My mother gave me two tickets to Lollapalooza for my birthday. Had she known that I loathe music festivals, no matter how omnifarious the lineup, she could have saved herself the money.
Even if I did enjoy music festivals, the inscription inside the birthday card, signed with extra flourish in the paraph, had informed me that her gift didn’t include travel or accommodations. Since I can’t afford a four-day stay in Chicago, I did what any good daughter would. I smiled, thanked her, and acted excited yet torn over which friend to invite.
Mother changed the subject. “Alexa,” she commanded, “What is spagyric?”
As Alexa looked up a recipe for spaghetti, I considered the best way to scalp the tickets. Mother followed me on social media and was obsessed with liking and commenting on every post I made, so I would have to conduct this transaction sub rosa.
The friends I called were in the same ‘don’t want to’ or ‘can’t afford’ boats I was. For my sales pitch to colleagues, I said something had come up that kept me from experiencing this fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime event. There were a few nibbles, but alas, no one bit the hook.
After that, I responded to a few group text chains I had been roped in on, made a post on Nextdoor Neighbor, and waited.
A few weeks passed, and I got a text from a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in twenty years, asking if I had sold the tickets. I said that I hadn’t, and we agreed to meet for lunch at The Burger Barn.
I showed up early, eager to unload Lollapalooza and anxious to see what had become of the girl I used to call best friend. I picked a booth away from the bar, but it was a lovely day and there were open seats on the patio, if that option was more preferred.
When I saw the convertible muscle car, just washed and polished, whip into the parking lot, I knew it was Gibbons. She wore workout clothes and had her blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. She tossed her keys into her purse and walked into the restaurant with confidence. She smiled when she saw me and hurried over.
The waitress set a menu in front of Gibbons. “Can I bring you something to drink?”
“I would have ordered you something, but I don’t know what you’re drinking these days,” I said.
“Just water,” Gibbons said to the waitress.
“I’ll give you a few minutes with the menu.”
The waitress tended to another table, and Gibbons and I decided to hold off on catching up until after we had ordered.
“I like a burger with an egg,” she said. “Do they have one like that?”
“I’m sure they do. I’m going with the Elvis. Peanut butter and bacon, yum.”
The waitress returned with a water and refilled my Coke, though it was barely a quarter gone.
Gibbons ordered her burger without fries. I got half sweet potato and half regular. We forfeited the menus to the waitress and settled into a conversation.
Gibbons was a physical therapist and had twin boys, not identical, one into baseball and one into Fortnite, who were about to start their freshman year of high school. We gushed at tempus fugit and recounted stories from when we were that age.
“Well, I’m just happy Bryant’s being more social.” She grimaced, “I mean, it’s through a headset, but still, and Adam’s really into baseball.” She took a drink of water. “People think I push him, but I don’t.”
I finished off the last of my fries. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What about your husband—”
“Did he play sports, too?”
“Not really. He doesn’t come to games much. Actually, I’d rather he not.”
I laughed. “Why not?”
“He gets too stressed and knows nothing about baseball. I just give him a recap when we get home. Saves lots of headaches.”
Gibbons had met her husband in PT school while she was on the rebound from a bezonian she had fallen in love with shortly after graduating high school. She thought he was the one, but he broke her heart.
“Do you remember Betty Cole?”
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May 14 - 20, 2018
“Yes,” I said, unable to conjure a mental picture.
Gibbons was glad she hadn’t married that jerk Cole brother, in hindsight. She said that when she had first met John, she thought he was funny.
There was a lull in conversation, and I noticed the lunch rush buzzing around us. We had finished our meals and were now occupying valuable real estate. Our waitress approached and cleared the plates.
“Will this be on one check?”
“Yes,” I said.
She hurried away, and I brought the conversation back to the main task at hand. “So, you still interested in these tickets?”
Before Gibbons could answer, the waitress was back. She set the check on the table and refilled my Coke, though, again, it didn’t need refilling.
I pulled out my wallet and handed my debit card to the waitress. “I’ve got this.”
Gibbons pulled out her wallet. “What? No. Are you sure?”
“Yes, my treat.”
“No. You sure?”
“You can buy next time.”
“Well, okay, and, yes, I want those tickets.”
She pulled out some cash and exchanged it for the tickets as the waitress returned with my debit card.
After I signed the bill, Gibbons and I walked out of The Burger Barn and she told me about the Chicago vacation she had planned with her sons. They were going to see the Cubs and White Sox play, visit museums, take an architecture tour, eat pizza, and now, thanks to me, Adam and Bryant would go to Lollapalooza while she enjoyed a spa day at the hotel.
When asked what John would be doing, Gibbons said. “I haven’t even told him we’re going.”
“He's not going with you?”
“God, no.” She laughed and gave me a big hug. “It was so good to see you. We should do this again some time.”
“I’ve got a cruise then a Spanish immersion slash surfing trip before Chicago with the boys, but after that would be perfect.”
I laughed. “Well, text me whenever, and we’ll pencil it in.”
Gibbons promised to send me pictures from Lollapalooza to post on social media so my mom could comment about how I should bring her back a Bruno Mars autograph as a thank you for the wonderful birthday gift she had given me.
We hugged again before parting ways. I waved and watched her peel out of the parking lot and zip down the street. As I pulled out after her, I thought – the next time Gibbons and I meet, we’ll skip the burgers and go for bourbon instead.