As I was sitting in class on Friday,
I started to regret telling Ryan not to come pick me up
until Saturday morning, rather than going to his house tonight right
after work. After all, I'd be finished by nine o'clock. Part of me just
didn't want to go home, but an even bigger part of me really
wanted to be with Ryan. I needed that safe and comfortable feeling
again after such a long week. I then realized that I'd hardly thought
about Toby all week, except for when I got his note and saw him briefly
in the hallway. My thoughts had been preoccupied with Ryan.
somehow making a decision about something without even realizing it? If
I was, would my feelings even be reciprocated? And what about Toby's
feelings? He obviously had feelings for me ... and I had feelings for
him too ... but he wasn't Ryan. GOD!!!
WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO BE SO DAMN COMPLICATED? THIS ISN'T SOME SOAP
OPERA OR CHEESY INTERNET GAY LOVE STORY, THIS IS MY
As we sat at the lunch table that
afternoon, Ryan could obviously tell that something was weighing
heavily on my mind, so naturally he asked me about it. I just told him
I was thinking about tonight's show and left it at that. It had been
only a week since we'd met, and already things had become so fucking
complicated. I hadn't exactly had a nice or comfortable life before,
but at least it was predictable. Get up, go to school, get picked on
from time to time, come home, do my homework, get the occasional
beating, and do a couple of shows at the pub. That was it.
And now, in
a period of just seven days, in addition to everything that I'd become
accustomed to before, now I had all of these feelings running rampant in my
mind, and I wasn't sure how to deal with them. Not only that, but I
didn't even have anyone who I could talk with about it (like a mom or
dad ... or even a big brother or best friend).
I was on my own
with this one ... as usual. For the briefest of moments, I considered
the possibility of talking to Maggie about it -- she'd told me that I
could talk to her about anything -- but then I realized that since the
main source of my current anxiety was my more than platonic feelings
for her sons, she could hardly be an objective
Then I wondered if maybe I could talk to one of Ryan's friends about
it. Natalie, Delcondris, Tuwanda, the (gorgeous) twins, and Mikey had
all been friendly with me ... but then again, I didn't know how they
would take the idea of my having these kinds of feelings for their
friend, who also happened to be a guy. I certainly didn't have a
problem with that part of it, but I didn't know if they would ... and
even if Ryan was gay, bi, or curious, he probably wouldn't want them
all knowing. Not to mention, if I told them, then I would certainly be
stuck with some kind of label (at least in their minds ... like Gay Connor ... and I didn't think
the whole label thing suited me very well ... yet). So, with all
options considered, I decided that it was still up to me to deal
with things by myself.
By the time I got home from school, a full-fledged anxiety attack had
in from everything that I'd been stressing out about. Thankfully my
mother wasn't home, so I just went to my bedroom, lay down on my
mattress, and let the waves of anxiety consume me ... but this time
there was no Ryan or Maggie to soothe me, and no medicine to take those
feelings away. I was all alone.
I finally pulled myself together, grabbed a quick shower, and headed
out to catch the bus to the club. At least I would have an hour while I
was on stage where I wouldn't have to think about all of this stuff,
where I could escape to that safe place of mine. I'd originally planned
on doing basically the same set list as Wednesday night, but I'd
decided at the last minute to change things up a bit. Friday nights at
the pub were always crowded, and I wanted to at least put on a good
show, not just go through the motions.
When I got to the pub, Mr. Bill seemed to sense that I was a bit
out of sorts.
"Connor, are you feeling alright? Coming down with a cold or
something?" he asked.
"No, sir, I'm fine."
"Are you sure? If you don't feel like going on tonight, it wouldn't be
a problem," he said.
"Really, it's no problem at all. I've changed my set list around, so I
think it'll be a pretty good show tonight," I assured him.
He seemed pleased with that. It would
be a good show, but right now I
just wished that I had told Ryan to come get me tonight rather than
having to wait until tomorrow morning ... I needed him, and more than that, I
think I wanted him, too. I
didn't necessarily want to rip his clothes off and make wild,
passionate love with him, but I wanted to cuddle with him, kiss him,
stroke his hair, and run my fingers across his smooth skin. I couldn't
what was going on in my head, but even just feeling him next to me and
smile would certainly make me feel a lot better. Sadly, I'd have to
endure another night at home before I'd get that chance, and who knows
what wonderful surprise my mother may have waiting for me.
After my brief conversation with Mr. Bill, I went back to get changed,
then went over the set list in my mind. I really needed to focus on the
show now, and not my other problems. For the next hour, I couldn't be
Connor Matthews; I had to be the consummate showman that all those
people came to see. If they could leave the bar a little happier than
when they had come in, because of what I gave them onstage, then it was
all worth it.
Promptly at eight o'clock, I walked out onto the stage. As usual, the
room was filled with smoke, and the crowd was unusually large. There
was not an
empty seat in the whole place, and many people were left standing (not
that it was that big of a place anyway). I was half
hoping to see Ryan sitting in the front row again, but it wasn't to
be. However, seeing the piano there on the stage, my refuge -- even
if just for one hour -- helped to calm
As I had done so many nights before, I walked over and sat down at the
piano, adjusting the microphone. Tonight needed to be a great show, not
just for the audience, but for me ... I needed some of their energy and
enthusiasm to get me out of the emotional funk I was in.
I usually began my shows with a slower song, like I did on Wednesday
night with "Sixty Years On." But tonight, I immediately charged into a
rocking rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman," pounding
out the melody on the piano, singing as powerfully as I could,
wailing into the microphone.
When I finished my opener, the crowd went wild, and I finally got into
"the zone." On the stage, I was someone else, I was safe from
everything, and all that
mattered was the music.
I then followed up with two of my staples, "I
Only Want To Be With You" and "He'll Have To Go," and finished the
rest of the show with a series of rockers: Elton John's "Rock and Roll
Madonna" and "Burn Down the Mission," Little Richard's "Good
Golly Miss Molly," the Beatles' "Come Together" and "Hard Day's Night,"
and my usual big finale of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Twist &
Shout," and "Great Balls of Fire." And even though I was completely
exhausted by the end of the show, I still managed to kick away the
piano bench, get on my knees and pound the hell out of the piano on the
last song. I think Jerry Lee Lewis would have been proud!
When I finished, the applause, catcalls, and whistles from
the audience were deafening, and I definitely felt better. This was
exactly what I needed, and for that entire hour, not a single thought
other than the show I was performing entered my mind. Now I was
exhausted, so after a quick bow and wave to the audience, I made my way
off the stage and headed for the dressing room. But before I could get
there, Mr. Bill stopped me.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.
"Ummm ... uhhh ... I thought I was finished .... so ... uhhh ... I was
planning on getting changed," I stuttered. "Is something wrong?"
"No!" he exclaimed. "That was an incredible show! But the audience is
still carrying on, you need to give them an encore ... but after that
rock and roll show you did out there, I think you should try
something a little slower to get everyone calmed down a little bit, ok?"
This was the first time he'd ever asked or expected me to do an encore.
It was usually just go on stage, play for an hour, get changed, and go
The same routine every night. I was tired, though, and my clothes were
practically soaked through.
"Can I at least get changed really quick, so I can just get out of here
as soon as I'm done? The smoke is killing me, and I don't want
it to damage my voice if I stay in here too long," I said.
"Sure, no problem, bud. Just hurry up!"
With that, I changed quickly into a blue track suit, put on my tattered
Detroit Lions baseball cap, and went back out on stage. The audience
was still clapping loudly, so I gave them another quick bow and wave
and sat down at the piano again, readjusting the microphone. I knew
exactly what song I would finish the show with -- something that fit
mood completely, Billy Joel's "Piano Man." When I finished, I said a
quick "thank you" into the microphone and walked quickly off stage, not
paying much attention to the audience, although the applause was hard
to ignore. But now that I was off the stage, I was just plain Connor
Matthews again, and I couldn't remember ever being more exhausted in my
I quickly grabbed my backpack and Mr. Bill handed me sixty dollars in
cash for the evening (I noticed the extra ten bucks, and was definitely
pleased). Since I'd already changed into my "street clothes" before
the encore, I walked right out into the main room, just wanting to get
outside into the fresh air ... but before I got more than five steps,
there was Ryan standing by the bar, wearing a huge smile.
"You were incredible out there, Connor, abso-fucking-lutely
incredible!" he beamed.
I just stared at him.
"What?! You don't think I didn't realize that you could come over
tonight after work instead of having to wait until tomorrow morning,
did you?!" he asked incredulously.
I was so shocked and elated to see him there. There was nothing I could
say; I couldn't even manage a smile. I just rushed over and wrapped my
arms around him, burying my face in his shoulder.