Trip hop is a subgenre of electronic music that originated in England and averages 100-120 beats per minute. It gained popularity in the United States in the mid 1990’s, and came into my life via one “Eisbaer”, aka Josh. I remember that autumn night Josh and I drove up to Denver to see Massive Attack playing live at The Fillmore. When I had first seen the tickets for sale, I hadn’t entirely believed it. Only three US dates on their world tour – one in New York, one in California, and then Denver-fucking-Colorado. I couldn’t imagine what would possess the English trip hop band to do a show in Denver. Did they have friends here? Was it just a good halfway point?
Regardless, it was an opportunity that could not be allowed to simply pass us by. Money I didn’t have was spent on tickets, $35 a head for General Admission. That was a lot for a single mother in the early 2000’s, trust me. More money I didn’t have was spent on a revealing teal top, purchased at one of those girly mall stores like Wet Seal or Rainbow or Charlotte Russe. I should have bought new jeans, or better shoes for the kids. Instead I patched the holes in my old jeans, strained my groaning credit card with Goodwill sneakers, and bought the top. It was the blue-green that fairy tales say the ocean should be, accented with silver and gold sequins and sheer panels.
The drive to the Fillmore was a painful exercise in patience. We arrived and stepped onto the floor early enough to be the first to part the artificial fog. The crystal chandeliers glowed purple and gold, and a towering LED display took up the back half of the stage, blinking with symbols I didn’t understand but hoped to by the end of the night. When the music started, I could feel the bass reverberate through me until it had changed not only the beat of my heart but the vibration of my atoms. 3D, Daddy G, Horace Andy, and Elizabeth Fraser sang to me from that technological throne, and I swayed and lifted my hands in praise, Josh standing behind me with his hands on my hips. The songs I knew, I sang along with – full voice, quavering with vibrato, and not caring a bit if I couldn’t talk the next day. The songs I didn’t know, I listened to enraptured, and attempted to etch in my memory.
After the show, our adrenaline surging and our hearing probably permanently damaged, Josh and I ran out into the cool night, jackets in hand, still radiating the heat from the crowd. We got frozen custard across the street at Good Times, drawing confused attention from the other customers who hadn’t just had their souls anointed in glory by so many sound waves. Eyes wide, smiles seemingly fixed, we chatted with animation for the entire drive home, the hour long haul that usually calmed the blood and brain. We were too energized for sleep, and too loquacious for sex. Though that was eventually worked around.
It had taken more than a little bit of courage to leave the house in that teal top. The chiffon panel in front made it so that you could kind of see my stomach, which was not my favorite feature. I’ve been a bit of a bigger girl since middle school, and while my waist was not where I carried my weight, it was still subject to critical observation. And then the panel in back made it impossible to wear a bra, which was asking a lot of a woman with a self-described “awesome rack”. The fabric was slippery and stretchy, pretty much immune to such petty, sad things as wrinkles, and the sequins decorating the front caught every spec of light in the room and cast it back gleefully. I felt both clothed and unclothed, confident and uncertain, and quivering with ecstatic anticipation when I pulled that top on. The top had also been a surprise, tucked away beneath my black jacket, something colorful and daring for what was bound to be the crowning jewel of my dating experience thus far.
Ten years and 50 lbs later, my closet is devoid of shirts with diaphanous panels and backs cut too low. The combination of a changing body and an obsessive love of the color black means that my sparkles are largely confined to earrings and necklaces and headbands. And the rings Josh placed on my left hand five years after that concert. That top with its sequins and chiffon and teal-before-it-was-popular elasticity has been passed on to another, who will wear it in places where people gather under strobing lights. It deserves to scintillate and shiver with bass lines and the hands of lovers. It is meant to be worn and seen, not tucked in the back of a closet as a relic of memory. That top was as shimmering as joy. Refracting smart lights and casting delight through the crowd to 120 heartbeats per minute.