Saturday nights were usually packed at 'The Little Diva'. Today was an exception. A major league baseball game in the neighbouring city had stolen the usual patrons. Those who had trickled in were a mix united only in their disinterest for the sport: some parents, some seniors, mostly young adults. Peter oversaw 'The Purple Room', a mid-sized space large enough for a group of twenty but only if you didn't mind rubbing elbows. He preferred the size, it was large enough to provide decent tips without the chaos of a full-size hall.
One of the reasons he'd stayed so long at 'The Little Diva' was a strange fascination with observing people, particularly those who got buzzed enough to let down their masks. His preferred demographic was those over twenty-five who were generally old enough to know their limits but for whom the transformation from structured personage to liberated singer was more profound.
Tonight two groups were sharing The Purple Room. One consisted of ten Business School students celebrating the end of their mid-terms. The other was six assorted working class young adults. Women made up the majority of both, the Business students particularly eager to let loose. Making small talk with the workers revealed that they operated lines in the Ford auto-parts factory. The red-head member was dulled up for the evening more than her companions, enthusiastically flirting with him while he distributed their beers.
The Business students ascended the stage first, a sophisticated blond opening the evening with a decent rendition of 'Roar'. Unfortunately, Peter had heard that song enough to last a lifetime. A suave gentleman slid up with her, the two transitioning into 'Hungry Eyes'. It was obvious to an experienced bartender that the couple were into each other, maybe even already fucking. Yes, judging by the way their hands shared the microphone and how close their bodies were, Peter suspected they were intimately acquainted.
Two more songs passed before the working class girls got a turn. Peter was not surprised to see the red-head storm the stage, confidence in her body and, admittedly, impressive voice doing justice to 'We Are Family'. As the song wound down she urged another woman, a tall blond, toward the her. Although initially reluctant, the slender woman put on a determined expression and joined the other woman.
The blond was muscular yet a touch ungainly in her nervousness. She could carry a tune, her range well matched to the red-head's as they performed 'Keep Your Head Up'. The rush of being on stage, coupled with the alcohol, resulted in a transformation – one of the ones Peter loved witnessing.
Gone was the blond who'd tried to blend into the crowd, going along because her companions had made her. Now she was a blaze of energy glowing in the room, confidence more than talent or looks making her radiant. The two friends performed another, slower number before descending. Peter did not observe what happened immediately after that. Several of the students had returned for more rounds.
When he could once more catch-up on the scene he was struck by the sight of a short-haired brunette in full business regalia – blazer, dress shirt and tailored pants – literally commanding the room with her rich tones and intense presence. Even he could feel the power of her magnetism. She'd come to impress and control, flaunting her power with voice and focus rather than body. 'A Fine State of Affairs' found new life in this woman's throat, becoming a darker, more seductive song.
Several seconds of silence at a song's conclusion was the highest compliment a singer could receive and that's what the Business student received. During the ruckus applause that then followed, the blond, still riding the high from her own performances, climbed onto the stage. Peter could tell from the awkward tension between them that the two had never met before. He could also tell that they were drawn to each other, their brands of beauty and talent drastically different yet defined against the other participants.
It took them a while to choose a song, a spectrum of emotions passing over their faces as they searched. Looking back, Peter recalled most vividly how they'd peered at each other. The brunette shot curious, annoyed and skeptical glances at her blond partner while said partner displayed intrigue, shyness and determination. When their voices finally united in 'Anything for Love' Peter wished, not for the first time, that he was allowed to record customer performances.
Most people can tell a good singer from a bad one and even a great one from a good one. Great ones are not common but nor are they rare, working in the karaoke business teaches you that much. It also teaches you that the most impressive singers are not the ones you are trained to appreciate. Listening to the two women, one blond, one brunette, each from a life removed from the other, felt like being in a space outside time where raw emotion, rather than vocal perfection, embodied music. It sent shivers down one's spine, making a person believe that there was more to existence than mundane survival. Such pure moments were proof of things more potent and less tangible.
The blond and brunette left the stage together then, many hours later, also the room. Neither had known of the other until that evening. Whatever occurred between them after tonight was of no consequence to Peter. Still, the man couldn't help hoping, as the sound of their combined voices echoed in his dreams, that they would recognise and nurture the spark of magic they'd created.