I called Kristi as I clambered up the Metro stairs, frantically spewing apologies for my late arrival.
"Em," she cut me off, "I'm in Starbucks. Get in here right. Now."
Red-faced and sore from a day in heels and a suit, convinced Kristi was furious with my chronic tardiness, I burst into the coffee shop. "Honey!" I bellowed, trumpeting my apology, "I am so sorry I'm late! I know we said 6:45 but I missed three trains in a row and-"
As I bent down to hug her hello, she elbowed me in my ribs. Being a natural master of intuition and subtle signals, I totally ignored it. "-and I'm just so, like, GLAD to be out of the conference for the day, and I had to go to the dermatologist and I don't have SKIN CANCER, but GOD, it's always something, you know? So how ARE YOU? Welcome back from EUROPE! I want to hear all about your TRIP and the HOT GUY FROM THE BEACH IN NICE!"
I am cringing so very hard as I type these words in capitals, because I know it's how I sounded, all boomy and braying in comparison to the silent signals she was so desperately trying to send. As Kristi's eyes bugged out of her head and I loudly asked her where she'd like to DO DINNER, I noticed someone familiar-looking standing by the condiment station.
And the stupid thing is, I knew right away it was him. And her. Them. The people that we had seen onscreen within the last month and were planning on seeing onstage in about four hours. It was obviously them, and more specifically, him. The man who we had watched and who had me leaving the theater convinced of his utter perfection as a singer, songwriter, man- nay, human being. And you think I exaggerate, but not a single woman I know who has seen Once has escaped without falling for Glen Hansard.
So even though I knew it was him, and them, I continued to steal not-at-all sneaky looks at them as they fixed their coffees and I babbled about something, just to give my face something to do besides full-on gawp. This lasted for probably all of fifteen seconds, but it felt like fifteen minutes as I mentally ran through the protocol for such an encounter. Should be cool and ignore them, like, "*sigh* another celebrity in my Starbucks?" Should I tell them I think they're fantastic? Should I ask them how they like DC, and if they have time they should really visit the Spy Museum? (No, that's toolish; maybe not exactly in those words; you are such a loser for even thinking it.)
I legitimately understand that it would be annoying to be "on" all the time, and though I find it deeply stupid when famous people appear on Dateline or similar to beg for their privacy, it's understandable that they get annoyed when they have to smile and be all friendly to strangers when they're just trying to order a nonfat cappucino. But from a totally selfish standpoint, how often does one suddenly encounter the person whose voice was just playing on their iPod not five minutes before?
With all these thoughts coursing through my head, I suddenly noticed that they were heading out the door and my moment to react was now or never. "Excuse me," I asked and he turned around and smiled. Oh, that lovely crinkly grin. I grinned back at him and at her, and suddenly, in one horrible moment I realized: I have no idea how to pronounce Markéta Irglová's name.
Faced with the awkward possibility of having to ask someone how to pronounce her first name before telling her I loved her music, I chose the WASP way out and ignored the problem. "Are you Glen Hansard?" I asked him, knowing, duh, he was. I smiled at both of them, as if to communicate "I know who you are too! I do! I swear!"
"Aye, that's me," he replied as friendly as could possibly be. He seemed like just an impossibly nice guy, and utterly un-indie snobbish. I may have swooned as I said "I'm sorry, I don't want to bother you all; just wanted to say that we're really looking forward to the show tonight."
He was paused in his tracks at the door, half-turned around to face me and Kristi, and as I spoke for a moment he rocked forward as if to walk back to us. "Aw thanks, we really appreciate it," he smiled back at me, and then remained standing there as if receptive to talking more. Receptive to conversation. Glen Hansard is standing in front of me responding to something I said and his body language indicates he would be fine with continuing the conversation.
And for the first time in my entire life, I have absolutely nothing to say. I am utterly without speech, or even thoughts that could potentially be vocalized. There is not a single topic of even loser-ish, Spy Museum-related thought in my empty little head. We all stood there awkwardly frozen for a moment, a voice inside me screaming "say something! Say anything at all! This does not happen! You do not meet men on your List of Five Celebrities in a coffee shop! You're practically in a Friends episode! Say you're in a Friends episode! Say anything! Oh my God, this is the longest that anyone has ever NOT TALKED TO ANOTHER PERSON."
What happened next later became a topic of debate between Kristi and me. She swears it was she who then said "break a leg," and that I echoed her. I contend it was entirely the other way around. The only thing we agreed on over dinner at Creme, while endlessly replaying and dissecting the entire exchange, is that the only thing lamer than the person who says "break a leg" to a rock star before his show is the person who repeats it a moment later.
The show was fantastic, especially their cover of "Into The Mystic" and Markéta Irglová's rendition of "If You Want Me," and I very much hope that they enjoyed themselves as much as they seemed to, that they know how much the crowd enjoyed themselves, and that when I said "break a leg" to Glen Hansard in the Starbucks on 13th and U, I really meant to say "how would you like to make tender, passionate love all night and then talk marriage and babies?"
Because I could really go for that. In a totally chill, has-it-together kind of nonchalant way, of course.