Mixtape

When I look back, I fail to see how rapidly everything escalated. Despite the tabloids expressing I bloomed quicker than a French marigold, I lived through every second in a perfectly slow pace. I couldn’t possibly tell you why it all happened the way it did. Fate, divine intervention or just plain coincidence could all be the answer. I know when I felt the change, that out-of-body moment that set my bittersweet utopia into perspective. One thing I can tell you, without contemplation, is it all started with Styles.

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1. Auburn Ruin

I’m going to take you back to one of the most pinnacle points of my existence. It was my first proper encounter with the music industry. This was the day I met someone whom I owe most, if not my whole existence to.

 

My eyes scanned across the congested traffic, how the hell am I ever going to get to the other side of the footpath? I knotted my fingers together; quickly discovering this provided no extra warmth at all. I began rubbing my forearm with the unrestricted fingers that were not clutching onto my damp mixtape, whilst intertwining my alternate hand inside my right sleeve. I swear to god I wasn’t generating any heat whatsoever. As I breathed, I watched the oxygen expel from my mouth and form white cold air into the unpleasantly wintry atmosphere. London’s weather in February is absolutely mental.

 

After two prevailing minutes I finally found an opening within the road. Not wanting to miss this ultimate opportunity, I sprinted across the narrow street and weaved between parked cars to finally reach my destination. I was on Wright's Lane, home of the infamous EMI records. I still had my mixtape grasped in hand, and I wiped away rain droplets that had trickled onto its covering. The water had smudged the inked label that read ‘Saskia Noir: Demos’. I had even written my phone number on the back, as an attempt for further contact. I held the tape close to my jacket, before catching a glimpse of my watch. It read 9.34am, I was a whole four minutes late and I'm praying that this didn’t mean much to George Kingswood, a representative I was performing in front of this morning. My shoes stamped into several rain puddles in my path, creating dark water splatters on my jeans as I walked up to this daunting building. Their name EMI RECORDS was displayed above the entrance in enormous red lettering in a dome-like shape. I proceeded to the door, pushing it open swiftly before cursing at the cold touch of the metal handle.

 

Before I could take another step forward, a bulky man in navy trousers and a matching blazer jumped up to greet me. “Good morning, may I help you miss?” he asked in a stern British accent. I wondered how many hopefuls that had walked into this building, only to be escourted off the premises by this man. His lanyard read ‘STAFF’ in bold lettering and the name ‘Joseph Collins’ directly beneath. Noticing his muscular build and obvious authoritarian stance, I was already intimidated.

 

“Uh, hi! I have a meeting, I guess you could say…” I trailed off, but he quickly filled the awkward silence by asking for my name. “Saskia,” I replied, whilst extending one arm out to this man. He shook it firmly and turned to look at a young woman behind a counter, she looked up at a pin board and turned to look back at him with a single nod. Finally, he replied in an upbeat tone, “Pleasure to meet you, Saskia. Come this way.” The short exchange he had with the receptionist baffled me. Evidently, he gathered I’m not some nutter off the street looking for a record deal.

 

I followed this intimidating man down an elongated hallway; glancing at the famous members of EMI adorned the walls, accompanied by large awards and honours addressed to the company. I could feel a bubbling anxiety residing in the bottom of my stomach. I can and I will do this. I repeated this intonation in my mind over and over until I was worried I was saying it out loud. I can and I will do this, I can and will do this.

***

“You’re talented, that’s for sure love” George Kingswood declared with reassurance but a hint of dismay. We were seated in his swanky recording studio, where he had heard me sing just moments ago. I smiled broadly, before he went on. “I can see where you’re getting your influences from, old school classic mixed with a bit of new wave and I hear hints of Linda Perry creeping into your lyrics. I can’t say I don—“ A knock on the door interrupted his speech. He gestured towards the glass door exasperatedly before uttering an apology. “Come on in!” he called, and young blonde woman curtly entered. “Apologies for the intrusion,” She didn’t sound all that sorry; her eyes were fixated on George. “I’ve got Gary on line one, and your ten o’clock arrived a tad early. Collins wants a chat as well, have you got a minute to spare?”  George looked at me then back at his papers, “Yeah I’ve got time. Excuse me if you will, Saskia” I nodded in a well-disposed approval and mouthed ‘sure’ as he left the room briskly.

 

As the door swang shut behind him, I noticed my name printed on one of his papers. Unable to hide my curiosity, I quickly skimmed through pages of reports, all filed in an unorderly manner on his desk. I analysed his notes on my performance. His scrawls were difficult to make out, short, undescriptive, and scripted as ineligibly as CAPTCHA.

 

Songs on mixtape recorded on actual tape 
Pretty face
Lack of proper stage presence
Classic influences
Song #1 – Auburn Ruin – bit sad
Mezzo soprano, harmonies great, vibrato, the works
Not feeling ‘sparks’
Further training (?)

 

Unsatisfied, I waited until George re-entered the room. It didn’t take too long till he returned, all sympathetic and jittery as he popped back onto his chair. “Right, well. As I was saying love, before that interruption… Audrey! Can you shut my door?” he motioned towards the woman in the hallway. She grabbed the door handle and closed it silently. “Anyway, as I was saying. Your musical influences, I’m really into it. I’m thinking maybe if you can just expand a bit on that. But I don’t think we’ll be in business until you appraise your confidence issues, and maybe revaluate some lyrics.” He eyed me carefully as he spoke, but I sought further clarification, pressing on what it was that I didn’t attain. In response to my questions, he answered irately “Look, I just don’t see a number one hit here, I’m sorry darl.” He went on, “Your work is a little… despondent. To be frank.”

 

With no hint of remorse I uttered sarcastically, “Well, thank you for your time and undivided attention.” he eyed me intently, “I’m a very busy man, Saskia. I would remember that if I were you.” He tossed my mixtape in my direction and I caught it in my left hand. He wasn't even going to keep it. I felt as if the world war was amoung us, and this despicable treachery was just another reaffirmation for my lyrics, ‘trust no one,' in Auburn Ruin. But this went beyond my willingness for art. I had contact with this man, who led me to believe I had a chance with this company. “Like I said, expand on it. Cut the pessimistic crap, no one wants to hear it.” He finished. On that note, we exchanged a handshake and I left the room with a small farewell.

 

As I walked out of the company’s front entrance, my mind entrapped itself in a whirlwind of thoughts. I had surrounded myself, and convinced myself that destiny had served me for a divine purpose. Now, I’m reduced to misery and shame, having failed myself with expectations of glory upon leaving EMI. Maybe I hadn’t worked hard enough for success I’ve been envisioning. Maybe I wasn’t the cookie cutter pop star with the easy ride to fame. I wanted no such honeymoon for myself, I wanted the journey and I wanted to be spared the fate of a one hit wonder. Whatever needed to be done, I would do it. I’ll take great care to ensure the survival of my artistic spirit, in the face of its genocide.

***

I contained these positive affirmations in my mind, remembering I had made plans with friends this afternoon. I walked for about 2 minutes till I was in High Street Kensington on Stop B. Catching the number 10 bus towards Pentonville before stopping at Marble Arch, then walking another 3 minutes towards Oxford Street. All up, I was there in about half an hour, and it was only 11.15am. I was meeting up with a few friends at 2pm, so I had copious amounts of time to kill. Aimlessly, I exerted my fascination with architecture by taking a walk around whilst looking at the buildings intricate structures. Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as cold outside as it was only a few hours ago.

 

Evidently, I got bored. Real quick. So, I decided to take this time to sit down on a near by bench and rethink. In other words, feel sorry for myself and wallow in self-pity. I placed my mixtape next to me, not wanting to hold onto it anymore. Maybe I could pen this down as a bad day and forget about it later, if it were that simple. My eyes adjusted to my right, unintentionally gazing upon a person in close proximity.

 

There, he stood.
A young man, probably on the edge of his teens, leaning against a street lamp post. Dressed in converse shoes, light navy jeans and a large ski jumper, his eyebrows furrowed as he looked intently at his mobile phone screen. Swiftly, he took his hand from his back pocket and combed it through his thick, chocolate brown curls. He was only a few metres away from me, and I could not believe I hadn’t noticed him earlier. Finally, he looked up from his mobile, his eyes set straight ahead, staring unnervingly at a group of girls ahead of him. He quickly turned to the opposite direction, facing me and we locked eye contact for a moment. His facial expression turned from alarmed to sympathetic in a heartbeat. Why was he looking at me like that? I remembered my tear-stained face and my despair that had undoubtedly shine through.

 

“You all right?” he asked, snapping me out of my trance. “Yeah… Could be better.” I responded slowly, silencing the tears that were pooling in my waterline and threatening to slither down my face again. I never took my eyes off his expression, something seemed so undeniably familiar about him. At long last, I noticed what was his greatest asset: his piercing green eyes. They shone like jade crystals. Knowing that these eyes could literally send me into oblivion, I chose not to focus on them.

 

He offered a shy smile before walking towards me, nervously looking back to the same group of girls ahead. “Is this seat taken?” he asked, I detected the deep resonance of his voice, which was unexpected, as his baby face didn’t match the low pitch. “No, it isn’t. Would you like to sit with me?” I asked, feeling all dejection evoking from my shoulders, as this polite and insanely attractive stranger expressed interest in sitting with me. “What’s this?” he questioned. There it was, my lousy mixtape, he grabbed it before I could protest.

 

“Sass-kee-ah Nee-ohre” he read, pronouncing my name slowly and emphasising each syllable, “Demos?” he looked up at me inquisitively. “Is this you?” I nodded in response, battling the dreaded memories of this morning’s event. He fiddled with the tape, muttering under his breath what sounded like people still use these things? Then snickering at his own remark. I couldn’t help but smile as he began recounting an early childhood memory, of how he had removed the entire contents of his sister’s favourite tape to make an Afro hairdo for one of his toys. I shared my own electronic disaster story, involving inserting a chocolate chip cookie into a CD player and watching the mayhem begin. We both laughed in unison over our amusing childhood memories. I let out a intentionally girly giggle. “What was that?” he exclaimed. I slapped my hand over my mouth and his lips quivered up into a toothy grin, that created small creases below his eyes. It was breathtaking. I tried to resist asking for his name, or anything that would connect me with this beautiful stranger, so I could find him and swim in those emerald green eyes once again. But I couldn’t help myself; after much hesitation, I asked him the universal question. “So, what do you do for a living?” and his eyes widened a little.

 

“Oh come on, love.” He said in irritating playfulness. “How long are you hoping to keep this up?” I gazed at him in confusion, keep this up? Had he seen through my lame attempts of hide my ever-so-apparent interest for him? “I’m sorry,” I blurted instantly. “I’d really like to know your name. Or anything about you, actually.” He looked at me in pure astonishment. I was dying to know what was going through his mind. He couldn’t possibly think I was coming on too strong just for asking his name. “You really don’t know me, do you?” he said in disbelief.

 

Before I could even muster a response to such a puzzling question, the same group of girls he had been eyeing earlier were charging in a stampede towards the two of us. “Damn!” he yelled with an almighty dominance to suit. I had never heard the word ‘damn’ been used in such a harsh tone, it seemed almost funny. He rose from the bench quickly before turning to face me again. “It never ends,” he said virtually helpless, a small sign of vulnerability shining through. “I guess this is goodbye.” Hurriedly, he began running off. While still in earshot, he turned to me and I heard him yell “’Bye Sass-kee-ah!” that same grin returning, exposing all his perfectly straight front teeth.

 

I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. I didn’t know what was the right reaction to have after you meet someone who is then subsequently chased and mauled by a group of teenage girls. I could hear their screams even as I watched him turn out of sight. All the while, knowing that I may never set eyes upon someone with his magnitude of beauty. I stood in complete shock for what felt like ten minutes before I felt a hand tap my shoulder.

 

I jumped abruptly. “Hey!” a young girl stood in front of me, with a friend towed in hand. “I just wanted to say... you’re so lucky! I saw you got to talk with Harry.” She said with a false tone of cheerfulness. Quickly, she cut to the chase. “So what did you guys talk about?”

 

In a complete haze of confusion, I asked her, “Is that his name? Harry?” she looked at me with the same bewilderment the beautiful stranger had once adorned for me. “Uh… yes? Harry Styles?” Again, I stood there, perplexed. Harry. What a perfectly fitting name. “Oh my god,” the girls friend piped up, “She doesn’t even like One Direction!” They both looked at me in infuriation and charged off. Unable to comprehend anything that just happened, I turned to the bench to pick up my mixtape. It was gone from its original space. I checked my pockets, underneath the bench and all the areas surrounding, but it was nowhere to be seen.

 

Harry. I thought. Harry has my mixtape.

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