I will never forget the look in his eyes.
Last night I attended Iron Maiden’s The Book of Souls Tour, which played at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. Their special guests were Ghost, and in case you haven’t checked my ‘About’ page or seen me frequently gushing over them on Tumblr and my other social media, they’re my favorite band. I’m not going to go into detail here, but Ghost’s music has helped me through some of the darker times I’ve had in my life, mainly from severe suicidal thoughts in high school and abuse I’ve taken. Since 2015, I’ve attended every Ghost show in the Tampa and Orlando area, and although they only played a short set this time around, I still had my heart set on meeting Ghost’s lead singer, Papa Emeritus III, a second time, to make up for two blurry pictures I got at the last ‘ritual’ I attended.
I wasn’t planning on saying much to Papa other than the usual, “Hi, how are you?” and “Thank you so much!” I even planned to ask him about how his three-months-older brother, Papa Emeritus II, was doing in retirement, but Papa arrived late to the meet and greet so there wasn’t a lot of time to talk to him. With each passing minute, my anxiety grew but my excitement overpowered it. Papa is a wonderful person to meet both in and out character, with his witty banter (when provoked) and welcoming hugs.
They had the meet and greet set up like an empty box, or like an unfurnished Spirit Halloween display, save for a purple spotlight to match Papa’s chasuble. There was four black curtains that formed a cube, and once one of the band’s techies opened the curtains for you, it would be just you, Papa, and the photographer. This was a much different set up than the Hard Rock Live ‘ritual’, where they just took us into a loading bay backstage with no real theming whatsoever. And since it was just Papa and not the Ghouls this time, there was a bit more time to talk rather than worry about hugging and greeting each Nameless Ghoul.
After a friend I made in the line got her picture taken, I walked into the box and was greeted by Papa. He’s a few inches taller than me, around five feet eight inches I want to say. I mentioned that we had met before, and he said, “It’s nice to see you again, too!” Then he asked me how I was doing (“Good,”), and we got two pictures taken. They’ll be uploaded tomorrow when they come out, but a part of me thinks they didn’t come out so well. I was in so much of a daze that I don’t think I was even looking at the camera, or my eyes probably are narrowed. Who knows.
Then, I turned to Papa to tell him thanks, but something different came out of my mouth. I told him, “Thank you so much for your music. It’s really helped me.” I didn’t want to turn my session with Papa into a pity party, but alas, it seemed to happen. I went in for another hug as the tears began to flow. I wanted to beat myself up for being so emotional in front of a musician I highly admired; maybe he’s seen something like this, or maybe he thinks fans that overreact are silly. But not Papa.
“I’m sorry, I’m crying,” I remember saying. Papa didn’t let go at all, not until I was ready. And when I did, I looked into his eyes. I will never forget the look in his eyes. He wears a white contact in one of them, obviously, but his uncovered green one just looked at me wide as he stood silent, speechless. I wonder what he was thinking of me then. I’ll never really know, but a part of me wants to think he understood. He’s probably heard hundreds of fans tell him that his music has “helped them,” but in that one second where we looked at each other, as tears streamed down my face, I believe he had the heart to sympathize.
His parting words were, “Thank you for being here.” There’s been many times where I’ve considered not being ‘here’, being alive even, but right now, I am here. There are plenty of things to live for, and in a current time where I’m questioning everything and trying to fix my life, Papa’s few or so words have made me feel so much better.
Thank you for everything, Papa.