They called my name from the black microphones in their hot hands. The crowd erupted in applause and cheers. The stage manager gave me a light nudge on my back, and I took one shaky, deep breath. I emerged from the shadowed wings into the spotlight, which created an intimate focus of attention on me, dressed in a green, sequined button up top, leather pants, and dress shoes too tight for my big toe to breathe.
I could hear the whispered sounds of the crowd as they stared at me, in awe and admiration, and in judgment. My muscles relaxed, and I accepted the loneliness of the circular stage. My head tilted to the right and whipped to the left, and my entire body spun 360 degrees.
“Hit it,” I shout into my wireless microphone, and the pre-recorded drum beats sound. The energy of the audience shifts when mine exudes for their enjoyment. Seven years of; disappointment, rejection, working exhausting shifts at fast food restaurants, performing gigs at weddings for cash that would only allow me to eat fast food, and writing, producing, and marketing myself for labels. Finally, my dreams are coming true in front of those who believed in my talent; my manager Tessa and best friend Kalif, and those who were waiting on my downfall; my family.
My hit pop single, which is number 5 in Global Music’s Top 10, and sold 200,000 copies in one week, is now being performed for the first time, live, on stage, in front of millions of viewers watching the North American Music Awards, and my adoring fans who came to support me.
I ready my throat for the first verse of my song, Boom Boom.
“Wake up, wake yourself up baby. The sound is getting louder, and you can’t be at peace. Boom boom. Boom boom. You try to sleep in your misery, but it eats you alive. Your ears are consumed with the deep vibrations, you can’t survive. Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom…”
My eyes fly open to see my fraying floral wallpaper in the darkness of my tiny bedroom.
Is Denise seriously still playing those drums at this time of the morning again? This is exactly why I didn’t want anyone who played instruments living in the building.
I slip my feet into the warm slippers Kalif gifted me for my 35th birthday last year. I navigate through my low lit apartment, grabbing the grey jumper that hangs on my dining chair, and leave apartment #100 to berate a woman 15 years my senior.
Denise isn’t a bad person; she’s one of my best tenants. Rent is always given to me on time; she often brings me Ukrainian food packaged in plastic containers when I don’t have the energy to cook rice and chicken after teaching several lessons at my uncle’s music store, or dealing with building issues and inquires. She also supports my endeavors and passions for music, as she is the lead drummer for The Rodents, a classic rock indie band.
I have told her numerous times, she is only permitted to play her drums between 12pm and 5:30pm. If she wants to continue playing, she has to find another space out of apartment #101. But, for the past few days, I have been waking up to the same nuisance every night, boom boom.
I don’t understand why she doesn’t want me to dream in peace. But I seem to be the only person bothered by the noise because I haven’t received any complaints from other tenants. But tonight, I am going to end this nonsense. I wonder if any landlords have ever filed for noise complaints against their own tenants before?
I lightly tap her emerald green door, carefully listening for her footsteps on the other side. Her hair is wrapped in a silk scarf patterned with giant dead rodents, her bands infamous logo.
She’s the only tenant that is on a first name basis with me.
“This is your first warning, Denise. I’ve been hearing you play those drums of yours two nights in a row already. At first, I figured you just got carried away and would remember the rules and obey them, but if that were the case, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you.”
She yawns loudly and wipes saliva from her upper lip. Her eyes are narrow, trying to adjust to the light from the hallway behind me. “I’ve been sleeping since 10 o’clock.”
“You’re telling me you weren’t just playing the drums two minutes ago?”
Her face holds confusion and she shakes her head.
“Man, I think you’ve been working too hard. You need some rest.”
She waves for me to leave and slowly closes the door.
“There it goes again!” my right hand applies enough pressure to push the heavy door back. “Did you hear that?”
I peer over her shoulder into her kitchen, then to her cozy living room, and finally the wooden bedroom door that is wide open, revealing her messy bed.
“It’s quiet as a mouse. I’m sure everyone is asleep right now, which is what I think we should both do,” she says agitatedly.
“I’m sorry, Denise, I don’t want to pry around your space at such an inappropriate time like this, but I have been hearing this boom boom sound, and it’s driving me crazy. Can you please allow me to search your apartment?”
She rolls eyes, “Ikenna…”
“It can’t wait, Denise.”
I reflect my desperation into her tired eyes.
“Be quick. And just advising you, you’re not going to find anything, because I’m not playing any drums or music, and there’s no one in here.”
I ignore her as the booms continue to taunt me. I creep around the space like a lucrative robber, opening cupboards, peaking outside the open window that reveals a lonely alleyway. Only coming across cans of beans and soup arranged erratically, a bathroom with no faulty pipes, and the slight weeping sounds of the nightly wind. I’ve checked this poor woman’s entire apartment, and still couldn't figure out the source of the noise.
I head back towards the front door, “My apologizes, Denise. Maybe I’m going insane or something. I’ll probably investigate the other apartments in the morning. Again, I’m so sorry. Have a good night.”
Boom boom! Boom boom!
My feet stop in its tracks near a flimsy coat closet in the front entrance of her apartment.
It’s louder than before. Clearer even. I look to Denise and she stares back with no reaction, just a sleepy trance. I point to her closet and gesture that I’m going to open it. Her loud exhale can’t even be heard over the booming sounds that repeat in an aggressive manner. My shaky hands reach for the brass knobs, slowly turning them to the left. The dark, dusty state of the closet is a dead end. The sound is present, but all I see are coats and spiky sneakers or 8 inch heels. My head leans closer to into the closet, understanding of the ominous feeling flooding my senses.
What is this noise and when will it end?
“You need to go back to your room, Ikenna,” a voice says.
“You sound funny, Denise.”
I turn around to see Denise is no longer standing behind me with her arms crossed. She is sitting on her cream couch, and a man dressed in blue scrubs stands in the spot she previously stood in. His arms coax me into his grasp, and I lean into his body.
“I need to find the noise!” I shout with rage.
Kalif shushes me, “I know, I know, but we need to get you back to your room now. You shouldn’t have been able to leave your room this easily, you know.”
His brown beard scratches my cheek, and we walk in unison out of Denise’s apartment. She sits still on the couch, staring at nothing, never acknowledging us.
Before I can digest the pity I feel for her, I am back in my bedroom. This time, there is a woman dressed in identical scrubs, strapping black Velcro bands around the bed poles and my wrists. The woman smiles at me and reaches over my head towards the antique shelf screwed on my wall. Her veiny hand comes back into my view, holding a transparent pill organizer. She opens a flap and shakes her head, her locks shaking by her forehead and pierced ears.
“I see you haven’t taken your meds yet. You can’t be skipping on your pills, Ikenna. I know you don’t like taking them, but it’s only for a little while. Until you get better. It’s going to help you get the boom out of your life and get you home to your family soon,” Tessa explains calmly.
She hands me a blood orange pill and a half empty water bottle. I ingest. Tessa is pleased and switches my bedside lamp off.
My upper and lower limbs are strapped to the bed, I attempt to dream peacefully.
If I don’t take Thorazine, they will strap me to this bed every night because I keep wandering out of my room to bother Patient #101. If I keep forgetting to take Thorazine, I won’t be able to finish my nightly performances of Boom Boom.
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Crazy! I loved it though. The story is a bit jerky, but so is the protagonist. My questions are, who are 'they' and where is the setting. Well done. I can dig it, as street people used to say.
Thanks for the feedback. They is basically the hosts/presenters at the award show (I could have made it more clear). When he's dreaming, the setting is at the awards show, when he isn't he's in the apartment building which is really a mental institution. Hope that makes it more clear.