Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

I have no memory of what came before. It’s as though I didn’t exist prior to this moment and have just come into existence and apparated into this crowd, in this hall, surrounded by the ordered chaos of these several hundred people. We’re collected here for a singular purpose, all of us waiting to bear witness, to share witness.

They seem not to notice me, caught as I am in the frenetic jumble, almost vibrating in tune with the collective hum of anticipation.

The reverberation rises with activity on the stage ahead and above us to crescendo as a woman appears, guitar slung low, eyes wide and bright, the room hanging on the precipice until those first chords, a familiar structure, then the space erupts into mayhem.

Nothing comes close to the magic of this music, the harmony formed of hundreds of voices, of heartbeats, synchronized with the one who leads, the one whose voice and instrument eclipse the crowd, riding our energy and elevating us all to some higher plane. Beneath it all are drum sounds, and a bass holds down the bottom end, maintaining our precarious tether to the Earth.

Time ceases to have any meaning, the masses moving as one, taking every ounce of energy she gives away and returning it a hundredfold.

And then it’s over, and she’s gone, whisked away to the relative safety of some back room, while the crowd, still vibrating but nearly spent, slowly and reluctantly drifts to the exits, spilling out to who knows where.

I find myself alone. The silence is deafening.

Nobody bothers me as I drift through the side door to beyond the stage, navigating around and through the road crew as they tear down the gear, packing it up, ready to move to the next show in some other time and space. There’s a familiarity to this, and as someone looks through me as I pass, I wonder, was that a glimmer of recognition?

I find her behind a closed door, in a small, warm room, reclining on a chaise lounge upholstered in a garish fabric from another century, sipping water from a large glass.

She smiles, watching me, but doesn’t speak.

She seems not to be surprised that I’m here, and as I sit at the end of the chaise, she crosses her feet on my lap, still slick with sweat, bare soles black with dirt from the stage, and as I rest a hand on her flesh I remember.

“There he is,” she speaks, “you finally found me.”

I remember everything, all of it, a tsunami of what once was.

She leans forward and whispers, “I’ll see you again soon.”

In that instant, she’s gone – disapparated – leaving me alone in the cooling room.

But this time, I remember.