I was just about to drift off to sleep when all of a sudden this voice popped into my head after watching a video on youtube earlier. I tried to write it out on my tablet but decided to visit my laptop instead. Since I haven’t written much lately, I am not about to turn down my musewhen it brings words to me, despite the time. Thank you, Muse. Please visit again. Sooner. Maybe a little earlier. Not that I’m complaining. 😉
Maybe I Believe
If you’re in the performing arts, at some point it’s going to happen. You’ll be at an audition, out-perform yourself and not get the role. At first, you’ll believe it’s talent because you’re an idealist. At least you start out that way. But after a while, after you hear the individual who won the role sing, you realize it’s something more.
Maybe it even starts before you have goals, when you’re in grade school and the school has its yearly show, where every student’s encouraged to audition. Strangely the daughter of the mother who’s directing gets the best role and her thin voice wavers above a whisper. When you’re thirteen you don’t know the name that applies, but soon you will.
Now, at twenty-three, you know it no longer matters what you know or how talented you are or how hard you work, if a person auditioning knows someone important, their talent will prevail. And, who do you know? Not the right people. Evidently. You work in a bar, sing at open mics, and study with a vocal coach who thinks you should be pursuing opera or Broadway but not that folk pop music genre. “You’re more talented than that!”
“Honey, just sleep your way to the top. It’s been done before,” Carrie says because she knows personally that’s the way to score a top song on the country charts. Well, that and autotune.
You smile wordlessly because that’s what you do. Smile and the world smiles with you. You smile a lot.
You write a song that you know is great from the moment the melody implodes in your brain while scooping up glasses late one Saturday night after some cute geek cries into his SoCo and Lime and laments how he didn’t understand that Felicia actually understood “irony” and he was going by Alanis Morrissette’s definition and that he didn’t mean to mock her when she was actually smarter than he was, despite her nose ring. “Nose rings cause infections, you know,” he said, raising his brandy-colored eyes to meet yours.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” you say, although you’ve always thought you’d look cool with one, but the thought of the pain of piercing your nose? Nope. No, thank you.
That night, you compose the song of your life, almost a response to isn’t it “Ironic?” You give it to your musician friend who actually has an agent and who thinks it’s a hit. “Well, it will be a hit.”
And it will be your hit because no one can ever sing it like you do.
You bide your time. Some promises are made. You are riding on the cloud of successful dreams when you’re invited to the best music festival California has to offer. You think it’s seriously weird they’d have you sing the song without recording it or even performing it with a band but maybe that’s how rock stars are born. And, maybe you’re still just twenty-three and idealistic and despite everything you think you’ve learned, still not knowledgeable enough.
Your friend’s agent who is now your agent drags you to a front row seat to watch a teenager with thick jowls and a flowing white peasant dress stand in front of a microphone, her apple cheeks glowing red as she begins singing your song. Somehow, at first, as confusion roars in your brain, you miss who this girl is but it becomes clear when you see her father, a famous activist rock star, nod and grin and play guitar. Her voice drifts off-key but is mostly drowned out by guitars and drums. Your song, its beauty and grace and laughter and hope, becomes lost in the wavering of an untalented voice that takes you directly back to grade school and a tall, gauche red-headed girl singing “The Trolley Song” that you would have died to sing and probably would have sung, if her mother hadn’t been the show’s director.
Your agent doesn’t confuse your tears with ones of joy.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t understand.”
And you realize your new agent still has a little idealism left in him, maybe almost as little as you do. Maybe now that you’ve both wised up, you’ll be more careful where your brilliant compositions land.
“Next time, I won’t let this happen,” he says.
That’s enough. For now. For you both to believe in a next time.
The next time.
Sascha Darlington October 2021