It was three months and six shows later I saw him again. I’d thought about him regularly, wondering if and when we’d ever meet again.
I couldn’t get over his dark tendril hair, his half smile and quick wit.
We didn’t talk or give our names that first meeting, but like I said, we’d meet again.
I turn into the dark abyss of the club, looking into the ticket window, strategically placed in a corner at the end of the narrow hallway overflowing with stapled concert posters. I can barely see inside the dingy glass between me and the club worker. Several people before me had scratched stuff into the glass.
The gothic teen with straight, black hair and even blacker eye rings and septum piercing take my money and snatches my cell phone to put it into its numbered slot.
I can hear the loud, pulsing beat of the music from around the corner. I’ve always loved that sense of anticipation right before a show, when you can feel it and not quite hear it.
I round the corner and what I see almost takes my breath away.
There are only a handful of onlookers in the crowd.
Two girls sit idly sipping in a corner, fidgeting with their straws. Two dudes stand next to each other nodding their heads to the beat. A lonely bartender stands cleaning glasses with a towel.
The band plays, yet the music seems… distant. Like it’s been turned down to level 4.
Where the hell is everyone?
And that’s when I see him.
He’s sitting on a wooden bench against the window. His legs are crossed and his chin is cupped inside his right palm. He sits listening like Rodin’s The Thinker.
I get that feeling in my chest, like my heart is tingling. I feel my forehead getting hot. At least the music covers the sound of my self-perceived heavy breathing.
I stand there, deciding - bar, band, or boy…. When I noticed movement on his end out of the corner of my eye.
Is he sitting up, walking away or walking my way?
Thankfully, it’s the latter. All of a sudden he’s standing next to me, a full head taller than me. His hair is pulled back and he’s wearing a worn out Seahawks cap. I don’t look any longer for fear that he’d think I’m staring.
“Hey,” he says, almost under his breathe, and surprisingly I can hear him through the muffle of the band.
“Hey. How long have you been here?” I ask. Immediately, I think, WHAT!? What a dumb question. We weren’t meeting up or anything. I mean, I don’t even know his name!
He doesn’t even answer, just gives a light chuckle. What does that mean? I face the band. I notice they’re wearing makeup, like that band my dad used to listen to back in “the good old days.” They called themselves, Kiss. I have no idea why. No one would want to kiss them with all that crap on their face.
“Wanna sit down?” He asks. I nod and we head back to the wooden bench.
He sits to my left. I sit next to him, trying not to sit too close, but wanting to so badly.
His arm brushes mine as he reaches for his pocket, and my body gives a little electric tingle.
He pulls out a cigarette and offers me one. I take it, knowing I hadn’t smoked in at least ten years. But who cares? Who knows what the future holds?
He reaches out his left hand with a silver Zippo lighter and fires me up. I try not to choke.
I want to know his name, and before I can get the nerve to ask he stretches out a hand and says, “Chris.”
I take his hand and give him mine; Sarah.
No last names are exchanged. No phone numbers.
We keep listening. I’m puffing here and there, trying not to inhale.
I keep trying to push away the feelings of desire, wanting, not only his body, but wanting what it used to be like. Boy meets girl. Boy asks for girl’s number. Boy takes girl out on date. They sleep together and never see each other, or hold out a bit and make it last.
Things are so complicated now.
The Go Back, or GB, movement is in full force. The daily headlines are straight up Orwellian.
The guards have taken over. Our democracy is crumbling. Sure, the president still makes his weekly address to the nation, but rumor has it, that it’s all for show. Everyday headlines read, “Fake Media. The whole of Asia is now our enemy.” The government says it’s protecting us, to prevent a World War III.
We started having to check out technology at every door. This made for more protests and long lines at the concert venues. Local political figures hesitated speaking out, because either way they failed. If they claimed to be pro-GB, protestors slammed their town halls. If they came out against it, pro-GB protestors slammed their town halls. Riot police were not unheard of nowadays. Two weeks ago a local representative shot a protestor in the leg. He got off scot free. The guy lived. He got his 15 minutes of fame on a few morning news shows before he disappeared. Paid off or murdered? Some believed the worse of the two.
But it wasn’t really that bad. As long as kept the conversation out of politics and, as the Beatles said, “Let it Be,” you’re ok. As long as you left the phone at home, you flew under the radar. You got used to it.
We likened it to smoking. There could be all kinds of limits on when and where, but they could never restrict what we could do at home - or could they?
Chris and I sit and listen for what seems like an hour.
Just when I think he hates me, he puts his arm around me and looks into my eyes. We don’t have to say anything to know what we both feel.
He hands me another cigarette.
“See ya soon.”
I put the cigarette into my purse and watch him walk away. By now the band’s packing up.
I don’t have long enough to think about things because I need to head home before 1 o’clock curfew. Oh yeah, did I mention we have a curfew most nights now?
Chris and I don’t really say goodbye. I wish I had because the next time we meet the world is blown to hell and gone.
Eyes open halfway to the morning light
Squinting, I turn over
Hearing high pitched familiar voices from the other room
My children needing me as always
But today I want extended sleep
To close my heavy lids and
Instead, I rise slowly
Following my children bounding down the stairs
My lead feet lead to the kitchen to retrieve my black screen, sleeping phone
I wake it gently, scrolling past images of last night
But then my world crashes with the look of one icon
A simple text, reveals something deeper.
Sister’s voice trembling, stuttering to get the words out…
Shutter the thought.
Where did you go?
And now I wish I had stayed in bed forever.
Thank you, Chris
Once upon a time in 1989, a girl (me)... heard an intoxicating voice (you) and so it began...
This is the first line of a handwritten letter I had the most fortunate pleasure of giving Chris Cornell. It happened in Regina (rhymes with the body part), Canada, 1700 miles from my home. For more than 25 years, Chris's voice and lyrics have flowed through my veins, filled my ears via portable cassette/CD players, iPODS, computer speakers, car speakers, smoky, loud concert venues, or even just in the voice inside my head. I had dreamed off and on of meeting him, but mostly my contentment lied in far off admiration... a fan girl fluttering around, wandering wherever his brilliance shined.
It wasn't until recent years, perhaps driven by my own maturing mind nearing my 40th birthday, that the idea crept in. I need to meet Chris. This idea exploded once I heard Higher Truth, what I deem as Chris's masterpiece to the world. Sure, he'd given us masterpiece after masterpiece before; but this was the penultimate. It touched me in ways no other Chris had done before! I listened for more than a year, every day. Saw him five times that tour. Meanwhile, I'm always monitoring the meet and greet site. "Sold out" it would always read. I'd always think, "lucky...." Then one day, scrolling as usual past all the "sold outs," I noticed one distinctly different. "Available." I blink to adjust my vision. My heart beats faster.
I knew this was the only way. I'd always heard the great stories of fans running into him after shows, or getting close enough to hand him a note. I even thought of making a paper airplane. Yeah, I'd tried all that! Never worked.
So I knew what I had to do and so began a really long, drawn out logistics experience that I won't get into here.
(What follows is an excerpt of what I wrote the day after my experience, edited just a tad)
Fast forward to the evening in Regina. In my hotel (might I mention I flew to Canada alone) I receive a text: “Hi Emily, Martin here. Chris C’s security. Please meet me at the merchandise table at 7:30 pm with your guest. Thanks.”
Shit just got real.
And, uh… I don’t have a guest.
I shower and get ready, putting on my best attire. The tights I brought were NOT the ones I expected, but oh well. I think I looked the best I could in that moment.
Then I get another text: “Our flight is delayed. Let’s meet at 7:45 instead. Don’t worry you will definitely meet him before he goes on.”
Breathe. It’s ok….
I gathered my items to bring and walked to the bus stop. I get there no problem… it was a short walk to the Conexus Art Center… however there was NO sidewalk leading directly to it, so I had to poke holes in the grass to get there with my heels! Oh well! I got there just after 6:30 when doors opened. People are starting to trickle in. The front doors are VERY close to the admission area and very small merchandise booth. I give the nice older lady at will-call my last name and she can’t find it. I tell her I’m on the band’s guest list. God, I felt SO special. This was it! Finally, I get the real fan treatment!!!! I wait for a while and another lady comes out and says they’re retrieving my ticket. A short while later she brings it back… It is orchestra row G (13th row) – well I had 4th for Charlotte, so I was a little disappointed, but immensely grateful I wasn’t BALCONY! I check out the merchandise and don’t buy anything. I go to the bathroom to adjust my annoying tights and check makeup. I get a drink of water from the fountain. I check FB. I stalk my text message box.
Then at 7:45: “Just left the airport. Be there soon.”
Holy shit again. Soon. He’ll be here soon. I’d been waiting for over an hour, so soon felt so - soon.
Back to the bathroom to adjust. More water…. Back to the merch booth. And there was Martin, who said “There you are. Let’s go…. follow me” … and so it began. I looked at Martin, grasped the items I brought for Chris and walked, one foot in front of the other, up some stairs, weaving through the crowds, dodging dudes juggling beers. Taking deep breaths. Heading to and through the black doors that lead to the other side where Chris is. Inside it’s pitch black and Martin has to shine a light and say watch your step. I mention how nervous I am, and Martin tells me something like – “Don’t worry, Chris is really cool.” He says we’ll find a dressing room and set up. We go to the first one on the left through a narrow hallway. It’s small, carpeted and lit with dim florescent. There is a mirrored wall to the left with a long, brown table beside… a small, dingy white-tiled shower with a curtain (which I peer into and briefly wonder if I’ll have to shower after this whole experience). There’s also a toilet straight ahead, with an old-timey white sink in the middle. There are angled mirrors to the right, fashioned in dressing room “style”, and a small black, mini fridge alongside. Martin grabs two plain, brown cushioned chairs and puts them right in front of each other. The room and space are so small, the chairs so close together.
Then he says he’s gonna get Chris. Then I almost fail to breathe. I have to actually remember to breathe. While Martin’s away I realize my mouth is so parched. I spy a nearly-empty abandoned water bottle on top of the mini-fridge and desperately debate swigging it, but instead take a quick a drink from the faucet. It’s so nasty, but I don’t care. I wipe my mouth and look in the mirror. This is it. No time for primping. No time for remembering. I turn and moments later, Chris rounds the corner and almost glides into the room, like a Rock God apparition. There he is, standing RIGHT in front of me, hand outstretched. We shake hands and I place my other hand on his and smile. He hugs me. Wow. We sit. The items I brought for autographs are next to us on the table. And before I know it, I look over the door is mostly CLOSED and we’re sitting, directly in front of each other in this tiny space, just the TWO of us!!!!!!!!!! Chris Cornell and I are alone, although very briefly. I had him ALL to myself, contained, no one else around!! How cool is that! What did we talk about? It’s kind of a blur, but here’s the gist.
I told him I’m from Texas, and explained that this is my 5th concert this tour and that I came to Regina because it was the only meet and greet left. We talked about Canada and he told me that growing up in Seattle, he came to go fishing a lot when he was younger with his dad. I (think) I told him I went to Banff for my honeymoon and mentioned seeing the Canadian Rockies from the plane this trip. During what seemed like a lull in conversation, I told him Higher Truth truly touched my soul and I just had to meet him to tell him that IN PERSON. It was the real reason I was there. I wished him a happy, belated birthday and congratulations on the wonderful tour. He smiled and said thanks, his eyes twinkling behind his glasses. I told him my son loves to sing his stuff and showed him a video of him singing Nearly Forgot My Broke Heart. I know my three year old son sings at least 3 songs – NFMBH, Josephine and Higher Truth, but I could not for the life of me at that moment think of all three! I stumbled and jumbled telling Chris the track names, while trying to find the video. He held my phone and smiled and chuckled softly.
As we’re sitting I am just trying to take it ALL in, looking at him without trying to stare, but trying to remember EVERY detail. He had a reddish shirt with little holes scattered all over it, with a shirt underneath. His glasses were dark, with a beautiful greenish tint around the edges. At one point I wanted to compliment him on them, but the moment passed, like several others before and after that. I noticed lots of gray hair in his roots. I noticed a pronounced muscle on his playing arm. His skin was glowing, so smooth. I thought he seemed small, not short (obviously) but small framed, barely any width to him, like I could wrap both arms around him twice! He had greenish pants and big boots on. I noticed him long fingernails (for guitar plucking). He has aged well. Very well. He is truly beautiful. There is just no other way to put it. So the conversation went on. I asked if he missed his really long hair, and flipping it around. He smiled and said something I can’t even remember. I mentioned the Temple of the Dog reunion and that I missed the presale and he said tickets go on sale soon. I gave him his gift, explaining the quote inside the frame. I said I read somewhere that he loves to read and that I picked the quote by Sylvia Plath (his favorite author) because it reminds me to stay in the moment, which I was trying to do JUST then.
“Remember, remember, this is now, and now and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all that I’ve taken for granted,” it read.
I told him about the letter I wrote to him that’s inside the frame, and he turned it over and looked for it. I laughed and said it’s inside the frame and he can open it later. Now I wish I would have taken it out. I think he thought it was taped to the back…. He seemed like he wanted to read it right then. At some point Martin came back in with a gold Sharpie and disappeared…. I can’t remember when that was, but shortly after Chris picked up my ragged Higher Truth CD cover. I remember watching him turning it over in his hands and thinking WOW, he’s holding the masterpiece HE created… I think I mentioned to him that I missed the Songbook tour, but so glad I’ve been able to see Higher Truth. He then said something like he was glad he was able to put out a CD with new songs, because SB was mostly previously released material. He muttered something about Soundgarden re-uniting. I remember him saying that it’s impossible to play under 2 hours because he just has so many songs. All the while, he’s talking AND signing his trademark signature, carefully placing the words on the front cover. I can’t even remember if I told him my name, and here is signing it, correct spelling and everything! He put the cover down and Martin came back in, then as we’re standing up Chris offered to sign my Singles DVD cover. I told him it’s my favorite movie and he should have won an Oscar for his “brief” role. Both he and Martin grinned. Hee hee.
Martin suggested where to stand for the picture – by the door. We stood so close, he put his arm around my right shoulder and I put mine on his left hip. It all seemed so natural, like we’d met before. I wasn’t nervous touching him, but I definitely noticed the feel of him!!! As I turned to gather my stuff, he bent to hug me very close. His hair was right next to my face and I clung to him gently and breathed his sweet smell in DEEPLY. I told him “thank you. From the bottom of my heart, your music means the world to me. I am a loyal fan forever, thank you so much.” He looked at me after that and said “thank you” with such simple sincerity and grace. And then it was over. As I’m being whisked away back to reality, through the darkness and into the light of the theater, I hear Martin call to me, WAIT – here’s a guitar pick and he gives it to me. As I exit I see the stage to the left through some curtains and realize I’m “BACKSTAGE”… and I want to stay there. Exiting, I passed by opening act Fantastic Negrito, who I had also just met (along with several other fans) at the merchandise booth. He said “Hey, I know you!” And I giggled like a softly like a schoolgirl “I just met Chris!!!!”
(end excerpt) *note, I am 4'11 and Chris is 6'2 therefore you only see my eyes in the photo.
And with that....
May 18th will always be a day of sorrow for me. The day the world lost Chris. His brighter than bright light extinguished, but the flame carries on his musical legacy and his children. I will miss you always, Chris, and will hold tight to your voice forever.
Rest easy in the Superunknown, Chris. Sleep tight.