Be This Way

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I remember being in the band at school when I was 14, and Munawar and I were going through our Pearl Jam phase (which, I guess still exists in a much milder form today), and writing a song that I thought was absolutely awesome.

It turned out to be Even Flow, but in a different key.
Since then, I hadn’t really made any attempts at songwriting, as I thought it was something only for musical geniuses, which I am most certainly not. I could play a few chords on the guitar and piano, but that’s about it. Even now, I can only read the very simplest of music.
Earlier this year, I was out at dinner in Paddington with some friends, and I saw a girl that I thought was incredibly striking at the bar, talking to her friends. I sat down with my friends, and a few minutes later, she and her friends sat at the next table. I couldn’t help but look and smile at her. She smiled and turned to her friend and whispered “that guy’s looking at me”. I don’t think she knew I could hear her.
One of her friends, on the other hand, had been eyeing up my friend Annabelles leftover piece of steak, and eventually plucked up the courage to say to her “I’m sorry- that’s a beautiful piece of steak. I just can’t let you throw that away!!!”. Both tables burst out laughing, and I told him I admired his courage, and in my own melodramatic fashion kitted him out with some cutlery, condiments and even applied a bib for him.
While he was tucking in, I asked the girl whether that was a regular thing for him. She said she wasn’t sure. We talked some more, and I asked her to come to the bar with me, which she did. Her name was Nikki. She’s a sports physiotherapist, and very sporty herself, which I love. We got on very well, and swapped numbers. She lives in a small town called Wollongong, just south of Sydney, but she comes to Sydney quite frequently.
We messaged the next day, and I called her a few days later, and we had a really nice conversation. I called her again the following Sunday morning and I asked if she wanted to meet up. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was willing to drive almost 2 hours to come and see me. My medical friend Andy had his birthday at Wharf Bar that night. I invited her along and introduced her to people. The way Andy was drooling over her, anyone would have thought it was MY birthday. “She’s pretty nice, isn’t she?” I agreed.
I then took her on a mini-tour of Manly, and we had a great time, getting on even better in person than on the phone. We ended up watching a DVD at my place before she went home. I asked her to let me know that she got home OK, which she did.
I was on cloud nine the following day- not just because of “that”, but because I actually really liked her, and thought we had a genuine connection.
She’s a huge AFL (Australian Rules Football) fan, and when we spoke on the phone again, she invited me to a game, and got me a ticket. The day before, she called me and said she was bringing some of her friends along. I had quite an uneasy feeling about that, as we’d only been on one date, and thought it a bit early to be hanging out as a group. I went along, and enjoyed the game, but there was some awkwardness, as I didn’t want to ignore her friends, but I still wanted to get to know her better.
We agreed that I would visit her the following week, but she later told me that she’d rather I didn’t, as she felt awkward. I tried to explain to her that that was only because her friends were there, and that we got on fantastically when it was just the 2 of us. It’s not that I didn’t like her friends:
I like her friends.
I like my dad.
I’m not going to bring him on a second date with me.
It got pretty acrimonious, and I was left feeling emotionally crushed, and wasn’t sure what to do.
The match ticket had her surname on it. I found out where she worked and sent her a season membership to her favourite AFL team. I figured I had nothing to lose. I can make another $500 much more easily than I can make another Nikki.
She called me soon after and said that’s the most generous thing anyone had ever done for her, and that she wanted to see me again when I got back from my week in Dubai.
I thought about my experience with her while I was in Dubai, when a melody came to me. I hummed out a baseline and wrote some words, but didn’t play it until my next singing lesson. My teacher was fixed to the spot. I finished, and she said “How good is that…?” I was surprised. I had only had 4 guitar lessons to this point. It’s so simple, it’s almost embarrassing.
I played it with my guitar teacher the next week, with him on the bass. He turned to me in consternation.
The lyrics are here:

Here’s the first draft:

And the finished version:

My singing teacher asked me if I’ve seen her since.
“Nah- she’s ignoring me again” I told her.
“She sounds like a pain in the arse!” She replied.
I tried to find something to say in her defence, but I couldn’t.
At least I’ve got a song out of it. I hope you like it.

P.S.: I’ve actually been working in Wollongong this year, and I’ve walked past Nikki twice. I haven’t said anything to her. There’s no point. In the intervening time, I’ve asked her on multiple occasions why she just stopped responding like that. She refused to answer. I even sent her her song. Nothing. An apology or an explanation seems beyond her over the phone, so it would be unlikely to be forthcoming in person. That would take guts. Which she doesn’t have. One unfortunate life lesson is that people who treat you badly don’t ever want to be accountable for the fact that they treat you badly. They just want to sweep it under the carpet and carry on as if they are nice people. And if you point this out to them, they’ll always find a reason for you to be the bad person, not them. So, here’s a picture of her. Nikki (Nicole) Hilton. Physiotherapist, surf lifeboat racer, West Coast Eagles fan. If you know her, maybe you’ll have better luck getting an answer than I did.