These seats blow.
I’m sitting on a fucking wall, slanting down at like a 80 degree angle, suspended fifty feet above the arena floor.
Fuck this. If I stay, my anxiety won’t let me enjoy anything.
I’m already two drinks in, rum and Coke. I bail, taking a place in the short line outside the box office downstairs.
I see her come down the escalator. She’s in a low-cut cocktail dress, siren red. Olive skin. Evil eyes. Fuck, she’s hot. She looks like an assassin sent to seduce and kill James Bond halfway through the movie.
She’s talking to me. We’re in line together. She’s there with her mom. She hates their seats, which are also in the upper levels. It’s her mom’s birthday. She’s Turkish. She owns a catering company. She’s probably like 28 but gets pissed when I ask her age. She pours some of her Cognac in my empty rum and Coke cup.
“Who are you here with?” she asks in her sultry accent.
“No one,” I admit.
“Oh, you are that kind of man.”
I still haven’t learned her name.
Celine takes the stage, her distinctive voice reverberating through the arena walls.
We finally get pulled into another room with another box office. Both of us swap our shit tickets out for floor seats. They’re right next to each other, the last three available. Score.
We go get her mom. I meet her mom. It’s not a memorable moment. I shake her mom’s hand. Her mom doesn’t seem to think much of me one way or another.
We head to the floor, me trying to lead the way as best I can like a proper human male. I struggle to find the right entrance at first.
Our seats are right in front of the sound guy. Celine is maybe a hundred feet away. She’s well into the setlist now, singing Beauty and the Beast with a dreadlocked backup singer.
She teaches us some French. “Mai oui,” she keeps saying, all sultry-like. I never catch what it means in English.
She sings The Prayer, Boticelli’s parts included.
The audience is probably 80 percent women — all ages, all made up in their finest. A few husbands and boyfriends here and there, looking like they’re enjoying themselves more than they thought they would.
I used to steal my sister’s Sony Walkman and listen to the only tape she had — Celine Dion, the one with Because You Loved Me on it.
Celine’s voice is as incredible as advertised. Her vibe is odd — I was expecting a Melania Trump ice queen. Instead I’m getting a rather dorky French Canadian choir chick who in her heart of hearts seems to just want everyone to like her. She banters. It’s cheesy, but less aloof than I was expecting. She’s corny-friendly, like your friend’s mom.
A giant screen behind her plays random images, artistic designs and music video scenes. Lights blind us.
The set is a crowd pleaser. All hits.
I finally learn my concert friend’s name — Nina. She is incredibly distracting, dancing along and rubbing up against me. After a couple minutes of this I take the hint, put my arm around her, pull her in. She cuddles up except when her mom steals her away to do Snapchats, which is often.
Celine bangs them out — To Love You More, Because You Loved Me, All By Myself.
“Just like you!” Nina yells in my ear during the latter song.
“Not anymore,” I say into her eyes and then we’re making out for like thirty seconds until her mother pulls her away for another Snapchat. It’ll be the only kiss we share.
Her mother, by the way, hasn’t put her phone down once, documenting every last thing and yelling into her phone in both English and Turkish.
(Just for the record, as I look back several weeks later, it seems odd that this even happened to me. I’d never had an experience like this at any concert, ever. Even just a few years ago, I would’ve allowed our conversation to expire in the box office line, or I wouldn’t’ve had the balls to talk to her at all, or I would’ve awkwardly stood there not reciprocating even as she continuously brushed her hip against my hand. There was a time in my life where I wouldn’t have dared pull such things [Oh, God, her mom will be mad/bothered!, etc.] but those days are fucking over. Life is short.)
Celine does a pop medley — Queen and David Bowie and River Deep Mountain High and a few others. She does a few new singles off her latest album, which I didn’t even know existed until tonight. She does some French song.
The pop medley ends the set proper. The break is brief.
The encore is My Heart Will Go On. That iconic flute solo at the beginning actually stirs something in me. I’m eleven again, refusing to acknowledge the movie (do I even need to say the title?) made me cry as I walk out of the theater with my mom and sister.
That wafting wail of a melody makes me think of sailing over miles of cold, dark ocean. I think about how this musical capitalist jackpot is forever attached to the deaths of roughly 1500 people, enough to fill a section of this arena. I wonder what they would think of this song. (You see what this kind of music does to me? This is why I told none of my friends I was going to this concert)
Celine emerges from center stage under the drum riser in a massive white ball gown and kills that shit.
Drones float all around her, little blue lights like fireflies, dancing and doing formations and designs over the stage. One buzzes down and lands in Celine’s hand for the end of the song, turning her into a weird, aging, futuristic Disney princess. She actually blows it a kiss as it disappears into the rafters.
She closes with Imagine, and we all sing along. Then she’s gone. The show went by so fucking fast — probably because for most of it I was half-focused on the gorgeous Turkish woman next to me.
Nina and I exchange numbers. She squeezes my hand as we depart. I lose her and her mother in the crowd pretty quick, though I awkwardly try to wait for them for a minute or two.
It turns out the moment is over. Nina wanted a concert friend and nothing more. I haven’t heard from her since.
Too bad. But I enjoyed my turn.