I wander in the crowd. Slowly, silently, blending in with the throng of youth. The music rages, stage lights flash. The audience, the pit, writhes. Swaying, pumping fists, banging heads. The air is humid with the smell of sweat, cologne, alcohol and the oh-so-distinctive angst of the young and innocent (or perhaps not-so-innocent). I breathe in the escape, the suspension of time, as the crowd loses itself and lives in the moment. And reality waits patiently outside. I am the wolf. I am reality, infiltrating the mirage of immortality. I am a tragedy, a disease, an accident, waiting to strike at those who believe themselves invulnerable.
No, this wasn't another melodramatic dream of mine. I attended a recent concert at the Quest Club in Minneapolis, with a thousand teens and twenty-somethings, perhaps a few relative old farts like my friends and I. And for the record, no I am not one of those guys who shouts 'Freebird!' in between every song.
I've been to hundreds of similar shows since my teens, a handful since my diagnosis. But this last one was different. I felt out of place, as if I no longer belonged. And not just because I was one of the 10 oldest people in the building. I simply couldn't get over the notion that I was likely the only person there with a fatal illness, almost certainly the only one with ALS.
This is what I do sometimes to add some extra flavor and drama to my life, as if that were necessary. A bit of it is just overthinking, as I'm prone to do. But I remember the previous shows I'd been to, as a healthy young lad, where it seemed as if that moment was all that mattered, and any future hardships were far away. I am a different person now. Older, certainly. Perhaps wiser. But I will never be quite able to see the world as I did back then. I miss it sometimes, the feeling that everything will be all right.
I enjoyed the show immensely. I stood for 2 hours, something I'm not able to do easily anymore, and took in all I could, trying to appreciate the fact that I was really there, despite my illness. And I reveled a bit in the secret I held, that here I was, fooling these people into thinking I was just some old dude at a heavy metal show. It felt wonderful. Perhaps I'm a good actor. I had somebody ask me recently "So, um, what's actually wrong with you again?"
For now, I can pass for "normal" most of the time, in large part because people don't pay close attention, which is fine with me. If I don't have a cane, or a wheelchair, or slurred speech, I must be doing well, right? For the most part I am, but I still feel different. Need to get over myself I suppose. Just do my thing while I can and not worry about what others think. Easier said than done.
But hey, Halloween is approaching, and make-believe is expected. So I intend to have a little fun and dress up as a healthy person this year, while I can still pull it off.