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And We’ll Find Our Way Back

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Erika has never been to a concert before.



Concerts were never to be experienced, not for Erika. And in her 19 years of existing, she has never felt compelled to, really.


She was the performer. Always. And being backstage was a controlled, predictable kind of chaos. She knew what to expect, and what was expected from her.


It felt like a practiced dance, briskly walking through winding, hidden hallways. Dodging frazzled stage-crew members and uptight musicians alike. Applying makeup in empty dressing rooms, alone. Clipping her nails over, and over, and over in nervous anticipation, hearing the muffled chattering of the crowd grow louder and louder on the other side of the curtain.

 


Erika has never been to a concert before.


At least, not like this, standing as one of the hundreds of shivering fans in line outside the Shibuya Concert Hall.

 


Why am I doing this?


She asks herself, as the wind bites her cheeks and has her hugging her frame tighter, clutching her general admission ticket close to her chest.


Why am I doing this?


She asks herself after the security checkpoint, feeling her face flush from the warmth inside.


Why am I doing this?


She asks herself, weaving her way through the sea of bodies, trying - needing - to get as close to the stage as she possibly can.

 


The question repeats like a broken record in her mind, and Erika tries not to think too hard on it.

 


Instead, she focuses on how different, and yet all too terrifyingly familiar this feels.

 


Being a part of a crowd is volatile. Loud. Electrifying with energy. Like being too close to a flame. Like being a part of a breathing beast. She knows it’s supposed to feel invigorating. But instead, she feels small in the swarm of fans, and it’s frightening.

But Erika doesn’t know what’s worse – the suffocating crowd, or the venue itself. The colors, the columns, the stage, the ceiling – it’s all too easy to remember –

 

(- to remember the familiar feeling of worthlessness that still echoes in her mind to this day. A pressure that loomed over her like her mother during piano lessons demanding perfection. A crushing weight that felt so heavy on her shoulders as she pressed down on the keys. An anxiety that clawed her chest as she gripped her violin with white knuckles, peering out into a dark, faceless crowd. Competing and competing and competing in venues such as this one, except instead of playing for the beauty of music, Erika performed with an underlying fear of what could happen at home if she played one wrong note.


A tension with music that has always been present, except for a short, yet precious, time in her life. A life filled with a twinkling laugh, kind blue eyes, and gentle mornings in a nearly empty classroom.


A life that seems so far from her now, that sometimes she thinks it was all a dream -)

 


She’s knocked out of her spiraling thoughts as the lights dim. Someone bashes past her, rushing towards the front, screaming in ecstatic excitement.



Erika hates this. The touching, the closeness, the yelling. A traitorous part of her wants to leave and go back to her tiny studio in Shinjuku. To pretend she never impulsively bought a ticket. To pretend she never saw those eyes in the advertisement on the train, the ones that squeezed her chest with absolute longing.


And yet, another voice – almost lighthearted and knowingly – rings in her mind:


This will be your only chance to see her. To feel that light again. You’re really going to give up that easily?


Erika hates this, hates herself, hates so many things it nearly paralyzes her in the crowd –


– but hate and love are on both sides of a coin, and Erika has never been good at keeping away from fates that will only lead to pain.

 


The giant LED screen on the stage turns on, casting a bright pink glow.


The idol, silhouetted in darkness, stands with her feet apart, looking down. The entire room moves with screams, and cheers, and sheer joy -


- and Erika stands still, eyes wide, refusing to blink. Breath caught in her lungs.


The first notes of the song begin, and the idol springs into action, running across the stage as if she’s gliding on air. As the song crescendos in the beginning, she throws herself into a series of flips without hesitation, the gasps of the crowd only adding to the electric feeling.

She spins in the air twice, her skirt twirling like a flower in bloom. The sheer ribbons attached to her follow like water. She lands effortlessly, the lights shine on her, and she looks to the crowd, glittering, smiling.

 


She grabs the mic near her feet, and she begins to sing.

 


Her voice is light and soft and gentle, that it brings a wave of unshed tears to Erika’s eyes. She stands there, mouth slightly parted. A flood of emotions rushes through her as she tries to take in, breathe in every single detail of the idol’s performance. From her sweeping arm motions all too reminiscent of cheerleading and hot, summer days. To the crinkle of her bright blue eyes when she smiles with her entire being.



Endearing – is the first word that comes to Erika’s mind.

 

Beautiful – comes the second word, unbidden.

 


Why am I doing this? The question rings again.

 


And standing there, feeling both absolutely delighted and terribly devastated, Erika can only feel what she’s known all along for the past 5 years:

 


Because I miss you.