Crystal sat staring at a blank page of paper in a well-wrung notebook. She plinked Middle C on her electric piano and then slammed her head down on the keys, disharmony ricocheting violently around her studio apartment. She'd had writer's block for days on end. And it was all his fault.
Crystal's next-door-neighbor was a musician, too. Welcome to Midtown, NYC, right? Only he was a rock singer and she was a Classically-trained Indie-Soul Singer/Songwriter, as she liked to put on her posters. She'd booked another career un-altering show at once groovy bar, The Bitter End. If people were getting scouted at this place with it's strange hand-painted walls depicting S&M women and, in completely unrelated scenes, animals roaming in backyards, then Crystal was not in on it. She, of course, thought she was good and she even secured herself a gig in a showcase at CBGB but then they closed. In fact, they closed without telling her. Crystal stood outside the boarded door, keyboard in bag - hanging from her shoulder, just staring for 10 minutes. Unbelievable, her luck.
When this guy, the rock singer, showed up he changed everything. Crystal went from having peaceful afternoons for composing on her keyboard and synthesizer to stuffing cotton balls in her ears, even at noon. Weren't rockers supposed to sleep their debaucherous-night-induced hangover off until well into the evening? Well, today, Crystal had had enough of it.
She marched the three steps to her door, turned the two dead bolts and the flimsy doorknob lock and flung herself into the hallway. In a matter of seconds she was knocking at 19A, breathless with adrenaline. A dangerously thin model wearing a tiny white T-shirt and tight leather leggings opened the door. She blew a puff of smoke into Crystal's face and tapped the butt of her cigarette onto the toe of Crystal's fuzzy slipper sock.
"Yea, is right, honey. I'm here to see the guy making all the racket."
She raised an eyebrow and scoffed.
The skinny brunette turned into the apartment. Her bed head was even worse in the back and Crystal couldn't tell if it was from a jar or an actual bed. Or couch.
"Michael - someone in baggy Wal-mart sweatpants is here to see you."
She gave Crystal the once over and slunk back into the apartment. Michael appeared around the door looking fairly typical and quite as Crystal had expected: leather jacket indoors, longish wavy dark hair, stubble, bright blue eyes. He was the boy your mother, well maybe not your mother but your mother's mother, would have warned you about. Crystal had prepared herself for this and so recovered quickly. Had she not she may have swooned right into his handsome arms. That or covered her still unwashed face and ran back to her apartment.
"What can I do ya for, sweetheart?"
"Yes, hi. I'm Crystal. I live next door. And, you see..." Michael's face scrolled into a brilliant ear-to-ear grin.
"You live next door!? That's great. Come on in, neighbor." He put his arm around Crystal and ushered her into his apartment.
"You must be the siren I used to hear all the time when I first moved in, singing all those, uh, indie-soul kind of songs. You some kind of singer slash songwriter, right?"
Determined not to be thrown into some lush haze of serendipity by Michael's word choice, Crystal fired back.
"Well, that would have been before you started playing full blast every single day in the middle of my composing time!"
She slid out from under his arm and stood firm.
"And I've just...I've just come here to say that I would really appreciate it if you could have some common courtesy for the rest of the people in this building who are trying to create something, you know? I mean, you could at least just play for a bit then give it a rest for an hour or so. We could come up with some kind of schedule, whatever. Just...you're not the only one here, you know?"
When Michael burst out laughing, Crystal realized she was hearing more than just him. She looked around to discover three other skinny rocker types and another skinny model slinking over the couch and the floor like sweaters laying out to dry, smoking and laughing and rolling their eyes.
"Honey, sweetheart. I dig. It's cool, really. You're very cute."
Michael swirled around, plopped down on a stool and picked up his ______ electric. He motioned to an upright under the window next to him.
"Why don't you do your 'creating' in here? We can jam together and share the space." His friends laughed some more.
"You can't be serious."
"True. But I've been known to try."
Crystal sat at the piano bench because her knees wouldn't hold her another moment. Her adrenaline had been quite drained by Michael's charm and her embarrassment at the other 'hipsters' in the apartment.
"Great!" Michael said. "I'll start and you join in."
Before Crystal could protest Michael started into a rock song. Crystal knew it well as she'd been getting a steady diet of it for the past week. He'd been playing it to death trying to finish it. And since Crystal couldn't concentrate on her own playing she'd started finishing it for him. She'd actually come up with a kicking piano part and suddenly her hands were forming their arch and floating toward the keys.
Crystal tried to keep them steady as she placed her fingertips on the ivories, centering herself with Middle C as her keystone. She tried desperately to imagine that the other band members and impossibly beautiful groupies weren't sitting behind her with bored or snobby looks wrinkling their eyebrows. She was only about four bars in when she succeeded. Crystal always liked to imagine herself at a white grand piano at the amphitheater in Central Park when she knew she was playing well. And she was playing well. The lyrics to the song, usually growled and groaned by Michael, came out of Crystal's mouth breathily soft at first and then louder, each note ebbing and lilting and skipping up and down riffs with her signature British-soul-singer-inspired sound. Crystal closed her eyes and imagined the crowd singing along, lit lighters swaying in the air.
Suddenly a bass, another electric and drums appeared behind her on the stage. A gruff voice began to sing along, blending his own sound with hers to absolute perfection. She hit the final note of the song and slowly opened her eyes to see that she was back in Michael's apartment but he and his bandmates were all at their instruments, their faces full of glory.
The brunettes clapped at the men while stealing odd glances at Crystal which were starting to look a little like jealousy.
"Crystal! You did it! You're amazing!" Michael said.
"Thank you!...I did what?" Crystal replied.
"You finished my song." Michael become very serious. He slid his guitar to his back and knelt on one knee beside her. Taking her hand, he looked her in the eyes with uncomfortable sincerity.
"Crystal, will you join my band?"
Before she could swim back to the surface of Michael's eyes, one of his friends piped up.
"Hold on, hold on." His name was Lewis and he was British.
"That was pretty good but we need to have a chat about this. One impromptu song don't make you one of the New New Yorkers."
"Who's the leader of this band, me or you, Lewis?" Michael retorted, still on one knee.
"You are but we've all agreed to make these kinds of decisions together!" The rest of the band agreed with Lewis.
Michael stood, bringing Crystal up with him.
"Crystal, love, would you let us sort this out? I'll be in touch."
He escorted her to the door, shined her a smile, and left her in the hallway to reel.
What just happened? Crystal wondered as she entered her apartment and leaned against the triple-locked door. She decided promptly to put the whole incident out of her mind, take a shower and go to Barnes 'N Noble to read comicstrip books. It was her way of relaxing and she had a busy night ahead of her: she was catering a pre-Video Music Awards party at a swanky lounge on the Lower East Side.
I write short stories. I own surprisingly few pairs of shorts. I sometimes short circuit.
"Alana" sounds like "A lotta" = A lotta shorts.
Take the title however you like.
- ► 2009 (15)
- Lanii Be Good
- I'm Lanii. I try to Be Good. It doesn't always work. "Call Me Lanii" is sort of about that - my inner and outer triumphs (what?) and struggles. "Alana Shorts" is sort of about that, too: I draw way too much inspiration from the crazy and strange events that actually happen to me and end up writing very little 'fiction'. I usually have my tongue quite thoroughly stuck in my cheek.