limelight

I look to my left, I look to my right. Behind and before me, not a single person doesn’t have a bad tattoo. I mean the kind that’s randomly slapped on their body like a doctor’s office sticker on a toddler. The only person without one that I can see is a little girl, maybe nine years old, who’s sitting with what appears to be her dad and her dad’s pretty girlfriend (both of which have more than their fair share of bad tattoos). The girlfriend has dyed, jet-black hair, which serves to make her blue eyes pop, and her ears are gauged. The dad sports a pair of cargo shorts, displaying more than one unfortunate tattoo on his leg. The young daughter wears a bright, multicolored sundress. The three of them sit together on a small blanket, often turning to each other to joke and smile.

We’re at an outdoor concert in the evening, all sitting on a hill facing the stage, but fairly far from it. The sun’s out, but it’s setting and we’re shadowed by the trees, so it’s plenty cool despite it being mid July. Aside from this little family, everyone has come either as a couple or as a larger group of friends. Everyone else is at least a teenager. Everyone else is imbibing multiple ridiculously overpriced drinks. The scent of cigarettes, and occasionally weed, wafts all around us.

And then there’s the sundressed girl, sitting with her family, laughing.

The crowd stays seated through the first band, and I spend most of that time observing the little family in front of me. The girlfriend and the dad each drink a can of Corona Extra or two, but they’re thoroughly invested in their family outing. They buy the girl a bucket of popcorn so she can have a treat, too. Finally, the sun goes down, the world darkens, the second band comes on, and the crowd stands.

Up until now, the girl has mostly been lounging next to her father, who is in the middle of the three, but now she stands in the middle, body turned towards the girlfriend and chatting excitedly with her, like perfect confidants. The girl does many trust-falls into the girlfriend’s arms – too many. So many that I would’ve snapped “Cut it out!” at her long ago, had it been me. But the girlfriend is still laughing, still catching the girl, a million times. She doesn’t turn a single look of annoyance toward the dad. She is completely present with this girl.

Then they dance.

The two of them – one in her small black dress, the other in her striped rainbow one – dance together through the rest of the set. It’s probably past the girl’s bedtime at this point, but the family doesn’t leave the concert early. Instead, they dance together, holding hands and shimmying in the distant colored lights of the stage.
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