“Bring me something poppy but unique” the man had said. The words kept resonating through Ian’s mind.
Ian thought everything he wrote was poppy and unique, but apparently the great Mr. Derksen hadn’t thought so. He hadn’t seen his gig, but Ian had confronted him after the Loveletters’ show and asked him whether he was indeed looking for talent. His generic reaction about always looking for talent had confirmed his suspicion that the fat bartender had indeed been lying, but he couldn’t be too disappointed at that. Everyone lied, Ian knew that all too well. Yet he had personally convinced the producer to give him a chance anyway, but now he just needed to take it.
Faced with a real chance to actually get somewhere in the music industry however, he had completely lost his inspiration. Typical. Well if he couldn’t take this kind of pressure, maybe he didn’t deserve to be in the industry anyway. Ian sighed as he cycled back to his apartment after an uneventful evening of work at the club and raked his brain for something beautiful. Nothing came up. Well nothing that no one had already written before.
A catchy tune entered his mind and he hummed it out loud for a couple of bars until he recognised it as a song from Rise Against’s latest album. Fuck.
As he arrived at his apartment building he locked his bike, tossed it against a tree and used the chain to keep it there. One lock is definitely not enough if you want to prevent your bicycle from being stolen in Amsterdam.
He walked up to the front door, fumbled for his keys again (he JUST had them in his hand!), then saw the new golden cylinder.
“Fuck!” he yelled out.
Ian had completely forgotten about the new lock on the front door, which the landlord put in after an attempted break-in last week. The thieves hadn’t gotten in, but they had completely screwed up the lock and the owner had had no option but to replace it. The shiny golden key that belonged to the new lock was sitting on his kitchen counter. Ian could see himself putting it there just this morning.
Ian sighed and walked around the building, he climbed over the fence that was supposed to keep the alleyway free from drunks and bums, stepped over said drunk bum and continued his way around the building. There was a little square with garage boxes at the back of the building. Also, there was his French balcony, only about a meter and a half above floor level. Ian didn’t climb it, instead, and with good reason, he climbed his neighbour’s.
Just as he had put one foot between the bars and started pulling himself up, the balcony door opened and he was startled by a man yelling.
Fearing for his fingers, Ian quickly pulled himself up and shot his neighbour an apologetic look. “Dylan, it’s me, it’s Ian, don’t hurt me!”
“The fuck are you doing climbing my balcony in the middle of the night?” Dylan asked, clearly annoyed, but with a hint of genuine curiosity. The pack of cigarettes in his hand explained the reason why he was on his balcony at this hour.
Ian hoisted himself on the balcony while Dylan lit a cigarette, eying him with one raised eyebrow. Ian hated that people could do that. It looked so cool to raise an eyebrow at something, but Ian only ever managed to raise both at the same time.
“It’s my secret, check it out.” Ian said as he climbed up on the railing and reached for the protruding edge in the masonry above their heads. He beamed at Dylan as he held up the key to his balcony door triumphantly. Then he jumped easily from the railing over to his own balcony and opened the door.
“Voila!” he said and bowed as if he had just performed a circus act. Then proceeded to climb back to Dylan’s balcony to put the key back where it belonged.
“Why are you keeping that on my balcony?” Dylan asked.
“For thieves of course.” Ian said, matter-of-factly. He thought Dylan was a smart man, but he didn’t seem really streetwise with a question as stupid as that. Had he grown up in a tiny provincial village or something?
Dylan was still looking at him with that aggravating raised eyebrow. Ian rolled his eyes as he jumped down again, landing slap-bang in Dylan’s personal space because of the miniature size of the balcony.
“Well if someone is looking for a key to the balcony, they’ll find one at yours, they’ll try to open your door but fail and then they’ll just go away again.”
“Why would anyone be looking up there for a key?”
“Because if you forget your keys, you do need to get in some way. Lot’s of people leave their keys at inconspicuous places, just in case. Well, today was the case.”
“Because of the new front door?”
“Obviously. The new key is still on my kitchen counter.” Ian explained.
“You could’ve rang my bell.”
“In the middle of the night?”
“Well, yeah. You know I sleep late.”
Ian hadn’t thought of that. It was indeed useful to have a neighbour with the same sleep schedule as he had. Yet something was off.
“Your bar closes at 2AM right?” Ian asked, hoisting himself up the edge of the railing to give Dylan a little more space.
“It’s only a little past one. Shouldn’t you be at work?”
“I left early.” Dylan said curtly. He was looking away. Ian also noted the way he was smoking. Taking large hits of the cigarette, holding the stump a little too tightly.
“Did something happen?”
“Not really, but…” Dylan sighed, then looked up. “Someone was going to pick me after work, and I fled.”
Ian couldn’t help but laugh. “You fled!? Was he gonna beat you up or something? You can just call the cops, you know. We’re in Amsterdam, but it’s not completely lawless here.”
“Yeah, well it’s not like that.” Dylan said, tossing the butt of hid cigarette away and clearly giving the signal that the conversation was over. Yet the unease was still there, and it only sparked Ian’s curiosity more. Dylan looked like such a tough guy, why would he flee for anything?
“So, what IS it like?”
Dylan leaned back against the railing and tilted his head a little. “Don’t judge me okay?” he said.
Ian’s eyes went wide. Judge Dylan? Him? Ian had to tense his mouth to prevent him laughing at the idiocy of the situation. Of all people Ian wasn’t the one to judge anyone, least of all his friendly neighbour with the dead wife.
Ian noted that Dylan was still looking at him, seemingly still waiting for a reaction, and quickly nodded.
“Okay, so yesterday I picked up this guy for a one-night stand…”
Wait what? Did he say guy? Holy shit his neighbour was gay? How come he hadn’t noticed that? He prided himself on having a proper gaydar, but he had completely missed this one. Maybe he was bisexual? Still... he should've noticed.
“… and he showed up tonight, all acting like we were an item. I tried to let him off easy, but he just waltzed over that, not listening to a word I said, even called me honey…”
Ian had tried to keep it in, but he couldn’t contain himself and bursted out laughing.
“God, I’m sorry…” he said between breaths “It’s just… that’s funny. So, the guy thinks you’re dating now? What on earth did you do to him to give him that impression?”
“I honestly have no idea.” Dylan said. He seemed a little more relaxed, clearly relieved he got that off his chest. It made Ian feel content he had pressed the issue.
“Okay, so you’ve just lost your… husband is it?” Dylan nodded affirmatory. “You’re not looking for a new relationship…” Dylan nodded again “…and now this guys seems to think otherwise. What did you tell him?”
“I told him I was sorry, but that I wasn’t looking for a relationship.”
“Seems pretty clear to me, how come he didn’t catch on?”
“He said he wasn’t looking for a relationship either, but that he couldn’t deny it, now he had found his soulmate. I tried to set him straight multiple times, I was even a bit harsh at some point, but he didn’t seem to care. He kept on ranting about starts aligning, and faith and God and everything. Even said he loved me.”
“What, REALLY?!” Dylan nodded again, a half-smile on his lips that didn’t reach his eyes as he clearly pondered the idiocy of the situation. “What on earth did you DO to the man?!”
“Dunno, I was actually a bit rusty.” Dylan chuckled.
“Pffft…” Ian snorted. It was a funny story indeed. “So, either you’re extremely good in bed, even when you’re out of practice, or you’ve fucked a crazy person.”
“I’m not unconfident about my prowess, but I’m guessing it’s the latter. Wouldn’t be the first time though.”
“Well, you’re a psychologist, right? You should know better.” Ian quipped.
“I should.” Dylan said in a more serious tone. Oh fuck, did he not see that was a joke?
“Hey,” Ian said, putting a hand on his neighbour’s shoulder. “It’s not your fault he’s crazy. He’ll probably stay away after finding out you stood him up, then find someone new to be his soulmate. It’ll be alright.”
“Yeah it probably will, won’t it?”
“Don’t worry about it. You’ve got enough to deal with for yourself. Then again, it must be nice for your ego to know you’re that good in the sack, right?”
Dylan laughed, but it felt like there was still some unease in it. “Right,” he said, nodding.
“Well good night neighbour, thanks for the talk.” Ian said, noting that he may be slightly overstaying his welcome. He moves swiftly over to the other balcony railing, and got inside his apartment, locking the door from the inside.
Ian stood still in his apartment for a while, pondering the conversation he just had with his neighbour. It was a funny story. Well, funny to him, since he wasn’t involved. It was probably less funny for the crazy guy. Maybe he should imagine what that’d be like. Suddenly finding yourself completely enchanted with a person you just met. There were a lot of songs about love at first sight, but maybe this angle was something to explore anyway. It would be endearing and creepy at the same time, much like Sting’s ‘Every Breath you Take’.
Ian got himself a glass of whiskey, plopped down on his couch and picked up his guitar. Writers-block is over. Let’s make a hit.
It wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t crazy enough. Now it was just a silly love song that had been written thousands of times before. This wouldn’t do.
It had been three hours. Ian was pulling his hair and staring at the empty bottle. Maybe he should go to bed, but neither his mind nor his body could bring himself to it. Curtesy of being a little too enthusiastic with the white powder. Well he was aiming to work all the way through the night and only sleep when he was done. Maybe he had been a little too overconfident.
Ian paces though his apartment. He was jittery now, his mind too stuck in little details he couldn’t even end a single sentence. He had gotten fed up with the rhythm of his lyrics as well. Now everything he had been writing in the past couple of hours sounded like a bloody nursery rhyme.
He kicked the wall and screamed at it. Then realised he shouldn’t be screaming in the middle of the night, for his newfound muse next door wouldn’t be too happy about it. He clutched his fists and went to get another drink. Which was silly, considering he had just finished the bottle.
SHROOMS! Yes! He still had some dried ones left in the cupboard. He’d just drink some infused tea and then the rabbit hole would open up. It’s how the Beatles did it, right? Or was that LSD. It probably was, oh well, whatever. Mind-expanding substance, less dangerous, probably a good idea.
After finishing his makeshift brew, he left it simmer for a bit, then took a shower. Ian had realised he stank, and before heightening his senses, it would be wise to make sure his own smell wouldn’t destroy the vibe.
The tea was horrid, but he couldn’t sweeten it with sugar, for that would dampen the effect. The dried mushrooms had been inside that cupboard for way too long already, and Ian wanted to get everything he could out of them. Ian closed his eyes and strummed a little on his guitar, waiting for the trip to start.