gabriel

Deadmau5 on Sunday night. I have every intention of rolling in later, showing up just in time for his set. But then comments on social media warning attendees to arrive early spook me, so that's what I do. I walk up just past nine, and the line is already around the block. 

Once inside, I move quickly through my usual routine. Trip the bathroom - huge tip for the attendant. Bottle of water from the bar - huge tip for the bartender. Then it's into the main room to see how crowded it is, and how soon I'll need to stake out a spot. 

It's filling up fast; people have already planted themselves against the stage and others are pressing up close. Normally I don't want to be anywhere this densely packed. But in seven years of going to Deadmau5 shows, I haven't once yet been near enough to see his actual face. And his music means a lot to me. After the past year + of personal, professional, social and romantic hell, tonight is a celebration. Tonight I want to see the face of the person whose music always helps me through. Just for a little bit, then I'll drift back. That's the plan, anyway.

The first opener isn't really my vibe, but I stay put. If I give up my place now, before I've met anyone to anchor myself to, I'll never get it back. But it isn't long before a couple of kids, absolute babies, adopt me. Matt and Nate. Matt looks like he just wandered out of a Kinko's, circa 1998. Long blonde ponytail, light blue oxford, pale, short and slight. Nate, also smaller than me, wears a short sleeve pink button down printed all over with palm trees. Matching my anticipation, Nate makes it his job to update me every few minutes on how much longer we have to wait for the headliner. "Thirty-seven more minutes." "Sixteen more minutes." "Four more minutes." They are friendly and unthreatening, and they are simultaneously fascinated and concerned that I've come alone. 

"We'll take care of you," Matt assures me with the confidence of the blissfully high. 

Everyone having more or less settled into their real estate for the night, we chat up our neighbors, dancing and laughing. This is the scene I've been missing. The second opener, Morgin Madison, is spectacular, and the visuals for his set are the most beautiful I've ever seen. Psychedelic swirls of color, geometric then organic, endlessly hypnotic. I'm 100% sober, people are jostling me continuously, but I don't care. Matt and Nate drift away and back in their engagements with the crowd.

Then: a booming voice over my right shoulder: "GIVE US THE MOOOOUSE!!" Everyone turns to see the culprit, which is a tall guy in a red soccer jersey. Seems to be with the couple he's standing beside. Early thirties. Athletic build. Brown hair and bright brown eyes. He doesn't look high or drunk. He just looks like he's having a fantastic time, and I smile at his mischievous energy. He sees my smile, smiles back. My heart thumps a little, and I turn back towards the stage, now keenly aware of his presence. Very, very rarely do I pay any attention to dudes at shows or festivals. I'm there for one thing and one thing only: the music. But the reason I very, very rarely pay attention to dudes at shows?

Because very, very rarely do I not have a boyfriend. 

Not half a minute later: "WE WANT THE MOUUUUUSEE! BRING OUT THE MOOOUSE!!" This time when I turn back he's waiting for my look. His grin is playful, daring. That one was for me. Our eyes lock and somewhere in some dimension of this occasionally ruthless, occasionally gorgeous universe, something clicks. I hold his gaze long enough to say, wordlessly: yes. Pretending to return my attention to the stage, I can now feel him watching me. He's moved up closer; there's just a single body between us. My movements become deliberate. I straighten my shoulders, arching my back in time to the music. I casually adjust the bottom of my cropped t-shirt to draw his attention to my stomach and lower back. 

The musician onstage appears to be winding down, then doesn't. Then does it again. "How many times is he gonna dooo that??" I shoot a look over my shoulder. He's angled such that he could have been speaking to me. So close I could touch him. I decide, Fuck it. I'll go first.

"First time?" I tease. 

He laughs. "What, seeing Deadmau5?" I nod. "Second." I scoff and make a face. That's nothing

"And you?" The stranger that was positioned between us has suddenly moved off. 

I hold up my right hand and splay my fingers. "Five times." My expression says I win

"Well excuse me, Miss...Miss..." He looks down the length of my body for something to make fun of. "...water bottle."

I point my water bottle at him and say with mock seriousness, "Hydration is very important."

"No kidding. I wish I had some of that." 

Wordlessly, I offer my bottle to him. A year and a half ago, this gesture would have meant nothing. Sharing water at electronic shows, even among total strangers, is very common. It's a caring community, and everyone knows the dangers of getting locked tight into a crowd without water. But tonight? Less than a month since re-opening, on the heels of a global pandemic that still isn't over? We both know the significance of swapping spit. His eyes don't leave mine as he drinks and hands the bottle back. "Thank you," he mouths.

A tap on my shoulder. Matt has been watching this interaction and is fulfilling his promise to watch over me. "You good?" He gives me a meaningful look and questioning thumbs up, which I return. "You sure?" I nod vigorously. "Okay." And with that I am left unchaperoned for the rest of my evening. 

Red jersey and I barely have time to register that yes, we are definitely going to watch this show together, before the show suddenly starts. And it's loud. Really, really loud. He correctly hears my name when he asks but I can't make out his, despite how close his mouth is to my ear. I take out my phone, open the notepad app, and write NAME while watches, laughing. When I hand him the phone he spaces down a line and then types F - backspace - G - A - B. 

"Gab?" He nods, then leans close again. "Gabriel," he says, pronouncing it with a short 'a'.

"Gabriel," I repeat back. The pronunciation throws me off, so I say it again, slowly. "Gaaabriel." We are both smiling way too much. Now that I'm next to him, I can see the way his clothes drape across his body. Mostly, though, I'm noticing that he has the warmest, deepest brown eyes I've ever seen. 

I'm pretty sure it's going to be a great night.