I was introduced to Magic: The Gathering by David Bowie. I’d moved back to Denver after college to find that most of my friends from high school had grown up and left town. I was lonely, depressed, and — even worse — bored. I spent my evenings stumbling from bar to bar, trying to wedge myself into social situations, still unsure of how an adult makes new friends. It was a trying time, but one that taught me a great deal of self-reliance and fearlessness. It led me to do crazy, dangerous things. Things I would have never imagined myself capable of. Like karaoke.
“Next up, David Pimburton!” the DJ announced. She stared down at the slip of paper in mild confusion, realizing that she’d mispronounced my last name.
“It’s Pemberton!” I yelled from the crowd, like a ‘that guy’, sauntering forward with a can of Tecate clutched in my fist. I climbed on stage, took the mic, and waited for the music to start playing.
“It’s a god-awful small affair,” I crooned, adopting my best ironic British accent, slurring my way through the first bars. It was a sloppy rendition of Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” If I’m honest, the best thing about singing David Bowie at Karaoke is that his songs are often best when shouted — the one volume that drunks can manage — in unison with the audience. On stage, I could feel the pulse of the crowd waiting for their turn to sing.
“Is there life on Maaaaaaaaaaaars?” A few people applauded, not at my voice (which is terrible), but at the joy of singing along to David Bowie. His music has a mystical way of bringing people together.
“That was really great!” yelled a tall, thin boy with long hair and thick sideburns. “But that’s the song I was going to sing. Now I’ve got to find something else.” He bought me a drink and introduced me to his wife, Pallas. “I’m Matt,” he said, shaking my hand.
The combination of booze and Bowie led us into deep conversation, and at the end of the night, I wondered if Matt and I might be friends. Like I said, these lonely nights often led me to do strange things, including, in this instance, passing my number to a boy.
“I know it’s weird,” I yelled, as someone on stage bludgeoned Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man.’ “But we should all hang out sometime!”
I woke up the next morning smelling like salt and yeast, the telltale odor of a long night that would soon be accompanied by a massive hangover. This was something I was becoming accustomed to — the booze, the fuzzy memory, and the miserable day-after. I left my apartment (which I hated) and got in my car (which I hated) and drove to my job (which I hated). I spent the morning drinking black coffee, trying to wash away the metallic taste of a night spent drinking. Around lunchtime, I received a text message from an unknown number.