That right there is what you might call a near miss.
Several months ago – sometime since March, but long enough ago that I can’t remember quite when – Willem turned to me and told me that this band he likes, Porcupine Tree (no, I know, you’ve never heard of them… they’re a semi-obscure progressive rock band from Great Britain, I find them listenable enough but wouldn’t have qualified as a fan prior to the weekend) was going to be playing at Radio City Music Hall in September, and wouldn’t it be cool to go? Willem has always been very much more into concerts than me, I like them enough but have gone years without attending a live show, but he is constantly aware of who is playing where, and whether he might be able to go… and he makes a point of attending several shows a year, I would guess at least half a dozen. (Which I encourage, to the extent I’m able, because he doesn’t have other hobbies that take him out of the house and give him a break from home. Even if home was completely stress-free and normal – what’s that? – you need a break once in a while, and with our home being full of medical issues and stress and reminders of March, he needs it even more.)
So, of course, I immediately said he should go… and why not get a second ticket for his wife, too? Porcupine Tree is one of “his bands” that I find a lot more approachable and musical than some of the heavier stuff – I grin, sometimes, when I happen to catch him interacting with a colleague or a student, and I think, “I bet, given a hundred chances, they wouldn’t be able to guess at any of his favorite bands, even the more common ones. College professors don’t listen to Metallica or Opeth!” – and at the time I thought that, surely, I would be all recovered from the seromas of July and certainly the surgeries of March, and so I would be in fine form to have a night away from the kids and spend some quality time with my husband. Right?
Here I am, still limping and scarred from March, with a still-open wound from the stuff that started back in July – ten weeks, and I’m still carting around an open wound! – with daily Visiting Nurse appointments and constant reminders that I’m broken, still. But I spent the week looking forward to the show, regardless. My dad had agreed to take the kids overnight, and then when we realized that his work schedule would not allow us to hand over the kids and still get to the show on time, Jenny stepped up and offered to take our offspring. (With Carolyn lined up right behind, if something came up for Jenny.) So we were all set to spring the kids from school a little early, drop the kids off and head to the city… we should arrive with just enough time to check into the hotel and freshen up (or whatever it is you kids call it these days) and then head to Radio City Music Hall for the evening.
Friday morning, I woke up abruptly around 3:00 in the morning with an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach, my whole body drenched in a cold sweat. Anxiety?? No… another freaking stomach bug. I threw up then for the first time, and continued with repeat performances any time I ate or drank anything at all for the next 12 hours or so. Ugh. Just felt completely awful, and I have this weird thing – my nurse says it’s actually pretty common, so OK – whereby I cry every time I throw up, so that just adds to the spectacle of it all.
Because regardless of how I was feeling – and this is one of those, “I’ll save that part for another post because this is already long enough” type deals – I was bound and determined to get to that show. To the point that I didn’t even tell Willem I had been sick until I was on the road, kids in the car, ready to pick him up. To the point that when I threw up in the car, while driving on the Tobin Bridge, I continued into Boston and got Willem on time. (I’m not sure whether my kids are permanently scarred from witnessing that, or maybe they just think I’m a rock star now for pushing through.) To the point that when we made it to the hotel at 7:40 for an 8:00 show, I took the bag and the keys from Willem and said, “You go on ahead to the show. I need to check in and spend some time making sure I can keep down a little ginger ale, and if I’m feeling OK then I’ll follow you there in a little while.” (He went, after much deliberation, mostly because he knows I really don’t like people to be around me much when I’m sick, so his presence there wouldn’t help, and I really wanted him to at least use his ticket. And how sweet is it, that once he was in his seat – just in time for the first song, quite an impressive feat given a 20-minute window and a several-block jog from the hotel to the venue – he called me up and just held the phone there so I could listen to a couple minutes of the opening song?)
So I spent some time lying down, sipping ginger ale and just breathing. And once I realized I was going to be OK for a little while, I gazed longingly at the bed… and then slipped my shoes back on and headed down to hail a cab. And let me tell you, if a New York City cab ride isn’t enough to return me to my prior state of wretchedness, than ain’t nothing going to do it: I was fine, dammit.
I want to write about the show – and if you got here by searching for the band and the venue, I’m sorry, really… this isn’t what you wanted to read. I’ll write out a semi-review, since it is the first show I’ve attended since a near-death experience in March, later today. Honest.
But what matters to me, for this post, is that I got in the damn cab and I went to the damn show. I marched up the two flights of steps and found our seats – my one, sad, lonely, empty seat in this huge, sold-out theater – and followed the usher to our front-row-balcony spot. And I watched my husband’s face break into such a huge smile (if you know him at all, you know that smile – when he’s just happy and relaxed and his smile fills the room… that one), and his whole body just relaxed. He put away his phone, which he had been clutching because I had promised to send him regular texts if I was going to be at the hotel, so he would know I hadn’t passed out or something. He put his arm around me, and we enjoyed the show.
And it really was a good show. Very much so. Even without the fact that going was a tremendous victory for me, and for us as a couple – you have to understand, our “normal” has changed just so vastly since March, and this idea of a quick weekend away and both of us enjoying a concert? This was monumental stuff. Just independently, the musicality of the band and the acoustics and the visuals and all of it were amazing, completely worth the effort on their own.
It was all just so unbelievably much better than giving up and staying home and being sick again. But I could have gone and sat in an empty room and done absolutely nothing for four hours, if that would have brought out the same smile on my husband’s face. The fact that it was at a concert and I had a good time, that was icing on the cake.