I watch myself in the mirror and go again. Perfection isn’t an option. It’s a must. I see the girls like me. Who look hotter than me. Who talk the talk better than I do. I don’t care about them. It wouldn’t make a difference if I looked like I’d jumped out of a magazine; I’d still need to be – want to be – the best I could be. I go again.

My laptop is open on my desk. The sound is off but random chart videos play one after the other. I hardly pay them attention.

Then ‘Beautiful Girls’ comes on. Beautiful maybe. Airbrushed definitely. I try to catch my breath. The clock reads 20:07. I’ve been dancing for over an hour. Still, I’m nothing like the girl on the video. Bright Star. She’s been edited until she moves impossibly. She’s fluid but she’s fake.

I turn away from the computer and sit down at my keyboard. All that practice has cleared my head. I play the chord sequence that’s been running through my mind all week and hum over the top. I’ve taken the song in this direction and that, now I do something different. I start to sing and a new melody surges out of me. It’s not perfect but it’s a breakthrough. I go again. Then again. Then again. I feel like I’m floating.

I look back over at the laptop. The same Bright Star song. This time it’s the lyric video.

I’m not quite real.

Sounds about right.