The “me” in question is Soraya Roberts, a writer and long (loooong) time Natalie fan. I’ve known Soraya for a few years and I think she’s known me for longer than that, having checked in on the site for many years. In recent times it’s been great seeing her career taking off and I’ve long been anticipating a piece relating to her complicated fandom. With Leon’s 20th anniversary upon us, she took the opportunity to finally write about her connection to Natalie.
I don’t agree with everything said, but I think it will resonate with a lot of people, even if the particulars are different from person to person.
I turned back to the band as she approached our corner — I didn’t want to stare. She had a beer in her hand and I felt the booth shudder as she climbed up and sat next to me. Neither my best friend nor my boyfriend was aware of her presence, but it was all I was aware of. I felt my heart flood with adrenalin as I turned to her and touched her shoulder. “Happy birthday, by the way,” I said (“By the way,” like the tail end of a conversation we had already been having). Natalie opened her mouth, equal parts shock and smile. “Thank you!” she said.
I didn’t introduce myself, I didn’t say anything else, I just sat there sharing a piece of upholstery with my proxy as she swigged her beer and listened to the music, the perfect fan, contained despite being anything but. That she didn’t move, that she didn’t try to see me seeing her, suggested a mutual respect (mine based in celebrity, hers in humanity). I was embarrassed when two guys cut across the room to invite her to a gig, like a truck ploughing through a perfectly harmonious countryside. But Natalie was polite. “I’m only in town for tonight,” she said.