The door creaked open.
Fear rushed through him, thinking it was his bandmate, he would be totally ticked, totally ticked. He slowly turned, wide eyed, a teeth-bearing frown upon his sick, pale face. A man probably younger than him looked back, awkwardly, scared even. He turned away from the young man.
I’m a fool, he thought, I don’t even know who that is, probably thinks I’m deranged now.
Sighing, he relaxed his hands, which were gripped on the side of the sink. But, he didn’t move his hands where they lay, he stared into the mirror. The person, the sick, sad person in the mirror seemed so foreign. Who is that? Definitely not the Sydney from two months prior. Two months ago, Sydney would be singing as if no one was listening, playing his life away. Now Sydney is scared to even speak at this point, let alone sing. What’s so scary about this? Why can’t you do this?
His mind had been so busy he didn’t hear the door that second time, who knows how long James had been staring at him.
“I’m sorry-” He gagged, gripping the sink again. He could see James wince.
“For what? Actually, more importantly, are you okay?” James said worriedly, Sydney was unsure how to answer, unable to answer. He closed his eyes tightly, gripping the sink harder to the point that he feared he’d break it, despite his frail and skinny stature. He could feel beads of sweat go down his face. He didn’t know whether he was sweating from fear, nervousness, or embarrassment. Whatever it was, James’s presence was not helping. James was so much more confident and extroverted. He was the person who initially gave him the bravery to sing out loud in the first place, the person who aided him despite Sydney’s lack of self esteem and horrible social anxiety, to anyone else he was a lost cause. But, he persisted nonetheless and Sydney got so far with his help. Once singing in front of one person was a problem, now he could sing on the street, unworried of what others thought.
Now what was he doing after all this? Cowering from a crowd of probably no more than a hundred people.
An absolute waste of everything we’d worked to fix, he thought.
He felt a large hand on his upright shoulders, he froze. The hand sent a rush of calmness through his once shaking body. He swallowed hard, relaxing his shoulders, letting loose of the grip he had on the sink. His short, brown hair was already soaked in sweat, he felt gross.
“Hey, talk to me, ok?” James’s voice was soothing at this point. Despite this, Sydney didn’t know what to say. He felt as though James would be terribly disappointed to hear that the anxiety they worked to fix, at least a bit, was stopping him from, them, from making their big debut.
I’m going to lose it. He thought.
He turned to look at James, tears already welting in his eyes, shaking once more. James reached his arms out to signal a hug, but before he could reach, Sydney had slumped to the cold, wet ground. James followed, sitting right in front of him. Sydney was too afraid, to afraid to admit he was...afraid. Afraid of the crowd, afraid of messing up, afraid of ruining the only shot they’ll ever have...afraid of disappointing someone he looked up to.
Afraid of disappointing James.
“I don’t wanna sound like, one of those people,” James pulled at his collar awkwardly. “And, not to pry, but, I believe if you don’t say anything...it’s just gonna eat you up. I can’t read your mind, I wish I could. I want to help you, as best as I can at least.”
He looked at his watch.
“We also have like, 15 minutes.”
Sydney felt he had no choice but to cave. He was right, this is just going to ruin him mentally He wiped his tears and gave himself a minute to breathe, a minute to calm himself. Not entirely, but, enough to be able to speak at the very least. He gave himself a couple seconds before mustering up what to say.
“All of this, everything, the crowd, the show,” He ran his fingers through his own hair. “I’m afraid to screw this up completely, this is just...so much different to what I’m used to.” Sydney moved himself against the restroom wall.
James maneuvered himself beside Sydney.
“I can see why, but why would you think you’d screw it up?”
“I don’t know. Because it’s...different.” Sydney sighed.
“Syd, dude, you’re literally one of the best musicians I’ve ever known,” He smiled, putting his arm around Sydney’s shoulders. “And with all the improvements you’ve made to your anxiety and all, I genuinely don’t think you’d blow it. Sure, instead of say - 15 people, 30 max, there’s a crowd of over 100. I can see why that’s so intimidating, but you’re brave, Syd, and talented as a matter of fact. Not only do I think you can do this, I think you can rock this joint tonight.”
Sydney couldn’t help but smile too. He pulled his knees up to his chest. He knew James really meant that. He could see the sincerity on his face, in his expression, everything about what he said felt certain. He truly believed in him...it gave Sydney this odd brave feeling.
“I mean...if it helps, we’re just playing the same songs as before, and you’ve done wonderfully prior to this,” He paused. “You could also imagine them as robots programmed to listen to your every word.”
They both started laughing.
“But besides all that, if you don’t really feel you can do this, we can cancel, it’s no biggie.” James took his arms off Sydney’s shoulders.
Sydney thought about it, but it didn’t take long to come up with an answer. This had seemed scary, for however long he’d been in this restroom, he’d been scared. But James, as he did time and time again, helped him through it all. He felt braver than he did entering this place. There was nothing scary about being on stage, it was just like what he’s done before, just a different scene. He could do it. James helped him convince himself he could.
“I can do it,” Sydney smiled “I’m...I’m not scared anymore, maybe a little nervous but, I think I can do it just as I’ve done before.”
“That’s the spirit!” James stood up, reaching out his hand. “Come on, let’s go or we’ll have wished we just cancelled, would be awful embarrassing to show up really late..”
Sydney grabbed his hand, bringing himself up to his feet. James turned around, making his way outside the restroom. Sydney lingered there for a little bit longer, reflecting.
He didn’t know why he had been so afraid.. He felt brave enough to do it now, to do what he felt he couldn’t do. That was all thanks to James, he didn’t know what he would do without him. Putting his reflection to rest, Sydney walked out the restroom that once held his unfounded fear, leaving the room with a feeling of courage he’d never felt before. He could do it, he could rock this house tonight. No fear could stop him, never again.