Months ago, when Jake first talked to me about going to see an upcoming Clutch show at a nearby club in PA, I was tempted to just back out. I mean, I wasn’t big into them, but they are Jake’s favorite band, hands down. Since I’ve been hearing about it for months from him, these desires to back out usually occurred when I was menstrual, during the times when I am thinking too much about all the things I have no control over like money, bills, and my ability (or inability) to deal with the past. One of the reasons we were definitely going to this show was because Jake’s friend, M, knows this guy Matt who is doing sound for 2 of the 3 bands scheduled to go on before Clutch, and he told Jake he could get us on the guest list. So it would be the four of us, and wouldn’t that be fun?

Well, M also works with Jake, and for a short while before he and I got together, they were dating, or fucking, or whatever you call it. I am sure it would be different depending on which person you ask, and this is where having been Jake’s friend and long distance confidante in the wake of leaving his wife comes to bite me on the ass. During the time Jake was reveling in his newly found bachelor status, I got to hear about all his conquests, and at the time, I was all for hearing it and asked to hear it, since back then I was just his friend. So, I knew, before she climbed into the backseat of Jake’s car when we headed out to the club, that M was a vegetarian and that, months before I moved here to live with him, Jake had forgone meat for over a week in an effort to get into her pants. I also know that when Jake decided to stop seeing her, she was a little hurt, because I think she really wanted to pursue a relationship with him, when he only wanted to have fun.

(Now, to be clear, as hard as it is sometimes to hear all this stuff from your current love interest, I am thankful that I know and thankful that brute honesty is the foundation our relationship is built on, as I don’t think friends-to-lovers transitions are successful without it, but, you know, I am female. I would never want Jake to be any other way, and I don't regret anything that I know. But, ever since one of my old boyfriends cheated on me with a mutual friend, my mind has had this sick ability to picture, vividly, any woman having sex with my boyfriend. It messed with me horribly as I tried to heal from that back then, and it haunts me every now and again today. I don’t know if it’s latent jealousy or a combination of that and my overactive imagination/analysis, but there you have it. )

I had met M in person a few months ago at an arts festival in downtown Harrisburg; it was only for a few seconds and I barely got to say hello to her; still, it was just enough to get the gears rolling. She would tell Jake after our initial meeting that she wants to get together with the two of us and hang out, perhaps, verify that I am not awkward in the wake of what I know about them. She even asked Jake if I knew about them, and he told her, “Yes, of course she knows. She knows everything. She’s my friend.” This time, we’re walking up the sidewalk to her duplex, and I am trying to push aside the overactive thoughts and do what it is I really wanted to, which was put all the history in the past and make an effort to get to know her, since if Jake liked her enough to stay friends with her, she must be pretty cool (Jake has cool friends).

M is tan with long blonde hair and has both a lip and a tongue ring (I heard about those as well). She is pretty and bubbly and is a little thicker in the hips than me, but that’s mostly due to some knee surgery she had earlier in the year, which I had already heard about as well. Her laugh, at first, annoys me, and on the ride to the show I am still wondering if I am going to allow myself to have a good time. When scenarios like this happen, I work to play The Bigger Person because, honestly, I want to be. I want to not judge her, not see her as any threat. I have worked to play the Bigger Person on more than my share of occasions, but every time is like the first. Hard. Itchy.

It’s raining and the route we take is long and winding. They talk about work and people I have never met, about office gossip and how today was at work, etc. Because Jake’s check didn’t get direct deposited on time, we are going to this show with no money and I have barely 6 smokes on me, and most of what I’m thinking about is when I will get to eat next and how it will be when we’re sleeping in a shared hotel with M and her friend that they have kindly offered to cover so we don’t have trek home when the show’s over. I am being selfish in these thoughts and not realizing that Jake has been wanting to go to this show for months and he is going to have an awesome time no matter what and I am just being a stick in the mud.

We get to the club and it’s fuh-reezing inside. We wait to tell the lady that we’re on the guest list and the lead singer of Clutch walks right by us. Did you see Jake’s motions ask and I respond Yes I saw as I shiver stupidly in a short sleeved shirt. Later, we will try to go out to the car to get our coats only to be told there’s no re-entry and to find out that the club will only warm up for us when were milling about in the pit.

7:30 and we have 3 bands to check out before Clutch goes on. We have a lot of time to talk, or yell over the music, with M (her friend is busy downstairs running sound). What follows is what seems to always follow when I meet one of Jake’s friends for the first time: I talk. A lot. I get her talking. We share funny stories and warm up to each other. I tell all the ones from my life that I think are the funniest, the most outrageous. Within an hour, I find that I really like M and that she and I are alike in many ways. The image of her and Jake naked and writhing on the bed I now sleep on, quickly shifts out of view, and I am more than grateful.

Mindy gets drinks for herself and bottled water for Jake and I. I bum some of Jake’s Camel Lights, finding, happily, that I can smoke them and not gag, since I only smoke cloves. This further cheers me up, as the thought of having only 3 cigarettes to get through 4 bands seems less than appealing. What’s more, Mindy seems to like me back, which is really what I was most concerned with. I want all of Jake’s friends to like me. I want to be included, approachable, desirable.

At 11, we go downstairs when Anthrophobia announces their last song so that we can get right up front for Clutch. Usually, when I’ve gone to hard core shows, I’ve gone alone, so being up front was never very appealing. When there’s no one looking out for you and you’re a girl who doesn’t want to get crushed, being able to see the band up close ceases to mean as much. This time, I had M and my six-foot-four boyfriend, who would stand behind me and keep his hands firmly planted on my hips for most of the show. I can't tell you what it felt like, but it felt good.

Clutch opened with what Jake says they always open with:

Hey hey now, what's that smell?
Just like cornbread done too well.
What you need you know I got.
So hands up, who wants to rock?

And the place exploded.

You could always gauge when the intense choruses were coming up because the crowd would roll back and then forward, thrusting me against the guys that had been standing by the railing in front of the stage all night and then as we moved with the crowd, against other guys who had sweat through their wifebeaters already. Sometimes it would be the two small and cute girls I would slam into, who were almost locked arm in arm and smiling. I worked to keep them in front of me because they smelled better. Jake often yelled out the words to songs while I enjoyed what movement I could make and simply jumped around. M, while turning down many offers from me to stand next to or in front of me and thereby also being protected by Jake, had the best expression pasted on her face for the entire set. Her eyebrows stayed up in almost mock shock, with a little "fuck you," as though she was surprised that people were ramming into her. She held her own, though, and at one point grabbed this one guy by the shirt wrapped around his neck in an attempt to stop him from constantly falling onto her. During one of the many times that everyone had their hands in the air through the chorus of Tight Like That, she grabbed my hand and held it up with hers. And the deal was sealed for me. M is cool. Clutch is fucking amazing.

Later on, while waiting (and waiting and waiting) for Matt to finish tearing down the stage, we sit upstairs and drink ice water, coming back into the feeling of cold as the heat and sweat from the pit evaporates. It’s almost 2am before we go out into the parking lot, off to a 24-hour diner where M and her friend buy us dinner, where we make fun of the rude waitress, talk about our favorite bands, and tell more stories. I ask if they’ve been to this museum in Philly that I heard about which displays medical anomalies and M says yes, of course, and we so need to go there, the 4 of us. Road Trip.

When we finish there and go back to the hotel, it dawns on me that we left right from work to come here, that it’s still technically Friday night and so much has happened. Before we all pass out, M and I giggling under the covers in separate beds, I realize that I’ve been awake for almost 24 hours and that all my daily woes and worries have all but dissipated, under the varying degrees of these new experiences.

And to think, I wasn’t going to go at all.

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