The following was written in situ, during the event or shortly after. In some cases (specifically, parts of the final chapter), there was enough time between the event and my recollection of it that I stray into rambling territory. (My apologies.) All changes are grammatical or completions where I used shorthand. All conversations and observations are made from memory and perception. These are the events of two days in winter, as I lived them.
It’s not overly cold. But the warmth of the afternoon has been sucked up by a creeping wind. The bands’ van, now parked in front of the venue, sits with its trailer agape as sensitive and valuable instruments are loaded into its bowels.
With the chill distancing those who aren’t busy, they and I slink into the glowing screens of our phones and tablets. I chat with my fiancée, who is a world away, sharing the jubilation of this experience and regret that it had to be experienced without her.1 Through a virtual keyboard, we discuss the night's conversations, some of whose questions were formulated by her, and I warn that I may have to leave at any minute—and again minutes later as everyone seems to be frozen in place, faces ablaze with bluish-white. My next train leaves in over an hour. For the first time, I have no reason to rush a conversation or encounter. I have, it feels, all the time in the world to ask the questions that elude me until they are useless. But it’s late. Too late.
I feel I’ve worn out my welcome. Perhaps they don’t like me, perhaps they do. Yet the air has reminded me that, so many hours later, I remain who I was: a fan, come here to see one of his favourite bands. No friend. No journalist. No beloved drunkard. A fanatic whose intensity when conversing is overpowering, and above all, fatiguing. Closer to the truth is that I am one, tiny human being whose ego is showing, and what has settled is only the weariness of another day on tour, propped up on sleep deprivation, alcohol, and one more show. There is no need for me; I wait (or hope to) until the bands leave. My hope is that a suitable finality to this story will be a single wave to the backside of a van speeding to its next destination, my body lit in pale yellow underneath these streetlights, my lonely shadow blending into this darkened, vacated building. The lonely figure left in the fumes of carbon monoxide.
My final discussion is with Brett, as he shares a brief report of the show. The vocals were indeed forced to compensate for the size of the stage, and things—inevitably—did go wrong. (See “Murphy’s Law”.) The root of the problem was diagnosed to be a cable whose wires had severed with use, a common but infuriating problem anyone with a sufficient amount of cables grows to abhor. He nevertheless reminds me that, despite the pittance he earns compared with his work with artists in more popular genres, and the challenges that come with small, ill-equipped venues, getting to work with exciting smaller bands that make good music is worth it.
My return to waiting is short-lived, as everyone begins to seep into the van. Sacha bids me farewell. Joe shakes my hand and says, “See you next time.” I respond, “Hopefully.” I then shake Pat’s hand, and tell him I’m expecting better things in Scale the Summit's future---a veiled compliment laced with realism---and give a wave to the waiting van. In the end, it will be the van that outlasts me, my end to this story not what I’d hoped. I turn on my way.
On the solitary walk back to the train station, that word rings in my ear. Hopefully. Joe didn’t notice the intent, nor could he, but the implication is something with which I struggle. I can’t say “yes” to next time, because I don’t know where I’ll be next time. My life, at this specific moment, is not fixed. I know where I want it to be, but achieving that is another matter. So, I’m stuck in a personal limbo, in transit to so many places, yet trapped. There may be better places to reflect on this, but as the stunning Temple Meads comes into view, it dawns on me that this is as good a place as any. For what I want from life, there is no next time for Joe. As much as it hurts, my heart yearns for something else.
Always moving. Next stop: Wales.
The TV in the middle of the room reads, "Due to severe weather conditions & fallen trees affecting the railway Several [sic] lines north of Hereford are closed. Chester to Rhyl is closed. No trains are currently running into or out of Scotland. Customers are advised not to attempt to travel to N. Wales or Scotland.”
Evidently, the weather was my own backdrop, not that of Intronaut and Scale the Summit, and I now wonder about the state in which I’d left the north. The opening paragraph was not a joke, but it was written over 14 hours ago and in this placid south has taken on a surrealistic portrait. One imagines this isn’t as serious as it is being portrayed, as this land often seems unprepared for mildly variable weather, let alone disaster. And as I say this, I feel the need to recount my train ride here at two in the morning.
I sat in the back of the carriage. The train was unusually loud and cold, from what I perceived to be open windows. Persistently, I typed the remainder of my time in Bristol, but eventually, I lost focus. So, midway through the journey, I packed up my things and decided to go and wait by the carriage’s doors. They banged rambunctiously, their windows wide open and handles straining from the train’s slipshod vibrations. (This train was no image of sterile, efficient modernity, you understand.) In this dissonance, I looked out into the darkness as black trees raced past. Distant lights began to blink into existence. I poked my head out of the window. Before me, I saw a dozen heads of careless souls, each poking through a carriage door’s window. And so there I stayed, feeling the cold wind push through my face whilst trees, poles, and then buildings pulsed past my ears, and the winter moon glared down at me.
For the whole world, all cares and fatigue had dissipated for a moment. But now I sit in a waiting room in a train station that is empty save for the lone guard who has locked its front doors until the morning. I am warm and it is quiet. I am in southern Wales. And here on this screen I see doom. That is where I am headed.
- An angle that has gone without mention thus far is the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen Intronaut without her. As a severe sentimentalist, my decision to embark on this journey was only done following her adamant exhortations that I take this opportunity, reminding me—and here “hopefully” weaves back into the story—that I may not know when it will come again. We want to share our experiences, both good and bad, with those we love. Why this will always be a bittersweet night is obvious.