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The next morning I headed back to the festival grounds after a trip to the store to buy a sweater and rain poncho of my own as the forecast wasn’t much better than it had been the day before. Ben wasn't at the gate when I arrived, but he hadn’t been there until later in the afternoon the previous day so I hoped that would be the case again. I also wouldn’t have the excuse of going to my car as I had parked in the main lot, not right outside the gate since I wasn’t performing again. On one of my casual strolls that just happened to pass by this gate I was excited to see that he was, in fact at that gate again. I walked over and said hello, even though I felt nervous to do so with no “reason” to be over there like I’d had on Saturday.
The magic hadn’t disappeared over night as I feared it might, and our conversation just picked up where it had left off. We paused as needed when he had to do something security related, or to lightly touch the small of my back to move me out of the way when a golf cart was coming through the gate. To my delight we ended up at the same food truck at the same time and had to wait for our food. He teased me and rolled his eyes when I asked him to hold my food so I could take a photo of it before I ate it. I had hoped he could come and sit with me at a crowded picnic table under a tent, but he had to get back to the gate.
As the end of the evening drew nearer, I wondered if we would have a chance to say goodbye, or if we might exchange contact information. I probably wouldn't have been brave enough to say it. My outgoing personality didn’t extend to include this kind of situation and I felt like a shy teenager all over again. The weather was getting worse and I was chilled to the bone. My extra layers weren’t helping as much as I had thought they might and I decided not to stay right to the end of the night. One of my long time favourite Christian artists, Plumb (@plumbmusic) had an early evening set, and I figured I would leave after she was done.
Since there were still a few more hours of music, there wasn't the same rush of people exiting Ben’s gate as there had been the night before. I stopped to talk to him before getting in line for the shuttle bus that would take me back to my car. I asked him if he had been able to hear the last set from his post and he said that he had.
“I want to be like her when I grow up” I commented, partly joking but mostly serious. Plumb was fantastic...raw and authentic and musically flawless, and I felt inspired to continue following my own musical path. “Oh, you will be like her” he replied confidently. “You already are, you just need to believe it” he continued. I cracked a self-deprecating joke, like I do, and questioned how he could possibly know such a thing when he barely knew me and had only heard me sing a few songs the day before. He said he just knew.
I was positively frozen solid and the line for the bus was growing longer so I started to say things like ‘thanks for helping me with my piano yesterday’ and ‘it was nice to get to chat with you’, etc., even though those were not the words my heart was saying. I had decided before walking up to him that I wouldn't ask him about getting in touch after. That if he wanted to, he would say something. I was afraid that he wouldn’t and then I wouldn’t ever be able to talk to him again. Why I couldn’t just bring it up myself, I don’t know.
“How good is your memory?” He asked.
“Freakishly good” I replied, which was true.
“So if I told you my last name, would you remember to look me up on Facebook?”
“I definitely would” I said, probably too eagerly.
He spelled out his last name and I repeated it, not out of necessity, just to hear my own voice say his name.
“Will it creep you out if I look you up right away so I don’t forget?” I asked.
He said no, and either didn’t notice how I had just contradicted the statement I had made about my great memory or didn’t care.
I don’t know if I had ever wanted someone to hug me more than I wanted him to hug me in that moment. We didn’t, and I reluctantly walked away to join the long line for the shuttle. Once back at my car, I looked him up immediately and creeped through all the posts that his security settings would allow. It was immediately clear that he had undergone a big change. There was a different light and life in his eyes, an authenticity to his smile that couldn’t be seen in photos from before he started to turn his life around.
I drove back to Calgary to my two cats and unpacked boxes with a different feeling in my heart than I’d had less than two days before. I didn’t think anything would come out of meeting Ben, but I was buoyed by the connection. I woke up the next day to see that he had accepted my friend request and was happy to have at least some connection to him. I sent him a silly little message about how I had to unload my heavy piano without him and I eagerly awaited his reply. When he got back to me, I found myself disappointed with his reply. What had I hoped for? Well, it isn't as if I thought he would respond with a bold declaration of his love for me or anything, but I definitely hoped it would result in an ongoing conversation. When it didn't I started to doubt that what I had felt was real. I told myself it was illogical, irrational and even impossible to feel that connected to someone that quickly.