cue to get out of there.
She never stuck around after a show.
Not for the free drinks. The small talk. The flirting. None of it.
She had to leave – now.
Before the lights go on and the neon trees go out.
She didn’t want to be around for that.
It was like dying a slow death.
When the spell breaks, it takes her along with it.
Still, she lingered.
A little too long.
“Walk you to your car?” he asked, from behind.
A new voice, but all too familiar. He’d been watching her all night.
“That’s alright, I’m getting a cab”, she auto-replied.
“I could wait with you? It’s a rough neighbourhood after dark.”
He wasn’t wrong.
“It was rough up there as well,” she bantered, motioning to the empty stage, which didn’t seem like a stage anymore. It was just a faded part of the room.
“You did alright. Great in fact. I mean…” he stumbled, “I thought you were great.”
Too late. He was handsome and shy and – to be honest – she wanted to hear more. Who wouldn’t?
So, they lingered together.
And talked about nothing and everything in this space that was nowhere.
For an unspecific amount of time.
Floating in space. Like astronauts tethered to each other but unanchored to any ship.
This strange void – between the stage lights and the street lights – was it Heaven or Hell? They both looked the same, after all. Which one was it?
Was it a place to savour what was next or mourn what was over? Was it purgatory, or was it in fact the place where living was done?
Hard to tell when you’re in it. When you’re always going somewhere or leaving someplace.
Be still for once, she told herself while telling him other secrets. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
The rest stop could become a resting place.
Turn into a place where she wanted to stay.
Just minutes ago, she was a queen, on stage, and she would be again soon enough but… for how long?
For a set? For a night? For a decade?
All things end, she reminded herself.
The Hanged Man wasn’t even half-filled to capacity tonight.
She remembered when the booths and the floor were crammed, and people would spill their drinks trying to get closer to her.
It was much more civilized now. In a bad way.
And now, another night was over and something else was about to start.
Ten minutes ago, she had his senses in a vice grip. Or, was it 30 years ago?
He didn’t look like he was old enough to remember her when she filled bigger clubs than The Hanged Man.
She didn’t feel like she was old enough to be old enough.
And then, whatever this was that was starting – that would end soon as well.
It always does.
It goes out with the neon trees. It goes out with the moonlight. It goes out with that weird baseline hum of the speaker she can barely hear anymore.
The lines in her face would be clearer in the morning. Then he’ll forget everything like the spontaneous amnesia that infected his brain when she belted that first note of the evening.
She knew she had him. But, for how long? Amnesia is a recurring illness in the boys she found under these rocks.
But, so what?
I mean, everything ends, she reminded herself.
Doesn’t it? Isn’t that how it works?
Do it anyway, she thought, as she finished her drink and motioned for him to follow her through the dusty club, up the stairs, and out into the rainy night air.
Do it anyway, even if you know it’s going to end.
It’s glorious now because it ends later.
That’s called living.
And he hailed a cab.