By Christine Yan
In the midst of our busy lives, we find time to pursue our interests outside of work and school. I wanted to explore one young woman’s creative passion and what happens when an unexpected force interferes with that sacred time.
It was just before 2:00 a.m. when Lili wrapped up her nightly jam session. This was how she usually spent her late nights: experimenting with melodies and stringing different beats together. Lili preferred the comforts and stillness of her own apartment in Manhattan to the house parties full of other girls her age. She just wanted to prove to her parents that moving away from Hawaii wasn’t a mistake.
A few years ago she started uploading instrumental covers of pop songs and her own pieces to YouTube as an escape from university. While she majored in biology, music was Lili’s true passion.
It wasn’t until she uploaded her rendition of “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac that she started accumulating tens of thousands of subscribers. As her following grew, Lili received more sponsorships and royalties. It was only then that her parents caved and granted Lili’s request to drop out of college.
Suddenly, a faint but noticeable knock sounded through her studio door—a snap back to reality. Lili froze in her living room, sheets of music clutched close to her heart. After what felt like eternity, a slightly wrinkled piece of paper with a messy note scrawled on it slipped under the door.
Her heart pounded as she walked over. Could it be a noise complaint? Now that she thought about it, her next-door neighbor never seemed to like her. She bent down and picked up the note with slightly shaky hands.
Struggling to make out the words, Lili read: Hey, this is your next-door neighbor. I’m actually a record producer. Would love to talk more tomorrow or in the next few days. Business card attached. Feel free to contact me.
She flipped over the paper and looked at the card: Brad Stilton. If school had taught her one thing, it was to always do research. She’d heard of the major labels but never of his.
He must be trustworthy though, Lili thought to herself. A scammer couldn’t possibly afford to live in Manhattan and it wasn’t unheard of for underground artists to join unknown labels. As she walked back to her room, Lili wrote a reminder to continue looking online tomorrow.
A hammering sound from the floor above woke Lili up before her alarm. This routinely happened in the mornings, yet there was never a set pattern. Lili could never bring herself to ask them to quiet down. Instead, she interpreted it as a forecast for her day: loud with a chance of annoyance.
Lili immediately started her day to avoid having her mood killed in the morning. She checked her inbox, but only to delete forty-five new spam emails. These didn’t bother her like they usually did. Brad Stilton’s offer had already consumed her thoughts. She decided to go out on a limb and shoot him an email.
Not even ten minutes later, her phone buzzed. A reply from Brad. Lili anxiously opened the message. 4:00 p.m. today at the Starbucks across the street. How does that sound?
Lili was caught off guard by both his casual language and the sudden appointment. She glanced at her clock, just a little after three. Brad was cutting it a little too close, but who was Lili to complain? Though she had reminded herself to conduct an unofficial background check on Brad, those reservations faded with the idea of him getting her voice on Spotify. Lili replied, Not a problem. I’ll bring my recent piece on a CD. Looking forward to meeting you. Sent.
The next half hour flew by and before Lili knew it, she was rushing out of the apartment with her CD in hand. No matter how early she thought she was, she always managed to end up being a little late.
As Lili rounded the corner of her building, she slammed right into a stranger. Her CD clattered onto the floor along with the rest of her belongings from her tote bag.
“I’m so sorry,” Lili said. “I’ll pick up my stuff.”
“You good?” the stranger asked. “Let me help.”
Lili quickly shoved her phone, compact mirror, and water bottle back into the bag. She picked up her phone, checking to make sure there were no scratches.
Without missing a beat, the stranger slipped the CD into his jacket pocket and reached out to offer Lili a hand. She thanked him, and both parted their separate ways: one back to the building and another to Starbucks.
A year later, Lili sat ready for another night session. Her life hadn’t changed much since that day in Starbucks when Brad stood her up. He remained unresponsive to her emails and became a professional ghost who Lili had mostly forgotten about.
To begin her night session, Lili turned on Spotify for inspiration. The “All New Indies” playlist blared through her room as she closed her eyes and leaned back into her chair.
Her eyes shot open to a familiar melody being sung by a different artist, her words placed in a different mouth.
Christine Yan is a first-year student in college in New York with an avid interest in storytelling, journalism and photography. Academically, Christine aims to pursue a major in the intersection of finance and data science. She loves working on projects that connect people and business solutions. Language and writing help her express herself and her ideas, both creatively and academically. When Christine’s not writing or editing pictures, she can be found painting for fun!