On 8 October I saw Depeche Mode in concert here in Phoenix, then I flew to Dallas TX on the 12th to see The National. A full week for me, reminiscent of the concert-hopping my best friend and I used to do from 2005 to 2008. I don’t go to many concerts these days, but back then it was my main recreational pursuit. Michele and I were constantly traveling to one show or another. Actually, I did most of the traveling, despite Phoenix being one of the ten largest metropolitan areas in the US well-known bands just don’t stop in that often.
I have a lot of fond memories of the two of us speeding down the various Southern California freeways heading for another show, singing at the tops of our lungs to whatever band we were going to see; waiting outside venues for hours to stake our place on the floor; spotting celebrities in the crowd (and interacting with a fair amount of them); and urging the people around us to dance and sing along.
Michele and I were from two vastly different worlds. I’d been raised modestly in the Ozarks and my humble background was never far beneath the surface. Michele was the quintessential Southern California girl, raised in an affluent Orange County suburb, and her tastes showed it. Fashionable and label conscious, she was forever urging me to splurge on the expensive accessories I loved but couldn’t bring myself to buy. She once spent two hours practically begging me to buy a Coach bag, but no matter how much I wanted it I couldn’t justify spending $500 on a purse — I simply could not do it. She took the upper hand and bought me a coin wallet, telling me “You have to have at least one Coach piece, and since you won’t buy one I’ll buy it for you.” Our birthdays were days apart, so we often spent them together at a show or a club. We were so different, and yet we were completely simpatico. We shared the same passions for music, film, and art, and we were both staunchly liberal. She poked fun at my accent and my country vernacular; I teased her about her gas-guzzling behemoth of an SUV and her horrible driving skills. We commiserated about our work and our weight, about our families and about men. We were each other’s support system. We were an unbeatable team. Or so we thought.
Michele died in April of 2009. Cancer took her at the age of 43. She left behind a 12-year old daughter; just typing this obscenity makes me weep fresh tears of anger as though it all happened yesterday and not four years ago.
I haven’t had any close female friends since then — no one else quite measures up. My youthful illusions of being bulletproof have been shattered, and it’s left me slightly paranoid. I don’t dare think “It can’t happen to me, I’m too young.” I know better now, and I’m a lot more careful with my health. And I don’t go to many concerts anymore. My heart just isn’t in it. When the house lights come down and the enthusiastic roar of the crowd rises up, I keep looking to my left expecting to see my friend, arms raised triumphantly over her head and looking at me with a wide-eyed expression that says “Here we go!” And my heart breaks a little every time, because she should be here raising her daughter, and shopping and enjoying concerts and doing all these little things that I can do — things I once took for granted.
So for the music, myself and for Michele I was there, singing with two voices, carrying her with me in spirit . . . inside a $500 Coach tote bag. She’d love that.