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Some Great Reward
By Elise Miller

Karen goes to Immaculate Conception high school. Her friend Krista gave us tickets to see U2. They're playing tonight, The Unforgettable Fire tour, at the Rosemont Horizon, a huge concrete stadium on the outskirts of Chicago, where the Ice Capades skate and the Bulls play basketball. Karen and I can't stand U2, but a free concert is a free concert, so we're going.

At the Rosemont Horizon, Karen and I are bored out of our minds, not to mention the fact that our seats are literally against the back wall. Bono looks like a housefly buzzing around which makes sense since he's asking everyone if he's bugging them.

"Yeah, Bono! You're bugging me!" I shout from my perch. What an idiot. A couple of frosty-haired girls, clad in slouchy army jackets, glance at me, the white-faced teenager in pointy black boots.
The Aragon Ballroom, on the other hand, is like heaven compared to this over-sized, cinder block hell. The Aragon Ballroom is in the city. It's small and dark, like a cave, but with chandeliers. And Depeche Mode is playing there tomorrow night.

I listen to my Some Great Reward album so much I can practically see through it. I lip-synch to the entire album in the dark and kiss my pillow, a shabby stand-in for David Gahan, the lead singer who I am in love with. We climax together during the last strains of Somebody, the most romantic sexy song in the universe. If anybody knew I did this, I would die.

The only bad thing is that Martin Gore sings Somebody and he is the worst looking guy in the band. It's the only song on the whole album that David Gahan doesn't sing. I wish so badly that David sang it because he is so sexy and then it's easier to imagine that he's singing it just to me.

I like Blasphemous Rumours too. It's the one with all the controversy because of the line, "I think that God's got a sick sense of humor," so I love that one. It's really depressing, about an eighteen year-old girl who slits her wrists. I know how she feels, even though she's older. Sometimes I feel like slitting my wrists, or taking a bottle of pills, so my mom can find me and finally see that I was not just being melodramatic when I told her how it was ruining my entire life that we were moving in with her new boyfriend, or that I have to go to a shitty Catholic school when I'm Jewish, including the pathetic fact that I have to wear a plaid kilt every day, or that we moved to Chicago in the first place. She says all the time, whenever I tell her I hate her, or my life in general, "Elise, it's a phase. You'll grow out of it, Honey." As if I'm just passing through some foreign country called Adolescence, and however I feel now doesn't count since I haven't reached my final destination, called Adulthood, a country that lies beyond a vast and turbulent ocean that I don't think I'll ever reach. She just smiles and mewls with gooey abandon, at my clothes, my hair, the music I listen to, when I yell at her, or excuse myself to smoke a joint in my bedroom. Nothing I do (or don't do) counts for anything and that just makes me want to shave my head and tattoo a picture of Hitler on it. My mom thinks it's all normal, cute even, but I know it's not, because Karen's mom is divorced too, and they get along really well. They go out to dinner together and have fun.

Karen and I are disgusted with this whole charade. We leave our seats (like anyone would take them) and enter the hallway that surrounds the auditorium, where they sell plastic cups of Heinekin and twenty-dollar concert jerseys. I'm digging in my pockets, wishing I brought my fake I.D. so I could get a beer when Karen squeezes my shoulder and whispers, "Oh my God, Elise. LOOK." We look over and at first I think I'm just looking at fellow U2 haters, since between the four of us we're wearing all the black in the entire auditorium. I'm admiring their clothes and it occurs to me that their outfits are maybe a little too nice, maybe a bit too expensive-looking, and then I look at their faces and I realize why. Suddenly, my saliva turns to dust and my face starts throbbing. I turn to Karen who is grinning at me as if she is solely responsible for this entire situation. I turn back and they're still there, casually leaning against the beer stand, sipping from plastic cups of Heinekin and talking quietly. I can't decide if God is being cruel or kind, because David love-of-my-life Gahan, lead singer of Depeche Mode, is here, standing ten feet away from me, and I am not prepared.

Martin Gore is there too. Even though he sings that beautiful song, he's a disappointment. Even fame can't make him pretty, with his curly bleach-blond hair and silver fingernail polish. And he's short. But then, he's not the one I want. Andy Fletcher and Alan Wilder are missing. I wonder why they're not here as well, as if the band is a close-knit family, or a four-headed person, rather than a group of individuals who are free to roam as they please.

But then, David Gahan's hair is bleached the most perfect, beautiful, professional shade of silvery white that I feel embarrassed because I always do my hair in the bathroom sink with Nice'n'Easy and I wonder if he will be able to tell. And he's wearing these great, shiny leather pants that are just like the stuff I see at Wax Trax and beg my mother for. (Whenever I go in there she always waits in the car so I don't die of humiliation.)

Karen and I huddle against the cinder block wall opposite them, and confer. I feel like we just stumbled upon a briefcase full of money.

"What should we do?" I ask.

"I don't know. Should we ask them to sign our napkins?"

"I don't know. Do you think that's stupid?"

"I don't know. Do you?" she says.

"Kind of."

"Well," she says, "What should we do then?"

"I don't know," I say.

"Let's just do it. Who cares, it's Depeche Mode!" She says, and she's right. I mean, we can't just go up to them and say, "Hi, we're your biggest fans. Would you like to have sex with us?"

Karen has guts. I don't know where she gets them. It's not like she's a beauty queen or anything. I mean, she's pretty and blonde, but she's really tall and her butt is even bigger than mine. Still, she walks over to them. I stay behind, sucking on my tongue, trying to get my saliva flowing again. She picks up a little white napkin from the countertop. David Gahan is about to know, without a doubt in his beautiful head, that I exist.

Oh God, I wish I wore something tighter than this big old white work shirt. Or at least I should have worn all my rosaries, not just one. Even though I'm Jewish I have the most rosaries of all my friends. It's a sacrilege to wear them if you're Catholic, but for me, it's just ironic. I finger glow-in-the-dark Jesus on the cross and pray David thinks I'm cute. Karen's lips move. What is she saying? The napkin exchanges hands. What are they thinking? She looks so confident, smiling and nodding like they're all on the same level. I'm so glad she's here for this because I'm paralyzed with this dry tongue, and would definitely ruin everything.

David looks over at me and nods, the corners of his lips rising in an unmistakable show of approval. I pick my jaw up off the floor and muster my reply, which I hope is a carbon copy of his quiet smile.

Still, I have that feeling like I'm sinking in quicksand and since this may be the last time I'll ever get this close to a bona fide rock star, I'm already busy memorizing the details: the dark stubble, the studded wristbands, the nose that's longer than I expected, so I can tell everyone tomorrow at school.

Karen motions for me, so I leave my nest spot against the cinder block wall. The swish-swish of my baggie pants is clearly audible. I wish I wore a mini-skirt. Thank you God, at least my pointy boots are cool.

Karen says, "This is my friend Elise."

"Hi," I say, my voice echoing in my head like a bubble of sandpapery spit. David holds out his hand and I stare at it for a moment before I take it in mine and we shake, very formally.

"Hello," he says, and smiles. At me.

His grip isn't firm. I know my dad would tell him to use a firm handshake like he's told me a million times before, but I don't mind, I just touched the lead singer of Depeche Mode! His hand is actually a little clammy, but I choose not to log this detail. He was, after all, holding a cup of cold beer. Then I shake Martin's hand, whose grip is stronger and drier.

"Are you coming to see the show tomorrow night?" asks Martin.

"Yes," says Karen. I nod in agreement and wipe the smile off my face. I try to look older, cunning, moody. Like this is just any other day.

"What's the Aragon Ballroom like?" asks Martin. "It sounds posh."

"Yeah, it's nothing like this," says Karen.

"Yeah, it's really old," I croak. "And fancy." Martin regards me charitably, like I'm a special needs child. I wince, and silently curse myself.

"We're going to set up tomorrow," says Martin, and David takes a drag on his cigarette. He looks from me to Karen, and back to me and then blows out a stream of smoke that I want to swallow. He leans over and whispers something in Martin's ear. Martin nods and then says, "Would you like to be on the guest list?"

My knees literally wobble. The air around me turns to paste, and my eyelids are powerless to blink through its thickness. I have imagined scenarios like this so many times that I've come to expect it, like breakfast, or a ride to school, but now that it's actually happening, I am as useless as an eight-track tape.

"Sure," we nod casually.

Martin writes our names on another napkin, Karen Scott and Elise Abrams. The strains of "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" reverberate around us in the hallway and I say to myself, oh but I have and he's standing right in front of me, if only I can talk. Bono and the rest of U2 seem a hundred miles away.

"Do you guys like U2?" I ask, suddenly finding my voice. The warm tingle of pride envelops me. We all agree that U2 isn't our favorite band, and now I think, Wow, these guys are so down to earth. So normal, like regular people.

"Well, it was very nice meeting you," says Martin. He hands us each a napkin, scrawled upon in blue ballpoint pen. After our conversation, I feel we've exploited them by asking for autographs, and degraded ourselves. Still, I pocket it, knowing that later tonight, in the privacy of my bedroom, I'll be assailing it with (very dry, so as not to smudge the ink) kisses. "We'll see you tomorrow night," he says.

David smiles, saying nothing. Karen and I shake their hands again. "We'll see you tomorrow night," we echo, turn around, and try not to swoon.

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