It was a special occasion. A big Lyle Lovett fan, I was going to see him for the first time. I even wore my fancy bolo tie.
Bolos were once fashionable. Regular people wore them on purpose. Mine was special: handmade, a gleaming silver trapezoid with a gorgeous amber tiger eye gem in the center. It was a gift from Sue. So were the Lyle tickets. She was a great girlfriend.
The Orpheum is big but manages to be intimate. We sat directly in the middle. It felt like Lyle was singing right to me. And then, suspiciously, it really felt like that. Lyle winked at me.
It was more than a wink. It was a very big, exaggerated, twisted wink. He kept looking right at me, turning his head this way and that as if to say, "I'm not certain, but is that Michael Campbell out there in the audience?" My heart stopped.
It's not so crazy, because I dream of stuff like that happening all the time. I once wrote a song inspired by Lovett. I sent him a demo, addressed to "Lyle Lovett, Klein, Texas." I figured that was sufficient, given the size of Klein and the size of Lyle. I didn't hear back, but that was fine because he had just met Julia Roberts and I figured he was pretty busy with that. But still, whenever he released a new album I'd check to see if my song was on it.
He looked my way again, straining to see through the piercing stage lights. No question about it, he's looking at me. Even Sue noticed it, and she was used to guys staring at her. Maybe he got that CD after all!
A miracle happened. Sue's friend, a local record store exec, caught up with us at intermission. "We sponsored a contest and the winner gets a signed guitar and the chance to go backstage to meet Lyle," he said. "At the end of the show, just fall in behind me and act like you're part of the entourage—you'll probably get to meet him too. The worst that could happen is the guards might shoot you." I didn't think twice.
For the entire remainder of the show Lyle glanced, squinted and winked my way. But now I knew my moment was at hand. "Hi Lyle!" I rehearsed in my head. "I look familiar, you say? Really...oh, perhaps you remember me from my latest CD. Perhaps you've seen it somewhere..."
The scheme worked. I strode backstage with mock confidence, so close behind Mr. Record Store that he looked like he had a Siamese twin. It was a short reception line. And there He was.
Lyle is surprisingly beautiful up close. Vivid blue eyes and a kind face. This was good news, because if the reason he was winking at me through the whole show was because he was gay, I had a decision to make. I knew Sue would understand. I know she would have ditched me for him too.
My turn came fast. Lyle didn't look at my face. He looked at my tie. "Ah-hah! The bolo guy," he said. "That damned thing kept reflecting and blinding me through the whole show."
Sue took an almost imperceptible slide-step to avoid the presumption that we were together.