Roundabout AMG / 11:14 Delilah
Sam tapped SEND, refreshed his phone app, and watched the interactions on her FaceSpace roll like a digital stop-clock counting down seconds. At the same time, faces in the crowd became under-lit one after another by push notes from Ma Bell wireless. Outside of the club, a steady line of headlights could be seen turning onto Silk Road from I-25, even as the excitement of the growing crowd threatened to shake the condemned building to ground.
Over his shoulder, a pair of zig-zagged soles dangled from the balcony. A little higher, a pair of slender hands loosely held the bars on either side of a hooded head, fingers tapping to the beat the DJ was laying down.
Delilah needed to feel the whole room to work…the other DJ’s style, the crowd’s energy, and a dozen other factors Sam took for granted. Among them, the one that concerned him the most was Adam. He had come off a SoCal 7-n-7 sleep deprived and sugar high before a security incident at LAX turned a six-hour flight into sixteen. But his worry was unfounded; Adam was on time, and his As Tears Go By remix impressed her. Just like that, her smile was gone again. She reached up and grabbed the rail, pulled herself up to her feet and disappeared into a dark stairwell.
A minute later, she hopped up the steps to the riser. “T-minus three!” Sam yelled above the noise while flashing his cheap wristwatch. She glanced at hers—an Omega face secured to her wrist with baby blue nylon band—and nodded slightly. Looking at the ScratchLive screen on her laptop, she removed the foam plugs in her ears and put on her blue spray-painted headphones. As she removed the an album cover from it’s hiding place, Sam saw the it was Led Zeppelin III, and his heart rate jumped. She had never done that remix in public.
She flipped one of her blue vinyl sample discs between her hands and put it on the right hand platter, then put the other on the left. Everything Delilah did from this point on was a mystery to Sam, and he backed away as Adam took a step toward her. She dropped her headphones, listened, chatted, gestured, and even flirted. Adam answered her with a nod, a grin, and a “a’ight.” She put their headphones back on and returned to her laptop. He lifted his left speaker to his ear, held it with his shoulder and continued scratching, having no clue of the compliment he had just been paid.
At 11:12, Delilah unzipped her hoodie and tossed it blindly over her shoulder. Her outfit was basic and representative of her entire wardrobe. A too-small t-shirt with a faded print of Grouchy Smurf, baggy capris, and sneakers…baby blue, of course. Her dark brown hair, streaked blonde and blue, was tied back in a sloppy knot. She spread gloss on her lips with her pinky, slipped the tube in her pocket, then pulled the vintage horn rimmed frames off her head. Sam chuckled as she slipped them over her 20/20 eyes.
At 11:13, while Delilah’s fingers danced on her laptop, Adam transitioned from electro into a sultry layering of R&B rhythms, harmony, and phrasing. Sam’s racing pulse tripped when a tick of a metronome rose above Adam’s bass line, growing louder every second. She was really going to do Flawed, he thought with both anticipation and dread. The room plunged into darkness as the the spotlights cut out, all but for the dim lamps around the equipment.
“Hello, Lincoln!” Adam yelled into his microphone, and the crowd answered him with a roar.
At 11:14, Delilah hit the return key on her laptop; Sam crossed himself like the good Catholic he used to be. Tori Amos warbled, “Made my own…pre-tty…hate…ma-chi-e-e—”
Sam wanted to be relieved as Delilah scratched out a beat with Tori’s last syllable, but he wasn’t. Fallout from a remix was one thing, but Delilah changing her mind was a whole new concern. Still, he smiled because her “Salt Creek” remix of NIN’s Sin was a creepy cool shower of liquid lust, and the crowd writhed like mating snakes as they bathed in it.
Adam watched her, slack-jawed for more than a minute, until something she did appeared to knock the wind out of him. Chuckling, he pulled up his records, removed the slip mats from his turntables and fanned her like she was queen of Egypt. She craned her neck to wipe a loose wisp of hair his gesture blew onto her sweaty cheek. The move jarred her glasses, and she lifted her hand from the vinyl just long enough to push them back up her nose. Adam put his slip mats back and crossed his arms. He smiled like a man in love, to which Sam thought, Take a number, pal.
Sam looked at his watch and fanned his shirt away from his skin. Eight more minutes in this sauna until the police moved in to crash the party. He watched the ravers packed like live sardines in a can—standing room only and no AC—and thought it would be a small miracle if no one dropped dead. And still, he wished time to slow so he could lose himself in the scene. Her touch on the vinyl, whatever ruckus it created, was reverent as rite. Enough time, and her music became sacrament to him, listening became prayer, and knowing her was a blessing, but flash raves never lasted that long.
Other than for the apparent spasm of her hand on the fade switch, it was impossible to watch her and sense that she was doing anything complicated. And for her, Sam knew, she wasn’t. This, of course, was true for most DJs worthy of being called one. But most of them been a professionals for a decade or longer, in Adam’s case, twenty-three. Delilah picked it up only three years before on a whim and kept it up out of necessity.
Adam spoke into her right ear, and she gestured over her shoulder toward Sam with her head.
“Sammy!” the man shrieked as he sauntered with his arms held wide. Sam reached his hand out, and Adam slapped his palm into it, grabbing hold round his thumb. “Your girl is ab-normal!”
“She’s not average,” he replied with a smile. The DJ rolled his eyes and chuckled as he slapped Sam’s shoulder.
“Not average,” he mocked. Letting go, he put his hands on his hips and asked, “What’s my time?”
Sam looked at his watch. The stop-clock rolled under six-minutes. “She packs up in three. Make ‘em count.” The man nodded, skipped down the stairs and disappeared.
Normal. What was normal, anyway? A state of being typical, or having equilibrium, or what? As Sam saw the world, it was populated by things that reasoned and furnished by things that didn’t. Molded, laser-cut, quality-controlled to be identical things were either precise or flawed, so there wasn’t a normal. Or trailer park ghettos sandwiched between gentrified industrial towers for young professionals and suburban cul-de-sacs overrun by kids and DIY landscapers, all of which were normal to someone.
And speaking of people…there were eight billion unique humans all walking, crawling, or rolling their ways from birth to death with the commonality between them being that they were all aberrations from some unqualified normal.
Dark, pin straight hair was normal among Natives. A nail on chalkboard was an annoyance hardwired in the brains of most people he had met. Losing a loved one hurt; gender, age, and race made no difference. By so many standards, Delilah would test well within statistical normal ranges for a nineteen-year-old girl. And yet, she wasn’t normal in any sense the average person would accept.
Average was what Sam preferred. That’s what most people were measuring when they said normal…the qualities of one thing against an average of the set. It was a statement of fact. There was a middle point, or a middle range, and things fell on that point or within that range or they didn’t. Normal was a word that never crossed his lips.
He could let Adam’s usage slide because, in the circles he frequented, it was a rare compliment. DJs didn’t comment on those who didn’t measure up; abnormal, then, acknowledged skill. But anyone else who let that word fly in Delilah’s direction answered to Sam. That’s the way it had been since they were three. He buffered the world to give her the space she needed to make it fit her right. They had gotten pretty good at it, until The Cookie Incident sent them back to ground zero.
At moments like this, when the crowd ebbed and surged at her command, he could almost forget that she was broken.
Adam bounded back up the stairs with seconds to spare and a Twiggy with a tortoise-shell dye job in tow. She was polite enough to say hi, but her eyes stayed on the DJs as her hips swiveled and her hands fanned the heat from her face in vain.
Her date picked up the tempo with an old Beastie Boys track, and Delilah faded out her samples. She put her foam earplugs in, rolled cables and repacked her coffin. Sam watched the stop-clock roll under two minutes and bit his thumbnail, hoping he got the timing right.