My name’s Claire. How old are you?
Okay, she didn’t ask it that abruptly, but the question was pretty upfront. She turned around from the stage, bare-faced with stiff dark hair and straight brows, in a pale pink bralette and denim culottes. Claire was giddy and smiley and had me fooled over her mere 14 years with her introductory handshake. Sixteen years old, tops. She and Maddie, 15, blond and tan, had met “on set” and were here to see George Ezra for the first time at the Wiltern in LA. My best friend Rachel was on my left, and sister-friends from school were to my right: Ashlyn, Danielle and Hayley.
Concerts are my favorite way to push myself out of my comfort zone. They’re loud and filled with people, usually with dodgy parking situations, but oh, the music—I never regret it. So I make it a point to go to roughly two per year, minimum goal: one a school year.
Claire complained from the get-go of light-headedness, asking each of my friends if we had ever felt it, and how long it should last. At 8:10pm, she hadn’t eaten since 11am at In-N-Out. She looked to me like a plain cheeseburger girl (as I know from experience…), and she confirmed she pulled out the veggies. The girls had spent the day at LACMA and gave further than exact change for the bus-fare for a few blocks.
On face-value, it seemed like they’d been ripped off. It didn’t immediately sink in with me that a bus driver has no time to count change back if you won’t do it for yourself.
The venue was a little foggy and rather humid inside; I think they do it to prime you for the onslaught of body heat. But Claire became increasingly frantic over willing the light-headedness to stop, sitting down and standing up, fanning herself with no improvement. Every time she had tried to eat in the last two hours just made her want to throw up. Maddie went to buy her a water, and Claire gulped it at every repetition of her status.
The last time I had been to the Wiltern, things were very different, and I was very different. Last time, I was more attached to my spot, and felt a shell of value because I was someone’s. This time, nothing really mattered besides the need to be someone for these girls should they really be in trouble.
“I know you’re not supposed to accept food from strangers, but if it gets really bad, I have a protein bar that’s unopened. I saw you eating Pirates Booty, and that’s not gonna do much for you. Just drink your water slowly and concentrate on how cool and refreshing it is.” I hate Pirates Booty. It’s never a suitable snack.
Almost as soon as the lights went down and Dylan LeBlanc arrived to open the show, Claire dashed off, assumably to the bathroom. Song after song passed, and Maddie reached over to ask if I knew where her friend went. Then she told me Claire’s phone had died earlier. Lyrics were unintelligible, but calming, and I just prayed no one would think to take advantage of her.
Last time I came to the Wiltern, I was all too aware of myself, and nearly everything going wrong with me and who I was with, even buried beneath all my denial. Last night I was 5000x better at doing my hair and makeup than a year ago, but my best was losing all awareness of myself and adopting two mid-teen girls. I didn’t care about the couple making out by us or the overload of Axe from a few guys—these girls needed to be safe.
“Wow, I thought I was like a mom inside, but I’m not A MOM,” Rach said jokingly after we introduced. It was true; my body language was entirely different as soon as Claire said she wasn’t feeling all there. I ran down the list of questions beginning with if she had had enough food and water. We lost each other a few times throughout the night, including after Maddie’s phone died and she asked to later borrow mine to call her mom. Who’s filming Snapchat video when you’re at 6% battery?! If we had met once more before leaving, I would have given them the third degree (hey, yeah, for me) about keeping hydrated, having an extra battery pack and not putting Snapchat before safety.
For Rach and me, having little brothers on the cusp of driver’s seat freedom, due for SAT hazing and delaying being picked up to no end—it’s hard to remember when we sucked at answering our phones and didn’t prioritize water, a filling meal (we had eggs in a basket and a french toast grand slam at Denny’s…) and a charged phone. Ironically, I didn’t bring a charging cord because I figured I wouldn’t need it. (Dang it, Apple Maps.) We came in my car, so Rachel didn’t bring one because she figured I would have one! 😂
I honestly can’t tell you what happened after George’s last song. God answered my prayers during Dylan’s set that Claire would be safe while out of our reach, so I’m sure he provided those girls safe passage home. The peace He gave me tonight was a reminder of His strength, and just how much of an adventure He wants to make our lives with the people who enter and leave. The urgency to love without qualms is a higher gift than a good show, a good crowd, a good date.
He provides, and as much as I’ve fought growing up over the years, I’m proud to inch up as a woman. One who can hold her own on the freeways of LA, who loves deep and wide, and who takes chances alongside great friends who make me more than myself.
If you haven’t heard of George Ezra, well, he’s a babe, and I can’t tell you much more than that. If you don’t believe me, you’ll have to click this video. No spam, just cute old people dancing to his music. Btw, make no mistake: I have no children, nor will they be going to concerts independently until they’re 18. Z-snap.