Echoes of Starlight, part 1 episode 2 of “The Starlight Trilogy” by Thea Washington
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.
Yesterday in Episode 1: The Rock Star needs lessons in love and invites in the Rookie Reporter from “Rolling Stone”
Chapter 3 – WITH HER MIND
The Rookie watched his host’s face. He could see the hesitation. Eventually the Rock Star spoke, his voice raspy and uncertain, struggling to get something out.
“I’ve been away from everything for two years now. I’ve been thinking maybe it’s time to get back to the music.”
The Rookie was astounded. After many long, convoluted, piecemeal debates held in offices and cubicles, restrooms and hallways, over lunches and dinners and happy hours that lasted way too long, the “Rolling Stone” reporters had laid odds and made bets about whether or not the Rock Star would try a come back. The buzz was that he was coming back. Some were pessimistic about such folly but they thought he might try. Those who’d known him best were the surest that, if he put his heart, mind, soul and talent to it, he would blow everyone out of the water … again.
And here it was, the answer the Rookie had been sent to get, in the first two sentences. He hadn’t even had to ask the question. If he wanted he could wrap up the interview right then and be on a plane back to L.A. that night. But his instincts told him there was more to this story, something important.
Young, but insightful about what meant the most to people (a skill he often used to his own advantage), the Rookie could afford to be patient now. He’d already gotten the answer everyone wanted.
“Tell me about Starlight,” he said. “Then we can talk about music.”
The Rock Star leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, grateful for the understanding. Memories, crystal clear, flooded him. As they arranged themselves in order, he took a deep breath, blew it out and softly began to tell the tale of Starlight and her stories.
“You know, I knew her before I met her,” he began. “Someone at the label’d sent me this link to some fan fiction posted on the website. You know, I always appreciated it, all the work and … the love that went into it but I usually didn’t read it. Sometimes I’d read some. There was just so much, you know?” He paused. “Anyway, this one whole collection of stories was supposed to be special, but I didn’t pay much attention to it for a few days. But, um, one night on the tour bus I was looking for something to read and I remembered this link. So I opened up the laptop again and settled in.” He stopped, placing himself among the memories.
“I remember it was pretty late, so the bus was, you know, kinda quiet,” he said. “We’d done a show that night and had a few drinks after, but it caught up with all of us and everybody was sorta laid out.” He paused again. “Nights like that I’d be in the back by myself doing emails and tweeting and stuff, you know, trying to keep in touch with family, friends. But I’d finished all that so I started reading and, um … “
The Rookie could see it on his face. The Rock Star was back on the bus, reading “The Starlight Stories” for the very first time. Now the Rookie was on that bus with him.
“I couldn’t believe these stories. They were funny and tragic and ironic and hopeful and sexy, everything. I was just gonna read the first one but it was like I couldn’t stop. It was kinda like getting hooked on some tv show, you know? And the guys in the band, up front? Trying to sleep? I bet they thought I’d gone crazy. I was back there laughing and sniffling and screamin’ ‘No way!’ at all the twists and turns these stories were taking me through.”
The Rock Star stopped to take another deep, ragged breath, shaking his head back and forth. In fact, all of him looked shaky. His voice had cleared some but the Rookie was still worried. It looked like just starting to talk about Starlight was taking something out of the Rock Star. How would he ever get through the whole thing? How would the Rookie get the story he really wanted? After all, now, that was the point.
“You know what was really weird? I mean, really weird? It was realizing that this Singer in her stories was based on me. I mean, seeing yourself in some made-up story doing good things, even sexy things, being nice and all is weird by itself, but acting out, too? I mean, really bad acting out? Man. But she seemed to understand why this guy did what he did and said what he said. And this Singer guy could be happy or bored or pissed off or have a crush on somebody, or even be in love, whatever, it didn’t matter. It was always the same, like she was sitting in my brain just watching the words come together while I decided whether or not to say ‘em. And then, whatever I decided? All she did was write ‘em down.” He paused again. “It was like she was reading my mind with hers.”
He chuckled, then abruptly stopped. When he began again, it was barely a whisper.
“Some of those stories were like she was just grabbing for my heart, you know? She did actually have me tearing up a couple of times. Huh. I always did tear up easy. That was one of the things she said she liked most about me, that my feelings worked,” he chuckled again. The Rookie could tell that was a good memory.
The Rock Star especially remembered one story where the Singer met this Woman when both of them were guests on a famous talk show. They’d hit it off instantly, discovering they both knew a lot of the same people because he was a performer and she’d worked for a well-known concert promoter. She was on the show pushing a book about her experiences. They started telling stories back and forth about the same entertainers from their two very different perspectives, being very careful not to tell any really bad secrets. The audience was great, laughing their heads off at this insiders’ look into show business.
After the taping the two guests decided to go over to Wishbone for brunch. Neither was married or involved at the time and, although he’d come out as a gay man early in his career, they were both outrageous flirts with considerable expertise. Spending the afternoon together doing radio interviews and liners at B-96 and The Loop, they made quite a team.
About 3:00 they were done with the work but not with each other.
They went back to his hotel suite and spent the rest of the day talking and napping and waking up and making out, calling room service and making out some more and laughing and talking until it was time for them to leave for the airports. It was like a spell had captured them. She called their day together “a treasure” and asked him to keep it special by keeping it to himself. He’d reluctantly agreed and surprisingly, through the years, kept his word. They never saw, spoke to or communicated with each other again after that day. They both knew it would have ruined the magic.
The Rock Star had re-read “One Day Their Time” from the beginning. He still couldn’t understand how the Singer and the Woman had become so close and enjoyed each other so much without alcohol, drugs or sex. That led to him paying attention to other things.
As the Rock Star’s story unfolded, he told the Rookie Reporter how “The Starlight Stories” had been written and posted by someone concealing their real identity within a pseudonym. “So there I was, riding down the highway on the tour bus that night, reading these stories while everybody else was turning off their lights and catching some sleep, like smart people. Sleep was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to read those stories and I wanted to find that person that wrote them. I needed to find ’em ‘cause I needed to know how they could know me so well when we’d never met. The question was, how was I gonna find ’em?”
Of course he’d recognized the “Starlight” in the collection’s title. It was a song by one of his favorite bands, Muse, a song he had often performed. It was about chasing a dream and how what you expect can turn into unexpected lessons, some of them beautiful, some not so nice, but you still keep chasing the dream anyway because you want it so badly. He’d also noticed that The Author’s pseudonym and “Starlight” were the only names in the entire posting. Every character was identified only by what they were, not by their names: the Singer, the Woman, the Talk-Show Host, the Limo Driver, the Waitress, the D.J. “Who” they were was defined by what they said, how they behaved, who the people were around them, the situations they found themselves in and the lessons they learned. He knew that feeling from his time with Third. But this was different, more like really caring. That’s why The Author had named her work, “The Starlight Stories.” Just like in the song, no one was ever identified, not even the singer or his dream. Names meant nothing. You knew who they were inside only by their words and their actions. It was a bizarre way to write but easier to track.
The Rock Star remembered the prayer he’d sent up that night a couple of years before. He’d asked for help so he could learn about love. No help had come and no one had come, at least not yet. He’d kept hoping, though, and told himself he’d never let go of that dream. And while he was waiting, finding this woman could be fun.
Needing a name for the mysterious Author until he could find her, the Rock Star decided to call her “Starlight.” And, as soon as he did, somehow he’d known that she herself was the dream, the treasure worth finding, and her pseudonym the key to finding her.
Every treasure has two things—a map and a key. Every treasure map contains clues. And he had just solved her first one, that all of the clues he needed to decode the key and to find her were embedded in her name and in this story.
CHAPTER 4 – READY, AUTHOR?
The first time The Author had seen him was on television. Best Friend Forever had called her screaming, “You have got to see this guy!” BFF wasn’t easily impressed, so Author immediately changed the channel to see what all the fuss was about.
She could not believe her eyes. Or her ears. Holy guacamole. What was this?
Young, virile, tall, gorgeous, with a tenor to die for. Dressed in black with accents of silver. Thick, raven-colored hair styled into a sort of porcupine thing with bangs, and … was that glitter? … and blue highlights?! And eyeliner? And makeup? “Wow, now that’s different,” she thought. Moves that accented not only the beat of the song but also the grace of his lithe, limber body. She ran her eyes up and down, from head to toe, stopping at strategic places to enjoy the thoughts she couldn’t stop from coming.
Even with the eyeliner, shadow, rhinestones and nail polish, his was a primal masculinity of exploration, adventure and pushing limits that seemed to jump out of the television and into her. He was clearly in charge, in control. But there was an innocence there, too, a purity almost. She hated to admit it but, in every way, he was HOT. She found herself envying the microphone, his mouth sometimes less than an inch away.
She called Friend. “Oh my God. What am I watching?”
BFF chuckled and briefly introduced The Author to a 28-year old Rock Star, giving her the short version of his meteoric rise to celebrity status.
“Girl, you know that show where those kids try to win that singing thing? Well, he was the runner-up last season. Lots of folks thought he should’ve won instead of the guy that did. Shoot, even that judge, you know, the really mean one? Even he said this guy was gonna be more famous than the guy that won.”
She said there were a lot of music and interview videos of the young Rock Star posted on YouTube.
“He did this cover for “Rolling Stone” with a real live snake on his crotch. He said he was nervous about it, too! And in the interview he came out as gay. Now, he says he’s always been out and you know, most folk watching that show could tell. But, honey, who cares? That voice is something else. Anyway, something happened when he was singing at some awards show last fall. I’m kinda sketchy on the details but evidently there was some sexy stuff going on between him and whoever was nearby, male or female. Some folks got all riled up about that.”
She continued her report. “Girlfriend, this is some seriously dangerous stuff, ain’t it? Did you happen to notice that bulging area just south of that belt buckle? Oooo whee! Honey, all I could think was I need to eat more vegetables and buy me a treadmill. And I ain’t ruled out using my 401k for some major fat transfer from my boobs to my butt! Not that it needs it or that it’d make much difference but, hell, I can dream! I wonder what the weather’s like in L.A?” Her textured laugh floated through the phone. “Child, you think maybe on the side he’s into middle-aged Black women with bad attitudes? Um um um. That’s some serious rock star stuff right there.”
The Author laughed with and at her BFF. The two women had met at a workshop for freelancers on how to market your skills and, looking like an ad for Michael Jackson’s “Black or White,” the friendship had worked. It helped that now they were also next-door neighbors. The Author was glad they were in each other’s life. They were like family.
It had been a little dicey when her African-American BFF bought the house next door but the Author had made a deliberate visit to one of the neighbors. Despite the risk of stressing him out, she’d felt the visit and her plan were the right things to do. And doing the right thing and being honest despite the risk was one of her core values, something she’d knew she’d have for the rest of her life. In her mind, the BFFs weren’t the only thing that was black and white.
“Hi, Mr. Neighbor, how’re you doing today?” Mr. Neighbor was taking his daily stroll up the block and back again.
“Oh, I’m fine. Get a touch of that arthur-ritis acting up today, though.” The elderly gentleman had bad knees but refused to have the surgery to do something about them. “How’re you, young lady?”
“I’m good. Can’t complain, really. By the way, you know I love it when you call me ‘young’. Makes me feel like I am!”
“Well, you are, compared to me.” They both chuckled at that.
“Maybe you’re right.” Her Neighbor’s age was a well-kept secret. The Author didn’t even think his wife knew it for sure.
Mr. Neighbor pointed his cane at the empty house on the other side of hers. “Heard anything yet about that house getting a buyer?”
This would be it and it could go either way.
“Sure have. A friend of mine’s gonna buy it.”
“A friend of yours, you say?” Mr. Neighbor perked up. “Is it a young man?” He was always trying to marry her off. “I worry about you. You don’t want life to pass you by, do ya? Nice young girl like you.”
“Well, I appreciate your concern. But no, this is another ‘youngster’ like me. I think you’ll like her. She’s smart and funny and we’re good friends.” She laughed. “And she’s single, like me. And pretty, too.” She winked at Mr. Neighbor. Everybody knew he liked to flirt.
“Well, if she’s a good friend of yours and single and pretty, too, I know we’ll like her.”
The Author gathered her courage and went for it.
“Mr. Neighbor, I need your help.”
“Anything, you know that.”
“Well, you know how everybody on this street respects you and your wife, right?”
“Aw, be quiet,” he said. “You get to a certain age, people respect you regardless.” He added, “Or they should, anyway. Some of these youngsters, I don’t know.”
“So what do you need from an old man?”
“See, my friend, who’s buying the house next door? She’s Black.”
“What? Black, you say? What’s that got to do with her buying the house? As long as she can afford it, so what?”
The Author was overjoyed—and relieved. She’d expected this from him. It never hurt to check, though.
“Oh, Mr. Neighbor, I’m so glad to hear you say that. I sorta knew you would. See, what I’m hoping is that you’ll speak to some of the other neighbors about my friend, you know, reassure them that she’s good people.” She hesitated. “I know I’m asking you to take my word for it.” And she quickly added, “And you don’t have to do this if you don’t want.”
“Why wouldn’t I want? I know what you’re saying. And you’re right, some people still have old-timey feelings about things like this. You just let me handle it, OK?” He patted the Author’s hand. “Don’t worry, your friend will be fine.”
The Author couldn’t do anything but give him a big hug.
“Thank you so much. You don’t know what this means to me.”
“You’re welcome, young lady. You just remember to have the wife and me over for dinner after she gets settled, so we can meet our new neighbor properly.”
“It’s a promise. And I’ll make your favorite roast beef and an apple pie.”
“You’re a sweetheart. Not too much, though. Cholesterol.”
Tomorrow in “Echoes”: He’s decided what he wants to do to her–now she decides what she wants to do to him …