Maybe This Time by Lauren Blakely

As I do, I get to enjoy the show, and I’m not ashamed to say that this man is one hell of a performer. Stone Zenith struts onstage, his trademark silver Stratocaster slung around his body, pounding out a screaming chord that he holds for several delirious seconds as he shouts, “Good evening, Los Angeles! Did you miss me?”

The crowd cheers. They hoot and holler, a deafening roar that carries across the amphitheater.

“Well, I missed you,” he booms into his mic. “I missed you so damn much. It’s been a long time since I was here. And I plan to spend the next hour showing you how much I love playing music for you.”

That pretty much causes the entire concert hall to faint and swoon.

The man powers his way through his tunes, songs I know well like “Bedroom Eyes,” “Make It Last,” and “Take Me as I Am.”

He has the ability to make everyone feel like he’s playing just for them. Women and men raise their arms, as if reaching for him, screaming at him, craving a piece of him. It’s electric and thrilling to listen, to feel the music reverberate through the venue. At the end, when he strums the last chord on “Bedroom Eyes,” I swear, for a flicker of a second, his eyes find mine.

His are green, the color of the forest, and they’re too damn hard to look away from.

So I don’t.

Not at all.

I let myself linger on the man standing thirty feet from me. The man on the stage. The man playing to the crowd.

The man who almost seems like he’s looking at me.

But it’s crazy to think that. I’m just one of thousands here in the crowd.

No one special.

Of course he’s not locking eyes with me.

It’s the rock-star effect. That’s what he does. He makes you feel like you’re the only one in a sea of thousands.

That’s why he’s world-famous.

I blink all the crazy thoughts away, because I’m not actually trying to get him to lock eyes with me.

Not at all.

I’m merely a concertgoer, and one with a VIP ticket so I can gain backstage access to the meet and greet after the show.

That’s the goal—to assess his backstage needs, and whether I could improve them if I landed the job.

After the encore, I make my way to the back hallway, showing my VIP pass to the security guards.

They let me through, and a mob of people mill about here, but I weave through the crowd to the green room, where an efficient woman with dark hair, a tablet, designer jeans, and a pretty pink blouse is stationed by the door, directing the fans. Teenagers, adults, moms, dads—everyone. Stone’s music seems to cut across generations, and they’re all waiting for a chance to tell him how much they love it.

I join them, patiently making my way through the line.

Unlike most people here, my mission is not to have him sign my T-shirt or a poster.

That’d be crazy. I do not need autographed swag. From anyone. Okay, fine, I might not turn down a signed T-shirt from Joe Montana or Mariano Rivera.

But I’m a sports guy, and those players are just the best.

Point being, I’m here to blend in, get a quick assessment of the room and the other bodyguards—to see how things operate. To get a view into this backstage world so I can have a chance of truly presenting a case as to why I can do a great job for him.

Once I’m inside the green room, his PR team keeps everything moving and flowing at a reasonable pace, fans interacting with him, but not going crazy. He’s chatting with a handful of women who are about his age, probably thirty, maybe thirty-five.

Do I feel a little bit like a stalker? Yeah, maybe a little, but not entirely, because I bought my ticket like anyone else, and no doubt he’ll be impressed when I give my professional rundown of his security needs.

As he hugs a purple-haired, nose-ringed woman, her eyes flutter closed, her smile tips up, and it looks like she just received her greatest wish in the form of an embrace from Stone Zenith.

That’s the effect he has on people.

When he lets go, his eyes scan the room as if looking for who he’s going to chat with next.

They stop at mine.

They travel no farther.

He sweeps his gaze over me. Over my whole body.

Long, lingering, slow.

And absolutely appreciatively.

This is not like how he looked at me from the stage, when the lights, the smoke show, and the sea of people fooled me into thinking he was staring at me.

This is incontrovertible.

The man is looking at me.