Wednesday 26 August 2015

Downtown Barfly Prophecy

The smoky air of semi-drunken musicians mingle into the warmth of the summer night sky. 

"So what brings you to New York?" 

The girl in the hat next to me turns and asks, the brim casting a shadow across her face. She cocks her head almost imperceptibly to the right and her left eye escapes the shade. Her gaze twinkles with curiosity. 

"What doesn't," I laugh, unwilling to get into the whole bombastically long-winded tale of how these two British kids ended up in the basement bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn at that precise moment in time which allowed us to meet.

But her expression drops into something... disapproving?

"Well... what do you do?" She turns to face me fully, folding her arms across her chest, brow furrowed.

"Erm well we'd just finished universi-erm 'college' before we came here and now we're just kind of soaking up the atmosphere-" I could already tell I'd lost her and I tried to pull it back, "We have two weeks left after three months so we're really trying to just kill it and leave on a high y'know... haha"

"Cool... What brings you here tonight then," She says in a bored monotone, her gaze drifting beyond my shoulder, more of a statement than a question.

"Oh we played here last week and-"

"You're musicians!" Her expression suddenly metamorphosises and the light washes over her face beneath the brim of the hat.

I smile in surprise, "Well not like properly, but yeah I guess so, we make music together back at-"

"Don't say that. Don't fucking say that." She interrupts me abruptly and I'm taken aback. 

"If you're a musician, if you're an artist, writer, whatever, then say so. Don't um and er around it." 

I'm struck dumb.

"Listen, kid. I'm going to give you a bit of New York advice right here, okay. You're an artist, right?" 

I'd learnt by then to just nod. 

"That means the whole fucking world is going to come down on you. And if it hasn't already, it's coming. They're going to discredit you, disrespect you, make you feel inadequate and mock you. You don't need to begin by already doing that to yourself."

"If you're a fucking artist, then fucking say so. This isn't arrogance or thinking you're the shit or whatever, it's saying, 'yeah, I take myself seriously and I believe in myself, even if right now I'm the only one who does.' Because you know what happens from that point onward? Progress."

"If you're stood there telling me 'oh yeah I don't really know what I'm doing right now, I'm kind of at a crossroads trying to work out what I want' then anyone you're speaking to is switching off. You say that to me and I don't care. But you stand there and say to me 'Actually I'm an artist. I'm a musician that's come from the UK to make something of my fucking life and get what I want', then I'm saying 'Yes. Tell me everything. Tell me what I can do to help.' 

"Are you serious about wanting to do something with your music?"

I nod, bizarrely humbled by this strange prophetic woman.

"Then own it. Shout about it. No-one's gonna give a shit unless you do." I continue to nod, lost for an adequate response.

Suddenly she thrusts her phone into my hand and I blink down at it in confusion. 

"I have a studio in Midtown. Write down your email address. If you're actually serious, we'll sort something out before you go." 

I manage a mumbled thank you, hastily typing in my email address.

"You've got something about you. I don't know what it is but I'm still talking to you, so it must be something. Don't fuck it up. Stand proud and proclaim exactly who you are and what you want." She takes her phone back. 

"Because you never know who will be listening." 

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