Holding tightly to the railing in front of me, I struggled to breathe. Ville Valo was standing only feet from me in all his Finnish glory. He had the microphone clenched in his hand and was tapping his heel to the beat that Gas was pounding out on the drums while Linde killed the guitar solo. Migé and Burton had faded quietly into the background while the heavier music slammed against my face and left me squirming in ecstasy. This intense love affair had started years before, when I was a girl of thirteen in my small American hometown.
I remember the first time I heard Ville sing. It had been a quiet, rainy day in maybe April or maybe November. I have no recollection of the month, only the atmosphere. Nowadays, when I look back on that "fateful" day, I only remember feelings and shapes and smells and colors. I don't remember words or sounds. I remember love in the shape of a pale pink circle that smelled of ice. I remember ecstasy in the shape of a green triangle that smelled of rain. I remember distress in the shape of an ever-changing amoeba that had no color or smell at all. I can't tell you if I remember all things this way, or just this particular event. I know for certain that I have never felt such emotion since. This is the story of how I came to love Ville and the music he wrote just for me.
I had never been to a concert before. I was sixteen years old and had never been to a concert before. But, this had been worth the wait. I was finally seeing my favorite band live. The air was thick and my heart was racing, I seemed to be sweating from every pore of my body. I was shaking with excitement and was quite sick to my stomach.
I could not have been happier.
An hour later, I stood at the railing between the stage and the audience, hands around it in a death grip and heart nearly bursting out of my chest to flop around obscenely on the stage. Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the fog of anticipation hung heavy in the dark air. The lights flashed on in purple and blue rays and the guitarist and drummer and keyboardist and bassist strutted onstage, I screamed though I could barely hear my own voice. And then, he came onstage, wearing a pair of jeans and a blue suede jacket with embossed flowers. I blacked out from excitement.
I don't know how I took pictures of the event or even functioned. When the concert was over, I hurried out to the back of the venue, camera clutched in one hand with magazine and pen in the other. I was the first one to the back of the building, heart bumping hard. And then suddenly, my heart dropped through my feet. He was smiling at me as he came toward me, sweat plastering his dark hair to his forehead.
"Hello, sweetheart. What's your name?" He asked, voice thick with excitement and his Finnish accent.
"Grace Augustine," I said, grinning back at him, the smile on his angelic face was contagious. "You were amazing,"
He laughed, a beautiful, smoky sound that had me shivering with pleasure. "Thank you, Grace. I am so glad you thought so. Is this your first show?" I nodded and he smiled, gesturing to the guard at the gate to move the metal separating us. Soon, the gate shuddered open and he was only feet from me. God, he was huge! He seemed to tower over me, scaring me and exciting me at the same time. "I'm Ville, but of course you know that." I nodded again, struck mute by the closeness of his body. He extended a hand and I took it, shaking it gently but firmly.
"Can you sign this for me?" I asked, breathless as I held out the magazine adorned with his face. Ville nodded and took the pen, still smiling. Girls were starting to surround us, humming with excitement in the presence of this deity on earth. The pen flew across the glossy cover of the magazine and he looked up at me, smiling.
"Would you like a picture as well?" He asked, handing me both the pen and magazine. I nodded, laughing hysterically.
"Yes, please." He took my camera and wrapped one arm around my shoulders. I could smell the sweat and adrenaline and the soap he'd used before the concert. I couldn't breathe! The flash lit up and my smile was genuine. He took two more before pulling away from me, grinning.
"Thank you, Grace, for coming tonight. Here, I have something for you..." Ville gestured to one of the roadies who tossed him a shirt and a small white package. "It's our tour shirt and our newest CD, autographed by everyone. You're a very lucky girl; most fans would kill for this."
I laughed and took the merchandise with shaky hands. "Thank you, so much." I held the merchandise to my chest, a grin still on my face. "You're amazing, thank you for the pictures and the autographs." I could barely hear my voice over the pounding of my heart. "I'll see you again."
"I hope so. Have a great night, sweetheart." And with that, I turned and nearly ran the other way.