she doesn’t know many songs from them, has hear of them in passing, so maybe she'll know the beat of one or two that had been on and on in the radio somewhere she couldn’t turn it off. a few years ago, perhaps, she would have known every word of every song, but she doesn’t. silence has been her best friend for a while now.
but peggy had insisted, had shown her the tickets with such a wide smile she had relented, if only because her roommates’ best friend had gotten sick and peggy was sure she would like it, really, even if she was an alien and never listened to music.
i loved a musician once, she wants to tell her. i loved a man once in a way you’ll never imagine, she wants to shout, so maybe it won’t hurt when she thinks about it so many years later.
instead, she fixes her lipstick and her waves and smiles when peggy looks at her.
she had been seventeen and they had been laying on her bed, stereo full on to drown her fighting parents. his eyes had been blue and his hair light, bleached by the summer sun that came in from her open window. her feet had been on her pillow, legs curled to the side, and his had been planted on the ground by the end on the bed, and their hands had fitted in a way that still sent shivers down her spine. she could feel the hardness from his sticks, the little bumps that they caused, and had thought she knew those hands better than she knew hers.
“i’ll run away. i’ll make a life for myself somewhere far” their eyes had been on level, and despite the sounds around them, she could have sworn he could hear her. he could hear her across a crowded place.
he doesn’t promise he’ll ran away with her and that’s fine. he doesn’t have anything to run away from.
she gets down from peggy’s car and walks like she knows where she’s going. she fixes her hair and enjoys the way the wind blows into her face.
they were fifteen and he had formed a band, and the way he played had made her smile every time she had seen them practice. His voice had been better than hers, hitting all the high notes she could never. he had taken her hand, spun her around in a moment he didn’t have to play and mouthed the lyrics like they had been meant for her.
she had been in love even back then, and it was okay if he never loved her like that.
the place is crowded, people filling like water to hear this group.
“what is it called again?”she asks, like she hasn’t read the ticked a hundred times since peggy passed it to her on the car, like the band’s name is not right there on the stage, like she hasn’t been looking at it every few minutes for the hours they have been waiting for it to start.
“queen. isn’t it regal? you’ll love them, i know you will”
her wrist was purple again and the shiner on her face tender. he looked at her like he cared.
“i’ll run away” she said, innocent in a way only twelve years old are “i’ll run away and it’ll be okay”.
they had hidden on his father’s car and put the radio on until they couldn’t hear their thoughts, and he had tapped his foot to all the rhythms like it was a second nature. he had whispered how the drummer was supposed to keep the beat, how the drummer leads the songs, in a way, and she wondered why he played the guitar.
the crowd pulses before they even get into the stage in a way she has never seen before.
lies. she had pulsed like that, once before, and he had looked at her when he played. he had looked at her when she danced on her room, the small radio he had given her blasting whatever was a hit that summer, and she had sung along in her off key voice and he had sung with her in his perfect voice.
he had held her when she cried, he had dried her tears and called her best friend and it had been fine. he had taken her glasses, so big they drowned her face, he had cleaned them on his shirt and then placed them on her nose and called her beautiful.
he had been her first kiss, because she wanted it to mean something and he meant the world to her.
he had seen her lip busted and her cheek purpling when they were sixteen and had punched her father right in their front lawn, and after her father had beaten him and the police man that was his friend had done nothing, she had pressed the ice that his sister gave her against his cheek and called him her hero.
he had given her a half smile, his eyes crinkling around the edges in the way only real smiles can.
i loved a musician, once, and he loved me, she wants to yell to some groupies at her side, yelling like the people on stage will hear them despite the fact that they can barely see the stage. you’ll never know what it’s like to love like i did.
he had gotten into university in london and she hadn’t.
“i’ll come back for you” he had told her, young and blue eyed and so pretty. he was smiling like he was saying the truth and she wanted to cry. he looked like her guardian angel, his hair long and light, barely blowing in the wind that had picked up.
“I’ll run away” she had answered, her sleeves long so he couldn’t see the bruising that never seemed to leave. “i’ll run away, and i’ll find you, and you’ll be a star”
he had moved a piece of hair that was getting into her eyes, the dark of her brunette a stark contrast against his white hands, and he had kissed her forehead before he left for the station.
the band is good, if she has to be honest, and the lead singer stands out from the chorus that is the background singing in a way that leaves her breathless.
he would have loved it, she thinks, and tries not to cry. she doesn’t know the lyrics, but she can clap to the beat like second nature and thinks that maybe she has started to miss music more than she misses him.
she had turned twenty one and stopped wishing for someone to whisk her away. he had been back for his second christmas and she hadn’t seen him. he didn’t come back for easter and it had been fine. before summer and after a broken arm, she knew she could not stand it any longer. she had stolen money and left with little more than the clothes on her back and her little blue ukulele he had gifted to her when they were nine.
she had gone away and tried not to think of whatever she was leaving behind.
the singer sits in front of a piano and dedicates the song to some mary. his voice is beautiful, and she has to cover her eyes for the entire song so peggy doesn’t see her cry. it touches something inside her that leaves her breathless and aching for him.
the summer after his first year of university had been the best of her life. they had gone out, walked the cobbled streets of their town with sundaes on their hands and dark glasses on their faces. he had pulled them off effortlessly and somehow convinced her that they looked good on her too. it made her world blurry and dark, but he had laughed when she had tried them on the stand outside the ice cream parlour and assured her they looked great.
“one day, we’ll have to use them so the paparazzi don’t chase us” he had laughed, his shoulder brushing against hers in a way that made her want to push against him.
“why would they?” she had asked, eyebrows raised.
“because i’ll be a rock star, of course. and you’ll be right there by my side, won’t you?”
the store they passed in front of was playing his favourite song and he had started singing like he had written the bloody thing and she hadn’t answered.
“the singer’s name is freddie” peggy tells her over the roar of the people, putting her weight on her shoulder so she can speak close to her ear “and he’s walking towards brian. the guitarist” she continues, like she doesn’t have eyes and can see the guitar that hasn’t left the man’s hands in the whole show.
i loved a musician, she wants to yell, and he taught me how to play the ukulele and how to tune a guitar and how to guide the beat of a song.
instead, she listens to brian say he loves them, and the crowd turn crazy.
she had gone with him to london, once, when he was checking out apartments and places where he could stay while he was on the path to become a dentist.
when the sun had set and it was too late to drive the five hours it would take them to go back to their town, they had searched for a bar that didn’t ask their age, sat in front of the bartender and drunk beer and shots like the young people they were. she had looked at him, lime stinging the corner of her lips, and he had looked godly with the lights of the bar bouncing off his blond hair, and his laugh was like bells when he slammed the glass on the wood in front of them and bit into the lime. the music was kind of loud, and when he looked at the band playing live, he told her with shinning eyes that he would be there someday soon.
she would be locked into her room for two days straight when she went back, but it would be worth it.
freddie calls the bassist john, and he raises his hand to the mass with a smile on his face. the only unknow now is the drummer, and she only see his blond hair from where she is. she feels a pang on her chest and thinks of the best friend she lost, and what he would give to be up there, to have girls throwing themselves at him.
“john, he’s kinda quiet” peggy yells, jumping up and down “i like him the most”.
and she smiled, because she could kind of see why peggy would, and reminds herself that she had loved fire itself and lived.
he had finished writing a song, and he had run to her house to get her to come with him so he could show her.
she had told him to fix one or two things, never as a bad thing because she once had told him she didn’t like one line and she had to hear him rant for half an hour of how he poured his heart and soul into it, and she had next to him on his bed, breathless and joyful, and had told him how he would make people laugh, and cry, and he would never be background noise.
i’ll hear you on the radio, she had said, and i’ll go gaga over you.
“the drummer, oh god” peggy shouts right into her ear as another song finishes “he’s totally a ladies man, and they say he’s a good shag, but i have no idea how they get close to him”
she shrugs and claps when the new song starts.
she went to london. she sleept on an alley the first day, and on the second she rented a room for a night if only so she could shower. she got two jobs as a waitress on the third day and by the end of the month, she had a roommate in a shitty apartment. she was a nice girl that didn’t ask many questions and that was perfect.
i’ll run away and i’ll find you.
he was not on his university. she tried to ask around as much as she could and found out he transferred outside of the dentistry program. he was not on his apartment either, and she found out from a neighbor that he went to live with a friend.
there’s no place she could call, then, because his parents had changed numbers just before he left and she had never memorized the new one, and his father refused to be on the phone book.
freddie calls the drummer roger, and she has to stifle her gasp against her hands and her hope against her chest, and thinks that it has to be a common name, despite the fact that it is his voice, because she has it burned into her memory, and that it is his hair turning white against the lights, bleached and long, and that the high voice she has heard for the past hour could be nothing but his falsetto.
she buries her excitement and thinks it has to be a coincidence, because it hurts to think of him living his dream without her by his side, despite the years that have torn them apart.
she threw her radio against her wall after the third love song in a row and let her ukulele gather dust in the back of her closet the day she realized there was no way she’d see roger again.
she gave up on music, preferring silence so she didn’t have to think of him. when peggy put on music, she left the room. when the music video of his favourite song came into the telly, she turned it off or changed the channel.
are you okay? she had thought. are you happy? are you a star yet?
and then she had thought, i loved you, but i have to forget you.
and it doesn’t work, because she was his best friend before she loved him.
she comes out in a daze, and when peggy puts the key in the ignition, ready to go back to the shitty apartment they still share, she throws the door open and runs to wherever the back door of the place is.
she has to make her way through a group of women that have gathered, and she ignores the way they yell when she uses her elbows to create space.
she begs with the security that is there, promising she knows the drummer, if they’d only gave her one chance to talk to him, they’d known.
they ignore her, and then they tell her everyone says to know someone o the band, they can’t make exceptions. the girl at her side tells her not to have much hope if she’s one of the girls that knew him personally.
she’s thrown to the side when they come out, and roger has a pretty bird on his arm, shades placed on his nose in a way that she remembers like it was yesterday and not years ago the last time she saw him. she yells, but her voice is lost among the others.
he leans into the neck of the girl on his arm, his smile all flirting and nothing of the sunshine she knows.
“roger!” she screams and pushes against security as he gets closer and closer “roger, please look at me! roger, it’s me! roger please!” her glasses slip a little from her nose and she pushes them back with more force than necessary.
She takes a deep breath, thinks of their town, her bedroom and his, his father’s car and the little park where they used to lie on the summer, and yells at the top of her lungs:
“roger meddows taylor, turn around!”
he does, and he looks pissed off, because he’s never really liked being told what to do. and then he sees her, and he drops his arm from around the girl.
and her glasses are not purple anymore, and they don’t drown her face. her hair is lighter, not the dark brown that it once was, and it’s been years, but she still sees the way he searches for something on her face.
and he finds it, because he whispers her name.
and she hears from across a crowded place.