At least music is my life. Sometimes, it seems like music is the only thing left in my life these days.
There was a time when it wasn’t, there was a time when my loneliness had been chased away. It’d been chased away by friendship, by love. For the first time in my life, I had more than music. I had Jay.
And even though every single dream I’d dared to dream has come true in the past two years, my life seems awfully empty compared to what I had when Jay was still with me.
Sitting up here, I feel the warmth of the spotlights heating up my body until droplets of sweat drip down my neck. My heart is beating in the steady rhythm of Luke’s bass drum behind me. The emptiness, the loneliness that’s always so present in my heart, flows straight into my voice as I sing the first song I wrote for her after she’d disappeared. ‘No Farewell’.
It wasn’t a farewell, it was an until-we-meet-again, it wasn’t a break-up, it was a break, a pause. Charge the batteries and start over fresh and rested. That’s what we’d said two years ago, that’s what Jay had promised me. Just like she’d promised me to be back in six months, that she’d be waiting for me when we came back from our first tour. But when we did, one year after we’d last seen each other, she wasn’t there. She broke her promise.
The music stops and for a moment, my world goes quiet. Somewhere in the back of my head, I hear the rumble going through the crowd, their cheers blasting up in front of me. But I keep my eyes closed. Just a bit longer. Only a few more seconds with the image of Jay’s face lingering in my head. In my heart. My throat closes up as the memory of her smile burns through my chest, her laughter is still ringing in my head after all this time.
I used to be so scared of moments like these, of getting all emotional in my songs. But that time is long over. It turned out that my mentor was right with the advice he’s given me once.
‘If you want to be a rockstar, you better learn to play with a hangover. Or tired as fuck. Or with a broken heart, or sick, or whatever else you consider an excuse for not feeling up for it. Fans pay shitloads of money for the tickets to your shows, and no matter your own personal problems, when you go out on stage, you need to deliver. So take your guitar and use whatever’s bugging you right now to make it the best fucking performance of your life!’
“Thank you,” I say with a slight crack in my voice as I open my eyes to the bright spotlights pointed at me. The audience is still cheering and I use the chance to pick up my bottle of water and wash the lump in my throat away.
“We’ve got one more song for you tonight,” I let the fans know as I get up from my barstool and put my acoustic back on its stand. “The last song of this tour, I’m going to need all of you to support me on this one. Are you ready?”
Cheers and screams start before me, making my heartbeat quicken as I grab the microphone and pull it out of the stand.
“Come on-” I mock them with a teasing smirk on my face- “there’s still room for more. I said I need all of you to support me on this last song, do you hear me?”
The noise of raving fans goes up even more, making the blood in my veins rush with the adrenaline I love.
It’s these moments right here, hearing the fans, seeing them connect to my songs, feeling their energy and giving it right back to them. The high I’m searching for night after night, the bliss scorching through me and making me forget for at least a few seconds that this is the only happiness left for me.
“I can’t hear you, Manchester. Are you ready to rock out for one last song?”
The crowd responds to my words by screaming even louder. At some point, I’ll probably go deaf, but it’s just so worth it.
“Yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about!” I praise them with a wide smile. “This last song is called ‘Devil’s Daughter’ and I want to hear all of you singing along with me for one last time tonight!”
The lights are dimming as we prepare for our big finale, another one of the songs I wrote for Jay. Our biggest hit so far. It begins with a kick-ass drum solo from Luke, staying upbeat and energised throughout the entire song.
Just like its name giver, ‘Devil’s Daughter’ is loud and it doesn’t hold back. Neither do I hold back, I let my voice grow to its full range as I walk to the front of the stage, leaning down to touch a few hands and smile into some of the cameras held up to me.
The crowd goes wild, loud screams rising around me as I purposely let my voice crack at its peak. I feed off their energy, let the adrenaline of the moment rush through me. I give them everything I’ve got until Mickey finishes the song with a guitar solo outro that always makes my blood rush with pride. I fucking love this song, may it be arrogant or not. It’s a masterpiece, from the first click of Luke’s drumsticks to the last echo of Mickey’s guitar strings. And the frantic screams of ‘encore’ around us prove me right once more.
“Best fucking night of my life!” I hear Mickey shouting behind me when we leave the stage, and a second later, his full body weight slams into my side as he jumps at me. “What the fuck was that you did there on Devil’s Daughter? It was incredible, mate!” Laughing, he gives me a harsh slap on my back before he lets go of me. A towel is being thrown at me and I catch it, wiping the sweat off my face and neck before I pull my shirt up over my head to change into a clean and dry one.
“Great set, guys!”
“You fucking rocked tonight!”
I hear the praises sounding at us from all around, so many hands pulling on me and hugs I’m getting pulled into, I lose track of who I’m with. My heart is still racing and my head feels slightly numb as I grin at whoever approaches me on my way to the green room. Followed by way too many people, I push the door to it open, only to find even more already waiting inside. Another round of cheers breaks out when my guys and I enter it, but while they start mingling right away, I let my gaze travel over the people around. So many faces but not one belongs to the person I was hoping to see tonight.
“I’ll be right back, need a breath of fresh air,” I tell our tour manager Holly before I slip out of the room again.
She hasn’t come. I don’t know why I’d hoped, I haven’t seen her in almost two years. Still, the disappointment spreading through my stomach when I realise that another day will pass without her is too strong for a man who’s given up on hoping.
Swallowing down the instant feeling of frustration, I open the door to the back yard where a bouncer is positioned to make sure no one without a pass gets in. Leaning against the metal bannister of the stairs, I quietly ask him, “She didn’t show up by any chance, did she?”
When we got here, I showed him a picture of Jay and asked him to let her in should she come by. Which she obviously hasn’t.
“I’m sorry, she wasn’t here. Lots of other girls, though, in case you want to extend the list a little,” he answers with a wink, lighting up a cigarette as he leans against the wall beside the door.
“Not really, I’m not interested.”
Sighing, I let my gaze travel down the backyard. A fence protects it from any unwanted guests and the road behind it seems deserted. All is quiet, no short little blonde with a bright smile and even brighter personality anywhere to be seen.
“You sure are one of a kind, aren’t you still in your early twenties?” The bouncer chuckles and when I bring my eyes back to him, he gives me an amused grin. “Most youngsters I know just pass me a list saying ‘the chick with the black skirt and brown hair from the parking lot’ and if she doesn’t show up, they’ll simply find another!”
“There’s no other for me,” I mutter, looking back down to the ground now. How strange it is to talk to some man I don’t even know about this. But he signed a confidentiality agreement, I don’t have to trust him. If he talks, he’s got a problem.
“Let me put it like this,” I continue as I lift my gaze to the deserted road again. “When I first started playing the guitar, I owned a trashy no-name cheap one from the discounter. Terrible sound, it was thin and metallic, always out of tune. It was okay for a start, but everything about it was wrong. I played other guitars, it got better, but then I tried out my Jackson.
“The second I pulled the first string on it, I knew there was no going back. I know, many might say a Jackson is still not top of the list, I’ve heard that a lot in the past two years, but here’s the thing. No other guitar ever felt as good as the Jackson. The Jackson was right, it was natural, it was made for me from the first second. I don’t want another guitar ever again. Neither the cheap trash nor the expensive premium. I only want my Jackson.”
Jay was like my Jackson. She was perfect. No other girl could ever live up to her, so I don’t even bother trying. Maybe I didn’t ‘try out’ too many girls before her, but I just know. Everything was perfect with her.
“Then I guess the question you should be asking yourself is, what will you do if you can’t play your Jackson anymore?” The bouncer’s voice pulls me out of my thoughts again. “Do you want to give up on music altogether, do you want to change your mind and try out another guitar after all, or are you going to do something and get your Jackson back? Because, in my experience, guitars rarely grow legs to walk back to their destined musician on their own.”
“Well, I’d certainly want to get my Jackson back. Any other would be a shitty option,” I answer him drily as I think of a life without Jay. Without love. Without sex!
Hell, what a terrible idea, two years of celibacy have been long enough! But sleeping with another girl doesn’t sound appealing to me either. Been there, done that, don’t need it again.
“Then why aren’t you? Did you play a Gibson at one of your concerts and the Jackson got upset?”
“No, nothing like that. It’s complicated.” Pausing for a moment, I try to find the right words for what happened, but how could they ever come? “Let’s just say my guitar disappeared after I didn’t play it for a few days and I’ve got no idea where it is or how to find it. I’d hoped it might magically show up here tonight since Manchester was the last place it was seen, but I’ve got no such luck, I’m afraid.”
“Damn, that sucks, mate, I’m sorry. Unfortunately, your Jackson wasn’t here, but I hope you’ll find her soon. Sounds like a hell of an instrument, it’d be a shame if you had to stop playing because you couldn’t get it back. I mean, what is life without music, eh?” With a pitiful smile on his face, the bouncer gives me a pat on my back and pulls out his cigarette pack again to light up a new one.
“Pretty awful, that’s for sure. I guess I should go back in, though, if she shows up by any chance, please just send her in,” I tell him, giving him a friendly smile as I open the door.
“Sure thing. Too bad the girl hasn’t shown, but others have surely been trying. My highlight today was this kid, she can’t have been much older than eighteen. Do you want to know what she said? ‘I let you in if you let me in,’ that’s what she said. I considered calling her mum for a moment there.” Laughing, the bouncer shakes his head at the memory.
I can imagine the moment must have been quite disturbing, the man is at least in his forties! But that girls are offering to shag the bouncer to get backstage at our concerts is flattering anyway. In a creepy, weird way. Although I certainly would have called the girl’s mum if I’d found out how she’d gotten in. Most of the girls backstage are here for that kind of fun anyway, and my boys rarely disappoint to give it to them. Especially Mickey.
Our lead guitarist is the biggest womaniser in the UK, he’d been from day one. He’s got the looks, that picture-perfect smile, the style. Six foot two tall, strongly built, both of his arms covered in tattoos, dark blond hair, chinstrap beard and baby blue eyes, the perfect package to make all the girls swoon.
His image does the rest, though, he doesn’t try to make it a secret that he shags a girl in basically every city we get to. But being a major man whore only seems to attract even more females who throw themselves at him. I’m sure they must believe he’s picked up the skills to give them an unforgettable night before the tour continues and he’s gone again. A fun night without any responsibilities, that’s what they want from him. And it’s what he gladly gives to them.
When I enter the green room, he’s already got one lucky victim pushed against a wall in the corner, his hands roaming her body, his lips glued to hers. I’ll be surprised if they make it to the hotel at all, it wouldn’t be the first time he finds a toilet or empty room in the venue for some private minutes with a girl. Not that I wasn’t guilty of having done the same at some point in my life. Although my backstage experience is limited to one girl only. Jay.
As I think back to a few of the shows we’d played two years ago, shortly after we’d signed the contract with our label, a sad smile forms on my lips on its own. Secret hook-ups became a sort of post-show ritual for us, although the ‘secret’ part of the story is still one of my biggest regrets. We’d fought about it several times, how bloody stubborn I’d been. How bloody stupid!
Sitting down on a small couch in the back of the room, I let my eyes travel over the other people here, desperately trying to find something interesting enough to distract me from my thoughts about Jay once again. But it’s the same view of most of our nights on tour.
Several people, including Luke and our bassist Dru, follow Mickey’s example by getting it on despite being in a public room. Others are caught up in chit-chat and then, as usual, there’s this random drunk guy, just standing there, crouched in some corner and staring at the same spot on the floor for minutes, slowly rocking back and forth like a ship in the surge. By now it appears to me that no green room ever is complete without this drunken piece of human decor.
Normally, I do engage in some of the chatting as well, mingle a bit, find the important people to talk to and make sure they know we’re always open for collaborations. But tonight, everything’s different. I no longer feel the high spirits from my earlier adrenaline rush, they got washed away by the fresh air of this cool autumn night outside. By being here. In this city.
This is where Jay’s supposed to be, this is the place she and her dad moved to two years ago. Only five months after we finally confessed our feelings to one another.
I remember it like it was yesterday, how we kissed on the rooftop of her house, the place where Jay’d always gone to when she was sad. Just like she was when her father had told her they were moving away. In tears, she’d muttered the words I had secretly longed to hear for years and when I finally did, they felt better than I could have ever imagined. ‘Fuck, I’m in love with you.’
Only Jay could throw in a ‘fuck’ and make my heart melt with it. Just like it had when we finally kissed. When I felt her lips moving with mine with nothing but love filling up our hearts. It may not have been our first kiss, but it was the kiss that had started our relationship. And many more followed. Up to the day of their departure. To the moment when I was standing beside their taxi, watching the tears falling out of her bright blue eyes as they rolled away.
The same tears are burning in the back of my eyes now that I think of it. Maybe it hadn’t been the end of our relationship, but it’d been the end of the good times we had.
Nothing in the world will I ever regret more than precisely that! I know I won’t ever be able to move on from her or forget about her. Her name is engraved in my chest, figuratively and literally, and I know I’ll never stop regretting. I’ll never stop wondering why she’d disappeared. And least of all will I ever stop hoping!
Like in so many other nights, my longing moves my hand as it reaches into the back pocket of my jeans to pull out my phone and open my private and anonymous Instagram page. One that I’d only created for the purpose of spamming Jay’s account with uncountable messages. Like the one I type for her now.
I just got off stage in Manchester. The concert was absolutely crazy, the fans were amazing. Mickey even praised me for my vocals, can you believe it?
I told the bouncer to let you in if you came by tonight, but it seems you haven't heard we were coming to your town.
Now I'm in the green room, missing you, thinking of you... and watching Mickey sticking his tongue down the throat of a lucky fan. The guys are enjoying this lifestyle thoroughly.
And here I am, texting you. I just wish I'd finally get an answer, this silence is driving me nuts!
I still love you, baby, I always will! ❤
Jay hasn’t accepted any of the message requests I’ve sent her since her line went dead from one day to another, but writing to her makes me feel better anyway. It’s like writing a diary, giving me a chance to clear my head and reflect on what happened during the day.
And who knows? Maybe one day, Jay will read all of this nonsense I’ve sent to her over the months.
Maybe one day, it’ll make her decide to come back to me.