At 3, Ali's biggest fan lay in the dark.
At 5, Ali's biggest fan lay on stage.
At 7, Ali's biggest fan sat on a stool.
Floodlight on. Floodlight on. Floodlight on. An impulse of noise shoots from the front of the crowd growing wider as it hits the stalls, the circle, crashes against the wall. It surges over and hits the helicopters, flying across each other in an X. Crowd cry overwhelms their clattering blades.
Bgam duh gah, the band settles into their instruments. WoooOOOAooo...
And then.
White trainers. Step. Step. Smile.
The roar redoubles. Her pupils shrink.
The night will use three guitars. They're at the front. A stagehand with an earpiece stops to take a picture of the crowd and moves on. Above the guitars, on the stool, an army of plectrums relax in an ashtray. And Ali's biggest fan.
Ali's biggest fan is super excited.
Ali's biggest fan can't breathe.
Out in the crowd, three teenagers and their dad scream in unison. Ali signals for the first guitar: a twitch of the knuckle. She squints. The family stops screaming and the silence spreads out from them.
Ali's biggest fan is five inches wide.
Ali's biggest fan has metal arms.
Ali's biggest fan is silver and red and gives UV400 protection.
Ali plucks a chord, sings a word. The night begins.
Three years ago, Ali's brother had interested everyone at dinner by announcing he'd grown tired of expensive sunglasses and would only wear cheapos this year. He'd made a big show getting the bin out.
“Give me those,” said Ali.
The end of the first song and Ali's brother's sunglasses sit where they were put, on the stool, goggling at the audience and listening as their idol starts the second number. Can't quite see her, argh. The audience joins in for the chorus.
“Ali,” said Gareth From Stage Crew, earlier on the bus, “can't find the glasses.”
Ali fished in her rucksack, “Shall we use these?”
Now Ali is making a speech. She's so happy to be here, in this country, she was taught History by Ms Grant in a redbrick new-build in Aberdeen and countries like this you only ever heard of in Ms Grant's class so shout out to Ms Graaaant! cos she's so happy to be here to meet these people, you people, you guys, you actual guys, to actually to speak to you, so privileged to Play! For! You! That gets a cheer. Gareth's queue.
He'll walk over to swap guitars and slip her the sunglasses. She always wears sunglasses for this next bit, just like on the album cover. The heart of two polarised lenses beats faster as he comes near. This is the big moment. The sunglasses fantasise – a brief daydream where Gareth leaves them but pushes them round 90 degrees to get a better view, watching the concert from the best seat in the house. Oh well, watching the crowd from Ali's nose will be cool too.
Snapped out, here are fingers and wait, Gareth is pushing them round and for an instant there's Ali when
flick with his heavy hands Gareth fumbles the glasses and a sense of air, air, air bang on the hard stage - still time - but here's his boot and kick and off and down they go dropping over and over and over the edge.
Tic: shadow in the arena floor.
Ali is still talking but also there's a Garethy tone from up above near the guitars: “Fuck.”
Onstage, Ali raises eyebrows as the new guitar is delivered sans sunglasses. Gareth makes tell you later motions. She shrugs.
On the floor, there is no time for self-pity. The sunglasses are only momentarily in the corner with the dark and the dust and the ants and the food. A foot catches them and they're propelled backward. Another, tac, a kick to the side. Skirting past chewing gum, a beer can appears from the left and a heel stamps on it crrnk. Toes knock the crumpled can back, it catches the sunglasses, they fly with it, arms in stiff embrace, not daring to think, pock against a shin, a shoe, another heel lands a whisper from the glass and they're off again, back and back as the music fades from deafening to loud.
So far it's been mostly swaying but here, here are the moshers and the rubber and the leather and the metal stamping down. Kick sweeeee stamp (just to the left) kick sweeeeee stamp (just in front) kick and here's relief, the edge of the block: very close. The sunglasses land a few feet away, still surrounded by tramping legs. So far luck has pinballed them back and whole.
But luck's running out. A boot. Tall, hundreds of lace holes, long zips on either side, pitbull leather and granite treads tearing through the air.
“Hey, freeze!”
The boot stop a millimetre above.
Voices up high over the music. They don't have to compete, this is a quiet bit and lighters are waving.
A hand scoops down and picks up Ali's brother's sunglasses. Hands them to the owner of the office block boot. Short hair, young, a kid with a creative approach to safety pins. Ali tattoo. Her companion offers her the sunglasses. “Present.”
The kid looks around for an owner. Lighters are waving, nobody's claiming.
She's crouched and bent forward as she puts on the sunglasses, getting in people's way. She doesn't care. The kid times it so that she swipes her head up to look at the stage the moment a chord crashes through the quiet and cheers heave from the crowd. The lighters drop back into pockets. Hidden in the wings, the stage manager gives the signal to the team in charge of pyros. Ali roars.
And reflected between the metal frames, joy and fireworks explode.
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