The girl’s fishnet stockings catch my eye as I hand her the money. I hold up two fingers. She stamps my wrist, then my wife’s. A big bald guy has a look at us, nods, and we’re let in. With my wife walking right up behind me, I find an empty table in the back corner. A band is up on stage. All style, not much talent. A girl shouts out flat notes in what looks to be an x-rated suit of armor.
“Were too late, Lou. Theyre already on,” my wife says.
“No, Noahs bands got a guy singer.”
I look around. Lots of black. Even more skin. I have on my old jean jacket. The one I wore to the Stones concert in ’78. Really wish my wife woulda worn her other pair of jeans. The tighter ones.
“Want a drink, Wanda?” I ask her. I’m getting into it.
She nods. I head down to the bar and join the waiting fray. No one gives me a second glance. Better than I can say about Wanda’s office parties. I order two pints of draft and feel a tap on my shoulder as I pull the wet glasses out of a puddle on the bar.
A girl with a green pompadour worthy of Elvis himself says something that I don’t make out.
“I said I like your boots!”
My old cowboy boots that Wanda keeps hiding in the attic. Still fit like a glove. I raise one of the beers in appreciation and make my way back to our table. I hope Wanda saw that girl talking to me.
“You sure we should be here?” Wanda asks.
“Noah said we could come,” I say, though he hadn’t. I overheard his band talking about the show in the garage last week while I was out cleaning the lawnmower blade. I waited until the practice ended and asked Noah about it. He said he wasn’t sure when theyd be on. And that the music would be too loud. Too loud! Like Jagger used to whisper. He finally told me what bar their gig would be at, then kind of looked through me and went into his room. In my day, my old man couldn’t have cared less. But I wasn’t my old man. So I decided we were going.
“There he is,” Wanda says.
Noah is sitting at a booth with six other people. Most I recognize. The guy with the neck tattoo. That’s Garrett, the bands singer. The girl with the army boots. That’s Sarah. I like Sarah. She and Noah are “friends”. Nobody has “girlfriends” anymore, Noah keeps telling me. They’re all joking around, laughing. Except Noah. He’s sliding his beer from one hand to another. Nervous. He has this scared, worried frown, same as when he was a kid. Before every sleepover, before the Grade 5 school play, same frown. You’ll be fine, son.
“Want to go over?” Wanda asks.
“No, hes with his friends. Thats okay.”
The other band finishes. Noah looks over and I instinctively put my head down. I’m not sure if he sees me. Music starts playing on the speakers while the stage is cleared. I recognize one of the songs. Noahs woken the house with it a few times. But it’s not that bad. I peek back over at Noah’s table but he and a couple others are gone. Must be getting ready.
Noah’s drums are set up now. A few minutes later, Noah and the band come out on stage. He still has that frown. The crowd starts cheering and I clap my hands raw. First song starts. One of their faster ones. Garrett’s jumping around, screaming. Wish hed move to the side so Noah could get some of the spotlight behind the drums. He’s really gotten good on those things. My boot’s keeping time against the table leg and I give Wandas sweaty hand a squeeze.
Four songs in, they play the one that Noah told me he wrote. Garrett wrote the other ones, but not this one. Starts with a big drum intro. Noah nails it. The whole bar’s either dancing or cheering. Sarah’s right by the stage, gawking at my boy like he’s a Beatle. Just friends, my ass. He looks over at her. Frown’s gone, he’s smiling now. And then he looks at me. I think he nods, so I nod back. I’m so proud of you, boy.
Their set ends and the crowd goes nuts. Takes Noah ten minutes just to make his way through the admiring crowd and get a drink at the bar. Garrett’s got three girls on the go, but Noah finds Sarah and they head back to the booth and talk. Wanda and I finish our beers and I think about leaving. Just then, Noah starts walking over, Sarah close up behind.
“Don’t hug him!” I warn Wanda.
Noah comes over to me and slaps my arm. “You came.”
“Yeah”, I say. “Great show.”
“Aw, I dropped a stick. Stupid.”
“No one noticed. You were great, Noah.”
Sarah pulls at Noahs arm and he introduces her.
“Sure, I remember you, Sarah. Evening.”
A white face and two black eyes quiver in my direction.
“Can I buy you two a round?” I offer.
Noah looks over at Sarah. “Sorry, Dad. We’re goin’ to Garretts with some friends. Better head out.”
“All right. Have fun.”
“Be safe,” Wanda adds.
And off they go. Sarah grabs hold of my boy’s hand when they’re almost out of sight, but I still notice. I’ve always liked her.
We stay one more song and then leave. I buy a CD of Noah’s band on the way out. It’s Noah’s handwriting on the label. I’d recognize it anywhere. Same as it always was.
The next morning, Wanda finds me asleep on the couch. Still got my jean jacket on. Record player needle’s circling the out groove of my old Let It Bleed LP.