Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Ten
Definitive Version: All Night Thing, 1992. This version includes a snippet of Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog, but the thing that makes it the only version of Black you need to have in your songlist is how Pearl Jam played it that night. It’s slower and bluesier than the original on Ten, which makes the emotion of it more raw, as though Eddie’s flaying open your heart and showing it to you.
If the Karaoke guy at the White Horse had Black on his song list, I would’ve gotten up there every week back in 1993 and tried to capture the motion of the version on All Night Thing. Fortunately, he didn’t, so I didn’t make as big an ass of myself as I could’ve. Unfortunately, the song came back around to me a decade later.
So, to recap the situation at this point at the end of January 2003: Our intrepid hero, on the brink of departure from his hometown for the second time, suddenly had found himself entangled with a superhot 21-year-old newspaper intern AND a superhotter ballerina of indeterminate age. (I’d guess late 20s.)
Well, let’s cut to the chase. I suppose it’s no spoiler alert to say that this was going to end up badly. I knew it was going to; I just didn’t think it would be only a week later and at the same time. They say fame is fleeting for a reason.
Faiza, the woman who played the role of Dakota at Dockside Dolls, went by the wayside first. As directed, I called her Tuesday. To be honest, I was shocked somewhat that both the name and the phone number she’d given me the previous weekend (good ol’ No. 40) were real, but they were.
She was driving home to Ypsilanti. Ypsi? What the hell are you doing living in Ypsilanti and working in Columbus? She said she had family in Ypsi and stayed with a friend when she was in town. Visions of her staying with me danced in my head, although I’d have to figure out how I explained that to Shannon. Well, I’ll worry about that later.
However, Faiza said she drove a Jeep, and I could tell that was true, because it was hard to hear her with the wind whipping around in the background. OK, I said, I’ll call you later. She said to call her tomorrow.
I did. This time she was at her other job, which seemed like a desk job in a business that seemed to have the sheen of legitimacy, but again, it was a bad time to call. She was in the middle of something. Let’s try again another time.
Now, I didn’t want to keep calling her, because I didn’t want Faiza to think I was being a pest. All I was trying to do was speak with her long enough to set up the agreed-upon lunch date, but we never got around to it. I called her only when she told me to.
But … I’d been around the block enough times to wonder whether I was getting the brush. My wonder turned to certainty, because she stopped answering the phone. I knew she recognized my number, so she was avoiding my call. I stopped bothering after a couple of attempts. If she wanted to get back to me, she knew where I was. She didn’t.
Well, she couldn’t avoid me at the club, so I went back another week later, but she wasn’t there that night. I was told by another dancer that Faiza had been there the previous night, so I knew she wasn’t dead at least. I didn’t expect anything, but I was curious as to why she led me on to the degree she had.
I mean, I know why she did in general, because that’s what strippers do: They lead on their clients to extract more money. My guess is Dakota might have been just a bit more drunk or high than usual the night she took it further than she really wanted by giving me her number. When she sobered up and realized what she’d done, she just blew me off in a way to make it so we’d never see each other again, which we didn’t.
As a matter of fact, I’ve been to the ballet only once since. It was in 2007 with Tim after catching a ballgame at Peoria when we went to Big Al’s, which was a bizarre experience in that, in Peoria, it’s like a regular bar in that groups of women were there just to get drinks. At a strip club? Really?
Anyway, Shannon lasted a bit longer—two whole days longer. The next week, when she was back at The Dispatch, I went out of my way to avoid her at work—in keeping with her request to keep things on the down low. When the weekend came around, however, she had some bad news for me.
I had a pretty good idea what it was. Yes, she told me, she didn’t want to see me any more. She had a big dose of buyer’s remorse, she admitted, blaming it entirely on the age gap. Telling her that I wasn’t looking for anything more than to just have a little fun wasn’t persuasive enough, and that was that.
Actually, Shannon wasn’t the only one who had buyer’s remorse, at least in one respect. I made a really poor tactical move the previous Monday. She wanted to talk to me on the phone—just chat, nothing serious—as a study break, and I was more than happy to give it to her. At one point, she asked whether I wanted to come down that night to see her … and I said no.
In retrospect, that was a bad call, but here’s the deal at the time: It was about 10:30 when we talked. If I had left right then, I wouldn’t have arrived till 12:30. She was complaining about being feeling overworked and under the weather, so she might not even be awake at that point. I turned down Shannon’s invitation, because I thought that was the last thing she needed—and she agreed. I told her I’d see her the next weekend—and she agreed.
Maybe Shannon was right about the age difference. Had I been 25 at the time, I would’ve made the drive without a second thought. Older, more mature me thought it best to give her her space and wait till the weekend. Even older me now thinks I should’ve gotten while the getting was good, but that’s the benefit of hindsight talking. At the time, I didn’t regret my decision. It just didn’t work out.
What sucked most about all of this—aside from the fact that I was left wondering why the stars in somebody else’s sky couldn’t be mine, of course—is that the timing was such that I couldn’t turn in my 30 days’ notice until the end of February now. So I not only had to put off my move to Cleveland for another month, but I also had to stick around … long enough to see Shannon’s next guy. I suppose it wouldn’t have been so bad if he weren’t 10 years younger than I was yet looked 10 years older. Wait … really? You’re dumping me for HIM?
I also got to find out from a third party that she knew about us from Shannon and that she had helped Shannon sort out whether she wanted to continue our fling. The third party, although meaning no offense, I’m sure, let me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was NO advocate for my position. Her words still ring in my ears: “But … he’s just so … Will.” Thanks for that and for betraying your “friend’s” confidence.
I couldn’t wait for March to get here.