Great Reward (March, 1985)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
don't know. Should we ask them to sign our napkins?"
know. Do you think that's stupid?"
"I don't know. Do you?"
"Well," she says, "What
should we do then?"
"I don't know," I say.
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
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.
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
"Are you coming to see the show tomorrow night?"
"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
"What's the Aragon Ballroom like?" asks Martin. "It
"Yeah, it's nothing like this," says Karen.
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.
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.
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.
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,"
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
The next night, after a day of careful planning, I am wearing the
most expensive clothes I own, all in the new Baroque style. Mind you, with the
skimpy change my mother is pulling in, working at the Jane Addams Hull House,
I should be legally banned from wearing them. Call it divorce guilt. My sparkly
black brocade mini-skirt ($100), orange satin blouse ($150), and gold leather
flats ($99), all required days of uninterrupted begging. I dragged her downtown
a few weeks ago, after I saw an editorial in Elle Magazine. Every over-priced
piece is from Parachute, an exclusive designer store from Canada.
my hair, a calico patchwork of black, brown and orange, with super-extra-hold
Aqua-net while hanging my wet head upside down. It's solidified into a sculpture
of tiny snakes, the tips like sharp, forked tongues filled with venom. I spent
a full half-hour applying and re-applying black liquid eyeliner and red lipstick.
And for the finishing touch, I'm wearing giant rhinestone rings on most of my
fingers, which are really buttons strung with wire so they'll stay on. They're
only a little uncomfortable.
In the freezing cold Nova with my mother,
all of us crammed in the duct-taped front seat, Karen and I try to guess the set
list while my mother sucks on a Tareyton.
"I think they're going to
play People are People last," I say.
"Nuh-uh, It's new.
It's going to be first," says Karen.
"I don't know. Well what
" but I can't think of another song because we're almost there.
"Oh my God, Mom. Stop the car! Let us out here."
My mom pulls
her silver Nova to the curb a full two blocks away from the Aragon Ballroom.
Mom!" I say, already sliding out of the car.
"Thanks Mrs. Abrams!"
Karen says, sliding out behind me.
"Have fun girls," my mom says,
"And stay together! I don't want you talking to any of these crazies."
I say. I want to stuff her face into the steering wheel. I am so sick of hearing
her endless stream of worry. It oozes out of her mouth like pus from an infected
blister. She would hold our hands and walk us to the door if I let her.
never know," she continues. "There are a lot of bad people out there,
who would just love to get their hands on a couple of pretty girls like you."
you are so paranoid!" I say, slamming the passenger door. In her world, inspired
by countless Stephen King novels and late-night monster movies, every stranger
on the street, regardless of gender, race or class, is a would-be mugger, rapist
or garden variety psycho. She leans over and rolls down the window.
slam the door on me, Elise. I am your mother. I need to know that you're safe."
safe! Jesus!" I say, rolling my eyes.
"So you'll stay together?"
Mom, we're going to stand on opposite sides of the place the whole night, and
talk to really sleazy looking old men. Now can we go?"
she says, and smiles, exposing her huge tobacco-stained teeth. "You are so
fresh to your poor mother!" Then she says, to Karen, "Do you talk to
your mother like that?"
"Mother," I hiss. Karen stays mercifully
"Now promise me you'll stay together. And be home by
"We will Mrs. Abrams," says Karen, and then to
me she says, "Elise, come on!"
We speed-walk the two
blocks to the Aragon Ballroom where a crowd of fans huddles against the front
of the building and winds around the side. Every punk rocker, new waver and Goth
is here tonight, but they don't have backstage passes like we do.
you think they remembered?" I ask, bouncing up and down to stay warm even
though it's April.
Karen says, "Elise! Shut up! I'm sure they remembered."
She'd better be right because I can't bear to think that we'll be forgotten after
all the time I spent getting ready, after all the mental time I've devoted to
this night. The school day slogged by in a pesky blur, my mind consumed with David:
first, he realizes he's fallen undeniably, madly in love with me. Then he refuses
to leave the country without me. He takes me on his plane, alternately laughing
uncontrollably at my brilliant jokes and weeping for joy that I'm truly his. We
get married immediately, go shopping on King's Road, and move into a converted
castle outside London. We start a new band called Louis the Vampire, outlaw
acid-washed jeans, and take over the world.
When we're finally at the
door, Karen and I give our names to a giant black bouncer with blurry tattoos
on his biceps, and I think, it's not going to happen, it was all a cruel joke,
a lie, a ruse, they're just playing with our minds. They lost the napkin, or threw
it out, forgot they'd ever met us, burst blood vessels laughing at us the minute
we walked away from them last night. But then he looks at his clipboard and I
see a glimpse of our names. I could go down on my hands and knees and praise Jesus.
He reaches into a bag underneath his chair and pulls out two purple satin rectangles,
stickers that we're supposed to stick on ourselves. I want to stick my pass right
across my chest where everyone can see it, but I think I'll ruin my shirt, so
I stick it on my thigh, which is cooler anyway. Karen puts hers on the bottom
of her black trench coat. We look at each other, and beaming like straight-A students
who never study, head into the ballroom.
During the whole show I stare
up at the stage from the mosh-pit, where nobody moshes since this is industrial
new wave and not punk. I sing along and imagine that everyone is watching me,
mesmerized by my lyric knowledge. They'll see how I'm not some pathetic pseudo
dork who just knows People are People.
In the back of the ballroom,
spidery arms and legs twist and move to the music. I don't get it, quite frankly.
The dancing people in the back may as well be at home listening to the record,
since they spend all their time looking at the floor, concentrating on their moves.
I think I have eye contact with David at least three times but I'm not
one hundred percent sure. I do, however, feel a connection with him, as if it's
me up there on stage, as if we're interchangeable, as if I'm the famous one everyone
envies, which they would, if I could tell them I met the band and have a backstage
pass. That, however, would be tacky. David swivels and gyrates to the point where
I'm practically drooling with heavy duty lust. I lean in and shout to Karen, "I'll
bet he's great in bed!" Karen nods and grins like, we are so fucking cool,
which we are.
By the time they begin their last song, Karen and I are standing
on the first step that leads to the balcony. This makes us ten inches taller,
but we still have to crane our necks to see. One of the ballroom workers sees
our passes and leans down to us. He shouts above the music, "You know you
have access to the balcony, don't you?"
"Really?" we shout.
Our passes should have come with instructions. I cannot believe I missed out on
the chance to have V.I.P. balcony seats, from which I could look down on all the
other people like they were my subjects, from which I could practically graze
the top of David's beautiful white head with my fingertips. We fly up the stairs
just in time to watch their final encore, Master and Servant. Karen and
I were both wrong about their set-list.
When it ends, David says, "Thank
you Chicago, Good Night!" and heads off stage underneath the belly of the
balcony. Right before he disappears, he looks up, right at me.
my God! Did you just see that?" I say. "He totally just looked right
"You better be careful, Elise," says Karen, smiling.
"Why?" I ask.
"I just think he's been with a lot
of girls," she says. Karen knows my sexual history, that I've done it with
five guys, so of course I must want to do it with David Gahan, which I do.
"How do you know?" I ask.
"Elise, come on," she says.
I guess I'd decided he was saving himself for me.
say. "What about Martin?"
"That's different," she
"Why?" I ask.
"Because we're just friends,"
"You mean you don't want to
" I say.
"No," she says, and I wonder, how could this be?
I say, feeling curiously offended. "Well, should we go now?"
She says, and my heart starts jack-hammering.
As we make our way downstairs
I look at everyone else. They're putting their coats on and heading toward the
red exit signs. I want them all to look at me and see me walking down from the
V.I.P. balcony. I want them to see that I am not putting my coat on, that my coat
is very much off, and that I have a giant purple sticker that says "PASS"
in huge shiny letters stuck to my thigh. Karen and I are staying to hang out
with the band.
When we arrive backstage there are already a lot of
people there, all older than us. There's a buffet table set up along one wall,
set mostly with bottles of Heinekin. Karen walks over to Martin Gore, and they
stand against a wall, settling into what looks like deep conversation. I feel
orphaned. I stand there while everyone else clusters in groups of two or three,
talking about things I can't imagine. I am tongue-tied, and wish Karen was available
to slide me into the flow of action. I want so badly to say all the right things,
as if any wrong word or gesture could ruin my entire life. That's why I don't
know how Karen does it, just walks over there like she's got permission. Maybe
it's because she doesn't want to do it with Martin Gore, because they're just
friends. But how can they have so much to talk about? I guess they could be talking
about music. Karen's more into music than I am, though I wouldn't admit it to
her or anyone else. Her record collection is huge and she'll tape for me whatever
I want, like the Misfits or Cocteau Twins. If Karen and I were in a band together,
I'd be the lead singer like David, and she'd be the keyboardist, like Martin Gore.
Looking at the two of them now, I see that they're both background people. Karen
is satisfied talking to ugly Martin Gore. She'd rather be with him and just talk,
than do it with David. Maybe she knows he's out of her league.
sitting on a maroon velvet sofa in the middle of the room, talking with a woman
who looks like she's forty, with blonde hair that looks like straw. I am not jealous,
because she's old enough to be his mother. He couldn't possibly want her, could
There's a space on the other side of him on the sofa, so I sit down.
The old lady and I sandwich him in, but I still don't know what to say, until
he turns to me.
show," I say.
"Thanks," he says. The old lady gets up to
join a different conversation.
"I like your jacket," I say.
he says. His jacket is black leather, textured like a reptile. It looks expensive.
It looks English. I want to ask him how much it cost, but I have the feeling that
would be rude.
"Do you like any American bands?" I ask. He squints
and tilts his head, pondering the question.
"I don't really like too
many American bands, except for The Doors," he says finally.
I say. "Me too. I hardly listen to any American music, but I love The Doors."
I feel my load lightening, loosening, maybe even floating away. I think to myself,
I can do this.
"I've always wanted to go to England, but I
haven't had the chance yet," I say.
"Hmm," he says.
you ever heard Rock over London?"
"No," he says.
Well, it's this really great show, on the radio. And it plays all this great music,
from London, which they don't normally play on the radio here."
he says, this time with more emphasis. I can't tell him how badly I wish that
I was English, or that I pretended to be English with Karen and this other girl,
Dana, who looks just like Robert Smith from The Cure. We were downtown, pretending
we were in a band whose bus broke down, and we were panhandling to get the money
to fix the bus so it could take us to Great America where we had a gig to play.
The guys that Dana stopped were all flirting with her and asking what part of
London she was from, but every person I stopped laughed at me and asked if I was
for real. One guy said my accent was so bad that he gave me a dollar and told
me to take lessons.
The old lady returns to tell David goodnight. Her
eyes flicker over me and I can see she disapproves. I wish she would leave us
alone. David shakes her hand and she puts her other hand on top of his like they're
the best of friends and smiles and nods a lot. What a phony. I could puke.
turns to me and says, "It was very nice to meet you. I hope you get a chance
to come to England someday." Then he excuses himself and I look for Karen
but she's gone. I pick up my coat and rush out to find an empty hallway. But then
Karen comes running in and shouts, "I'm on the bus! Come on!"
my God, I think. I have to get on that bus, but my mom, she'll have a fit if I
don't turn up at home by midnight.
"I have to call my mom,"
I plead, my eyebrows weaving themselves into frantic knots.
but hurry!" she says, and runs toward the door, black trench coat fluttering
behind her like bat wings.
I jam a dime into the pay phone and dial home.
The phone rings three times before I hear the receiver tumble to the floor, a
distant, "Oy Vey es meer" and my mother whisper a groggy, "Elise?"
I say, oblivious to the fact that I've just woken her out of blissful unconsciousness.
"Hi. We're at the Depeche Mode concert and we met the band and they've invited
us to a party, can I go please?" This rouses her. I hear the flick of her
lighter, the pause of her inhalation, and on the exhale she says, "Oy, Elise.
How do you know it's really them?"
I say, through gritted teeth, "I
just saw them play Mom, I know what they look like, I'm not stupid."
says, "Boys will impersonate famous people to get at girls."
say, "Mom, I am positive it's the real band, I just met them.
Can I please go to the party? Karen's with me, and can I sleep over her
She says, "Let me talk to Karen."
the wall and say, "Mom, she's already on the bus."
bus?" she asks, as if I'd said the hot air balloon, or the space shuttle.
The Bus! Jesus Christ, Mom! They're going to leave without me and then I'll be
all alone, is that what you want?" I shout.
"Elise, don't shout
at me, I am your mother," she says. "Are you sure it's safe?"
"Yes! Jesus!" I say. "Okay, so I have to go, I'll see you
"Oy, Elise," she sighs, defeated.
you! I love you you're the best mom in the world! I'll be so safe, you don't have
to worry one single tiny bit." I hang up and run outside.
I saw my
first concert in eighth grade. It was The Who's final world tour. I was in love
with Roger Daltry and when it was over, I stood in the parking lot and watched
their giant tour bus recede into the distance. My ears throbbed, my body shivered
with cooling sweat, and my mother hollered for me to get in the car, but I was
forever changed. Since then, whenever I've seen a luxury bus barreling through
town, or parked outside the Ambassador East Hotel, I've always stared, wondering
who's riding inside, behind those smoked windows and lavender airbrushed desert
Now, right in front of me, parked outside the Aragon Ballroom,
with my best friend and Depeche Mode tucked inside, a gleaming, rumbling tour
bus is waiting for me. I climb aboard.
The seats on the bus face each
other in the front. That's where I sit. That's where David is. Andy Fletcher and
Alan Wilder are further back, drinking Heinekens, and singing along to Chubby
Checker, the last person I'd expect Depeche Mode to be listening to, not that
I'm disappointed. Actually, I think it's charming. Karen is sitting in the middle,
next to Martin Gore, who is still talking nonstop, and waving his painted nails
around. We nod to each other.
David opens a cooler built into one of the
front seats and asks me if I want a Heinekin. I say sure and he opens two.
I say, taking the bottle. "Where are we going?"
the hotel," he says. "Is that alright?"
I say, pinching the undersides of my thigh, to prove to myself, without a shadow
of a doubt, that this is truly happening. I silently pray for a welt to rise,
to remind me of this moment, even if it only lasts a few days.
into me, sniffs, and says, "Mmm. You smell nice."
Noire, thank you," I answer, grinning slyly. I am like greased lightning
with the comebacks.
For the rest of the ride, David laughs with Andy and
Alan, who are slapping their knees to The Twist, but his elbow is resting in my
crotch. David Gahan wants me.
We ride out of the city limits, to almost
the airport, to a Holiday Inn. The bus pulls into an underground parking lot and
drops us off near the elevators. I am so impressed, but I try not to show it by
keeping my head more or less facing ahead of me and not swiveling around like
a bar stool. I wish I could take a picture to show my mother.
the elevator to the seventeenth floor, the age I'll be in two years, the age I
should say I am now in case anyone asks. I wish Karen and I had gotten a chance
to confer about age, but she is oblivious to me, talking to Martin as if they
were twins, reunited after a lifetime of forced separation. Maybe I should reintroduce
We all go into a room with two matching queen-sized beds. Andy
Fletcher and Alan Wilder lie on one bed, flipping through channels on TV. They
don't even take off their boots. I sit at the bottom of the other bed, both feet
on the floor. David is on the bed next to me, lying with his head on the pillow,
one foot on the floor. I'm not sure what I should be doing. Maybe I should scoot
back, lie on the bed, and lean against a pillow. I don't know what his one foot
on the floor means. Is it a signal that he wants to leave? That he wants me to
leave? The wire from my rings is digging into my skin, so I pull at them.
think about his foot on the floor and then I feel like I should contribute to
the conversation, but I don't know what to say and I don't want to say the wrong
thing that will tell them they never should have brought me all the way back here.
Karen and Martin have been standing in the corner and now they're backing out
the door, yammering away in serious, hushed tones, leaving me alone in a hotel
room with three British rock stars. I stay right where I am, waiting.
Andy Fletcher and Alan Wilder stop turning channels at Star Trek, then
turn the channels again until a naked woman appears, moving around in slow motion
with her lover. They stare at the screen, suddenly solemn, and then start hooting
and rolling around with each other. I wonder if they are gay or just pretending,
and if they always act like children, or if it's only when they have company.
Maybe they just want to be alone. Maybe they can tell I'm just a kid.
Then David says, "I want to show you something, would you like to see?"
look at him. Our eyes meet, briefly. "Yeah," I say, and he gets up.
I don't know if I'm supposed to wait here for him or not, but he motions with
his head and a smile that I should follow.
Down the hall he inserts a
key into another door. I stay right where I am, quaking in my golden shoes.
door opens, and he looks at me, right in my eyes. What does this mean? Am I supposed
to follow? Then he lifts his pointer finger and motions for me to join him. I
walk toward the rolling finger as if attached by a silver cord. My body and mind
separate and I know without a doubt that this is it. I am going to have sex with
When I glance down I am startled to see my blouse vibrating,
because my heart is beating so wildly. I pray he doesn't see. I follow him into
the room, a duplicate of the last, and there's just the two of us. Alone. Together.
He picks up a magazine from one the beds and starts flipping through
"Do you know this magazine?" He asks. It's Smash Hits,
an English magazine about new wave bands.
"Yeah!" I say, enthusiastically.
"I read it all the time, they have an American version too you know, Star
Hits, but Smash Hits is ten times better." I can't believe we
have so much in common.
He finds the page he's looking for and points to
a picture. It's a photo of the band.
"Wow, that's great," I
say, wondering why he needs to show me a picture of his band. I'm seeing them
in the flesh now. Plus, I see them in magazines all the time. David seems proud
of himself, but humble, like the picture shows he's finally made it to the big
time. Doesn't he realize he's already famous?
We're standing at the foot
of the bed, looking down at the picture in Smash Hits and then he tosses
it onto the other bed and we're looking at each other. He leans down and kisses
me, and while he does this he turns me by my elbows so that when he leans back
to lie down on the bed I am on top of him. We kiss like that, writhing around
in our clothes, me on top, but not for long.
He sits up, takes his shirt
off and then goes for my buttons. I let him do everything, because I am no longer
of this world. There's a film, a fog, surrounding me like a second skin, but electric.
While he takes off his own clothes, I pull the rhinestone
rings off my fingers and put them in a sparkly clump on the nightstand. I don't
want anything to come between his flesh and my fingers. I don't want him to feel
the scratchy wire on his body, to know that they're not real.
in his underwear which are tiny, with red and white stripes. His skin is silvery
white like his hair. He has a tattoo of an eagle on his forearm with a banner
underneath that says, "Dave." Is that so he doesn't forget? I never
would. I reach out and touch his chest, willing the reality of his body hovering
above mine into my fingertips, my brain, my heart. I know I will remember his
underwear for as long as I live.
We sixty-nine for like twenty seconds
and then I give him a blow-job. His dick isn't huge, but it's perfect to me, because
it's his. Then, before I know it he's bopping up and down on top of me. He grips
the backs of my knees and pushes them into the pillow beside my ears. I hope he's
grateful that I'm flexible. He doesn't seem to share my aching desire to mash
our bodies together so that we become one smooth silvery-white person, but I'm
in no position to complain. In fact, even with my feet in the air, I find myself
screaming out, "Oh God, oh God, oh God!" and I can't help it. I am having
my first orgasm. The five guys I've already had sex with never even got me to
whimper. Now I feel initiated into a secret club. I guess for me, it takes a rock
David pulls it out and rubs it on my stomach until he comes, and
then disappears into the bathroom. He doesn't kiss me or hold me or brush the
side of my face with the back of his fingers, while his eyes fill with tears.
He's not following what it says in the song, in Somebody, where it says,
"And when I'm asleep, I want somebody, who will put their arms around
me, kiss me tenderly." Still, I don't move. I just lie there, waiting,
starting to get a little cold. I think about sitting up, getting dressed even,
but I don't want to make any gesture to leave. I want to move in. He returns almost
a minute later with a wad of toilet paper that he uses to pat me clean. What was
he doing in there the whole time? Washing me off? That's not in the song.
He puts his underwear and pants on and then he helps me back on with my clothes.
He buttons up my blouse and says, "This is a nice shirt. Did you make it?"
I shake my head, suddenly embarrassed that I didn't make my shirt. Maybe
he needs to believe that I am a fashion designer because it will justify his sleeping
with me. Maybe he can see right through me, maybe he knows that I am nothing more
than a deluded high school sophomore with a massive crush.
want some money for a cab?" He asks, going through his wallet.
not a prostitute," I say, incredulous.
"I know, I know that,"
he says gently. "But you must live far."
"Not that far,"
I say. "It's okay." I'm tempted to take the money because I do live
far. In fact, I don't really know where I am, except that it's near O'Hare, which
is practically an hour away from my apartment. If I take the money it will mean
I'm a prostitute, but he's waving a ten and some ones. I hold out my shaky hand
and smile gratefully, like a virtuous girl.
We sit at the foot of the
bed side by side and he says, "You're a very nice girl. We shouldn't have
done this." I lean my forehead on his silver-smooth shoulder and say mournfully,
"Well, David, I'm glad we did."
I am in love with David Gahan
and I wish he would take me with him on the rest of his tour. I want him to quit
the band and marry me. I want him to ask me to spend the night, I don't care what
my mother would say, but already I am being ushered out the door, my sparkly rings
jingling in my jacket pocket after almost forgetting them on the nightstand, no
trace of me left in his room except on the sticky toilet paper in the wastepaper
Down the hall I find Karen in a little nook with two chairs and
a coffee table. She and Martin Gore are still talking, no sign that she's gone
back to his room. She looks up at me and then we're out the door, with Martin
hailing a cab for us and in some uncharted corner of my mind I wonder, why isn't
David hailing us a cab? Did he notice the wire on my rings?
In the cab
she says, "You had sex with him, didn't you?" and I nod and say, "Oh
my God, Karen. It was so amazing."
I stare out the window as the
cab pulls away from the Holiday Inn, as it hurtles down the expressway, imagining
David is running after me.
Every day at school, I doodle "Mrs. Elise Gahan" on all my notebooks.
I can barely hear Sister Kearney teach us a lesson about volunteering in soup
kitchens to bring us closer to Jesus because the daydreams clogging my mind make
me feel like I'm wearing a helmet made of bubble-wrap.
I envision a limousine
pulling up outside the school doors and a pale white, smooth English arm reaching
out. Then I am inside and we're driving towards the airport, towards England.
David kisses me and weeps because he's finally found me, he's been searching,
he's even written songs, wait until I hear the next album. And he cups my face
in his hands and asks how he could ever have been stupid enough to let me leave
his hotel room.
And everybody in school knows, I mean everybody. It's
a small school, and besides, I can't keep my mouth shut. Groups of shiny faced
girls in white oxfords and penny loafers fester around me in the hallway, clutching
their Trapper Keepers, and ask, Oh my Gosh, Elise, what happened? And I
tell them, because it's my personal duty, now that I am the ambassador of new
wave bands. I have been on the front lines, while they only have their MTV. I
have experienced sex with a rock star, even though I wear knee socks and a plaid
kilt every day, and have to go to morning mass.
As I begin my story for
the thirtieth time, I study my eager brood. I search their Christian eyes for
suspicion. Jealousy, I can live with. But the last thing I want is to be called
a liar, because anyone who would make up a story like this is pathetic. I launch
into the finer details as if I'm convincing them to buy a set of gilded encyclopedias,
or a thousand dollar vacuum cleaner. "They don't do drugs but they drink
Heineken," I say, and they nod, wanting more. "He has a tattoo of an
eagle on his right forearm," I intone, and their necks stretch toward me
like daisies to the sun.
Now I am a message in a bottle, carried on their
tidal wave of divine faith. "Hairless chest
silvery skin, so pale
such a good kisser
" and then to seal the deal,
I take a breath and, emphasizing each syllable, tell them, "Red and white
pinstriped underwear." That's when their mouths shrink into donut holes
and their eyes glaze over like sugar frosting. That's when I feel like
a rock star.
And then the bell rings. I shuffle off to Sister Alva's classroom,
where we're supposedly interpreting The Rime of The Ancient Mariner. The
bubble wrap smothers me again. I remember the last thing David Gahan said to me:
"The next time I'm in Chicago
" and I told him, "You can count
I'm counting the seconds.
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