Echoes of Starlight, Part 1 episode 1 of “The Starlight Trilogy” (edited 4.24.12)
This is a fictional story.
The character of “the Rock Star” is only based on Adam Lambert.
It is in no way intended to be an accurate depiction of his life.
The videos in this episode feature Adam Lambert.
“Strike three,” the future Rock Star thought. “I’m out.”
This was the third strike in two hardballs. The first ball was that this was the third time this boyfriend had cheated on him. The second ball was that this was the third boyfriend to cheat on him.
“What’s wrong with me?” The question sat in his brain for hours, then days, then months.
“Why can’t anybody love me? Why can’t anybody I love, love me back?”
The Demons sensed the opportunity. “Maybe it’s not the boyfriends who can’t love,” they snickered. “It’s you, Stupid. You’re the one that’s wrong, Idiot.” They were cruel in their glee. “After all, everybody else got to love other people. Why not you? Maybe because you’re not good enough. Maybe you’re supposed to be alone, the one before ‘the one’, the ‘practice relationship’. Got it, you Stupid Bonehead?”
The First one said he was too needy. It was true; he cried all night over First, especially since he’d immediately moved in with their best friend. Seems they’d been gettin’ busy behind the future Rock Star’s back almost since day one.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried to do everything right. That was the time he’d waited, even brought up “the conversation,” the one about what each expected from a relationship? He thought he was doing it right. That didn’t work. First told him that was something only girls talked about. So he’d apologized repeatedly, wanting to be loved so much he forgot who he was inside, molding himself into what he thought he had to be.
First laughed in his face.
So he’d become strong and defined with the Second boyfriend. Too strong, evidently. He completely skipped “the conversation” that time, not even waiting an hour before having that “boy” in the car, who’d seemed to like it. At first, anyway.
He enjoyed being the top all the time and in all kinds of ways, too, a new thing for him. This time he was the one in charge. Nobody was gonna cheat on him again. He kept track of Second as if he were wearing an ankle bracelet. And Second, a few years younger than him, had liked the attention, telling himself that the future Rock Star must really love him to pay that much attention to where he went and who he saw.
He didn’t realize that the future Rock Star wasn’t really in love with him. After First that wasn’t going to happen, either, not unless he knew without a doubt that he was loved back. Reciprocity? Not until.
And it had worked for a while. But Second was growing up and learning that “love” and “control” weren’t the same thing. That was when he’d screamed, “You dominating bitch!” at him. So he’d left the relationship first this time, hiding his hurt and confusion behind his anger, refusing to be humiliated again. He’d even written a song about it, “Leave Before You’re Left.” He’d seen Second out at the club not too long after, all happy and hugged up and making out with this new guy.
The Demons howled with glee.
Friends said the word around town was that the future Rock Star was “really fucked up.”
Distrust. Of everyone.
So he’d gone back to his old ways, letting Third boyfriend “run” things. He let himself forget the pain of the first two. He really loved this guy and it seemed the same both ways. This one, he told himself, was meant for him and him alone.
Third had seemed just right. He was everything the future Rock Star thought he wasn’t but wanted to be—strong, handsome, smart. Having Third seemed like the only way he could have those things himself, by being with someone who already had them.
They’d taken care of each other, in different ways. Third brought home the real money (he hadn’t let himself admit he got an “allowance”) while he’d taken on the role of “perfect homemaker.” Bills got paid, groceries bought, meals made, laundry done and put away. Third had liked that, when he deigned to notice. He’d also liked that way the future Rock Star did sex. He was a good singer, and funny. In fact, for Third it’d been all about how well he’d done what he’d done on the outside, nothing about who he was inside.
It was far from perfect. Future Rock Star wanted some say-so, too; he was just afraid of losing what he had. So he pretended not to notice when he let Third walk all over him, including bringing boys home, having sex in their bed and not even changing the sheets. Of course at first he hadn’t known about it, continuing to do the laundry without another thought, assuming the new cologne was Third’s. Besides, he’d been so busy running errands and buying groceries and writing the checks for the bills and picking things up at the dry cleaners, all while trying to get his own career going, how could he have known?
Eventually he found out, though. You can’t bury your head in the sand for too long before you stop breathing. Given the choice between your heart breaking and being dead, a broken heart didn’t sound that bad.
So again the future Rock Star had left, determined to never let that happen again.
A week later, after camping out at the Guitarist’s place, he found his own apartment. It wasn’t anything to brag about. He shared it with about a thousand roaches and other things with four (or more) legs, things he could hear in the walls. The walls needed patching and painting. The ceiling leaked. The floor squeaked. The water coming out of the spigots sometimes was a little brown … and who knew water could make noise? Oh, he realized, that wasn’t the water, it was the pipes. Oh, well, maybe he could sing along, practice his scales on his own pipes. He was optiimistic; he could do this.
He admitted to himself, though, it was creepy. And what was outside the door wasn’t much better.
One night he sat, alone and lonely, on the one chair in the living room not infested with bed bugs and had a conversation with himself. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “Why does this keep happening to me? What am I doing wrong? It’s not like I’m a bad person. I’m not bad looking and my real friends seem to like me. I try to do the right thing. What does everybody else know about love that I don’t? And who can I ask?”
It’s hard to ask for help but he knew he needed to. He just didn’t know who to ask. His friends were either too busy having relationships of their own or were alone having the same problems he was. His Dad? He’s a guy. But what did Dad know about gay relationships? Besides, he was a “manly man,” so he was out.
What was it First had said? Love was something “only girls talk about.”
Hi, Mom? No, this wasn’t the kind of thing you talk to your Mom about. She knew he was gay; it wasn’t that. It was just that … well, it just wasn’t. He needed somebody like her, though. Somebody older. And somebody female. But who?
There was only one place left to ask.
The future Rock Star lifted his face up and out to the Universe, his request simple and pure.
“Please, I just want to love someone and have them love me back. But I don’t know how to do that. Please, help me.”
Chapter 1 – THE AFTERMATH BEGINS
The Rookie Reporter from Rolling Stone nervously approached the door and rang the bell. It waned eerily through what sounded like an empty house, although the Rookie could see the furniture, rugs and signs of daily life through the windows. Yesterday’s newspaper on the floor by an easy chair, a glass with a little water in it (melted ice, maybe?) on a table, a plate with a half-eaten apple going brown — signs of aging, like the house itself.
The recluse who lived here had once been the pre-eminent rising Rock Star of his generation but, in the two years since the death of his beloved Starlight, he had not recorded, not toured. Not even composed any music, as far as anyone knew.
In the early days of his career he’d been known for his use of technology through his official website and fan club, for how well he’d taken care of his fans, tweeting them frequently to make sure they knew how things were coming along with a new CD, his performance schedule, what artists he was listening to, to send a “thanks” or a quote from whatever he was reading. Sometimes he’d tweet a “Happy Birthday” or even a simple and heartfelt “Sweet dreams.”
The most popular days were those when he’d host a surprise “Twitter Party” when any fan at all could tweet him a question. He couldn’t answer the thousands that came in but he’d pick a few and tweet back. With over a million followers, word got around … the world.
Once there were so many, the server crashed. “You broked Twitter,” a fan tweeted later.
One time he’d tweeted the entire lyrics to a song he’d performed overseas. The song was on the CD released internationally but not on the U.S. version. His American fans had loved the song but the lyrics weren’t online yet. It had taken him seven tweets to do it—but he’d done it for them.
Another time he’d made short videos for his fans where he talked about the music he was recording, citing its history, the collaborators and which groups they’d worked with, why he loved the song and how he interpreted the lyrics.
His fans young and old had loved it. To the young ones it was like he was including them in his life, speaking their language and sharing their values. For the older women, who formed a significant percentage of his fan base, he was like a perfect, beautiful, talented teenager who would happily let them know where he was and that he was O.K. For all of his female fans (and some of his male ones), he was simply the hottest man they’d ever seen in their life. And everyone revered that amazing voice.
But the website and fan club had been inactive for nearly a year. He rarely answered the phone or went into town to pick up supplies and mail. Two women, sisters, came once a week to cook and clean for him. In between he just let the house go. He barely even noticed when they were there.
His name was only occasionally mentioned now among those in the music industry. But, when it was, it was always with fondness, awe for his talent, a certain sadness and in the past tense.
The mega-talented, mega-loved and loving Rock Star had become a hermit.
No one knew what to expect from this interview. This was the first one he’d granted, much less invited, since his loss of Starlight. Everyone in the media had heard the rumor that he was coming back and that, when he did, his music would “blow people away.” In fact that’s what everyone was saying but until now there’d been no indication of it, no real proof. Everyone all around the world was excited about the possibility, though.
The Editor of “Rolling Stone” had been clear with the Rookie Reporter. “That’s your job, boy. See if that rumor’s true. Now, I’m giving you this assignment ‘cause I see something in you, some real talent. You do a good job on this and I’ll remember. It could turn into something for you down the road.”
There were people at the magazine who expected this was just a short nostalgia piece, maybe interesting to a few music historians but not much more than that. It did look like a “throwaway” assignment for a Rookie Reporter.
“If only they knew,” thought the Rookie. “This is just the beginning.”
He could hear footsteps approaching from down the hall. A shadow briefly fell across the peephole and then he could here locks being undone. The door opened and there he stood, the Rock Star, still breathtakingly beautiful. “An odd word to use for a man,” thought the Rookie, but it was the only word that came to mind, that fit. And though he was taller than expected, his shoulders stooped as if weighted down with the heaviest burden imaginable.
The hair was different. Once kept raven black with a few blue, green, purple or gray or bronze streaks (depending upon the wardrobe), the Rock Star had let it grow out into its natural strawberry blond. That gray was authentic now. One thing hadn’t changed though, the Rookie noted. The eyes were exactly the same as in the old photos—an unusual shading of blue, gray and green that seemed to change color. In one photo they’d actually appeared to be violet. No one could ever tell if it was because of the color-or the mood-he was wearing at the time.
Chapter 2 – INSIDE
“Come in,” the Rock Star said politely, nodding his head while attempting a small, hesitant smile.
“Thank you,” the Rookie answered, carefully brushing past him. “And thanks for inviting me. By the way, the Editor said to say ‘hello’.”
“That was nice of him. Be sure you tell him the same for me.” After closing his door he hesitated in the hallway, as if not knowing what to do or say next. “Um, how was the drive up? You have any trouble finding the place?”
“No, not at all. You gave good directions. I only got lost twice,” the Rookie joked. “It’s a nice drive up here.”
“Yeah, but once you get past the amphitheater it can get kinda tricky. The road signs are kinda hard to see. At least the weather’s clear, though.
“What happens when it gets bad? I don’t get how people can live up here.”
“Aw, you get used to it. You just make sure you stock up whenever you get to town. And you know, make sure your generator’s working.”
Although the Rock Star was obviously trying, the Rookie thought he sounded uncomfortable, like he hadn’t held a real conversation for months. Which was true. He’d left L.A. two years before, soon after Starlight’s death, seeking refuge in the vacation home they’d built in the mountains they’d loved. At the time nobody thought he’d be gone this long, not even his Lover.
The Rookie followed him toward the back of the house, noting the photos on the walls of the hallway that chronicled his eight, happy-life years with Starlight. They’d rarely even looked at the camera, greedily preferring the view of each other. There could be amazing scenes and buildings behind them: Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican, the Great Wall of China. They didn’t seem to care.
His glimpses into the rustic rooms the host and his visitor passed were filled manly but with a woman’s warm, loving touch. And more photographs were everywhere. So was Starlight, the Rookie realized, and an almost palpable sorrow.
The sunroom, surrounded by thermal glass and facing west, lived up to its name. It was filled with plants and wicker furniture with deep, comfortable cushions. Blankets and throws were neatly folded on an antique mahogany chest. Everything looked just a little faded, a little worn maybe, but still cared for. It was clearly a woman’s room.
“Tea or coffee, water?” asked the Rock Star. He went into the kitchen to fill the request. The Rookie looked out on the mountains, taking in a sharp breath at the stunning view. “It is amazing, isn’t it?” asked the sad, quiet voice behind him. “She loved this room.”
They sat facing each other, the bottles of water on the table between them. The Rookie carefully set the recorder and looked up.
“Where would you like to start?”
Staring toward the mountains, the Rock Star considered the question as the Demons began their most recent litany. “This is a mistake. A Stupid mistake.” It had been two years of always-present pain with no guarantee it would ever end. Now that the Rookie Reporter was actually there, the Rock Star wasn’t sure anymore that he could go through with the interview. He’d hoped this would maybe heal him, be a step back toward the music he loved, the life and the people he loved. At this moment, though, going back to that life felt impossible, healing impossible. The Demons gleefully tormented, “You old has-been. You’re almost 40 years old. Who’s gonna wanna hear you try to croak out some rock music? Stupid.”
Again the Rookie thanked him for the interview.
“No problem. I thought it was time,” he wanted to say. He just wasn’t sure it was true. All he could do was nod.
Deep in his soul, another voice began to whisper, loving, strong and sure. Five simple words.
“I’m here, Angel. Do this.”
The Rock Star immediately recognized her. It was how she had always loved him, first by reassuring him that he was never alone, then encouraging and supporting his fierce spirit that she knew was still there. Starlight. She would never have tolerated his failure to move forward, not only because she wanted him to but because she knew he needed to.
She always could best his Demons, he thought. And defeated again, indeed they skulked away.