From the time Spencer and I met last spring, he’s made no secret of the other woman in our relationship. Beautiful, talented and mean on a guitar, Nicole Atkins — a lovely musician from Brooklyn — has captivated my boyfriend’s attention. For years — years! — before he ever set eyes on me.
And, you know. Given my history with Taylor Hanson, I’m not exactly in a position to judge.
The woman’s got something, I’ll give you that. On one of our early dates, Spencer and I walked around a nearby Borders and found ourselves in the music section. That was my first introduction to Atkins: there in the middle of a crowded store in Annapolis, being handed her album “Neptune City” on a hot day in May. Had I ever heard of her?
I hadn’t, I admitted, and Spencer bought me her CD on the spot. We spent the rest of his birthday listening to his favorite singer — a woman he discovered years before and had already met. Much as I would wax on about one of my favorite singers, Spence gave me the rundown on Atkins.
And that’s when I knew I was in trouble.
She came in concert to the Rock N Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night, and it was with no small amount of trepidation that we cruised in from the suburbs and caught a cab over to H Street. I was nervous, see — because we were out late on a week night — and I’m getting old and cranky; because the weather wasn’t great; because I get anxious when I can’t easily get to a restroom. (Have I mentioned I’m getting old and cranky?)
But if I’m being honest with myself, it was more than that. I’ve listened to “Neptune City” countless times and admired her silky, unique voice; I’ve watched as Spencer hung her album — signed to him in her curly script — on his wall. I’ve looked into her face countless times, always looking at the push of a bang or curl of the mouth.
Nicole has been everywhere. Unattainable.
And I’ve been jealous.
Jealous. Me. Of a singer — and my boyfriend’s love for her music.
It’s ridiculous, I know, and I’m not proud of it. It’s silly and cheesy and incredibly immature of me. But it’s there.
So we went to the show. On a Wednesday when we both had to be up early for work the next day, and in the middle of a terrible rainstorm. On a night it was dark and cloudy and quiet as a tomb on a once-busy street in Washington. In a venue ripe with beer and guitars and men in suits fresh from work, girls in berets and scarves.
These are the things we do for love.
Spencer has come through for me a thousand times. Since going to The Pioneer Woman’s book signing last May and waiting four hours to meet her, I’ve promised him that I owed him big time — and that was way before he came with my sister and me to Baltimore to see and meet Hanson last fall.
Basically, Spence is the best guy. For that and a thousand other reasons. For being supportive. And showing up. And going with the flow.
The least I could do was join him to see a musician I actually do like.
Atkins put on a great show and sang my favorite tune off her first album, “Brooklyn’s On Fire.” She was appreciative and warm to her fans, who came out in droves and knew her words by heart. The Black Sea, her band, could definitely rock — and I was completely swept up in her songs. Unlike some “artists” these days, Atkins sounds even better live than she does on her mesmerizing albums.
She’s really, really good. And Spencer was in his element.
That was the best part of the show: getting to see Spencer so excited — really, really happy — to be there. We do so many things to appease me — book fairs, book stops, an upcoming trip to New York for the Book Blogger Convention! — and not nearly enough of what he wants to do.
This is what he wanted to do.
And we went, and I was happy. Even getting home at 1:30 a.m. when I had to be up in five hours was part of the adventure.
At one point between sets, I wrapped my fingers in Spencer’s. “Isn’t it funny that we didn’t even know each other this time last year?” I cooed, grinning like a fool. He laughed.
But we didn’t. We didn’t know each other. It seems impossible, but it’s true.
I took photos for him during the show, trying not to fixate on Nicole Atkins’ gorgeous hair and infectious smile. Trying not to compare. Trying not to act like a delusional, jealous girlfriend. It shines through every now and then, though, like when I sent him an email yesterday morning — nursing another cup of coffee, struggling to get through the day — telling him I’d work on my pictures from the show in the evening.
“I think I should have some good ones of your GF!” I joked.
His response came soon after. Melted my silly, silly heart. “You’re my only girl, Megan.”
And that’s why we do it. The things we do for love.