force of breath
Saturday night, ten-thirty. I hide my nails from view, not from shame or modesty, but to keep light and careful fingers on my wallet and cell phone. We are standing less than a block north of the county library, at the ‘hard rock’ stage of Big Spring Jam—which, notably, is not held in the spring.
(It took me a year to find out that the park in downtown is named Big Spring Park. Thus, the festival is named after the park it is held in, and does not—as I originally assumed—point to the inability of local officials to distinguish spring from autumn.)We are playing at sanity tonight, Danielle, Jeremy, and I; we are avoiding the testosterone insanity of the mosh pit for a cushier, less-cramped view a few hundred feet back. Instead of jostling for room and oxygen up front, we are standing on the tiny strip of grass that separates the parking lot from the street.
The ground is yielding and still slightly damp from the remains of Isidore. My feet thank me for the kindness.
Any doubts we might have had about our fellow concertgoers’ chemical of choice were dispelled earlier when the lead singer announced the three things he loved best about Alabama—this crowd, the lovely women, and the lovely weed.
A quick sniff verifies the worst: my shirt is really going to stink, come morning. There’s nothing quite like the combined odors of Mexican food, sweat, and smoke residue (from cigarettes of varying legality) to prevent you from re-wearing an otherwise perfectly-good shirt.
It would be easier to comment on the band if I could understand a single word of what they were singing. I’ve tried both ways—earplugs in, earplugs out—and either way, the lead singer for Default is completely and utterly unintelligible.
To my left, Jeremy taps my elbow. He says something, but between the ramped-up roar of the speakers and the conversely dampening hush of my earplugs, his words become nothing more than jumbled sounds set to lip movements.
He—like virtually everyone I’ve ever known—is much taller than I am. He leans in, down, for a bizarre yelling parody of a whisper in my ear. My hair is pulled back in a ponytail, but the shorter, finer hairs along the edge of my hairline have managed to slither free. His breath fans them.
Somewhere amidst tickle and the overwhelming urge to rub my neck (to make the tickle go away) the words register: “I can’t understand a single word he’s saying! Can you?”
Between the external noise and the in-ear dampening, what was a shout sounds like a whisper. A moment or two later, I tap Jeremy on his elbow. Seeing my expectant face, he leans in, and I perform the same whisper-shouting dance in his ear. As I’m forcing extra volume into my voice, I see his hair move from the force of breath applied.
“Can’t understand a word. Maybe it’s better this way?” We laughed, the movements and expressions familiar, but the sounds were overpowered by the concert.
Eventually, I redid my hair, pulling it higher—bordering on painfully high—into a tighter ponytail, to keep me from emitting strange shivers every time we tried to have a short conversation.
I don’t mean to be ticklish. But, then again, I don’t mean to be short, either.