O ne Year Earlier
Aged leather wrinkled under my weight while I waited for the call to go on stage. The green room hadn’t been updated since the crimson red walls first went up. White spots where holes once lay dotted the perimeter giving off the impression that the room had come down with a bad case of acne. A couple of the patches were painted over but at some point Mike must have given in to the rowdy atmosphere and let rock stars be rock stars. Instead he’d opted to keep the lights as low as possible in hopes that between the beer, drugs and groupies, nobody would notice the disheveled nature of it all. Of course I’m only guessing. I’d never been in this room in my life.
The cheers that wafted from beyond the stage, through the corridors and into my ears set my nerves on edge. I knew they weren’t for me. Nobody ever knew who the opener was. We were the unskippable ad before the video you wanted to watch. My job was to make them click. To expand their focus, throw their hands in the air and call out over the roar of the crowd Siri, what song is this?
My phone buzzed: TEXT FROM LUCY
I ran my hand through my hair and opened the phone.
Lucy: Front row. You can’t miss me.
I smirked at the second half of the message. Lucy had gotten into the habit of wearing increasingly bizarre outfits for my live performances no matter where I turned up. Last week I played a twenty minute set at a coffee shop and she turned up in a red latex pant-suit and a black tee underneath that she’d handpainted the word ADAGIO across the chest.
My fingers traced across the screen before hitting send.
Addy: Be out in a few. Bit nervous.
I’d barely sent the text when her response came through.
Lucy: Want me to come back there? I think I could help ease those nerves a bit…
It wasn’t her first time offering a little pre-show release but something about hooking up in a green room just felt kind of trashy; Like ordering a 12 oz. porterhouse and eating it in the backseat of your car while the engines’ still running. That sort of thing.
Addy: Just need to focus. Save that energy for later though.
Lucy: Okay 😉 Still okay with what we talked about?
My stomach twisted at the question. I’d already told her a few times since we fought about it that I wouldn’t play the song. It just felt like she was rubbing it in now even though I know she wasn’t. Everytime she asked, her words whisked me away to my first time playing it for her. The tears in her eye that I mistook for reverie. The weightlessness of my fingers as they danced along the strings. I had my first hit. A real hit. But Lucy said no. My greatest musical achievement and it would be left to collect dust in my back pocket because Lucy had deemed it too personal to show anyone else.
“How could you write that?” she’d asked through bleary eyes.
“I don’t know, it just sort of came to me,” I said.
“No, I mean how could you do that to me? To us?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Addy…that’s not just you in that song. That’s me too.”
“Well it’s not technically you, it could be any girl. The universality of art and–”
“Any girl?” her eyes sobered instantly and her brows furrowed until they were directing every ounce of resentment inside of her directly at me.
“That’s not what I meant!”
She slumped down, knees pulled tight from the floor of my bedroom.
“Lucy?” I prodded.
She shook her head as she raised her eyes to mine.
“Don’t do this Addy. Don’t play this song.”
“Lucy, it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.”
“Addy…” her voice trailed off as a look of resignation passed over her.
“I thought I could close my set at The Verve with it. Mike told me there’s going to be a couple connected people there.”
I waited for a response. Continued when I got none.
“This could be it, Lucy. This could be my big break.”
Her eyes were getting puffy again. When she spoke her voice was heavy and nasal.
“Well, one way or another it will be,” she said.
“What does that even mean?”
I let my guitar drop to the mattress beside me and knelt down in front of her. Thoughts in my mind swishing around like a washing machine on spin cycle. Where had my supportive girlfriend gone? The muse to my piece de resistance.
“Aren’t you flattered? My greatest piece only exists because of you. I love you Lucy.”
Lucy stood up and gathered herself. She had never not said it back before, but here she was silently milling about the room, grabbing her jacket and sliding her arms through the holes as if I wasn’t there at all. When she was done she stood at the door, looked at me square in the eyes and said:
“If you love me, you won’t play it.”
Then, without any further fuss, walked out the door. I remember staring at the door the same way I stared at my phone now. Blankly. Unable to sort the emotions in my mind. The thought of being discovered tonight. Of the doors it would open. My heart palpitating at the ones that might close. Either way, I needed to settle it before I got up there or I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my performance. I doubted she would be able to either. I refocused my eyes on the screen in front of me and began typing when Mike came bustling through the door.
“Time to go, kid.”
My eyes darted up to him then back to the phone. I could see the three dots on her end, dancing in anticipation of my message. I started forming my final thoughts, my final reassurance but-
“We’re already running behind from the door. Lot of people are here tonight. Hopefully we don’t get a visit from the fire marshall,” he chuckled to himself before flicking the lights completely off in the room. “Now means now kid. Let’s go.”
The sudden darkness made staring at my phone like staring directly at the sun. I clicked it off mid-text and stuffed it into my back pocket.
“Go get ’em sport.”
I rose from the couch, tugged the bottom of my shirt so it sat more naturally, then headed past him, down the corridor, and out onto the blinding stage.
TO BE CONTINUED…