Copyright © Alexa Silver, 2016
Alan finished the first beer, opened a second one, and wiped his hands on his jeans. The beer went onto the stage, beside the guitar stand, and Alan reached for his guitar, fingers trailing over the neck of it reverently. “You closed early this time. Why?”
Why? As if it wasn’t perfectly obvious. “We were open normal hours and you didn’t show last year. I wasn’t gonna take any chances you’d skip out on me this year. Standing date. Anyway, I didn’t have a band scheduled tonight, just an after-school jam thing. Kids should be in bed now.”
Jon fell silent, unable to hide a smile as Alan reached for the guitar, caressing the neck. The ritual of setting up his instrument had become its own relaxation technique. Jon had tuned Alan’s guitar, giving it as much loving attention as Alan always did. Jon had seen to it hours ago that the guitar rested in a stand, gleaming, shiny, new strings on it, perfectly tuned. It was a simple thing he could give to his friend. Once they’d had a road crew to do the tuneups, though neither had really liked leaving their pet instruments to anyone else, no matter how trusted.
He popped the top on his own beer, gulping down the foul-tasting brew. Coors didn’t have any right to call itself a beer, but it was Alan’s favorite, and tonight was all about Alan. Jon would choke down this one and leave Alan the last four. There were some icy Sam Adams cooling at the bar, along with some chips and dip, in case Alan was hungry. And some water, in case they needed better vocal cord lubrication after a night of singing.
“Wish I had a camera,” Alan said, broad grin splitting his features before he settled back into his relatively normal smirk. “Prissy little Jon Bard drinkin’ shit rather than prissy crap. What’s next, Johnny? Gonna go all grunge on me, buddy? Long hair, ratty T-shirts and all?”
Alan reached over to flick Jon’s collar and Jon grabbed his friend’s hand, squeezing his fingers. On nights like this, he could almost believe Alan was back for good. Then reality would crash in, Alan would be gone, and Jon would be left with his regrets, memories, and the ghosts of the music they’d made together. He clenched Alan’s hand, taking in his buddy’s vintage Coke T-shirt, worn to threadbare softness, rather than it being purchased that way, and the jeans that flared at his ankles just slightly, letting his boots peek out. There was a layer of dirt coating the toes, and Jon had to fight to not wipe them down, to see how shiny and new they might look.
No, he couldn’t do this, couldn’t get lost in the details. Not when he had his fondest wish for such a short time.
“Enough BS. Let’s play.” Jon couldn’t let himself get caught up in the past, not when what he had was so precious and fleeting. At any moment, Alan might leave, and Jon wouldn’t risk cutting this time short.