I struggle to meet people. Not just people, I mean people. Famous people. Getting past the barrier can be easy enough with a little persistence; it’s the encounter that cripples. And yet, despite my track record, I still fantasize.
Placing myself in the line of inevitable disaster—standing in lines for CD signings, drooling at book launches and trembling in the front row of a gig—I wait and rehearse the countless topics that my idol and I can and will relate to. In my dreams we will chat easily, even breezily, maybe we will squeeze in some physical contact — a hug perhaps? I will leave an impression. They will write a song about me. I will become a charming anecdote recited to the crowds before a final song. We will be best friends forever.
I have always been in denial of my fan girl status. I have never associated myself with the girls that fight with savage thirst to be in the line of eyesight of the person on stage. Only 5’1’’, I have become wary of mosh pits after one too many near-death experiences battling with the other fan girls. I have lost competitive confidence. There are better bands to die for than the Kooks, I reassured myself at one unfortunate festival, trying to crawl away under the frenzied heels of fans. It is through my blatant refusal that I don’t see myself as just a fan. I am different, I tell myself. I am worth more. The idols will know this when they meet me. As my claustrophobia has become more severe, so has my satisfaction with the smallest encounters. Yes, he looked at me. Yes, we made eye contact. Yes, he is aware of my existence. The high can last hours into the night as I recount and eventually reshape the story to my own thrill.
I first realised that I had a problem when I was fifteen-years old. The year when most teenagers realise music plays an integral part to their identity. The BackStreet Boys were hidden in my cupboard as I looked for new bands on Triple J. One morning, I dragged my brother and friend out of bed at four in the morning to swoon at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Triple J was holding a live breakfast show for their Reach Around Australia event. Josh Pyke was playing. This would be the first time I would see him in the flesh. My first acoustic love, I understood his songs as if he was singing them to my youth only. His name became a mantra—I chanted it over and over while the light turned pink and grey over the river.
The powerhouse was an old transformed electrical power station in New Farm. Outside, the brick and concrete building towers into the Queensland humidity, half in ruin. Inside however, the concrete is cold with occasional scrolls of vintage graffiti. The building was recreated into a performance area for artists, years ago. The large vacant spaces and textured walls prided in the abstract atmosphere.
I managed to squeeze my way into the side of the crowd, my friend pressed firmly at my side. Excited, I was standing on an elevated stage in the powerhouse’s main foyer against the rails, trying to glimpse Robbie, Marieke or the Doctor. When I saw him pass below, I ignored the dangerous buzz that began to vibrate into my unslept subconscious.
Him. Him. Him. Him. Him.
I stared in catatonic shock as Josh Pyke found a corner only a few meters away to tune his guitar. I had come, vaguely prepared for this moment. A CD and a sharpie clutched in my hands, I don’t remember how exactly I manoeuvred through the crowd or found the stairs that led directly to where he was sitting. I had somehow managed to drag an unimpressed friend behind me for moral support. She was there to see the Grates, not Josh Pyke.
Suddenly he was there, and, I was there too. But it was only in that moment, too late, that I realised my alarm, the buzz in my head turned into a siren of panic, I did not want to be there anymore. I could not be there any more. My bowels tightened, ready for instinctual flight, yet somehow my legs had become soldered into the floor. I was unable to move in present time. And now Josh Pyke was looking up from his guitar. Tired in the early morning, his eyes were still puffy. He wore a blue flannel shirt with sunglasses perched on top of his head. I remember staring at his beard. He was looking at me.
Watching myself flounder, I felt the English language slip into the black hole of my throat.
I handed him the CD and pen, and stared. Now nervous, Josh Pyke took the CD and began to sign it. I grinned. And then, I didn’t know how not to grin.
“Hi,” I whispered.
My cheek began to twitch, I tried to relax my face, but it was stuck. My body lost motor ability as I desperately felt for any word to string together a sentence, let alone a sentence of worth.
“Hi,” He said, trying to calm the mood, “What’s your name?”
Another beat paused.
“Katty” I spluttered. I began to tremble. My cheek was still twitching. I became aware of my mouth moving as he signed the CD. Maybe instinct was taking hold. Maybe my heart was taking control of my incapacitated brain. Maybe now I would be able to say something profound and to the effect of ‘your music means something to me.’
“Hi.” I whispered.
He handed back the CD. I stood staring for another long moment.
“Ok?” he smiled, clearly disturbed.
“Ok, thank you.”
I walked away, still grinning. My friend leaned, against the stair rail. Her arms were crossed, cool.
“That,” she said, “was embarrassing”.
After that, the day gleamed in ways that I had never seen it shine before. I drew sketches of Josh Pyke for weeks on every piece of paper I could find unmarked. I kept my signed CD by my bedside table to fall asleep and wake up to. I had made an impression.