Of Broken Dreams and Broken Nights

Are you afraid of dark?

Last night, you did not sleep at all. The same thing happened the night before. And the night before. And the night before. It is basically every single night. You never sleep. At night, that is. Then in the morning, I have to turn all lights off. It irritated me, the way you have to turn on every single lamp in the house. It doesn’t make any sense. At least for me. But perhaps you are different. For as long as I could remember, since little you are always afraid of the dark.

The whole night you would play your electric guitar, over and over and over again. On loud speaker. You didn’t play any song. I hear no pattern but pure randomness. My untrained, suffering, sleepy ears secretly wish to ignore it because for them it was absolute noise. Madness.

To people who glorify hard work, I want to ask how they perceive what you do every single night. To people who admire music stars, I want to ask how many aspiring musicians do they think make the cut. To all of them, and to people who believe in merit, I would like to know have they ever witness such constant hard work that does not pay off?

Who should decide whether or not you have what it takes? To be that “something” that justifies what you do every single night? To play a note on repeat, over and over and over again, because you found that particular note still “hadn’t got any soul”. To play solely for the sake of practicing your hand, so you would just jump to whatever note your finger brought you to, one note at a time. To put it on loud speaker as you feared of missing small tune details without it. To be inconsiderate and merciless to our humble, longing-for-rest ears.

Before the episode of “guitar is your life and your life is guitar”, you were a simple, innocent boy who was overly keen to play the Play Station. During junior high school, you got your first guitar, not the electric one. It was your birthday gift. The initial purpose of giving it to you was to reduce your attachment to Play Station. But who would’ve known what that simple gift might bring.

Who would’ve known, oh boy, how talented you are. Of course you are incredibly talented. Overly talented. No doubt about that. Your fingers and ears and music tunes started to take over your life.

There were an episode of Jimi Hendrix. Then consecutively Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Not to mention everything else in between that my uninterested mind failed to remember. You played them like it was the easiest thing to do. Every note flew effortlessly. Your fingers with the guitar were always more fluent than your mouth with words.

One day, you’ve got selected as the youngest participant at a national reality show in search of the next “it” band. I am still upset writing about these particular times. I don’t like to remember it at all. Not because I didn’t support you. No, not at all.

Do you remember, when you’re still a beginner, I stayed sitting next to you, listening to you playing those notes for hours and hid my excruciatingly painful headache to myself, you said truthfully that when you got famous I would be the first person to whom you would say thank you. That was how supportive I was.

I supported you because you deserved it. Then, a year or two later, came the break, the opportunity, the chance. It was a life-changing moment, the reality show boom and your brief moment of fame. You were plotted to be the guitarist of a band that branded itself as the teenagers band. The tv people dressed you and your band in shocking colors. You wouldn’t want to remember the pink sticker they attach on the frame of your glasses.

Behind every elimination, behind every glamorous stage performance and live show on tv, behind every optimism, there were a lot of ugly cruelty. If I were your parents, perhaps I could not forgive myself for letting you join the show. The make or break show. Of course it was a hard dilemma. You were eager to join the show. It represented a door, a huge chance, a bright future in the music industry. Also, you truly deserved to be there because, of course, you were indeed absolutely capable and very talented. But you were underage, not yet seventeen. You’re still in school. The show didn’t even care about all this little seemingly irrelevant situation. If I were your parent and I didn’t give permission for you to join the show, although the tv show did not require such parent permission, you might not forgive me forever.

The show went on and there were winners and losers. The winner still plays as a band until today, despite changing the vocalist. The others, who knows? Who cares? Who could measure how much sacrifice is too much?

Everything couldn’t be turned back from that moment on. Psychologically, you’re affected. You’ve became psychosomatic of school. You got some hints of dangerous “stamina” pills from the show, to make participants able to pull off performing new arrangements every week with a band that is basically newly-formed. How ugly does ambition look when they let an underage consume such drugs and let education slipped away as second priority.

There’s still a lot more to write of, the end is anything but near, but I just want to stop. I am tired and I don’t know how to end this. It was ten years ago but clung like no other distant past. It was a brief moment that affects forever, a moment when everything was supposed to start finding its way but turned terribly wrong, all the way wrong.

At the end it was all summed up as a painful memory and I am stuck awake at night listening to you practicing guitar. The soaring guitar filled the dark night, absent mind, and empty heart with sounds of a broken dreams. You might hope it could fight and transform the darkness to an escape: to something, anything, that is more bearable.

To those who see you as a hardworking guitarist, I would say I only see a little boy who is afraid of dark.

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Author: nadya

on-going tensions between ready-made values and uncharted territory

2 thoughts

  1. I never really thought about what behind those TV shows, not until I read this story of yours. And I never knew too, that the talented, cool little boy had been through something that hard. Sometimes it’s sad to know that some young people that we know and love had to experience difficulties, failures, even at such early age. But I do believe that someday he would shine with dreams in his hands, because he has persistence. And because he still got the same sister who ‘stay sitting next to him, listening to him playing those notes for hours and hide her excruciatingly painful headache to herself’.

  2. Thank you for your very kind words and positive thoughts, Chang’e. I am amazed that you always, always know the perfect things to say.

    Unfortunately I don’t know the difference between persistence and frustration. I would imagine that if it was persistence, he would rather compose some songs or something, not “just” playing absolute random noise all through the night (pardon my untrained ears).

    I am also not “her” anymore. A lot has changed, I didn’t even mention that I am her sister because I started to doubt that. We hadn’t spoke since 2008 and we did nothing to resolve it.

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