The magic of being out after dark


Spence and I went out last night — after working all day.

To Annapolis, a 50-minute cruise from home.

On a Wednesday.

To a loud, awesome concert.

It was . . . weird. Very fun. I felt young and old all at once, being out “past my bedtime” a good drive from home, sipping a cherry blossom lager that tasted like joy and smiling at my husband.

My husband. It still catches me sometimes . . . in a great way.

At 28, I often feel like the oldest young person I know. It’s not unusual to find me collapsed on the couch by 9:30 p.m., snoozing in a very unladylike fashion with a home show playing softly in the background. Back in college, I was a night owl constantly burning the midnight oil — because I had to. Commuting to school with a full course load and working part-time at the bookstore until far after dark, I got used to a rigorous schedule and running on fumes.

But things have changed. I’ve gotten more comfortable, perhaps a little lazier. I work full-time and “clock out” at 5 p.m., when we spend our evenings doing this and that. Without the chaos of year-long wedding planning times two, I find myself with so much free time now.

I love it, really. And it also makes early nighttime snoozes possible . . . but through this cold, cold winter, I’ve felt a little restless.

That’s why Wednesday night felt good — great, even. Live music. Good company. Chatting with strangers. Being out. After being encrusted with snow and ice for so long, even in the cold night air? It made me feel alive.

I remembered the early days when Spencer and I went to Annapolis just a month after we met, walking around the city for his birthday and still getting to know each other. He actually bought me a copy of Nicole Atkins’ album — the woman we saw perform last night — at a Borders that was still in business then. We listened to it the whole way home, the words pouring warm through our opened windows.

Four years later, I know all those songs by heart.

The things we do for love

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.

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