Do I not deserve love? Why is it that some people, even if they wanted to, could not live without love, there are always so many applicants that they cannot count on one hand the number of people who drool over them, while most are starved for love, but it never honours them with its presence? Doesn’t everyone deserve love equally? What determines whether someone is caught in the storm of passion or not?
I think I would be afraid to fall in love. I wouldn’t dare risk getting my heart back in pieces if I gave it to someone. But that is quite common in the vast majority of loves.
Then, of course, there are times when someone doesn’t even seek it and they still fall in love. And then, even though you know that it will probably not end well, there is nothing you can do about it.
All this, of course, in my life, is on the one hand non-existent, on the other hand impossible. I know very few musicians who are in love and who dare to be in a relationship. In my experience, they are lover-deniers. Because of their outlook on life and their values, they can even back up their idea of this phenomenon. So of course, this theory seems to be true.
But then I also have friends who acknowledge the existence of love, but they don’t attach much importance to it either. Even if they are granted the experience of falling in love, they cannot appreciate it.
And then here I am. Between the two ideas and lifestyles, with my own thoughts. And the silent expectations. First, they expect me to be a mind reader, to understand the unspoken words, so that they can expect me to stop believing in love, and if I do, to belittle it. It is my luck - or misfortune - that Cupid has not yet found me. Or if he has ventured near me, I’ve fucked it all up thanks to my pessimism.
What do I have to find out at nineteen years of age? I have spent most of my life working with music and musicians, and now I have started to dream about love. Absurd.
It’s not that I don’t like or am not happy with the way things are, but it’s the conflict of interest itself that can be a reason for divorce.
I used to love music. I could listen to a record non-stop for weeks, always from the beginning, just to learn from it and analyse it. For a while I wanted a career in music myself. Then I realised that I had no instrument other than my voice. Then I realised that I didn’t have the confidence to use my voice. Eventually I realised that I couldn’t really write music, only lyrics, and that put me off music for good. So, what did I do? I couldn’t stop writing lyrics, which I still do to this day when I have something to write. I also tried to help other people make music. I organised concerts for my friends, critiqued their songs when they asked me, took their photos, and even made music videos for some of them. Tough job, huh?
Soon after I realised I wanted to make music, a very dear friend of mine, whom I love as a sister, introduced me to music. A whole other world, full of people I didn’t even know existed: musicians. But not the tabloid, internet vomit. I admit I was surprised by the reality. But - thanks to my nature - I quickly accepted it, and from then on, I tried to learn and make connections. But it was only later that I was able to put this knowledge to good use. But let’s not rush ahead.
Can you imagine falling in love in such a small world? And with a man who has ‘you shouldn’t’ written all over him!
I never wanted to be in love. Sure, I wondered what it was like, but I couldn’t afford to try. How could rock and roll ever fit in with love?
Before the disaster happened, I was living happily ever after, partying myself to death, enjoying myself by doing crazy things that seemed unbelievable even to me.
One day at school, during class, a few of us had a bottle of whisky. Another time, before I even got to a concert, I was half-drunk and there I was only able to give the audience some free porn with a girlfriend. Once, after a night of getting stoned with friends I was entertaining passers-by at a busy bus stop with a complete stranger. During a party, I was proposed to by a drunk Austrian and I’ve had a hook-up with another unknown guy, who I managed to shake off like a fucker afterwards, all in one night. There was also the time when I was so over the top that even the toughest, most animalistic musicians would stare at me in amazement at what I was doing. I celebrated one of my birthdays for two days: first day a crazy gig with a really good friend and a bunch of other people, second day me and that friend went down to a club and got thrown out of the party, drunk. In short, I fit in perfectly with the new musicians I met. It meant the world, it meant everything to me. I loved the environment that made me feel welcome and accepted for who I was. Of course, I was a little bit out of it, but I didn’t feel embarrassed, it was fine. In the meantime, I’d made people envious and I’ve gotten haters, so I had a full repertoire.
So that’s how I was going through the days of my life, when the thunderbolt struck.
Our rock and roll society could be found all over the country in some form of subculture. Sometimes it mutated a bit, but that was okay. Personally, I could live with the knowledge that I knew some of the people in the group from all over the country, most of them from my home town, the capital, Budapest.
Like-minded and like-feeling societies existed in other countries as well, all over Europe, Britain, Asia, and the United States. I knew a few people from the more underground version, which we were, in Europe, through acquaintances. Sometimes they would come to us play gigs and we’d exchange a few words, but I had friends who kept in touch with some of them on a regular basis, and even developed a closer friendships or more.
When I turned nineteen in mid-March, I went completely crazy. My godparents lived in Germany, in Berlin. They had a small record label, Todd Way, where some local bands were signed. They invited me to visit them as soon as high school was over and I’ve graduated. Vickie, my godmother, said I could do some summer student work for them and have some fun, and get paid for it. And all I’ll be doing is helping out as an assistant, helping maintain the studios and getting to know the musicians there.
Vickie, and her husband Adam, were like me and my friends: eternal, music-loving, party people. They were my parents’ best friends. They moved from Hungary when they were in their twenties to try their luck, and it worked for them. They were one of the few monogamous couples I knew. But they were special that way, at least to me.
By the time the end of the school year came, I could barely contain myself. I was a bit scared to go to a foreign country alone – I didn’t know anyone there except my godparents – but I hoped I would make friends there. I found it hard to leave the people I knew at home, but I decided to give it a try and see if I could manage on my own.
I got on a plane on a Friday and was almost swooning with excitement. At the airport, I suddenly couldn’t find my ticket when I was asked for it, I didn’t understand what the stewardess wanted from me when everyone on the plane had already buckled their seatbelts except me, and other such shenanigans. I dozed off for thirty minutes on the way, and I woke up depressed and arrived to bad weather. Adam came out to meet me at the airport because Vickie had to hold the front at Todd Way. I could see him sticking out from a distance at the airport. His brown hair had grown since I’d last seen him, now it was pulled back in a ponytail. He had a wide, Hollywood smile, I’d forgotten when he smiled his white teeth almost blinded me. His brown eyes sparkled mischievously as I approached him.
“Hi, girl!” Luckily my godparents didn’t forget how to speak Hungarian, because I knew very little German, only English. “Since when do you have a nose ring?”
“Hello! Adam, last time you saw me I was still a junior!” I jumped into his arms. “What’s up? How are you?”
“Good, good! It’s been busy, but we’ve got you now, so it’ll get easier. Come on, we’re going home.”
Home, in this case, meant the record company’s building, as my godparents had set up an upstairs apartment for themselves there.
“How was your trip?”
“Terrible! I’m completely nuts, but I’m excited.”
“Good!” Adam laughed. “You need to be enthusiastic, because you’re going to have a tough time. We’ve just had a band called Rockerz come over, they’re four guys and they’ve got a lot of problems. They’ve had a hard time getting through the legal hurdle to get over, and now they’ve got to make a record on deadline and they’ve got a cruel manager.”
“And what would I have to do with them?”
“Well... I hear you know something about making music...”
“Now, wait a minute! All I do is help some friends at home with gigs, and I can write some lyrics, but I’m still struggling with composing.”
“Well, I think they could use a fresh perspective. They’re so insecure at the moment that they need someone like you on their side. They’ve got studio three now anyway, and we’ll put you in with them as an all-rounder, as far as the salary is concerned, but we’ll sort out the paperwork somehow.”
“Maybe we can work something out. But nothing too much, as far as my pitch is concerned.”
“All right!” Adam smiled, and by then we had arrived at the Todd Way building.
To my eyes it was a huge building, a nine-storey, solid monstrosity that looked a bit like a prison from the outside, occupying a whole block. But once you entered, you found yourself in a tidy place. The doorman greeted you at the front, and then as you went inside, there was one of the secretariats. The decor itself reflected my godparents’, and my taste: a little kitschy, a little chic, bohemian, glitzy, animal print, neon, lace... so glam.
We took the elevator up to the ninth floor, the floor where the staff and the musicians working here were no longer allowed. This was Vickie and Adam’s apartment. I was given the largest of the three guest rooms, which included a small salon and a spacious bathroom. The whole thing was like a mini-suite, and plenty for me. It was fully equipped: the bedroom with a large wardrobe and a four-poster bed, the bathroom with various beauty products and several bottles of essential hairspray, and the salon with an LCD TV, some armchairs, a sofa, a small fridge and a minibar, as well as a balcony. And now it was all mine. I felt like I was in heaven.
After unpacking, showering and changing, we went down to the fourth floor, to the offices where Vickie was staying. However, the elevator also stopped on the seventh floor and two guys got on, talking in German and explaining something to each other very clearly. I was talking to Adam about my future duties and how the record label works. We got out on the fourth floor and the two guys went further down. But before the elevator doors could close, one of the guys, a guy with half-long brown hair and green eyes and a hoop in the middle of his lower lip, yelled something in German at Adam, who got very irritated, but didn’t say anything, and the other guy, who had half-long, shaggy, dark blond hair and brown eyes, giggled, but we just kept going, towards Vickie’s office.
“What did the guy say?” I asked Adam after he had gone very quiet.
“I think you’re going to have an even harder time than I thought. But we’ll talk about it in Vickie’s office.”
Then I said no more, but wondered what it could mean. But I didn’t have much time to think, because the glass door at the end of the corridor burst open and my godmother rushed towards me with her arms outstretched, threatening me with a strangling embrace. Her hair was still blonde, but now curly, and her dark brown eyes now, as always, radiated love.
After I had survived the reunion, we went into the office, and there the couple began to talk in German as if I were not there.
“Khm...!” I cleared my throat. “Sorry to interrupt, but you’re not alone.”
“Oh, sorry darling, it’s just Adam said you’d already met Andreas and Yann in the elevator.” Vickie chirped. “I don’t think you’re going to have it easy at all.”
“Yes, Adam already told me that, but I didn’t understand it then either. And who are Andreas and Yann?” I was getting a little confused.
“They’re the bass player and singer of the Rockerz.” Adam replied.
“And what’s this difficult thing I’m going to face?”
“Did you hear Yann yelling something from the elevator?”
“Well, how shall I put it, he called you something not very nice.”
“What?! But he doesn’t know me! What did he say?” I snapped.
“I suppose I could translate it as you’re a bum, a nobody, and they don’t need you. I’m sorry.”
“Well... it starts well.”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart.” Vickie took me under her wing. “We’ll get through this! First, I’ll introduce you to Martin, their manager. Here he comes.”
Looking out the glass door, I saw a short, blond-haired, dark-blue-eyed man approaching, wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a half-buttoned black shirt. He’s a heartthrob. He was about twenty-three to twenty-five years old. When he knocked on the door, I was struck by the smell of his cologne: strong but not nauseating.
“Hello, everyone! What do you want, Vickie?” He said in English so I could understand.
“Hello Martin! You could be nicer.” Adam noted. “This is Jay, our goddaughter” He pointed at me. “the one we told you about, she’s going to be assigned to your guys. She’s going to help you out, but no bullying, and treat her right, take care of her, because if we hear one bad word about you, there’s going to be trouble.”
“Great! Not enough babysitting four puppies, now I’ve got a fifth one coming.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t need looking after.” I spoke up in my own defence. “Hi, I’m Jay. I won’t be underfoot, I’m just here to help.”
“Well, all right girl, we’ll see about that. I’m Martin. With the permission of my chaperones” He looked at Adam. “I’ll introduce you to my clients.”
“One more thing, Martin.” Vickie called after us as Martin pulled me by the hand out of the office. “I guess your clients aren’t fans of Jay. Handle this properly. No hair pulling. Oh, and Jay doesn’t speak German, only English and Hungarian.”
Martin nodded and strode out of the office, and I followed him. We took the lift down to the third floor, where there were a few studios, including number three. We walked at a brisk pace past studios five and four, then went through the open door of studio three, but it was empty. Martin threw himself down in one of the armchairs and then pointed to another next to him for me to sit down.
“Okay Jay, the kids are on their lunch break. Until they get back, let’s have a little chat.” He began. “What exactly do you do? Vickie explained something like, back home in Hungary, you’re moving around with musicians and helping them out a lot, but she said you’d clarify.”
“Something like that. I used to help out at gigs, whether it’s packing up before and during, organising, liaising with the club staff. My friends show me their songs they’re working on, I critique them, tell them what I think they could improve on. I also take photos. At concerts, and also just for fun, band photos and stuff like that. And finally, I write lyrics for myself sometimes, but it’s just a hobby.”
“Hmm... Well, you’re a universal girl. Then I think I know how I could use you. The thing is, this rabble have to write their first song for the new album in a month or the sponsors will drop them. You know, in return for the help, you have to show something. And you could help by doing some hair-twirling. After all, you know the drill, you know how it works, you know what’s expected of them. You’re still not going to be the boys’ favourite, but if you keep up the front and prove to them that you’re unbreakable, they’ll appreciate you and even get the record done on time.”
“Oh my God! But I’m only here to help, not to bully.”
“With your skills and your situation, you are better suited for this position.” Martin smiled, which made me think I was going to roll right off my chair. That smile! “Here they come! I’ll introduce you, be good.” He broke me out of my reverie.
As I looked out of the open door, I saw four cute guys approaching, talking to each other after lunch. Among them were the two I met in the elevator. When I recognized them, I became a little unsure. But then Martin put his hand on my shoulder, gave me a smile and we headed for the door.
“Hey, day-care group!” Martin called out to the four boys. “Come on, I want you to meet someone.”
Then all four of them stopped for a moment, fell silent and stared at me. The blood stopped in my veins, and they looked at me as if I were evil incarnate.
“Come on, don’t keep the lady waiting!” Martin called to them as he pulled me towards himself. “This is Jay, who I told you was coming. She’s going to be our colleague from now on, sort of a handyman, but your supervisor.”
“Well, nice! We’re going to be pestered by a girl. Aren’t you enough, Martin?” Said the one I could identify as Yann from the elevator.
“I was nothing compared to her, so get ready. Jay, this is Yann the singer, Frank the lead guitarist, Andreas the bassist and Max the drummer. They’re the Rockerz, personally.” Martin introduced the members, who nodded at the sound of their names.
Max had short, brown hair in a mohawk and greyish-green eyes. He gave me the strangest look. I think he was trying to decide if I was really as scary as Martin made me out to be.
“Hi guys! I’m not really the witch Martin made me out to be.” I tried to ease my circumstances, smiling.
“Hi Jay, I’m Frank.” The awkward silence was broken by a short, black-haired, bright blue-eyed guy. Stepping forward from the others, he came over to me and we shook hands. “It’s a pleasure to welcome you to our circle.” He said with a smile, which reminded me that every guy in this building seems to have a heart-stopping smile.
At Frank’s gesture, Yann hissed and stormed past me, shouting to Martin that a team meeting was needed immediately.
“I’m sorry to leave you here so soon, but it looks like the little boss’ head is about to explode.” Chuckled Frank, and with that he headed inside to studio three. “Talk to you later!”
“Really sorry.” Martin came over. “I’ll talk to them behind closed doors and then we’ll get you involved.”
Great, I thought. I hadn’t even spoken a word to my new colleagues and they were already advising me on whether I could survive.
Meanwhile, inside, Yann nearly bit Martin’s head off.
“Is this our punishment for not writing a single line? Did you bring a deadweight?”
“Calm down, big boy. She’s Vickie and Adam’s goddaughter. And by the way, she’s got some pretty good references from back home.”
“Why, where does she live?” Max interjected.
“See, that’s it. You don’t even know her and you already have an opinion of her. Anyway, she came here from Hungary for a summer job. In a nutshell: she lives with musicians back home, helps them organise and critiques their songs.”
“There you go! Is she here to criticize?” Yann exclaimed.
“Stupid! Criticism can be positive. And negative criticism can be constructive.” Frank snapped.
“Are you already with her?”
“I think she’s on our side. But at least I’m not condemning her out of hand, I’m giving her a chance.”
“Traitor.” Yann continued to growl, but since no one seemed to share his opinion, he just sulked on inside.
“Well, now that we’ve got the human rights issues out of the way, I’ll give you more information.” Martin interjected. “What you need to know about Jay is that she’s just turned nineteen, hates school and studying, but loves music and partying. From what I’ve heard about her, she really has a talent for working with musicians, and probably couldn’t live in any other environment but with musicians. She can do some very wild and amazing things once she starts having fun. In my private opinion, she’s a sweet girl, a good girl and stubborn, nothing to be afraid of. Now maybe we should invite her in so she’s not excluded from her new job.”
After what seemed like an eternity, the door finally opened and Andreas came out to see me. I sat down in one of the armchairs outside, because I could no longer stand waiting for the verdict.
“Hi! It looks like your admission has been voted.”
“By what percentage?” I asked.
“Two for you, one against you, two abstentions.”
“Good ratio...” I muttered.
“You can’t expect us to run into your arms when we don’t even know you.” He was ingratiated.
“Oh, no, I didn’t expect that. You misunderstood me. I was glad to see that, though, I had someone against me, I had someone unknown on my side, and two of them would give me a chance.” I smiled.
“Huh! Sorry!” Blushed Andreas.
“What?” I blushed too.
“What we said in the elevator with Yann. I was a bit hypocritical just now.”
“As a matter of fact, I didn’t understand what you said, it was only translated afterwards, rather kindly I believe.”
“Then it’s better that you didn’t understand. For my part, I take it all back.”
We joined the others. We sat down, Martin gave us the instructions for the day and left us alone. The atmosphere was like in a cemetery, but at least Frank was next to me, and Andreas was leaning to my side. Yann was still sulking to himself and Max was quietly watching. The latter gave me a bit of a fright sometimes.
“I don’t think we’re doing anything today either.” Frank came over after Martin had left us. “It’s usually Max and Dreas getting to work on some beats, Yann I don’t know what he’s doing, supposedly trying to write lyrics and create a melody, and me retreating to a corner to play guitar. If you want, you can come with me.”
“With pleasure!” I said with a grin, because I loved to listen to someone just strumming whatever came to mind. “What language are your songs in, German or English?”
“English. It’s more international, more people understand it. But really, apart from a few demos that we sweated out in agony, we don’t have anything. You know” Frank launched into a longer story, looking away. “when we weren’t signed to anything, we started out covering songs. Then we wrote a couple of our own songs, and those are the demos now, but as soon as we got a label, they started to draw boundaries and forced us into rules. Since then, we’ve just been sitting around waiting for a miracle.”
“And why don’t you write something? Why don’t you jam?” I asked, listening to Frank play.
“What do you mean? How do you think we should write songs?”
“Well, if neither of you can do it on your own, why don’t you put it together so that you come up with a guitar melody, Andreas and Max provide the rhythm they’re feeling, and Yann comes up with the vocals for the whole thing. And you can have the lyrics at the very end, if suddenly nothing comes.”
“We somehow never had that. Maybe we’re not even a good band, because it’s like we can’t collaborate. We never agree on anything!”
“Well, don’t be so pessimistic. Cheer up! We’ll work it out somehow!” I tried to console Frank, but I’d never seen a problem of this magnitude in any band.
It has happened before that every member of a band wanted something different, but it was still possible to keep the formation alive, with compromises. That’s it! Compromises are needed here too. Everyone has a say in everything, but the expert has the last word.
“Do you think Yann will ever take me seriously?” I asked, to change the subject a bit.
“I’m sure he will!” Frank laughed. “He just needs a little time to understand that in the midst of a crisis, you’re not just another scourge, you’re fun company, among other things.” He said all this, pulling out his heartthrob smile. “But I don’t think he’s worth it to worry about.”
“What’s your problem with him?”
“He’s a bit egotistical lately. And I don’t like that he’s so selfish about everything. Both in music and with people. But he’s still like a brother to me, even if sometimes I can’t understand him.” He fell silent, and after a good minute, he looked at me and spoke. “I’ve never said so much to a stranger.”
“Oh, never mind, it’s part of my charm.” I laughed. “Usually, people tell me things about themselves that they don’t want to, or I’m not even curious about.”
“So, you’re not just charming, you’ve got magic. Maybe you could turn Yann into something less selfish.” He smiled bitterly.
“I’ll see what I can do.” I smiled back.
After that, I just listened to Frank play guitar and neither of us spoke. Suddenly I started to feel strange, I looked around and noticed that everyone had stopped what they were doing and were watching us. Even Adam was there, I didn’t even notice when he came in.
“Hey, girl! The day is over, come home. Vickie’s cooking for you today, in your honour. But I did get the phone number for the pizza delivery, just in case.” Adam chuckled at his own joke, at Vickie’s expense, but with love. “It’s not her cooking I like most about her.”
“I didn’t even notice the time had passed. What time is it?”
“It’s the hour of your departure.” Yann spat bluntly.
“Then I guess I’ll be going now.”
“Wait!” Frank grabbed my hand and pulled me back. “Meet me here tomorrow morning at nine o’clock!”
“Sure, sure. Bye!”
Adam and I walked to the lift, went up to the ninth floor, and as soon as the door opened, I was hit by the smell of burning.
“Well, what did I say?” Adam grinned. “You still alive, honey?” He yelled in.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to order pizza.” Came the reply in Vickie’s voice from inside. “You still have the number for that good place, right?”
Adam gave me a meaningful look, and rushed inside. I meanwhile retired to my room and flopped down on my bed for a while, still dressed. I was drowsy when the door swung open and Vickie came in.
“How was your day, darling? Are you tired? Really, you just arrived today, I forgot. I threw you in a bit of deep water, didn’t I? Never mind, have some food and go to bed.”
“I’m not hungry.” I whimpered. “I just want to sleep. I’m supposed to have an appearance tomorrow at nine.”
“Exactly! You’re going to start work tomorrow.”
“So, what was today then?”
“Hmm, getting to know your colleagues. Really, will you get along after all?”
“Two and a half votes for, one against, one abstention.”
“I want to sleep.”
“All right, I’ll leave you to it. At least get changed.” With that, she yanked off my sneakers and my jeans.
I woke up at eight in the morning to the smell of pancakes. No, Vickie wasn’t baking, I realised as soon as I woke up. The maid had changed professions for me and at Vickie’s behest, and was cooking me breakfast.
I hurriedly put on a pair of purple knit tights, black shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt, and my sneakers. I put on make-up and had breakfast, but I didn’t know what to do with my hair. My hair was not very long, it was a platinum blonde and I never knew what to do with it. I finally grabbed a comb, made it fluffy, put on some hairspray, and was sitting outside studio three alone at quarter to nine, because no one was there but me.