From Writing and Publishing Apprentices, an 826 Valencia workshop for high school students.
Untitled Lucy Pereira
He kept his door permanently closed, because he was afraid if someone got a glimpse of his room they would demand that he clean it. Clothes were strewn in a circle on the floor around a half-empty laundry basket, and a pile of CDs was spread out next to his bed. Papers littered the carpet under his desk. Three mugs of cold coffee, each with little more than one sip left, were lined up on his bookshelf, which was filled with battered paperbacks with authors who went by their first initials. He sat cross-legged on his unmade bed, headphones over his ears, fingers flicking the trackpad of his laptop. Posters for bands with strange names and dramatic album covers lined the off-white walls that sported scuff marks in various colours. Draped over the headboard of his bed was a wrinkled button-down shirt and a pair of slacks. In the corner was a beat-up camouflage-patterned backpack. The wooden slats of his shutters were blanketed in a layer of dust illuminated by the sunlight that filtered in through the windows.
Nodding his head in time to the beat, he continued to adjust bass lines here and melodies there. He played with the beaded bracelet on his left wrist. He was preparing for a gig that night, a friend’s cousin’s sweet sixteen party. It wasn’t a big deal, but opportunities to showcase his music came few and far between. Try as he might to play it cool and act nonchalant (“It’s just this stupid thing for a bunch of sophomores,” he told his friends), he wanted it to be perfect. He wanted these sixteen year olds to admire him. After all, he was eighteen and very cool. Much cooler than them. He remembered being quiet and on his own in middle school, his iPod drowning out the world, before being passionate about music became cool. Now he had friends equally as passionate as he was, who anticipated his next remix and let him know when his favorite bands were in town.
He listened to his set list for the night again and again until he’d memorized every beat of every song. The bass of the third song was thudding in his head as he pulled up to the venue, a fancy hotel on the outskirts of town. He set up his equipment, smoothed his cool band T-shirt, and waited nervously. The family came in, the girl’s father shaking his hand and thanking him for being there, assuring him that they would square the payment part of things after the party. Nodding and smiling, he fidgeted and stood behind his laptop, headphones looped around his neck. A banner with the words, “Hannah’s Sweet 16” hung behind his head.
And then they began to trickle in. He began the first song, a funky remix of one of those upbeat pop songs that everyone knows the words to. It was to draw them in, bring them to the dance floor and suck them into the evening. The girls were wearing tight dresses and sparkly heels; the boys, polo shirts and khakis. He stood, aloof, behind his table, head bobbing to the rhythm, as the girls streamed onto the dance floor, shrieking and bouncing. He could barely stop from rolling his eyes. It was so typical, so teenage-girl-like, it almost seemed like they were acting.
He was starting to really get into the music when a hand slapped the table in front of him. His eyes followed the length of the arm attached to it, flitting over a tall, slim girl in a tight purple dress, her dark hair flipped back over her shoulder.
“I know who you are.” She stated.
He stared back at her, baffled.
“You’re DJ so&so.”
He nodded slowly and pointed to the sticker on the face of his laptop, which had the name “so&so” printed in bold, with a sleek logo that his graphic designer brother had drawn for him.
“No,” she insisted, “I know you. I’ve listened to you. I’ve listened to all your songs.”
His jaw fell open. All of them? he mouthed, his vocal cords frozen in surprise.
“All of them. You’re incredible.”
The shock had yet to wear off. He surreptitiously wiped his sweaty hand on his jeans and held it out to shake hers.
He held up a finger. She ran a hand through her dark hair and nodded. As the song that was playing came to a close, he put on the longest song on his playlist. He put down his headphones and beckoned her to follow him over to an empty table with crumbs and wadded up napkins spread across it.
“You have five minutes and three seconds until this song is over. Who are you?”