Infinity + One
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If I knew Gran, she had at least a hundred grand back in the safe on my tour bus. And she was welcome to it. I slung Gran’s designer bag over my shoulder, put my head down and opened the dressing room door.
Then I walked away. No one was waiting outside the door, and as far as I know, no one looked at me twice. I was careful not to walk too fast.
When the lure of escape had started flickering in me several weeks ago, I had begun to make note of the exits wherever I performed. I would walk the perimeter, the concrete hallways, the vast underbellies and industrial labyrinths of the stadiums and arenas, Bear on my heels, using the excuse that I needed to stretch my legs, to get some exercise. It had become a game I played. A game of “what if?” Wherever I went, I plotted a mad dash. Dreamed of it. Fantasized about it. And now I was here, walking away from an arena that symbolized super stardom. And I didn’t look back.
AS SOON AS I let go of the metal truss, I was sorry I had. In that instant, I wondered if everyone felt that way at the end. No life flashing before your eyes, no silent movie reel. Just a brief, yet perfect awareness that it’s over, and the finish line has been crossed. I tipped forward, a slow motion swan dive, with my feet still clinging to the metal rail. I felt the stranger beside me lunge for me. His hand fisted in the back of my stolen sweatshirt and yanked, changing my trajectory, and my feet lost purchase on the rail. My legs flew out from under me, and instead of falling forward, I was falling downward, and my left side connected with the metal railing we’d been standing on. His efforts must have knocked him off balance too, because I felt his weight glance off my shoulder. I landed in a painful sprawl, half on the stranger, half on the wet concrete that butted up to the guardrail, and I immediately tried to push myself up and away from his grasping arms, furious and fighting, robbed of my choice once again.
“Stop it!” he bit out, gasping for air as my elbow connected with his ribs, and I ground it in, trying to stand. “Are you crazy?”
“I’m not crazy!” I cried. “Who are you, anyway? Go away! I didn’t ask for your help!”
My hat had come off in the tussle. I patted the ground for it, but I couldn’t find it. I felt the loss of Bear’s hat more than the near-death experience, and I wrapped my arms around my head, leaned back against the rail, and tucked my legs in against my chest, breathing hard, blinking back the tears. Maybe the tears weren’t for the hat. Maybe it was relief or maybe it was fear, or maybe it was the weight of not knowing what came next. I hadn’t thought beyond the bridge. I knew I couldn’t climb the railing again, and I knew there would be no more falling into the fog. I was cured of the flickering lure. At least for now.
“I might cry too if my hair looked like that,” the stranger said softly and crouched down at my side. And then he handed me my hat. I took it from his outstretched hand and pulled it fiercely over the ravaged clumps of hair.
“I’m Clyde.” He left his hand outstretched, as if waiting for me to clasp it in greeting. I looked at it numbly. His hands were large, like the rest of him. But he wasn’t big like Bear was. Bear was bulky, and bullish, and built like a blockade, which is what he was, essentially. Clyde was rangy, and long, and broad-shouldered, and his hands looked capable and strong, if that made any sense.
“Clyde,” I repeated numbly. It wasn’t a question. I was testing it out. The name didn’t really fit him. He didn’t look like a Clyde. Clyde was the name of the guy that ran the one-pump service station in Grassley, Tennessee, at the bottom of the hill where I had lived all my sixteen years, until Gran convinced my folks we could all be rich if they let her take me to Nashville. The Clyde of Grassley, Tennessee only had two teeth and he liked to strum his banjo that only had two strings. Two teeth, two strings. I hadn’t made that connection before. Maybe two was old Clyde’s favorite number.
“What’s your name, crazy girl?” the new Clyde asked, his hand still extended, waiting for me to shake and make friends.
“Bonnie,” I answered finally. And then I laughed like I really was crazy. My name was Bonnie and his name was Clyde. Bonnie and Clyde. Wasn’t that just perfect? I shook his hand then, and he swallowed it up inside his, and in that second I felt both reckless and redeemed, like maybe I wasn’t done yet, after all.
“Yeah. Right. You don’t want to tell me, that’s fine. I get it.” Clyde shrugged. “I’ll call you Bonnie if you want me to.” Clyde obviously thought I was playing with him, but he seemed willing to play along. His voice was still mild, still that low-pitched rumble that made me think it took a lot to make him lose his cool and had me wondering if he could sing. He’d be a bass, hitting all the low notes and anchoring the chord.
“Are you running from something, Bonnie?”
“I guess I am,” I answered. “Or maybe I’m just leaving something behind.”
His eyes searched my face, and I bowed my head. I didn’t know what kind of music Clyde listened to. Probably not the kind I sang. But my face had been plastered in enough high-profile places the last six years to make me extremely recognizable, whether you liked country/pop crossovers or not.