There’s something very soul crushing about losing that spark in you. Like a childhood wish on a star burning out right in front of your eyes. In your heart your passion fades from your desires. But you’ve set yourself on the road of passion, and you have to continue going. Is this what I want to keep doing? Is this what makes me, me? Music was a reprieve, something to hide in away from all the things people would say and do to me. That secret place, that special world that belonged just to me. And to share it with someone I trust, and then share it with others, and more and more it becomes less... mine. I can’t even bring myself to write the lyrics anymore, and I can barely have enough fervor to sing the ones I’m given. If the younger me could see who I am now, would he be sad? Barely any way in, and already burnt out. I don’t think I can do this anymore, I don’t-
“Nickie, we’re about ready.”
My grip tightens around the neck of my guitar as Sherry’s whisper pulls me from my thoughts. I turn back to him, my eyes lingering on him for a moment as I try to process what he said. My gaze flickers to Simon, the new drummer we hired. He stares back at me before returning to his own instrument.
“Nickie?” Sherry blinks and reaches out to me, but I move away and wave my hand dismissively.
“I heard you.” I look back to the curtain. It’s not a lengthy setlist, but it’s going to feel like an eternity to play. I relax my hands and put them into position as I step up to the mic, eyeing the split in the fabric as I wait for the call.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Heartlocked.” The voice from the speaker announces, and the curtains draw back. I refuse to wince from the light and stare straight into the audience. My eyes rove across the guests as my fingers come to the strings. Simon’s sticks signal the beginning beat and the silence is broken with our music. The vision of the crowd becomes secondary as I recall the notes. Timing each one perfectly, syncing properly with Sherry’s bass, and Simon holding up his end with the beat. Just as many times in practice, just as much as I wrote it, following the formula to the exact-
Simon’s hit it wrong. He hit the snare too early now he’s trying to make it up, catch the slip to make it seem on purpose. I try to muster through to not slip up from it as well, and the rest of the song goes according to plan. Dread makes a pit in my stomach at the prospect of the rest of the setlist. I look back to Sherry with a grimace, and return to the crowd with a smile. They give a small round of applause.
“Thank you, here’s one we just wrote.” I let out a small sigh before starting the next song. This is going to be a long night…
The drive back to Sherry’s flat is a tense and silent one. I keep my attention focused out the window, I can’t bring myself to look at everyone else. Of course this would happen. Practice all month just for this? It takes just a single sigh from Simon to make me curl my hands into fists, digging my nails into skin to keep myself from turning back to him. As we arrive and load the instruments back inside, I feel the anger well up in my chest. Sherry looks to me as I set down my guitar into the stand a little too harshly, his expression a worried and knowing one.
“Simon.” I turn to the man with a grim look. I don’t mean to make such a face but it makes him get defensive anyway.
“Yes, Nickie?” He crosses his arms and the corner of his lip stretches to a frown.
“Might wanna explain to me why you kept messing up the tempo?”
Simon scoffs at me. “I was on time with the rest of ya, there was nothing wrong with my drumming. Zero.”
I shake my head in frustration. “Eight times you fumbled. I know those parts by heart, I wrote them. You told me you read them over countless times. I didn’t count you for being illiterate.” Sneering, I get in his face. He returns the same sentiment.
“And I didn’t count you for being a prissy little perfectionist.”
“Oi oi you guys calm down, Nickie didn’t mean it.” Sherry approaches us apprehensively and tries to diffuse the heat, but it’s too late.
I don’t want to calm down dammit! I shouldn’t be the one to back off! “What you taking his side for?” I jerk my head to Sherry’s direction. My heart feels like it’s tightening as my throat constricts to keep myself from completely yelling my words. “He’s the one with a piss poor performance!”
“I think maybe we should be a little more tactful and appreciative of the drummer we are paying.” Sherry rubs his temples with a grimace.
I glare back at Simon with ire, hands trembling with adrenaline. “If that's the kind of playing you do when we pay you I’d rather do it myself.”
Simon jabs a finger into my chest rather painfully. “Then do it! I’m done here.” He turns away from me to the drumset. “I ain’t taking this kind of shit from a fat sonofabitch like you.” Simon grabs the sticks off the snare and stares back at me in the eyes as he snaps them over his knee, tossing them to the ground.
“Excuse me?!” I look him up and down incredulously.
“Hey what's the big idea?!” Sherry’s tone drops all hints of amiableness.
Simon makes his way to the door and looks back at me one more time. “You know I should have listened when they told me about your band. No wonder nobody wants to work with you. Good luck trying to reign in some other sucker, there ain’t a sane drummer left in London that’ll do the job.” With a hard slam of the door, Simon was gone.
“FUCK!” I kick over the snare violently and groan. Sherry practically jumps over to it and pulls it away from me.
“Hey don’t go breaking the instruments! Those are expensive!”
“I know I know!” I shout at him without meaning to. God! I bury my face in my hands and grumble, trying to steady myself as I realize I’m shaking. “I know.” I attempt to lower my voice. He’s not the one I’m mad at. I let out a long, agitated sigh. Many moments pass as we stand in silence. Sherry goes to clean up the broken drum sticks off the ground and sets them aside. Ugh. Finally I feel calm enough to lower my hands.
“Nickie… We can’t keep doing this.” Sherry speaks without looking at me. Instead his attention is on the drums.
“We’re never gonna get it together till you get it together.”
I look away from him, feeling my face flush with shame. My lips set into a hard frown as I cross my arms, my hands gripping tightly. It was many more moments before I spoke again, this time much quieter. “It was the wrong sound.”
Sherry finally looks back at me, mildly exasperated. “That ear of yours has been getting us nothing but spats, Nickie,” he approaches me and places his hands on my shoulders, “come on, we’re going in circles. We keep going like this, we won't have anyone to help with gigs.”
I try to avert my eyes, biting my lip to hold back tears. God it’s all so annoying. I’m not sensitive! I’m not! This doesn’t bother me!
“Nickie.” Sherry’s voice softens.
I finally meet his gaze. “I-I know… I can’t help it.” I quickly look away again, tightening my grip on my arms even harder.
“I know Nickie. I know you don’t mean it.” Sherry pats my shoulder and moves away from me. “Do you need me to accompany you home?”
I shake my head and grab my parka off the coat rack. “No, no. I’ll be fine.”
“Promise. Guess I’ll see you next saturday?”
“Of course.” Sherry tries to give me a smile despite the circumstance, though he grits his teeth a little. “I’m going to need new sticks.”
I exit his flat and strap my helmet on, revving my vespa to life as I huff a weary sigh. I can’t say I expected this to happen, but I’m definitely not surprised. Taking off, I make my way back home as the night becomes darker. At least we only had one show booked, which in of itself was already another hitch. We’ve got to get another drummer, fast. I arrive home and nearly drag myself through the door. I’m tired, I’m tired of all of this. I shrug off my parka and head to my bedroom to dress down. Hanging up my suit, I blink slowly at it and look to the second one. Looks like I won’t be getting a third for now. I close the closet and fetch my pjs from the drawer, and slip into them on my way to the bathroom. Heaving a sigh, I gaze into the mirror and examine my face. I ended up smearing the eyeshadow a bit earlier, but at least it looked fine for the show. I lean over the counter and rest my elbows on it, staring down my own eyes for many more moments.
“You’re a mess Nickie.” I say to myself, wetting a hand towel and wiping my eyes to remove the makeup. “You’re a real fuckup, you know that?” I give my reflection a frown and dry my face, dropping the towel on the counter. I’ll wash it later, there’s something much more important I have to take care of. I head to the living room and dial on the phone, take a moment to breathe while waiting for the operator to patch me over.
“Mum? It’s Nickie.” My hand grips the phone a bit too tightly.
“Nickie! It’s rather late isn’t it? Is there something wrong?”
It takes me a moment to respond, I’m just trying to keep my grip on it. “Y-yeah. Uh, sorry mum but I don’t think I’ll be able to give you money next month, I…”
“What happened? Are you alright?” The concern in her voice sticks into me. It makes my chest hurt.
“I… Well, uh, we lost another drummer. He quit tonight.”
“Oh no, was it before your show?”
“No, no he quit after. I… I got into an argument with him.” I rub my hand on my face, letting out a sigh.
She’s quiet for a few moments. “Oh, son… You still have Sherry, right?”
“Yes, of course he’s still with me. But I…” I grip into my arm tightly as I can’t hold myself back. “Mum I just can’t do it anymore! It’s not going right, I drive off the people we have and I can’t find anyone who does the sound right, and… and…”
"It’s okay son. You’ll be able to do it, I believe in you.” The reassurance in her voice calms me down a bit. “And you gave me enough this month, I can manage. You need your money for you.”
I stifle a sniffle and wipe my eyes to keep anything from coming out. “I’ll still visit, I promise.”
“Of course, Nickie. I have some shirts ready for you, just finished them. Did them in your favorite colors as always.” I can feel the warm, beaming smile in her voice.
“Thanks mum.” I finally begin to calm down.
“You have a good night, okay? I love you.”
“Love you too.” I hang up the phone and fall back onto the couch. Taking in the silence, I gaze over to the coffee table to see that I had left out a cup. Jesus, getting forgetful lately. I rest a few moments more before making my way to the kitchen, cup in hand. I reach the sink, but before I can put it in, I feel my body jerk suddenly, and the cup falls to the ground, smashing at my feet.
“Fuck!” I shout and move away from the mess. Thankfully none of the pieces had cut me. Grumbling, I grab a towel and bend down to clean up the pieces. Throwing them in the trash, I lean against the counter and rub my temples. It happened again. “A great way to end the night, absolutely.”
In late 60's London, Nickie grapples with losing his will to continue doing music with his band. Heartlocked has been on a near two year limbo of getting a proper drummer, something staved off by Nickie's own prickly attitude and strict musical expectations. When presented with an opportunity and a time limit, he has to urgently find someone to fill in that last position, or risk losing a record deal. Can he deal with the one person fitting his standards being someone he can't stand, even if that person hits some standards he didn't think he had?
This series is 18+ and features mature and sensitive themes such as: substance abuse, sexual content, mental illness, homophobia, fatphobia, body image issues, and swearing