Monday, April 29, 2013

{saturday morning: gary*}

 photo 0F0D6D23-27D2-4D26-8A01-B0A4D9B6853E-2532-000001568729B2C4_zpsce5c9469.jpg On Saturday morning, I had to be at the mall to take pictures of an event called JUNO Fan Fare (a glorified autograph session hosted by MuchMusic) for the host committee's social media sites. It was probably the event I was least excited about being a part of. I was supposed to Tweet and take pictures as though I actually cared about Anjulie and Victoria Duffield and Down With Webster. Running around, squeezing through, peering above, going deaf.

Stuck right in the middle of the Somebodies and the Nobodies again.

The Nobodies crying and yelling and fainting. The Somebodies too cool to even crack a smile at a teenager who has been waiting in line for five hours to meet them. Dumb.

So it was 12:30; my ears already hurt and I was leaning up against one of the security fences tweeting something about how Victoria Duffield was "waiting in the wings to come out and meet all of you adoring fans" when there was an excited tapping on my shoulder. Like a cross between a woodpecker and a jackhammer.

"HI!" said the excited voice attached to the hand which was vigorously knocking at my arm. "HI! I'm Gary. Hi. What's your name?"

He was probably 14 or 15, with the biggest smile you could possibly plaster on a face, shaking and shivering with pent-up excitement. He was dancing from one foot to the other. He was trying to make eye contact with every person in the room. He was maybe autistic, but I wasn't entirely sure. "What's your name? I'm Gary. There's my friend. And her name is Emily." He pointed at a middle-aged woman with short brown hair standing a couple feet away from us and she caught the gesture and smiled at me apologetically. I didn't want her to feel like she had to apologize for Gary. I liked him instantly.

"What's your name?" He asked again, patiently but earnestly, stretching out his trembling hand to shake mine.

I took it, smiling. "I'm Suzy," I said.

"SUZY!" He exclaimed in a rushy breath of exhaled air as though he'd been holding it since the first time he'd asked me my name. "Suzy. I am so happy to be here today, Suzy. I am going to meet Dean Brody today." When he said "Dean Brody", it was as though he'd reminded himself of something very exciting that he'd forgotten until that very second. He gave a stiff leap into the air and leaned over the fence toward me. "SUZY! DEAN BRODY! I AM GOING TO MEET HIM -- DEAN BRODY!" Little droplets of spit hit my face.

"Is Dean Brody your favourite musician?" I asked. Gary reminded me of my brother, TJ, who has Down Syndrome, and who is equally as passionate though not quite as vocal about meeting his musical heroes.

"YES!" shouted Gary enthusiastically. "But actually, Mariana's Trench is actually my favourite band. Actually. But their line was sold out when I got here." When Gary said "Mariana's Trench", it was as though he'd reminded himself of something exquisitely sad that he'd forgotten until that very second. He pulled at his oversized grey t-shirt and stared down at it sadly. "I was going to get Mariana's Trench to sign my t-shirt," he said. He was almost whispering now. The disappointment was like a tangible rain cloud above his precious head.

At this, I wanted to say, "Come with me, Gary!" and I wanted to part the crowd in front of me like the Red Sea, march him up to the front of the line for MT, past all the screaming girls, through the line of security guards and event volunteers, help him over the security fence and right up onto the stage.

Instead, I gave him a very hopeful smile. "Well I hope that still happens today for you. You never know, right?" I bit my lip as soon as I said it. I shouldn't be getting Gary's hopes up. I shouldn't be saying stuff like that. I should be saying stuff like, "Well, Dean Brody will be fun to meet, right?" But I'm not good at reality when I want something. And right then, I just wanted Gary to meet this crappy band that he loved so much.

He grinned. The raincloud dissipated rapidly. "You never know! You NEVER know. You never know." He looked at Emily, who was watching our conversation with growing interest. "EMILY! You never know." She hadn't been following this part of the conversation, so she just smiled and nodded.

With that, I guiltily told Gary I'd see him again but that I had to go do my job and slunk off, the sower of false hopes and dreams. I wondered who I could talk to to get Gary in the right line without a ticket.

The rest of the day wasn't so bad. I visited with the kids in the line-ups, rode the escalator a few times, wished I'd brought money for the food court. An hour or so passed. There were performances in between signings and I talked to yet more fans and took more pictures and tweeted more nonsense about this person and that person being "so excited to meet you" even though they probably weren't at all.

And every time I'd pass by line 3, there was Gary. He'd catch my eye and yell, "Hi, Suzy! I'm so excited! Look how close I am!" or, "Suzy! You never know!" and we'd high five.

I don't know what it was about the whole thing--if it was how much he reminded me of TJ or if it was just the way that he remembered my name and face and, in doing so, drew me into his own little bubble of dizzying excitement about the day and made me feel it too.
 photo 75A8B786-9C37-4D8B-A0D2-0DE35D217229-2532-000001568BBE292E_zps77d4b162.jpg
So when Gary got to the front of the line, I was there too and I watched as he shook Dean Brody's hand and got his shirt signed. The security guards were grinning and let him stay and visit a little longer than any of the other fans. I got the feeling that everyone on the event staff was sort of cheering for Gary.

And then he was through the line and standing with Emily, showing her his autographs and telling her all about how he'd talked to Dean Brody as though it had been an entire evening instead of just two minutes and he saw me and waved and pointed at his t-shirt and I gave him a thumbs up. But what he didn't see, that I did, was a conversation happening between a few security guards standing behind him. Some pointing. A few stray words that made it over to me above the undying dull roar of the eager crowd: Mariana's Trench... Gary... 

And I watched as one of the guards stepped up and tapped Gary on the shoulder and shouted something into his ear.

And I think everyone from Scarth Street to Saskatoon heard Gary scream then. No words or anything, just a straight-up hair-curling shriek. And then, as the guard led him away through the crowd with Emily in tow, he yelled to all of us, his new friends:


And I think Gary was the only person that the blue-haired, too-cool-for-this lead singer Josh Ramsay of the aforementioned band smiled at all weekend. I think Gary could make anybody smile.
 photo 3DC3498E-0939-4874-BE4F-40D641A2B600-2532-0000015682B8FCC7_zpsd001a3d8.jpg
*not his real name