He leaned against the hood of his blue 2003 Impala. It was in decent shape for how old it was, just a few minor dents and scratches, but the engine was good, and that’s what mattered. He couldn't afford to have a car that needed much work since his dad cut him off. Living off his measly income from the GRCC bookstore, which would only hire him part time since he was a full time student, was harder than he thought it would be. Even if he was living with his uncle rent free, he could barely pay the bills that he had and keep gas in his car.
The final bell rang, and students came pouring out the doors heading to the buses, home, or their cars with jackets slung over their shoulders, so they, too, could soak in the final rays of sunshine for the year. Lost in his financial thoughts, Connor barely noticed the kids bustling all around him until he caught a glimpse of fire red hair. He jumped off the hood of his car heading in the direction of the long copper locks he had seen. She wasn't going to get away this time. He was finally going to see her. A few more steps and he’d catch up to her, but what was he going to say? “Hey, I don’t know your name, but you haunt my dreams at night.” No that wouldn't work, a little on the creepy side. How about, “I've caught glimpses of you for months now, but you always disappear. I was beginning to think I made you up.” Nope that wasn't much better.
“Hey,” Connor said, reaching out his hand to touch her arm.
A pair of dark wiry arms reached out and grabbed Connor from behind. “O’Clery, what are you doing, man? I shouted your name like five times, but you didn't even pause in your terminator like stalk.”
“Give me a minute, Reggie,” Connor turned as Reggie let him go. He scanned the parking lot, but there was no trace of the red-haired girl. Connor sighed, “Never mind, how was school?” he asked.
Reggie slung his backpack over one shoulder. “You thought you saw her again, didn't you?”
“She’s always there at the edges of reality,” Connor said under his breath.
Reggie patted Connor’s back. “I think you’re losing it, man,”
“You’re probably right. You ready to head home? I have to practice before tonight,” Conner said, turning towards his car.
“Oh yeah, tonight is open mic night at Billy’s Lounge. You’re bringing me, right?” Reggie asked, keeping step with Connor.
Connor opened his door and slid in behind the wheel. “As long as Uncle Patrick says it’s alright. It doesn't start till nine thirty, and it is a school night,” Connor said, winking at him.
“You’re real funny. He’ll probably come along. We've both been waiting to see you perform. For as many nights as you've kept us up with your strumming, we deserve to see you on stage,” Reggie said.
Connor and Reggie walked into Billy’s Lounge with Uncle Patrick. There were booths lining the left side, a bar on the right, tables with chairs all around in the center, and the stage was straight ahead. It wasn't fancy, but Connor liked it. The room had a good ambiance and a lively crowd. The place could probably seat 250 people, and it was more than half full. With that many people talking all at once, the room was buzzing with noise. Connor wondered how loud it would be when he started playing. He didn't have an amp or a whole band to help carry the sound of his music. It was just him and his acoustic guitar.
“I have to go sign up at the bar,” Connor said. “You guys grab a table and I’ll meet you there.”
Connor walked up to the bar. “Hi, I’m here to sign up for open mic.”
The bartender barely glanced at him, pushing a sign-up sheet and pen towards him. “You’ll be up second, so be ready. You’ll get one song.”
Connor signed his name. “Thanks, can I get three Sprites?” He laid his money on the bar with a tip, grabbed the drinks, and went to meet up with Reggie and Uncle Patrick.
“Over here.” Reggie waved him over.
Connor set the drinks down in front of them. “Well, I’m up second,” he said with a nod.
Uncle Patrick put a hand on Connor’s shoulder. “You look nervous, you going to be okay?”
“Me, nervous, no. I play all the time. I mean really, what’s the difference between playing in your room by yourself and playing on stage in front of all these people.” Connor looked around the room taking in all the people that would hear him sing. He gulped.
“Forget about them people,” Reggie said. “Just look at us. You’re going to rock, man.”
“Thanks Reggie.” Connor took a sip of his Sprite, closed his pale blue eyes, and took a deep calming breath. He opened his eyes when he heard the music start. The drums had a good beat, but the electric guitar was a little too grating for him. He could see how others would appreciate it, even if it wasn't his kind of music.
“I’m going to head to the stage. I’m up next,” Connor said, grabbing his guitar case.
Slippery Fish finished their song to a loud applause. It would seem the audience liked their music more than Connor did. He hoped they liked variety because his was very different from that.
Connor stepped on stage and pulled a stool over to the center mic. He laid his case on the floor, opened it, and pulled out his Martin OM-18 Authentic 1933 acoustic guitar. His grandfather left it to him when he died several years ago. Whenever he looked at the polished caramel burst of color on the spruce top he thought of his grandfather’s strong hands strumming chords with them singing his favorite Irish songs together. The thought of his grandfather calmed Connor down. He sat on the stool, bracing the guitar on his leg, and pulled the mic down to him.
“Hey everybody, my name is Connor O’Clery and I’m going to sing a song I wrote called, Edges of Reality. I hope you enjoy it,” Connor said.
He rubbed a hand through his jet black hair, making the top stick up in all directions. Closing his eyes against the brightness of the stage lights, he took a deep breath and began to sing.
“You exist in the corners of my mind.
So close, but you, I never find.
In a world so cold and dark,
Your fiery presence makes its mark.
Are you real or in my head?
When I turn you've always fled.
Always there, but never found.
To you, I know that I am bound.
Through my fingers you do slide.
Are you there, or on the other side?
I've never believed in spirituality.
Yet I search for you at the Edges of Reality.”