A steady drumbeat pierced through the din of voices and suddenly everyone in the dark, cramped room was silent.
A seemingly bizarre bass guitar riff floated through the smoke-filled air, and people started moving, slowly but deliberately.
A rhythm guitar joined the fray, and the energy level of the spectators increased.
A voice, more a musical groan, took up the melody, and the crowd started going wild.
The music slowly reached its climax, and suddenly there was silence.
A single spotlight turned on and focused on a lone figure caressing a sleek black electric guitar. The sounds made by his fingers running across the strings brought the people in the club to a frenzied state. The guitar solo was both powerful and heartrending, the guitarist’s face was covered by a mass of unruly long hair.
Blackout and silence.
The anticipation was palpable. A few seconds more and the music exploded. The lights went on, and a voice pierced through everyone’s consciousness. From that moment, everyone’s focus was centered on the singer whose voice soared above the music; every word he uttered went straight to the heart. He was taller than normal, lean, wearing a simple white T-shirt, black ripped denims, and boots. His eyes were deep-set and expressive, and his mouth was wide, his lips full, but his mop of longish unruly dark brown hair concealed half of his face. Ordinarily, offstage, he was considered almost handsome, but when he was onstage and making his music, he was beautiful.
The crowd went crazy.
Very apt, since the band onstage was named…Baliw, the Filipino word for crazy.
“Roxy! We’re on in five!”
Roxy shook her head of the memory. She peered through the curtain and saw a full house. She smiled.
Not bad for someone who was left behind.
She closed her eyes again and sighed deeply.
When she opened them, she focused on the present. She took her place behind the mike stand and hugged the bass guitar that hung low on her hips. She gave her guitarists and drummer a smile. She bowed her head.
The curtain opened.
Roxy entered the band’s cramped dressing room, and she immediately took a towel to wipe the sweat off her entire body. Her black tank top was drenched.
Twelve songs. Nonstop.
She always had the dressing room to herself for the first fifteen minutes, bless her bandmates. She quickly removed her sweat-stained clothes, dried off, and changed to another set of clothes, but more of the same—a white tank top now over black jeans. She was done in under five minutes, including the removal of her make-up. She still had ten minutes of solitude before the whole circus started again.
She sat down and stared at herself in the mirror. She looked…older, sadder, but more contented.
She closed her eyes, the memories flooding her mind again.
She didn’t use to be the lead singer of her band. She used to be the bassist of a more popular band, but they left her behind.
Her best friends.
Chris and Dave.
Fifteen years ago . . .
“I need help!”
“What? Forgot to study again?”
Roxy stared at her best friend, Chris, and smiled. Chris could never resist her when she smiled at her like a lost puppy.
“Ugh! Roxy, I swear! I won’t study for you for our entire college life, you know. Sooner or later, you have to pull your own weight. Or decide what you really want to do.”
“Chris, you know what I really want to do.”
“Play in a band? That’s your big dream?”
“But what future would be there for you?”
“A future full of music!”
Roxy saw that Chris was trying to understand her but was failing. Chris would still help her, though. That was the kind of friend she was.
They were an odd couple. Roxy was tall, willowy, with androgynous features and spiky hair and a wardrobe that consisted of mostly jeans, tight shirts, and boots. Chris was short, plump, with a pretty face that she hid behind her straight, shoulder-length hair. She was conscious about her weight, so she wore mostly clothes that were loose-fitting. She favored oversized T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers.
Their friendship was accidental. Or maybe it was fate.
Chris was a late registrant from a province down south who was not able to secure a place in any of the college dormitories. Roxy just tried to delay her registration so she wouldn’t have to study that semester, but her parents gave her an ultimatum—study or all her musical instruments, including her prized bass guitar, would be given away. So the two young women had to pool their resources together to get a small place off-campus. Roxy’s parents were generous just so she would study.
They were thrown together by circumstance, but they formed a very strong bond of friendship.
An ear-piercing ring snapped Roxy out of her reverie.
Roxy looked at the clock in the room and saw that she still had five minutes to herself. She stood up, walked to the wall phone that was making the noise, and lifted the receiver to her ear.
“Hello, Roxy. Long time,” a deep voice said.
Roxy raised an eyebrow. The voice was at first unfamiliar, and yet she was sure she had heard it before.
“This is Solomon Dungca,” her caller stated.
She felt weak.
Roxy remained silent.
“I need you to come down to Cebu,” Solomon said softly.
“Cebu? Why?” Roxy asked, because her band had just been there in the southern province for a show a week ago.
“I have reason to believe that we have found them.”
Roxy felt the room spin. She took deep breaths to steady herself.
“Are you sure?”
“How . . . how are they?”
“Roxy, I’m afraid . . . I’m afraid they’re both dead.”
Roxy dropped the phone and crumpled in a heap.
That was how her bandmates found her a few minutes later, curled in a ball in the corner of the room, weeping.