The young man stood center stage holding the microphone. His dark hair fell slightly over his right eye as he did a scan of the crowd. It didn't really matter who was out there; he only sang for one person and she was….with someone. The thought of her, the achingly bitter sweet thought of her almost made him smile. The truth, however, the cold and awful truth of life is what kept the smile away. It's what steeled his resolve each time he went on stage. It's what gave his voice that extra depth of melancholia and richness to its baritone that the audiences seemed to love. He only did one song, of his choosing, once a week. The songs were different each time, but the mood and the tone had been the same since he'd begun this venue. The intro played and he opened his mouth and started in a soulful deep pitch:
Turn down the lights;
Turn down the bed.
Turn down these voices
Inside my head.
Memories of her flittered through his mind's eye; it blinded him so that he no longer saw the audience.
Lay down with me; Don't patronize me.
Tell me no lies.
Just hold me close;
Don't patronize me.
Holding her… Dear lord holding her and her letting him do so… it had been like heaven. He had never felt closer to anyone else. The euphoria of them being together had felt right. At least it had for him.
'Cuz I can't make you love me
If you don't.
You can't make your heart feel
Something it won't.
Here in the dark
In these final hours,
I will lay down my heart
And I'll feel the power;
But you won't.
No, you won't.
'Cuz I can't make you love me
If you don't.
He remembered loving her. It felt like a dream that lingered too long afterwards. He remembered lying with her, looking up at the night's sky and talking about the future. Reflecting on their talks now, he realized that while he had been theorizing on their future, she had always been vague and general.
I'll close my eyes,
Then I won't see
The love you don't feel
When you're holding me.
These memories always welled up the emotions that he managed to keep hidden daily. This stage was his release. So he allowed the thoughts to continue to overtake him. He remembered her holding him. He remembered her surprising him on his birthday and the warm, delicate kisses that she had given him in her rare bursts of public affection.
Morning will come,
And I'll do what's right;
Just give me till then
To give up this fight.
All too soon the good times ended. She had come to him on the premise of being honest and forthright. Yeah, he knew that things weren't exactly barreling forth on a rollercoaster, but he didn't think that it was anything that they couldn't work out.
And I will give up this fight.
She had walked out and from his perspective right into another's arms. He had seen them together…intentionally. At first it had been a curiosity. Then as the dawning realization that not only was it truly over between them, but she had moved on and was happy with someone else set in, he found himself wallowing in the why's. He sang the last of the chorus just as strongly as the first until fading at the end. There was no bowed head or slumping of stance. He stood tall and uncompromising. The applause always surprised him, for he truly lost himself in the feel of the song and his past, leaving the audience behind. So their sudden reemergence and subsequent approval took him aback. He blinked a few times, one would think that it was from the bright stage lights, but it was simply to get him back to his present so that he could do as he needed to and leave the stage as quietly as he had come. Several young ladies hoped to catch the eye of the young man wearing the leather brown pants with champagne colored shirt as he made his way to the room that he used to get ready. He stopped short just as he reached for the door. Long brown hair, 5'3" on petite frame turned to him…it wasn't her. It happened sometimes. He would almost see her and in those moments he would hold his breath in anticipation. He wasn't sure what he would say. He wasn't sure what she would say. It hadn't happened and he doubted that it would so he didn't hold his breath. He gave the girl a slight nod, entered his room, and closed the door firmly behind him. He sat back in the chair- or rather lounged as far as he could. The stage and all it brought with it was a much more exhausting experience than he thought- at least emotionally it was for him, but then again it was probably because of what he was putting into it. Eyes closed, he heard the door open and close.
"Another great performance bro," his sister said coming on in and shutting the door behind her, "and you looked great up there if I do say so myself."
The slight turning up of one corner of his mouth was the only indication that he gave that he registered anything that she was saying. She had bought him the outfit, so of course she liked it.
"I'm going out with some friends; do you wanna come with?" she extended the offer again, as she did every time and he shook his head for the negative, as he did every time. "I know that you loved her, but she's moved on and you should too. You deserve to be happy."
He opened one eye and looked at his sister. This kind of warm and fuzzy was not their normal dynamic. She had been there for him after the breakup. She gave no critiquing on either party involved, but instead opted for being a silent sounding board offering a sympathetic shoulder for him to lean on.
"I've got…stuff going on. You have fun," he encouraged.
She nodded slowly and went to leave turning back at the door to his now sitting upright position.
"Don't 'accidentally' see her. Give yourself the gift of distance."
He didn't lash out at her like she thought that he might for interfering. He took her words under advisement as he heard the door shut and he gathered his few things to leave. He gave a cursory glance back at the room making sure that he hadn't left anything of importance there- he hadn't. He didn't really bring anything substantial anyway. After collecting his money from the manager on the way out he found himself driving down the familiar street. She was right, his sister, distance was probably best. She had been the only person to be there for him without judgment. It had surprised him at first, but then he had been grateful- at least until she had ushered him on the stage when he was feeling particularly down and out. He remembered that night and how afterwards something had felt like it lifted in him- not the sadness no that clung to him like a wet suit it had been something else. He had wanted to continue until he could figure out what it was. He still had not figured it out yet. So he performed each week trying to find that something and hopefully get his shit together. He went inside hoping to avoid the parental units, but his mother was coming down the staircase just as he was going up.
"Care to tell me where you and your sister have been sneaking off to?"
"We aren't sneaking mom. She's out with friends and I was just hanging out."
The mother and son stared each other down in a battle of wills. She knew that since his break up with that girl he had been on a downward spiral and she also knew that his sister had helped to get him out of his room. The older woman, while happy that the two siblings were closer now, wanted to be a part of that closeness. No their family were not The Waltons and never would be, but she wanted them to know and understand that they are loved by both their parents. They both needed to know that there was nothing that their parents wouldn't do for them.
He looked at her. She would never understand if he told her what he was doing. Hell, he barely understood it himself. She'd probably have him seeing a psychologist before he finished talking. Nah, better to just keep this to himself, he thought. After all he had made some progress. He had successfully resisted the urge to look at her- them, from a distance tonight as he had done so many other painful nights.
"I'm going to bed," he continued up the stairs past her towards his room.
"Goodnight Tom," her voice was soft and she was certain that he hadn't heard it. Soon after his door shut, she would hear more of those sad songs that he now listened to for hours on end.