Ding. A text message disturbs his reverie. Shaking his head, “what a trip,” he says, and he looks down at the screen.

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DISTANCED

2 JAKE 

     Jake rushes into the apartment and straight to the bathroom. He didn’t know where to start, throw up first, or evacuate. He reached the commode just in time to catch the stream of partially digested food and tomato juice. It takes three retches to get it all out. Done, he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and drops on to the floor.

     Panting, laying on his back, “Ugh,” he complains to his mobile. “I fear it wasn’t all spices floating on the tomato juice. Tastes like I’ve drunk half a cup of mold, yuck!” He gets up and sits on his heels, gasping when his stomach takes a lurch. Moaning, he immediately gets up, pulls his gym shorts down, and sits on the commode, presently suffering an explosive diarrhea attack, simultaneously enduring pain and relief. “I’m going to need a shower after this impromptu performance.” He says in mock at his phone. Out of the shower, a little shaky, he brushes his teeth and gargles with mouthwash, starting to get a grip.  

     Jake, wearing a robe, barefoot and drying his hair with a towel, picks up the remote, turns on the TV, and sinks down into his black leather couch. He puts his mobile on the coffee table and covers his legs with a throw. It’s the end of Jake’s workweek, which spans Thursday to Sunday. Ordinarily, he spends Monday morning sipping coffee, recovering and taking it slow. On TV, highlights from the weekend’s football games roll on the news channel, but nausea blurs him back to high school and Glee Club. Jake, a most skilled guitar player, was part of his prom’s musical entertainment program. The emotional performance earning him the recognition of classmates and faculty. 

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           Ding. A text message disturbs his reverie. Shaking his head, “what a trip,” he says, and he looks down at the screen.

           “Studio time scheduled for 2 PM today!” His manager doesn’t warn him. He just schedules and instructs since he wouldn’t answer his mobile. Jake has little pull in the matter. It’s all in the contract. He gets to his feet from the couch and lets the woven blanket fall on the floor. 

           Getting ready with little thought. Jake goes about his mind on the recording session and not his clothes. He takes a wrinkled tee-shirt from the dryer, puts it on, and covers it up with a maroon hoodie. Pulls on a pair of black jeans. None of it matches, but it works. He picks up the first baseball cap he can find to cover his messy hair, heads out the door and down the hall. 

           Jake takes the elevator to the garage, where he jumps into his 4×4. It’s a tough little SUV, a luxury in a city where parking is at a premium. Turning the music on, he heads out to the surface. The drive to the studio is gray and drizzly. Traffic stops at every light with further delays from hoards of curious tourists using the crosswalk in front of him. 

     Ding. Ding. Ding. There’s no need to check who it is. His manager wants to know why he’s not at the studio yet. He half turns his head and tells the phone, “I’m on my way, all right, I’m on my way.” 

           After twenty minutes in deadlocked traffic, he pulls in to a side street by the studio, parks, and trots through the rain to the main entrance. The studio is dark and quiet. Dimmed indirect lighting and burgundy-toned soundproof walls give the lobby a campy vibe. He walks down the hall and passes a large window that renders the producers a view of the recording booth and the artist. He opens the door and steps into the control room. Over at the soundboard, his manager is working with his headphones on. 

           Jake taps him on the shoulder, “Hey Marcus,” he jumps, nearly spilling coffee on himself. “What the Fart! Oh, it’s you. A little warning next time, will you?” He barks. 

           “Sorry and sorry, I’m a little late. I hit traffic and tourists.” 

           “What? Oh, right, alright. I was going over some of your older stuff. Can you do it again? Beats, give me beats and high energy peaks. Make me another hit, Jake Blake. The next quarter is looking drab and grim, okay? I have to go now to a doctor’s appointment. That’s why I was blowing up your phone. So, you’re on your own with only a sound guy today, got it? Make the best of it.” Jake’s ears perk up; looking directly at his manager, he tightens his lips, avoiding a smile, sensing an opportunity. 

           “Oh, okay, Marc.” Jake beams. “I wish you a good prognosis. Mm, I’ll be right back. I need to grab something from my car.” Jake lingers until he sees his manager pack his stuff, leave the studio, and drive away. Then, he jogs out to his car, dodging rain and mud puddles along the way. From his trunk, he pulls his guitar—the case covered in dust. 

           Back in the recording booth, taking the guitar out of its case. Jake runs a shammy over the instrument, his fingers over the strings, and stares at the worn, warm-colored finish. The guitar a gift from his dad, a touching moment not long before his parting. It was the only thing his stepmother allowed him to keep. Wanting to vanish the past, the pain, and the loss. A longing nostalgia washes over him, and he settles onto the stool—the guitar resting on his thigh. 

           Before opening, he settles his mobile on the sheet music rack and pushes “go live.” Jake closes his eyes and strums a melancholic medley that pours out like the rain outside. There’s no techno beats, no sound effects, and no auto-tune. It’s just him strumming and singing riffs amongst some lyrics he makes up on the spot. He plays for two hours, streaming the entire time. 

           When he steps back into the control room after his session, the sound engineer who’d been watching gives him a thumbs up with a giddy smile plastered across his face. “Man, that was fantastic. I didn’t know you played like that. I thought it was all electronics and techno for you.” 

           “That’s what Marcus wants me to play,” Jake responds sheepishly but with a slight frown. 

           “Maybe you need new management.” 

         The sound engineer turns back to the soundboard and puts his headphones back on. Jake leans his guitar against the wall. And plops down on the worn, too deep to get out of, couch in the corner. He opens his post, which is no longer broadcasting but saved to his stories. For an hour, he receives almost two hundred likes and nearly one hundred comments. 

           He looks over the responses, and a gentle beaming smile spreads across his face. He pauses at a familiar profile picture, and the comment says, “Appreciable change in pace. It set the mood. We need an outlook, and you give us variety.” Followed by a thumbs up and a star. While most of the other remarks were positive, this one matters to him. He nods at the suggestion. 

           Jake grabs his guitar and taps the sound engineer on the shoulder. He pulls one side of his headphones off, and Jake points to the booth. He nods and buzzes him in. Jake, proud with his guitar, gallivants back to the single stool behind the microphone. 

WE&P by EZorrilla

Original story by Breanna Leslie

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