Nottingham tonight. Keep saying it. "Nottingham, Nottingham, Nottingham. Hello Nottingham,
great to be here with you
."

Say it like you mean it. They've paid to see you, they want to think you're glad to see them too. Smile like this is the only place you could possibly want to be tonight. Remember they made you famous, remember they made you rich. They own you.

You know what they want you to play, and you're going to have to play it like you haven't been playing it night after night after fucking night. Sing it like you still love it the way you did back when you wrote it. Try not to think about the fact that the one you wrote it all for is home alone (you hope, you dearly hope she's alone) clearing up after a birthday party you've missed. The eighth party of eight. She doesn't bitch at you though, not ever, and the kid gave up expecting you to be there for his big days before he finished his first year in school. He still runs to you with a hug when you get back to the security-guarded, designer-decorated, antique-furnished haven you call home.

Nottingham, you're in Nottingham.

Tune up. You can't help smiling. The guitar is taking this much better than you are - it still sounds soft and mellow and so very sweet. Your oldest, truest, staunchest friend. It was there at the beginning, the only thing that was, other than her.

You need water. Drink. Well, that's not what you really need, but you won't have that, will you? You kicked that habit in sweats and agony, and even if it still stalks you you're going to hold out against it. Aren't you? Aren't you? Drink the water.

A hand on yours, a voice asking if you're okay. Look at the face that owns the voice. Nod. Smile. She deserves that much, she's a good singer, the best back-up you've had in a long time. She's warm in your room at night, too, warm in your bed and warm in your arms, and undemanding. A friend you could have loved in another time and another place. When this tour is over, she'll be gone. You won't miss her, not once you get home, but she doesn't need to know that, not here and now.

Stand.

Stretch.

Breathe.

Check the hair in the mirror.

Twenty more days, after this, nineteen more nights.

Darkness now, babble sinking to silence.

Step out on the stage. Count. One... two... three.

Light.

"Hello Nottingham, great to be here with you."

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