John Waite sat at the table in his dressing room, wiping sweat from his face with a cool, damp washcloth. In the distance, he could still hear the screams of his fans out in the arena. Another successful stop on his American tour. Another five thousand teenaged girls clutching his album to their chests as they drifted off to sleep tonight.
Where am I, anyway? John wondered idly as he pulled his sweat-soaked t-shirt over his head and tossed it into a corner. He had already forgotten which stop of the tour he was at. After a while they all blurred together. John could remember a time when every gig had seemed as precious as a diamond; thinking about those early days now made him sad in a way he could never express in one of his frothy pop singles.
Nostalgia, in turn, made him think of Cynthia. Where was she now? John wondered. Was she happy? He hoped so, despite everything that had happened between them, the harsh words that now seemed to be the only ones he could remember from their relationship.
A memory of Cynthia flooded John’s mind then, startling him with its vividness. It was their first meeting, after one of his small club shows in Lancaster, before the album had hit. She had caught John’s eye immediately, blonde hair spilling out over her headband, a glittery short purple dress that barely covered her thighs, lovely legs clad in silver tights and purple legwarmers. He had flashed his most charming smile and bought her a drink. Hoping merely to get lucky, by the end of the evening he was ready to propose marriage to her.
John poured himself another glass of Veuve Cliquot and slumped back in his chair, melancholy washing over him. Cynthia. Why couldn’t he get her out of his mind? Why couldn’t he move on? Certainly it wasn’t the lack of available female companionship; he’d already been propositioned by several female acquaintances who didn’t even know that he and Cynthia had split up — and of course there were always the groupies. John hadn’t been able to bring himself to take advantage of either, however, in the months since the breakup. The notion of intimacy with a woman — physical or emotional — only brought more painful thoughts of Cynthia.
He hadn’t heard from her in weeks, and John wondered what was going on in her life — if she had moved on and found someone new. He found it disturbing that people who were so inextricably — or so he had thought — intertwined could suddenly live such completely separate lives. Did she even think of him anymore? John wondered. Or had he already become irrelevant?
That thought made him angry, and it was never more than at those moments that he wished he could simply erase all memory of Cynthia from his mind and move on with his life. Why did she haunt him so? It wasn’t as if she were perfect for him; indeed, in many ways they were total opposites. Neither of them could explain their attraction to the other; it was simply something that had happened between them, like an explosive chemical reaction between two apparently harmless substances.
John looked at the telephone on the table in front of him. It would be so easy to pick up the phone now and dial her number, beg her to take him back. Only pride kept him from doing so — he could never allow Cynthia to know how much he missed her, how desperate he was to have her back in his life. And hadn’t Cynthia been the one to desert him in the first place? The part of him that was still angry was tired of chasing after her all the time. Forget that bitch, that dark part of him whispered. Find a girl who won’t throw you away like a used Kleenex as soon as she’s done with you.
It all made sense to John — Lord knew his friends thought so — and yet something within him still yearned to have Cynthia near him again, to hear her laughter and feel the bright light of her spirit warming his chilly British heart.
Before he realized what he was doing, John picked up the receiver and began to dial. He felt certain that he would get her answering machine anyway, this late on a Saturday night. It rang twice, and then someone picked up the phone.
“Hello?” It was Cynthia’s voice. John’s breath caught in his throat. What was he supposed to say? A moment ago he had known, but now he found himself tongue-tied. The confident swagger of his onstage persona was nowhere to be seen in the nervous, sweating idiot John saw in the mirror.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
The sound of her voice poured into the empty vessel of John’s heart like cool wine into a dusty glass. His hand trembled on the receiver as he listened to her soft breathing from God knew how many thousands of miles away. He could not bring himself to speak, but from his heart he sent every unspoken word, everything he longed to tell her, down the telephone line, like a telegraph to her heart.
At last John opened his mouth to speak, but at that moment he heard the click as Cynthia hung up the phone. After a pause John set the receiver down and cradled his head in his hands.
A knock sounded at the door of his dressing room. “John!” It was his manager, Bernie. “Let’s hit the road, man — Cleveland awaits!”
“Be there in a second,” John called out. He wiped the cloth over his face one last time and then stood up, checking his look in the mirror. Get it together, man, he thought. Yes, losing Cynthia had sucked, but there was a whole world out there to conquer. Legions of screaming fans went a long way toward soothing one’s heartbreak.
Soon he would be in Cleveland, and after that a dozen other cities; soon Cynthia would be no more than a dim memory. John slipped into his white linen jacket and strode toward his dressing room door. He would be okay. If he tried hard enough, in fact, he could even convince himself that he didn’t even miss her at all.
“I ain’t missing you, babe,” John murmured as he opened the door. It sounded true even to himself.