It’s been fours year since I hung up the guitar and sold my piano. I mean, no regrets there, considering the best line I probably wrote was the stupidly obvious “Don’t forget I pulled the sheets off the bed/ Baby I was sleeping in a twin sized head” for my then-boyfriend, an hour before I broke up with him. But after years of days spent looking forward to rehearsal nights, and having my immediate world revolve around me, it was weird to voluntarily have stripped that thin layer of confidence off myself. My bassist parked his red Ford outside my dorm room in Syracuse every afternoon for two weeks until he didn’t. He even left new strings for my Bouzouki outside my door, in hope that I would turn around. I was floating. Suddenly being in college studying music didn’t make sense anymore.
I took some time off and moved to New York. I picked up opening shifts at a pretentious Park Slope coffee shop that sold iced coffee for $5, then took the train uptown to work part-time as assistant to an English musician important enough to sue me for using his name online (let’s call him “Buzz”). Buzz was very much the Tom Buchanan to my Nick Carraway. I’d leave his office and go to shows because I couldn’t bare the thought of being in my room alone, watching the cars drive over the BQE from my window. After the next couple of years, I wasn’t Judy Garland straight off the Greyhound looking to make the big-time anymore. I gradually traded the prospect of fame for knowing the boys at the door.
Which I suppose brings me here, standing by the wall next to two of my friends, because at 5’2″, it is hard to see the band playing when everyone at the car-wash-venue is trying to be a wallflower in the middle of the room. But that’s ok, I have been waiting to see Sheer Mag and Protomartyr for the past six months. Even if I can’t see anything besides shiny silver backpacks clinging to denim shoulders, I still sing along. Besides, I am standing adjacent to one of my childhood heroes, discussing a latter X album. I am flattered that he remembers the oddly specific details of my summer, like how this painter I met in the rural depths of India compared Romeo and Juliet to Monica and Bill. But then I don’t think it has as much as to do with me as it does with his eidetic memory. I am confused, which is better than being naively gratified.
I excuse myself to the bathroom while Potty Mouth sets up (ha, ha), clasping in my hands my friend’s Olympus 35mm. Being–or, in my case, feigning to be–a photographer at a show is the closest a human being can get to parting the Red Sea. I stay for a few songs until I am interrupted by a slew of text messages. I run into Childhood Hero again as I step outside for a smoke. He mentions that he hates the saxophone and I agree, alluding to his two decade old Supertramp review, which politely ridicules Dave Winthrop’s instrument of choice. I tell him that I actually got “I play saxophone in a band that was on Conan O’Brien once” as a pick-up line a few days ago. He laughs, probably out of sheer nicety. I keep talking, but as always, I am on my fourth beer and dauntingly self-aware. He’s cripplingly polite and I am afraid of coming across as a pushover.
The singer in a band formerly from my college town walks up to him. She shakes my hand purely out of social obligation and starts making conscious eye contact with me the way networking adults do when they talk, only because I am standing next to a known man. I walk over to the bar and order “another” Pilsner. I take out some cash to pay for it but I am told my money is no good here. He’s now seen me take part in celebrity conversation, and it doesn’t matter if I happened to be there by accident, I am now one degree of separation from DIY stardom. I go back to my spot by the wall and realize the two girls who work at big-name publications followed, and then unfollowed me on Twitter, now stand in front of him, chuckling over an inside joke as they charge their phones. An “important”, “past romance” walks past us and winks at me, because I am no longer nineteen and scrounging shows for people on my Twitter timeline. Now I’m up against this wall, so distracted by the girl standing behind me recording my fairly inebriated exchange about upcoming releases that I lose track of who is going on next. Why am I being recorded?
I say goodbye to some acquaintances in my newly absorbed adult manner. I come back to see that the writer I was talking to earlier has already left for the next show with the two girls who followed, then unfollowed me, then followed him out the door. It is depressing to look forward to an event all month and leave empty-handed. I wasn’t expecting anything more tangible than following plans, but the chill of the night shortly leaves me to my own, wondering if I can pay rent with compliments as I attempt to take my career home. I no longer want to be the musician I wanted to be growing up but I guess it’s easier to choose cigarettes over scales than it is to come to terms with attention deprivation.
As much as I’d like to hold it against them, I don’t blame anyone here for wanting to spend time with glorified Twitter celebrities over me. At twenty, I have more married friends of over forty than I do my age. I can’t imagine packing up and subjecting myself once again to weekends at the college with film majors, having their Pulp Fiction posters stare me down while I grab my jeans off the floor, and hope they don’t notice I’m gone.