[ramble, GoTxHamilton] Wait For It

My back hurts.

I never feel the knives going in. Instead, I wake up and find a brand new wound, joining what I feel must be dozens–going in deep, twisting, bleeding out despite my best efforts to hold everything together.

By now, it’s old news: the knives, the sting, the unknown-but-known assailants. And me: the girl who refuses to die. Refuses to fall apart. By now, even I don’t know why I keep going. But I do, because hope is the last bit of defiance I have left.

Each knife is one less reason to stay, but somehow isn’t enough reason to leave.

I tell my friends I envy Jon Snow, the bravery it takes to whisper “Now my watch is ended.” I have died and returned and died and returned so many times, and each time I feel something must get lost. But if something does, the pain of living drowns out the pain of losing. I stumble through my days, plastering the mask of calm on my face, pretending not to recognize the fingerprints on the handles of the blades.

The mercenaries among those I hold dear tell me–unapologetically, with a blissful pride I can almost find it in myself to envy–that stab-wounds are badges of honor for those on their way upward, forgetting (of course) that not everyone aims to climb. I only ever envisioned a life of service, of devotion to a leader or leaders whose visions burned bright in my eyes. I am a girl built for adoration, a kingmaker instead of one who rules. I pledge my service. I take my oaths.

I shall wear no crowns and win no glory…

I never wanted to stand atop anything. I do not stand atop anything. Instead, I take a breath and continue to climb this neverending series of days, struggling through the pain and the blur of tears I have taught myself not to shed, because salt causes the wounds to burn, even as they close.

Each scar is one less reason to hang on, but somehow is not enough of a reason to let go.

I know I am not the only one. There are other knives, other backs, other bleeding wounds and half-knit scars on other endless uphill climbs. My mother was one, as was her mother, as are so many others who came before and will come after. We are a battered, broken brotherhood with no banners and barely any blood left…but we refuse to die, because hope is our last defiance. Is my last defiance. Life, with its weapons, does not discriminate: it takes and it takes and it takes. But we keep living anyway.

…I shall live and die at my post.

Through the blood, salt, cold, I whisper: If there’s a reason I’m still alive, when so many want me to die…

I’m willing to wait for it.



Your Puppet, Poppet

It’s been ten months.

Ten months since we came together, agreeing to become a single unit.  I was happy, at first.  Sometimes, I still am.  But most days turning up at our meetings, or else talking to you, feels like I’m working another job (as a waitress, maybe, since I usually take orders), only this time I don’t get paid.

Submitting to authority is not a problem for me.  Just ask my actual boss, at work–she’ll tell you that I’ve never not followed her orders unless I’ve scrambled them in my head or forgotten in a deluge of things-to-do.  She knows I will obey without question, with very nearly no argument.  She also knows–I hope she knows, anyway–why: because she’s bothered to get to know me.  To know my side-comments are not acts of rebellion but merely my version of “small talk.”  I like jokes.  I like banter.  I like laughter.  They make me feel like I’ve connected with someone, like I’m l less alone, less lonely.

 There are many days when, singing in that padded room, I feel so so lonely.  Remember that one day when I was screwing up almost every song and kept ducking out with my phone?  I was making phone calls, desperate to hear one voice that sounded like they cared about me.

Remember that night after the show, when I sat with a face like stone, silent and strumming a guitar I still don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to play?  You asked me if I was okay.  I haven’t been okay for a while.

I’ve been lonely.

Do you know how many people have told me to leave?  Told me to walk, that I have enough skills to make it on my own and what skills I don’t have can be compensated for by people who are willing to–more than assist me–listen to what I have to say?  I’ve blocked them all out, because I still believe in what you set out to do.  But believing in you is harder, because many times I don’t feel like you believe in me at all.  That the split-second instances when you are reassuring or kind are, well, just that: instances.  Split-seconds.  An act you put on out of rote and routine because you’ve learned that this is maybe necessary to keep a neurotic teammate happy.  Not out of any genuine sympathy.  You want the job done and you want it done now.

For ten months–for nearly a year–you’ve pretty much made all the choices, put the songs into my mouth, told me what to say and how to say it.  And I’ve ignored the niggling sense of maybe I deserve better and swallowed it all and jumped through the hoops.  I’m your puppet, poppet, and I haven’t minded.  But now I do.  And it’s not because I don’t have a say, don’t have control, don’t have a voice.  All those are secondary.

…I mind because after ten months of being together in padded rooms and smoky cafés and strobe-lit stages, I still feel incredibly alone.

I asked one of our teammates–the only one who maybe comes closest to being a friend–if we’d still be friends if I chose to walk.  He said yes, but he also told me that if I walked it would be devastating, because I was the “heart” of our little unit.  His words convinced me to stay in that moment, because I believed for a second that maybe you all saw my value beyond lyrics and melodies–saw that it was heart I could give in an industry frequently accused of being soulless.  You can’t make people feel things if you don’t feel.  If you can’t empathize.  If what you create doesn’t mean something to you beyond technical prowess and “attitude.”  

I chose to stay.  I choose to stay, every day, with every Facebook message you send and every doubt and opinion and complaint I continue to swallow.  I’ve tried to have faith that eventually, once we’re off the ground, what I say will matter.  Who I am will matter.  But now I’m scared that the months will only mean more of the same.  More moments, in the chill of rehearsal rooms, where I wonder how I got here and why, despite the hope of imminent success, the thrill of blasting off, I feel smaller than when I started.

I act like your puppet, poppet.  I do what you say.  I dance how you ask me to dance.  I always have.  But I’m not your puppet, because puppets are wood and string and I’m muscle and bone and a heart that, even when lit by floodlights, feels incredibly invisible, un-valuable, alone.


Patrick Stump knows what songs I sing in the dark, or, the brutally-honest blog from the unlikely frontwoman.

So Stories Told had its first eight-song set bar-gig yesterday, and it was…not horrible.  Which is to say, it was pretty good, considering it had the makings of a potential mini-disaster that would not be of Hindenburg proportions in the slightest but, let’s face it, for a girl who has a hard time getting over things, would have come pretty close.  I won’t dwell heavy on the multiple layers of the whys–because a lot of those should remain behind metaphorical tour bus doors–but suffice it to say, there were four reasons why last night should not have gone as well as it did:

  1. My twin vampire-brother, Dan, suddenly couldn’t make it.
  2. Our “replacement” bassist, Kyle (of in-your-face-punk band Crowd Control and occasional acoustic collaboration Lost in Thought), had a grand total of four hours to learn eight songs, including three originals (two of which we actually performed).
  3. Our set included The Calling‘s Wherever You Will Go which, while an aggressively popular song, was one I did not know all the lyrics to.
  4. I was so nervous.  And anyone who knows Frankie Torres knows that nothing good can happen when Frankie freaks out.

In spite of all those reasons–and maybe because of them, I don’t know?–last night at Café Huh was okay.  Well, okay, was okay.  The band was–always is (in my opinion), really, despite the last-minute bassist substitution–great, as bands can be when they’re not counting mistakes and trying to chug past them with rock-and-roll bravado, in the face of neuroses developed after years of solo performing and dreading belt notes and sweat-through-my-shirt musical auditions (sudden mental flash of my quavery rendition of On My Own for my heartbreaking Éponine tryout).  Because–one more thing you need to know–things tend to go horribly wrong when I want something very badly.

And, to be absolutely naked with you all (metaphorically), I really want this.


Stories Told is a bolt-from-the-blue lucky strike for me, because as I mentioned in my last post I am not a rock singer–I’ve only always wanted to be one since I was thirteen.  I’ve been the frontwoman for imaginary rock band after imaginary rock band, performing in the arenas of my room, my mum’s room, or my bathroom (great for reviewing my best arch-your-back, scream-like-you-mean-it moments), but vocally speaking I’m a pop kid.  Maybe blue-eyed-soul, on a good day (though I’ll never have blue eyes).  The songs in heavy rotation on my iPod skew to acoustic-rock, acoustic-pop, or else the EDM-infused pop-rock everyone listens to these days.  I’m no hipster; I’m aggressively chart, with some indie thrown in.  And nine times out of ten when Jian or Jedd mentions a band that’s supposed to be rock “legends,” I know nothing about them except the name (par exemple, “Rage Against The Machine”).

At twenty-one, I am the awkward, redheaded stepchild of rock-and-roll turned awkward, redheaded frontwoman of a technically-amazing band, wherein I am forced to face the fact that, despite probably having more years (aggregated) in training for my instrument (that is, voice) than any of my musical “brothers,” I am the least prepared for this life…and my stupid ego, which remembers all those aggregated years under esteemed teachers (Celia Yu-Ong, Jai Sabas-Aracama, Kitchy Molina…to name just a few), won’t let me drive that reality into my thick skull.

The thing is, I have the most fun, and learn the most, and maybe–maybe, I wouldn’t know–perform the best when I can admit I’m a bloody idiot and just have a go at things.  Case in point: my university life, Repertory Summer Workshop, my intern life, my thesis.  I can be incredible when I admit I am incredibly stupid.  Only I’m a little bit afraid of doing that when Stories Told is concerned because I have a little demon whispering in the back of my head going “Are you sure you can afford to be stupid right here, right now?”

The sudden bassist metacrisis of last Saturday drove home that really, none of my manic orchestra is expendable.  No one sounds quite like Dan (which is not to say Kyle isn’t freaking amazing in his own right–eight songs in four hours, people!  Including three songs with Jian’s mad scientist bass arrangements!), and to be very honest getting someone to step in for him was very nearly a lost cause.  When Jian got sick before what was supposed to be our first major gig, *poof!*, major gig opportunity disappeared (though, TBH, I was more concerned with my boss and friend getting out alive than anything else).  Likewise if Jedd was suddenly incapacitated–not only would we lose the legions of fangirls who would be drawn to our show by his youthful good looks (if you’re reading this, Jedd, no I am not hitting on you; I am old enough to be your mother), but we would lose an amazing drummer and musical arranger.

In short, if Dan, or Jian, or Jedd disappear for good, Stories Told essentially reaches “The End,” or, at least, an extended, Mettalica-esque hiatus.  But if their lead singer stops being up to snuff…

…well, how many contestants did “The Voice of The Philippines” have again?

These days I’m flip-flopping between reckless euphoria (I’m in a rock band!) and sheer terror, which is a crazy place to be for a lead singer and an even crazier place to be for a female lead singer in an otherwise all-male band (Who will rub my back and give me chocolates while I cry?).  Jian, as the band’s de facto manager, has done his best on numerous occasions (Jian, you’re a hero.) to calm his shuddering, stuttering, emotionally shaky wildcard pick (and, I am loath to admit, occasional diva), but there are only so many times the “musical theater demon seesaw ride” (see this link for the reference) can be referenced before it gets eye-rollingly cliché, and I personally think I reached that limit five rehearsals ago.

I’m nervous.  I’m scared.  I’m not even on-stage anymore but I’m still exhausted (too exhausted to think BAP, really) by the residue of stage fright (which, in all my years as an actress, I can honestly say I have never experienced).

(I’m also cringing a little bit, because there is now a video of me singing “You Wanted More” out there and I will be very, very honest: that was not my best singing ever.)

About the only thing that makes sense at this point–12:50am on May 5th when I should be decking my BAP presentation–is listening to the three tracks I’ve bought off of Save Rock and Roll, the amazing comeback album that catapulted the one-time Kings of Emo-Rock, Fall Out Boy, back into the public eye as the band-who-lived.  The story of these unlikely emo-kids/punk-rockers from Illinois is one that I both can’t relate to and can, especially the nervous stutter-start of their once-pudgy, now crushworthily-svelte frontman, Patrick Stump.  When Jian gave me the assignment to watch other frontmen “come alive” onstage, so I could learn to, I ended up watching the Live in London video of Patrick joyfully sing-howling the opening to “Young Volcanoes” to the madding crowd, marveling all the while at how happy one band could look.

(There is no other word I can use to describe these long-ago guyliner advocates as they tear through “We are wild!  We are like young volcanoes!”  Happy just about fits the bill.)

Not that I’m out to remake myself as a Fall Out Boy-clone versus the more popular Paramore one (because I’m not, though I borrow heavily from Save Rock and Roll’s vocal marriage of RnB and hard rock for one of our more foot-stomping originals), but there’s something about the honesty of Patrick Stump, in those half-light, half-dark years between Folie à Deux and Save Rock and Roll, the years of “We liked you better fat!” (Don’t listen, Patrick–I like you better now.) and the grossly-underappreciated Soul Punk, that makes me want to crawl into the blog posts and Rolling Stone articles and Wikipedia pages and endless, reckless, beautiful cry of “We are like young volcanoes!” and live there until 19 East on May 11.  Because by rights, Patrick Stump should be more neurotic than I–he was (nearly) a has-been at 27, whereas I am a (maybe) wannabe at 21–riding on the too-good-to-be-true-but-really-it-is-because-your-album-is-that-good success of Save Rock and Roll while simultaneously being faced with the digital paper-trail of Soul Punk and Folie à Deux‘s “failures” and the gut-wrenching tell-all blog left in its wake (deleted by Stump, but preserved here).  And maybe he is, because what happens behind Fall Out Boy’s (literal versus metaphorical) tour bus doors is a mystery, but onstage, in the floodlights, when he sings about being the lions free from the Coliseum (a lyric that will make you root for the Lannisters from the sheer beauty of the melody behind it), you can’t tell because he looks so happy.

So very, very, very happy.

I would give anything to be that happy, really.  And I think what keeps me from it is that, unlike Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz–who have very publicly admitted to Folie à Deux‘s “wreckage” and the band hiatus that came after it being results of their inflating egos–I’ve still got the ego, and I don’t think they do, anymore.  No one can have that much fun onstage and still have an ego.  That’s raw giving out there, without self-consciousness, and that only comes after years and years and years of getting your pride ground into a fine powder until all that’s left is confidence and a desire to give, even if it comes back to you as a tomato thrown at your face.

In my bathroom mirror, lip-syncing Young Volcanoes, my Lannister-gold nails throwing the horns up while another hand clutches an invisible (versus hairbrush) mic, I feel like I’m nearly there, that I am stupid and young and in poisoned places, we’re antivenom and nothing matters but the adventure, the experience, the joy of the music.  But in reality the microphone cord’s wound too tightly around the microphone (is that why pro artists use wireless?) and I can’t work the stand and each time I hit a wrong note I flinch.

I want so desperately to be worth the wild-card, but there are many times when my horrible, masochistic imagination cooks up visions, while I am mid-song, of record execs or club owners or simply indie-rock fans going “This band would be so good…if not for the lead singer.”

(Some may argue I might just be too sober.  Those who do need to understand that I can’t not be sober.)

I guess this really long ramble boils down to this: I wish I was as brave as Fall Out Boy–as Patrick Stump–to take the risk, to dive in and believe and commit to the songs, the stories, and maybe not not care but at least bother to care after all the work is done.  But I’m guilty of killing my darlings before I’ve started, of asking and asking and asking Am I good enough for this?  And no matter how many people answer that question with “good job,” I can’t find it in myself to believe them yet.

Ironically, I figure the moment I will believe is when I have that moment of pure bliss onstage when I’m not thinking of how bad a frontwoman I am but simply being a bad (pardon the self-deprecation and blame my BAP-drained, emotional state) frontwoman, unapologetically, and enjoying it.  The thing that stands in my way is because I haven’t had it yet, but to have it I have to get rid of of the thing (the doubt) that stands in my way.

The doubt and one more thing, really: that I want this band so badly.  That it’s my thirteen-year-old dreams come to life, with the possibility of them becoming more than true…and that terrifies me.  This dream gets bigger by the day, and for a girl who hates getting her hopes up, I’ve gotten my hopes up to the point that I’m afraid I can’t live up to them.

Is there a solution to all of this?  Sleep, maybe, after I crank out enough BAP slides to not feel guilty about having some.  But really, I think this whole spiel must come to an anticlimactic denouement: “This is what goes on in the mind of a music super-fangirl turned musician”–the madness of false humility mixed with insecurity mixed with an ego the size of China mixed with a desire to get rid of all that, get out of my own head, and just do.

I can’t just do, so I’ll have to do the next best thing (sorry, Master Yoda)–I’ll try.  In the meantime, I’ll have Young Volcanoes on loop, mouthing it alone in my laptop-lit half-dark, imagining the floodlights and the joy.

~A(Rock and-)RoamingTsinay~