A Love Song to You

Friday, August 26, 2016
I sent Alex a text, already knowing his response.

What are you doing right now?

I’m at our school’s talent show. 

Cool. Me too. Let’s meet up :-)

I knew he would be here. Almost everyone is. It’s not because the performances at the Ridgewood High talent show are exceptional this year. Most of them will probably be the same as usual: someone reciting poetry, an amateur illusionist, dance routines...all typical performances except one.
Although they didn’t realize it yet, everyone was here for me.

Alex and I met in the hallway around the far side of the gym by the locker rooms. The auditorium was undergoing some much-needed renovation, so the talent show was moved to the gym. That simple change of location made me nervous. When I originally practiced with the band, it was in the auditorium.

Or maybe it wasn’t the change of location that was making my heart beat a little faster. My reason for meeting up with Alex was to tell him how I feel. We’ve been barely friends for a long time.
He had gotten to the hallway first. He leaned against a wall, his body tall and slender. When I walked over to him his face lit up. From a reflex, I pushed my tortoise shell glasses back on my nose. My lips turned into an awkward smile.

“What’s going on?” said Alex. His eyes lingered for a moment at my feet. I wore a pair of thick black boots, covered with all kinds of zippers and buckles. They were the opposite of my everyday flats.

“I’m in the show tonight,” I said.

“That’s exciting! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Wisps of dark brown hair fell over one of his eyes. “What will you be doing?


“Really? If I knew, I would have supported you!” he said, putting his hands on my shoulders.
Such kind words. And nice lips. I wanted to pull them into mine.

“Instead, I only came here thinking of seeing Jennifer,” he said, sounding disappointed.

I sighed. “You think she sang that song that’s all over the Internet.”

“Everyone else seems to think so.”

I shook my head in disbelief. Ivan is, without a doubt, a genius. When he filmed us performing, he insisted that I sing with my back to the camera. He said that keeping the main singer secret would cause a buzz. When all was done, we had a very unusual music video. I remember the day he uploaded it. I thought no one would notice it.

Now tonight everyone was here, hoping to see the mystery singer. With less than a half hour from show time, secrets didn’t matter anymore.

“I sang the song on the video,” I said. “And I’m going to sing it tonight.”

Alex wrinkled his brows.

“But isn’t Jennifer singing that?”

Rumor has it that she is. With so many attributing that talented voice to her, she couldn’t resist trying to make the rumors into reality.

“My song won't be the same as hers.”

He nodded, but I’m not sure if he was sold on it. How can a voice so bold come from a tiny girl like me? And how can lyrics so honest come out of the mouth of someone so reserved?

I swallowed. From this point on, there will be no going back.

“In a few months, we won’t be the same either.”

“Yeah, soon we’ll be graduating and out of here,” said Alex.

“True, but my favorite part of being in high school--and even middle school--was being with you.” My voice trembled now.

I was hoping that he would say, “Me too, Kristie. My favorite part was being with you too.”
But he said nothing. He looked stunned.

I didn’t stop.

“Alex, I want to be your girlfriend.”

He started to say something, but I held up my hand.

“Please, don’t answer yet. Tell me after the show. I need to go back to the band and finish getting ready.”

“Okay,” he said. The unease in his voice bothered me, but from there we separated.

I twisted the front end of my oversized sweater and ran a shaky hand through my hair. I walked into the men’s locker room which had been converted into a holding area for all performers, girls, and guys. I met up with the other members of Iliad. I'm their lead singer.

There is so much resting on me.

Ivan sat on a bench across from me. My face must have made my thoughts obvious.

“You’re not doing this alone,” he said. He was a total contrast from the cheerful red lockers behind him with his dark blue hair and frigid expression.

“I know that,” I said.

“But you don’t believe it.” He crossed his legs and leaned in. “Remember, your voice and the band are in a relationship. They depend on each other. Lean on us while you’re singing. Don’t carry it alone.”

He was right.

As we walked out onto the gymnasium floor, his words echoed in my mind. Don’t carry it alone.
The instruments were set up already. All Ivan and Natalie had to do was strap on their guitars. Mike sat behind the drums. I took hold of the microphone.

For a second I scanned the audience. There were many confused faces. Some of the media were there because of the news that the mysterious singer in the viral video would be performing tonight. They looked confused too. Moments before, Jennifer had performed the same song as us. She did her best imitation, but it was clear that her voice was not the same.

I could feel the disappointment in the room. I hoped that I could meet everyone’s expectations.
Ivan looked at me. I gave him the nod.

The band started the intro. Then Ivan played the chord that was my cue. I sang.

We are something
They never could be.
Our reckless smiles
Should be
Angry mother
Angry father
Could not separate love
We’re so lucky.
We’re not like them.
We find safety
In a garden.

The first verse is low-keyed. but once the chorus hits, my voice can no longer hold back.

You and me
We know that together
Life’s storms
Are easier to weather.
Our love
Is not afraid
Of forever
And ever…

The energy of singing forced my body to move. I let it happen. In my mind it was like we were at Ivan’s house again, performing for the video. Even through the musical interlude where the band takes over, my arms and legs keep going.

Our fellow students cheered once the chorus came. This was the song. And I’m the singer they’ve been waiting to hear. I caught a glimpse of Alex. He sat in the front bleachers with eyes on me. The time for me to join back into the song came. My voice sang the words to him, trying to bridge the distance.

Oh, my dear.
We are killers
I can feel it dying
When you are here
With me.

Even though we will be going to college in a few months, I wanted Alex to stay near me. The last note faded from my throat.

The audience screamed and applauded. Me and the other band members took a bow, although I think my body naturally fell into that position due to the energy demands of singing.

When I stood straight again, my eyes met with Alex’s. He still applauded with a shy smile. I was confident that he finally saw me, and that his answer would be “yes.”

We won the talent show, and there was the general surprise that the lead singer was simply me.
Alex and I made plans through text to meet again in the parking lot. I waited for him at the parent pick-up area. The parking lot lights cut through the dark, making the moon less bright and the stars invisible.

People filtered through the parking lot, looking for their cars. Earlier, it was hard for others to approach me because of the swarming media. Now that the excitement had died down, others in the audience took a moment to talk to me when they saw I was sitting by myself on the curb. Most of the comments were like:

“You have such a beautiful voice!”

“You’re very talented.”

“You’re going to be famous!”

The comments about fame made me squirm the most. I wasn’t sure if “thank you” was the right response.

After some time, Alex met up with me. He kept his hands buried in his jacket pockets.

“So what do you think?” I dared to ask.

“You were amazing,” he said. He paused in thought. “From now on your life is going to be amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to handle the ride.”

A chill ran through my body, and it was not from the cold night air.

“What do you mean? Nothing’s going to change!”

Alex became annoyed. “That’s impossible. Do you know how long people have been trying to figure out who that singer in the video is? Now that the truth is out, things will never be the same.”

“Yeah, I’ll get my 15 minutes of fame and a one-hit wonder, and then all of this will be gone,” I said.
Alex crossed his arms. “Kristie, you are talented and pretty. There is no way you will fade in a few months. And Ivan, despite being a wayward prodigy, knows music. He lives it. He would not put so much effort into to this for it to die easily.”

I bit my lip. He was right. Although he and Ivan had been estranged friends for many years, Alex could still read him.

“But this has nothing to do with you and me,” I said, still working to get him to change his mind. My heart raced from desperation.

“Kristie, I was born here, and I’ve lived in the same house my entire life. I’m going to a local college. But you will be traveling the world.”

“I’m going to college too!” I said. Why does he keep focusing on how our lives will be different? Won’t some of it still be the same?

“You will be traveling the world,” he repeated. “And I crave stability so much, that I won’t be able to keep up with you. Yeah, I would enjoy it for a while, but soon I will be longing to come back here.” His voice broke. “I’ll be holding you back.”

I wanted to argue. I wanted to say, “I would be glad to have a steady life with you, Alex--with a home and kids and grocery shopping.”

Instead, I said nothing, because I wasn’t sure if those pleasant images in my mind would make me happy. As I feared, this had been a mistake. I had sabotaged our friendship.

“Just forget everything I said tonight.” I backtracked, trying to salvage something, but his face became more disappointed.

“Do you actually think we were ever ‘just friends’?” he said.

My mouth went dry. We never kissed, but the atmosphere between us has always been charged. He reached out for my hand. I hesitated in letting him take it. When our fingers met, I felt my cheeks burn.

“Kristie, I’ve always admired how sweet and calm you are. But I’ve also sensed that you have this creative, emotional energy. I’ve never seen you show that side of yourself before. For a while, I was hoping that we could go out. When you first asked me, I wanted to say ‘yes’ right away. But while you were up there, singing your heart out, I realized that I’m not the guy for you.”

“But I was singing for you!” I said. I sounded pathetic, whimpering. He was being nice. The truth was he realized that I was not the girl for him.

“I’m sorry,” was all he could say.

My eyes tingled from the threat of tears, and I sniffled to hold them back. Somehow I was able to speak in a completely normal voice.

“I understand.”

Alex put on a weak grin. “Thank you, Kristie. Goodnight.”


He walked off into the parking lot. Most of the people were gone. I leaned against one of the posts that supported the drive-thru overhang. Calm? I wanted to scream.

I wanted my voice to reverberate through the night. I wanted to throw stuff and smash the windows of his sporty two-door car as he drove away.

Instead, I watched as he drove out of the parking lot and onto the main road. Keeping composure at a time like this was an incredible feat of strength. It was a fragile strength.

“Kristie, what are you doing out here?” said a voice behind me.

I turned. It was Ivan. His blueberry hair looked black in the dark. I couldn’t believe how naturally a dress shirt and tie came to him. Some guys look like uncomfortable little kids when they dress up. But Ivan was charming, and yet, intense.

Must be from all of those piano recitals he was in as a child.

My brain worked hard to come up with some way to respond to him, but Ivan didn’t wait for it.
“Don’t you know we were all looking for you? I even had to search the girl’s restroom because Natalie was on the other side of the school and had her phone turned off. Again.”

He frowned at me.

My plan was to thank him for finding me and apologize for all the trouble. However, as I attempted to speak, the corners of my mouth soured. Sniffling could no longer hold back the oncoming tears. One rolled down my cheek. Then another. I sobbed.

Through my tears, I saw Ivan’s initial shock. Then that face gave way to one of concern, like when he’s working on a song that doesn’t sound quite right.

Crying in front of him was embarrassing, but he showed no signs of disapproval. Instead, he hugged me. He let me cry on him, dirtying his crisp, pressed shirt with salty tears and snot. He smelled like lilac laundry.

Relief overwhelmed me. I didn’t have to be sweet and calm for him.

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