Nikki Volpicelli

I’m three shots of tequila deep, alone, in his dressing room. Look at me backstage with my eyeliner and sequined crop top and clean white Converse. I lie on the couch. I beat the drum pad with the stick. I drink more of that fancy rider tequila. I’ve made myself a part of this, I breathe the same air as the band. I search for something of the singer left behind. Sweat. Nerves. A cough drop wrapper.

I hear the drums one, two, three beats. Show time. This is not the first time I’ve been backstage. I look in the mirror with the light bulbs all around. I grab his comb and put it in my back pocket for later. I re-do my eyeliner like the Tik Tok tutorials say to, with the space between lid and liner. This is not how we learned when I was young. We learned to poke ourselves right in the eye.

I bring the bottle of tequila and the tiny plastic shot glass. I follow the sound of the drums to the main room that’s screaming, throbbing like one big thing, and it will be mine. I’m not too late, too old, too anything. I make my way to the front of the stage, next to the left monitor, where I know the singer will spend most of the show. I know because I’ve been to the last five shows, the last five nights.

I told you this is not my first time.

Here he comes, on stage a little later than the rest of the band. He’s always doing that, teasing. His hair is all grown out, just like John’s, except it’s knotted into a high bun and shaved in the back. This is the new style. His T-shirt is so loose, I could wear it as a dress. His jeans, I couldn’t fit into at all. But he’s got that ‘95 Bon Jovi ass, and I should know. He acts excited to see the hundreds of teenage girls swarmed around but at the end of the night, only I can give the singer what he needs. I am the woman who will fuck him in his sky-high hotel room. I will push myself against the window with the blue lights outlining the interstate bridge. I know all his songs and I sing them at the top of my lungs and I don’t need to look around to confirm that no one else knows them as well as I do. I know which cherry cough drops he likes to suck on.

I raise my little plastic shot glass up to the stage then throw it on the ground and crush it with my Converse high top. I have a bunion that swells in these things but I have a size up in the Firebird, along with enough underwear and crop tops to last through tour. I get closer to the stage, pushing through the girls who are wasting their time waiting. Here’s the hard truth only a woman could tell you: tick-tock is the sound a clock makes as it steals all the good time. I’m not too late. I’m so close, a deafening distance from the monitor, which he uses to prop his foot up, to rock back and forth on one leg. What an Axl move, I love it. I’m so close I can see the red star on his shoe and all five of its points. I can see how his face changes when he opens his eyes during the guitarist’s solo, and how he bends down, toward me. He says something to the security guard and I can see that his highlights are growing out. There’s a half-inch space of brown hair where it should be blonde.

The security guard leans toward me, puffed up, saying, “Ma’am, you can't have that in here.” He’s pointing to my bottle.

“I’m with the band!” I tell him. I’ve practiced this line on tougher-looking bouncers before, but as he looks at me and looks at my bottle and looks at the stage and then looks at me again, he shakes his head side to side. He says, “Not tonight,” and we’re cutting through the young pretty girls who are now screaming. And some are crying. (“He was looking at me!”, “No me!”) There are so many pretty young faces in front of me it's like I’m right back with Eddie, 1991. I made it all the way on stage that night.

“I was like you once!” I scream into their screams, “Stop wasting your time! Take what you want! Grab it by the balls!” Most girls don’t learn to do this until it’s too late, which is that hard truth again. The security guard holds my bicep all the way out the front door and says, “I’ll take that,” meaning the bottle. And I say, “You will not.” Because it’s nearly finished, and though I'm sure the singer wanted to save it for after the show, I’m not sorry. Only a woman knows how much she can take. I finish it there on the street, only a swig or two left. And the bouncer, he expects me to give it to him with his hand all outstretched and waiting. But after he throws it underhand in the trashcan and walks back through the big black door, I fish it out. It’s right on top. I walk back to the Firebird with the bottle cradled under my arm. I’ll put it in the trunk with the comb, the shirt that fits me like a dress, and the too-tight pants. Tonight, I’ll stop at CVS and lift some hair dye and a pack of Luden’s cherry cough drops. Extra socks. By Indianapolis, I should have everything we’ll need.

Nikki Volpicelli has zero literary awards but did win “Best Personality” in 8th-grade. (Actually, it was a tie.) Her writing has been featured in Nylon, Glamour, X-R-A-Y, Rejection Letters, and Vice. She lives in Philadelphia with her two chihuahuas, Gene and Bones, and her human, Eric.