Fresno, California. 1999.
My hands felt cold. I stuck them in my jean pockets in a sad attempt to warm them. How embarrassing. My anxiety must have been obvious; the DJ next to me leaned over and whispered, “Seriously, I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s a total doll.” I smiled and nodded. Of course she is. I knew it. I couldn’t trust my voice. It was bad enough my right knee wouldn’t stop shaking.
The station manager waved us over. I trailed behind the DJ and the three of us climbed, single file, inside the bus. OMIGOD.
I heard a couple of men in mid-conversation. Then I heard HER. “Why the fuck not, sure, if that’s what they wanted.” The men paused for a brief second while she spoke, then resumed speaking. I couldn’t quite see over the DJ, but her presence was definitely felt. I resisted the urge to hold my shaking leg.
The station manager and DJ introduced themselves, making small talk. Something made her laugh. The DJ stepped aside and then I saw her sitting on the table bench next to her two band mates.
OH. MY. GOD.
I’m standing in front of the Queen. The Queen of Rock. Say something you moron!
“I’m so sorry,” my voice squeaked, breaking like a pre-pubescent boy. “I brought my camera, could I just … trouble you …”
The smile froze on my face; I could feel the flush from my chest to the tips of my ears. Sweat rolled down my lower back, dripping into my pink tank top. My upper lip trembled.
She just smiled and casually flicked her hand towards the group, nonchalantly. “Of course sweetheart,” she said, in a richly decadent Scottish accent.
I didn’t deserve to feel that accent.
“Next to me!” She patted the bench seat on her right. Butch moved down to make room. His eyes were hidden behind thick, black sunglasses. Everyone looked amused.
I squeezed past the manager and DJ and walked over, next to Shirley. Her fiery red hair pulled tight into a ponytail, shining in the overhead light. Raccoon black eyeliner circled her almond-shaped green eyes, contrasting with her alabaster skin. She wore black bracelets, which shifted a bit as she moved. She smelled like vanilla spicy perfume.
She was so punk rock. I’m not worthy.
“CHEEEESE!” said the DJ.
Click! said the camera.
He wound the canary yellow Kodak box and handed it back to me.
I smiled at her and she gave me a slight squeeze.
“Thanks, Shirley.” I said, as the blushing began to subside, except for the tips of my ears. The moment burned into memory.
She winked. “Enjoy the show.”