"I expect you to be home by four."
"AM or PM?"
"I know, mom, I know," he wrestles with his seatbelt for a moment as he laughs, "I was just joking. The concert ends at two and the station's not far from here. I'll be back before you know it."
His mother's face crinkles, the way it does when she's worried for him but doesn't want to say so, and Eddie can't help but notice the way her furrowing brow tugs at the turquoise fabric of her hijab. "Just.... be safe. Please."
He smiles softly at her, pulling the edges of his beanie down over his reddening ears and kicking the door open as he says, in the gentle voice he reserves for her, "Main vada kerta hoon, ami." When the nervousness vanishes from her eyes Eddie allows himself to relax, and as he stumbles backwards out of the car he speaks again- "Besides, I'm almost a junior! I can take care of myself."
"But you can't learn to drive?" she jokes back, and Eddie knows she'll be okay. They say one last goodbye, Eddie leaning over the console to kiss her cheek lightly, and then he's slamming the door and standing alone in the dirty summer air of Atlanta, Georgia. He watches his mother's PT Cruiser pull out of the curb and putter away, disappearing into the crowd of traffic gathered outside of Tabernacle.
Not only is this his first concert going alone- its also his first time having tickets in the pit. His heart is already beating one hundred miles per hour, adrenaline singing in his veins as he strides on shaky legs to the entrance of the concert stadium.
The wait in line is about twenty minutes, all of which Eddie spends staring wide-eyed at the people around him. Almost everyone is clad in raggedy band shirts, dirty jeans, fried-and-died hair spiked in wild mohawks. He shuffles along with the line, moving forward every time the security guard yells out "Next!".
Eventually it's his turn to show his ticket, which he does with almost pride- he hands the little piece of stiff paper to the guard, who looks uninterested in everything happening around them- and cheers inwardly when they rip the ticket and hand it back to him, with a bored "Take a left and go down the stairs to the stadium's floor.'
The inside of the stadium is no less crowded than the outside. The constant thrum of conversation echoing throughout the halls of the Tabernacle vibrates in his head and he tugs his hat down onto his ears to muffle the white noise. He passes many concession booths, selling a variety of goods- crisp, black t-shirts with lyrics splayed on the front; wristbands, sweatshirts, and wallets; CDs, alphabetized and piled into cardboard boxes; artificially flavored cherry red slushies and funnel cakes. It's overwhelming to him and he almost wishes a friend of his was there with him.
There's no time to regret not buying another ticket or inviting a pal along, though. Through the static of the PA system, he strains to hear the band being introduced. Almost instantaneously, the tides of the crowd changes, as everyone there hurries to see the show begin. Eddie follows, taking the stairs down to the pit the way he'd been instructed. Here, another security guard, this time one wearing a smile, takes his ticket and inspects it carefully. Eddie swears, up and down, he's never smiled so big as when the man waves him through.
The atmosphere in the pit is unlike anywhere he's ever been before. It's wild and free and loud and pulsating, spreading through the throng of people like a fire, and it's almost claustrophobic.
Hours pass but it only feels like seconds, everything smells like sweat and fast food and marijuana and Eddie realizes he's never felt more at home. The music is loud, like, ear-shatteringly loud, and he can feel the drumming in his chest, a second heartbeat. With every bass chord the ocean of bodies surges in near-unison, chaotic yet fluid all the same. All he can see is the starless city sky, all he can hear is the wall of noise surrounding him, all he can feel is-
-his fist connecting with something solid, like bone.
It startles him, to say the least, and he stops immediately to find exactly what- or who- it was he hit.
He feels a wave of guilt wash over him when he spots the man clasping at this face, slightly hunched over in pain. Eddie moves over to the stranger with the intention of apologizing, but he only gets a few words in before the man glares up at him and interrupts.
"Dude, what the hell?" he growls, rubbing at a spot just above his lips and beside his nose.
"I am so sorry, man," Eddie speaks, a little alarmed by how angry the stranger sounds (to be fair, a voice in his head says, you did just punch him in the face), "I didn't mean to!"
"Yeah, well," the man spits out, voice harsh more from the pain than actual anger, "you still kinda hit me in the fucking jaw!"
"I know, I know," shit, this is not going as planned, "I'm sorry," when the man looks no less frustrated, Eddie nervously fake-checks his watch. It's almost one in the morning. He's been here for three hours, and suddenly he feels more than hears his stomach growl, and the hunger hits him. That's when he gets an idea.
"Hey," he says, and the man gives him an exasperated look, "how about we head to that diner across from the stadium? I'll pay- think of it as my apology."
The man looks wary for a moment, before finally shrugging. "How can I say no to free food," he grumbles rhetorically, and together the two of them sift through the crowd towards the exit.
On their way out, Eddie learns a few things about the other man- his name is Wyatt, he's a sophmore whose on summer vacation like Eddie, and he's high. That last one he finds out once they're outside of the stadium, standing in the deafening silence on the curb. He turns to say something to Wyatt and notices the redness of his eyes and the smell that clings to his clothes.
Wyatt seems to notice Eddie's noticing, but pointedly looks away from him as though to say 'don't ask about it'. So he doesn't.
The diner is literally across the street, and once they're inside Eddie releases a breath he didn't know he was holding. The gentle atmosphere gets even Wyatt to relax, and the two are led to a booth in the back of the mostly-empty restaurant.
Wyatt orders a lot. Like, a lot. Part of Eddie thinks he's just doing it out of spite, but the weed might also be part of it. They end up getting a plate of waffle fries, a coke and a malt, a short stack of pancakes and some bacon. He doesn't even eat all of it, the asshole.
The tension slowly melts away, however, as the two talk and eat- awkward and unsure at first, but pretty soon neither of them can shut up. They talk about Mortal Kombat and JJBA and their favorite bad movies (Wyatt's is The Room), they talk about their respective schools and even end up exchanging phone numbers.
"Y'know," Wyatt says, popping a waffle fry into his mouth, "aside from you punching me in the face, you're pretty cool."
Is that a compliment? "Yeah, I get that a lot," Eddie jokes back (and he's trying his hardest to seem casual and not like he actually really wants to impress this jerk). When Wyatt smiles a bit, Eddie can't help but smile in return.
"So... Does this mean I don't have to pay for all of this?"
"Oh hell no."