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Wild Heart (A Jack Antonoff Story)

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There was blood.

Something that usually doesn't happen on a relatively quiet night at the Meat Locker. It was a weekday show after all, despite it being Thirsty Thursday. I watched a couple of younger kids thrash and skank around from the side of the dimply lit room, covered in graffiti and band stickers from floor to ceiling. It's the type of place first time goers felt they needed a tetanus shot after the show was over. But it's really not that bad. A few of them probably just got a little too rough.

"I bit my cheek so hard," I heard one kids say, spitting blood into a garbage container over flowing with empty beer bottles and cans. His friends laughed in response. They high fived and headed straight back into the pit.

I watched the band on a barely-raised stage, tapping my left foot and nodding my head to the rhythm of the music as if to reassure them of my approval.

Another push, but this time, it was my face that got smushed into the wall. I glowered at the rowdy boys who didn't so much as apologize for hitting me. I wasn't even anywhere near the pit!

An angry punk song, with a fast beat. Yes. I dove right on, acquiring my target. We were all pushing each other in this imaginary circle-barrier. Some guys, adding their own funky dance moves while they roughed around.

This kid - this jack off - had curly hair shaved into a mohawk and some hipster, Waldo glasses. Disgusting. I shoved him. Hard. Over and over again. He made no protest. Until suddenly, I realized I pushed him up against a wall. I stared at him, unsure of what to do next. The world around me faded. The music muted somewhere distant in my eardrums. His gaze did not falter. Brown eyes, a full lower lip, and a slight gap between his two front teeth all just... staring at me. I looked down to his neck, my fist wrapped around the nape of his striped shirt. I let him go, slowly backing away then bolted up the steep steps, leaving him to scratch his head.

I breathed in the cold November air deep into my lungs and let out a sigh. The streets of Montclair, New Jersey were dead at this hour, encroaching on midnight. All the quaint, little shops have long closed. The dusty bookshop, the old school movie house, all the restaurants. I was accompanied only by the ominous glow of the street lights overhead and the faint sound of a bass coming from the basement of the venue.

A group of loud drunken college kids passed by, stumbling over themselves from Just Jake's, the bar next door. Probably from Montclair State University. Headlights from cars passing by blinded me momentarily. Otherwise, I was left alone to think about the anger that welled up inside me when Jack Off pushed me. It was a show, after all. It's bound to happen.

A few minutes passed and my friend Stephanie came to check in on me.

"Hey," she said softly, touching my shoulder. I smiled weakly.

"You know I have to ask you what happened down there."

"I really don't know what I was thinking," I confessed. She was silent for a moment.

"Guys are dumb," she finally said, "let's grab some fat sandwiches at Cars." I nodded enthusiastically. All was well until I saw him again.