A couple of weeks ago, on a Monday night, I left the house to take my inner dog for a walk. Without aim or goal, just went down 22nd street, in the direction of the Revolution, that place where everyone recognizes my face vaguely but can’t quite remember my name. Before I could reach the café, I ran into a friend who was having a smoke and a drink right outside of the Latin American Club.
“Hey Bel, join us!”
This girlfriend of mine is one of those musicians that actually manage to make a living out of performing, and she was celebrating a good night of playing and living large. As I had recently broken up with a friend of hers, our conversation veered to the realm of relationships. As a performer, she had experienced men fall madly in love with her after seeing her on the spotlight.
“It’s this stage thing,”, she said. “I always know it is not for real when they approach me.”
The writer and book mouse that I am, I wouldn’t know a thing. But I am walking around with a bleeding broken heart and a confused state of mind these days, so it got me thinking. Then someone came along and invited us all to what would be the first Karaoke Night at the Make Out Room. Sounded fun, so off we went.
The scene was led by DJ Purple Karaoke – who is set to have every fourth Mondays booked. Lots of 80’s hits in the menu and of course, the live saxophone the DJ provides at no extra cover. It was free to get in, but one might have to order a drink or two in order to summon the courage, go up on stage and sing. (Sometimes it is just so healthy to feel ridiculous while still managing to have a blast. It is the imperative of a Karaoke audience: no one that walks into it will be judgmental.) And that Monday, DJ Purple’s first night in the Room, it was the most pure fun.
Lots of Fedora hat wearing dudes, girls with bangs and skinny jeans, and everyone with a huge smile, singing and dancing like there was no tomorrow. At some point I met this guy, he was just a regular guy, closer to cute than to ordinary, with a nice smile and one of those hats, this one with a red and green feather attached to it. He was choosing the song he was going to sing, and it had to be Journey’s “Don’t stop believing”. LOL. As he went up on stage, and went on singing with all his might, he suddenly grew on my eyes. “Just a city boy.” Suddenly he was glowing, everyone was cheering, all the girls screaming and clapping “A singer in a smoky room” and I could feel him drinking from it, sucking up the audience’s energy like a shot of extra life. “Working hard to get my fill”, now he was taller, much better looking, his eyes had a starry sparkle. “Strangers waiting”.
He finished singing and left the stage in a glorious light, and as he came back into the audience he was immediately surrounded by a horde of women. I felt left out and suddenly thought that I might have developed a crush on the guy, especially because he was not looking at me anymore. I went home trying to remember his name and forget his power.
As I am still pulling apart the riddle of why my ex stopped loving me so suddenly, reality hit me a couple of days after karaoke night: he had me on a stage, built by his own delusional wishful thinking. After all, according to the Upanishads, we are all actors on Lila, the Divine Play. When my man saw I was a mere mortal – there is not much glamour in the life of a struggling writer – the veil came down and the love was gone. Spell broken, my heart shattered. Aha!
I ran into my musician girlfriend again, this time at Dolores Park at the end of Easter Sunday, after the Hunky Jesus contest. As she sat on my blanket and asked for a beer – that I did not have – she managed to trade a Ghirardeli chocolate square for a Pabst Blue Ribbon with the neighboring picnic and I shared my insight with her.
“I finally got what you meant by men falling for you on stage.”
She took a sip of her beer.
“Yeah, and it is so sad when you see them realizing it. How they used to look up to you and suddenly they start criticizing. People just fill in the blanks. Women are especially good at it, in their search for the perfect husband. But guys do that too. It is so shattering when they finally see who I am, just someone right here, right now, watching the sunset at the park, drinking my traded PBR, no make up, just reality.”
Yep. As Journey sings, strangers waiting … some are born to sing the blues and the movie never ends.
Isabel Bonfatti is a San Francisco journalist with a master’s degree in anthropology and a wandering eye for art, food, music, and sustainable living. She is finishing her first novel.