Mike closed his math book and, relieved to have finally finished that weekend’s assignment, took a look at his phone to check his messages. A message from Zachary entitled “hey dude this one’s for you” looked intriguing and Mike skipped down to it. “American Idol coming to Minneapolis! Auditions next Saturday at 10! Send us your name, contact details, and a short description of yourself and why you think you should be the next American Idol”. Mike was flattered that Zachary had thought he was good enough to audition, but wasn’t sure he had time to invest in the competition since he was already pretty booked up, what with keeping up with schoolwork (he was at the top of the class and needed to get a good college scholarship since both his parents were idealistic academics who just managed to get by), his position of college bowl team head, quarterback of his school football team and his weekend job as a lifeguard at the local community pool. But he did think he was good, and it sounded like a fun opportunity, so what the heck, he decided to go for it.
He thought awhile about how to describe himself and didn’t feel that comfortable with describing how he spent most of his time, he would sound like such a preppy geek with his investment in school and all, and college bowl on top of that, so he decided to focus on his football experience, and added that he loved spending lots of time hanging out with friends (it was true, if you counted summer vacation and hanging out online and on Whatsapp). As for the essay about wanting to be the next American Idol, after typing and erasing for a while, he came up with this: “As a kid, I always loved singing and even performed a little at family gatherings. I landed some good acting roles in school plays. In 10th grade, I played Tony in West Side Story and got great reviews for my rendition of “Tonight”. One of my friends occasionally has Karaoke nights and I got amazing compliments from my friends for all the songs I performed. I also write songs from time to time, and although I haven’t practiced in awhile (more like two years, he thought) I am a mean guitarist. Although I’ve never performed professionally, I think I have the kind of talent the American Idol competition is looking for” (and besides, he thought, judging by the auditions he saw on TV, he was way more talented than some of these weirdos who think they are the next Justin Bieber but have no voice and no presence. Mike considered himself a pretty good looking guy, with his wholesome all-American looks. As an afterthought, he made a note for himself to figure out how to style himself a little less wholesome for the audition, with a touch of a bad-boy look. Perhaps Zach’s leather jacket would do the trick).
As the big day approached, the usually cool Mike was getting more excited than he had thought. He was pretty sure he could at least nail the first audition and go on to Vegas for the second, but spent days figuring out what song would be good to perform. Nothing too complicated but something with impressive enough vocals to show off his baritone. He finally decided on “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber. Now off to Zach’s to get that jacket, he thought…
The day of the audition, Mike was struggling to keep his cool. He walked into the room and saw the panel of judges, and reminded himself that he was good, and didn’t need to worry. After performing his solo, he awaited the verdict. “You have a nice voice” said judge number one. “But you lack the intensity and depth we are looking for in this competition”. Mike was disappointed, but heck, he still had two more judges to go. He made an effort to smile really broadly and flash his blue eyes at them. “Young man, I think your stage presence is good, but I’m not sure whether you have enough talent to go far in this competition”, said number two. Mike’s heart began to really sink at that point. Only the third judge, known to be the most critical one, remained. Mike prepared himself for disappointment. “I actually think you have potential” he said. “I think the audience likes you. You just need to do a better job of choosing songs, and do a lot more practicing, since you obviously overestimate your innate talent”. OK, thought Mike, that last bit of criticism did make him wince, but it was a yes, so what did he care?
Mike was asked to leave as the judges conferred which was a real nail-biter, and finally called him back in, only for him to hear, “Sorry Mike, but you’re not going to Vegas”. “Thanks for the chance” he said brightly, then swaggered out the studio doors. Zach took one look at his face and knew: “Hey dude, to me you’ll always be the best”, he offered. Mike smiled weakly and then caught hold of himself: “Hey, it was just for fun, I have a lot of better things to do anyhow…what about going for some pizza?” But when he got home later that afternoon and tried opening his college bowl practice book he realized he couldn’t focus. He turned on an inane TV show and stared at the screen as thoughts ran across his mind: “Did I really think I was that good”? “Maybe they read me wrong, I’m sure they’ve missed folks with a lot more talent than me”. “Heck, why do I care so much about this? True, the entire country might watch my audition and think I’m a preppy geek, but I have enough self esteem to get through this!”. He wished he had never opened that message from Zach. The whole experience had only opened a window of self doubt that he had not expected or wanted to confront. He hoped it would all blow over in a few days so that he could return to his old routine and become comfortable once again in his own safety zone. In the meantime, relieved that he had sworn Zach to secrecy about the whole affair, he went into Whatsapp to hang out with some of the guys.