Making my way through the last of the dispersing crowd, I went towards the stage. The crew was beginning to take everything down. Scanning the area frantically, a sinking feeling hit my gut as I realized he had probably left.
As though answering my dismayed thoughts, I heard echoes of his voice. Interspersed with deep laughter and other voices, it was trailing from backstage and fading fast. Without thinking, I sprinted towards its direction. Suddenly I heard a loud crash and my view shifted abruptly downwards, followed by a slam as my left shoulder hit the ground.
My world started to spin as a sharp, searing pain at my ankle made its presence felt, and I began to feel nauseous. I heard voices shouting and the sounds of running footsteps but I could not concentrate on them. There were only two things on my mind – the finality of my lost chance and the excruciating feeling in my leg. I pushed myself up painfully and sat holding my spinning head with my right hand, trying to recover from the nausea of the pain.
From the voices swimming around, I heard someone ask me if I was alright. “I’m sorry… I’m fine… really, just let me… let me make a call… I’m…” Before I could continue, someone knelt at my side and then an arm encircled my waist. That same person took my left arm and draped it around his shoulder.
“Can you stand? Let’s try slowly.”
I stiffened and turned. There he was beside me, and there I was, in a most unglamorous state! Embarrassed, I could not bring myself to look at him but simply nodded and bit my lip. Supporting my weight with his arm, he grasped my left hand tightly against his shoulder, then slowly heaved me up on my good foot. I gasped as the pain threatened to intensify and his grip tightened.
“It’s okay, lean on me. Think you can walk a bit?”
“Yeah… I-I think so…”
I turned to look at him. There was a serious look of concern in the way he regarded me. I forced a weak smile and nodded. Someone offered to help; he shook his head but nodded towards my spilled belongings on the floor.
“We’ll try to get to the dressing room. I’ll go slow. Let me know if it works up.”
It was one of the most arduous journeys I made on foot. Though the dressing room was just a short distance away, every step sent excruciating stabs through my body. Gritting my teeth, I forced myself to go on. In the privacy of the dressing room, he helped me into a chair. Then he knelt down and slowly pulled up the cuff of my jeans leg. His expression changed when he saw the swollen, bruised joint and I braced myself for his next question.
“Doesn’t look good. We’ll have to get you a doctor. What were you doing on the stage anyway?”
“I er… I uh… I heard you guys leaving and um, I needed… I wanted to speak… er… I wanted to speak to you.”
“To me? What about?”
I was stumped. Who was I to assume he wasn’t the person he was portraying on stage in real life? He’d think I was cracked up. “I… er… I wanted an autograph,” I stammered lamely, feeling utterly foolish.
“What would you like me to sign on?”
“I uh… I er… forgot to um, bring it.”
He laughed, a reverberating deep-chest chuckle that made me flush at the silliness of what I had just uttered. Then he stood up and pulled out a slim leather case from his back pocket. Flipping it open, he rummaged through and drew out a slip of paper. He scribbled something on it, then with a hint of a twinkle in his eyes, placed the slip of paper in my hand and said, “It says ‘recover soon and all the best’. And that’s my signature below it.” Just as the exhilaration of getting his autograph kicked in, someone came in to say the ambulance had arrived.
He nodded, then turned to me and said, “The ambulance is here, but I can’t stay. They’re waiting for me outside.” I nodded. “You better go. I’m sorry about this and thanks for the autograph! Real swell, no pun intended!” He smiled at my effort to lighten the situation, then hesitated. Then, he took the slip of paper from my fingers and scribbled something on it again before returning it to me.
“Look, I’m not supposed to do this but I’m partly responsible for your injury. Would you drop me a message about how it goes? As for your hospital b- “
“That’s okay, I’ve got that. I’ll pop you a message about the ankle though.”
He paused, then added, “That number belongs to my manager, but he’ll pass me the message. Not that I don’t trust you but- “
“Yep, no worries. Even I don’t give my number to just anyone I meet, what more an artiste like you.”
He grinned, and again, that twinkle in his eyes.
“Well then, I’m off.”
“Thanks and sorry again. Hope you guys come back soon to perform again.”
“We’ll try. Thank you for your support.”
As the paramedics and their stretchers came in, I watched him give them an acknowledging nod before he left the room, while my senses were still in an amazed stupor over what had just happened.
– End of part two –