Pairing: This is a Brave one.
Rating: R, I guess. Cuz Dave is obscene.
Disclaimer: WHOA BOY. I involve soooo many different names in this that if I were to attempt to personally apologize in advance for all of them, I'd be here all night. In a nutshell, this is a complete work of fiction. If this were to have happened, I would not be sitting here writing this...I would be weeping in a corner.
Notes: This is my first fic, and although it began as a short oneshot...it sort of grew...into the ~monster that it is now. I'm pleased with it though, and I think it's worth a read. Happy New Year, everyone! <3
I fucking hate Christmas.
Call me the fucking Grinch, but I do. If we weren’t on tour right now, God knows why we even are, my Christmas would consist of a bottle of vodka, Alfred Hitchcock, and a beautiful girl wearing nothing more than a Santa hat and an eager smile, just for fun; just so that I didn’t end up cold and lonely, bustin’ at the seams. But then again… maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea. Seeing as how the holidays have this annoying way of restoring everybody’s belief in love and hope and all that good shit, asking a girl over would be like luring the prey into a false sense of security. Things tend to get complicated around this time of year; the truth gets lost in translation. A night of great sex can easily be misinterpreted as a budding romance…which, I’m afraid, it is not. It is only a fuck. It is only my cock and it is only inside you and it only feels good and it’s only for a few fleeting moments and it’s only your delusional, lonely mind distorting it into something it’s not. After we’re done, and you gaze longingly into my eyes, expecting some sort of emotional spark to ignite between us...remind yourself that it was only a fuck.
That’s all it was.
It was only a fuck, it only happened a coupla nights, it was only a kiss…it was only a kiss.
I shake my head violently, as if physically trying to rid myself of the thought. ‘Fuckin’ faggot…’ I muse, staring out the foggy glass window of my hotel room. The world is so full of color tonight. Everything shimmers and everything shines… except me. I am as dull as a stone in a cave of diamonds. Hell, I’m as dull as a stone anywhere, but it’s here, amid this canvas of twinkling lights, that I am made most aware of my less than lustrous contribution. Why does Christmas make itself so hard to ignore? Especially for me, since hotels seem to amplify the merriness and loneliness to an excruciating extent.
I hate hotels.
I liked them at first, when I was younger and easily enticed by the dreadfully exaggerated promise of luxury… but that got old as I got old. Sitting here, now, on this stupid couch, in this stupid suite, I realize that none of this really matters. It’s a temporary lie I’ve allowed myself to believe. It’s just another place pretending to be home in the seemingly endless charade that is my life.
When you spend as much time away from home as I do, the definition of the word becomes abstract. ‘Home’ lends itself to a variety of pit-stop places and trivial comforts that provide you with enough momentary satisfaction so that you can’t really find a good reason to complain. You’re so distracted by the crisp, Egyptian cotton sheets and the mints on your pillow that you can’t find the time to let yourself miss the house you grew up in, or the hill you slid down so many times on chilly, December mornings, or any of those other distant places that are now nothing more than fossils of your past.
Maybe you don’t want to make the time.
Maybe it’s easier to call a hotel room home when you’ve been away from the real thing for so long that you can no longer remember what you’re missing. A few months ago, I went back to Iowa when I heard that the house I had grown up in was for sale. I drove down that same narrow road, and pulled up to that same driveway with the idea that perhaps something magical would happen. I thought that maybe as soon as I’d step foot inside, I’d be ten years old again. And my mom would still be alive, humming a song in the kitchen. And my dad would be still be shoveling snow from the walk out in front, and I would run up to my room and put on some gloves and run back out and disappear into the snow.
I wanted to disappear into the snow.
But when I walked through the door, nothing happened.
I was still my same, 30-somethin’-year old self, tracing circles in the dust of the walls, trying to imagine what it had once felt like to live there. I couldn’t picture it, I couldn’t remember a thing…and that hurt. I was struck by the realization that no matter where I went, I would never be home again.
It’s my own fault, I suppose.
I left home as soon as I could, in order to pursue a dream with lower success rates than Hollywood marriages. When I first moved to Vegas, with little more than my guitar and a half-written song, I was so overwhelmed by it all: the lights, the noise, the corruption. It was intoxicating; even the air smelled like smoke. Everything was an imitation and nothing was real; buildings themselves were architectural feats of deception. You can’t live in a place where the Eiffel Towel and the pyramid of Giza coexist on the same block without gaining a new frame of reference. In Sin City, excess and indulgence were the unofficial maxims, but authenticity was in dangerously short supply. Alone in my dingy apartment, feasting on Ramen noodles, I remember missing the stillness of home… the security of home.
But I was home. That was it. I knew that if it didn’t work out, I could move back to Pella, get a job at my dad’s auto shop, and marry me a nice Midwestern girl who had never eaten a deep fried Twinkie or given a lapdance. I knew there was a likely possibility that things would play out just like that. The odds were certainly not in my favor. I was more prepared for failure than I was for success.
But then he found me, squeezed in the page between the personals and the obituaries.
You wouldn’t believe the kind of people that show up at your door when you mention Oasis and The Cure. I went through a dozen gothic guys in black lipstick before I met him. I’ve never really believed in the importance of timing, or in destiny, or any of that new age fatalistic bullshit, but I’ll make an exception for him. All I’ve ever done is make exceptions for him. How much more harm can this one do?
When he showed up at my apartment, his muddy green eyes filled with the foolishness and arrogance of youth, I was just about ready to pack up my things –all three of them- and head back home to the stillness I knew so well. My memory fails me all the time; I forget guitar chords, addresses…I’d forget my own birthday if people weren’t there to remind me…but I’ll never forget the day I opened that door.
“Hi. I’m Brandon, I’m the one who called earlier…a-about the ad.” His skin was pale and unblemished like porcelain, and the naturally fluctuating pitches of his voice almost made him sound like he was singing every time he spoke; puberty had certainly not left him unscathed. He looked so fragile, too. I felt like if I looked thoroughly enough, I’d find a ‘handle with care’ sign stamped on him somewhere as if he were precious cargo. I was beyond skeptical. He extended out his hand, shifting his weight from one foot to the other nervously. I took it, meeting his gaze with my own. “Dave.” I replied. “I’m the one who placed the ad,” I said, and he giggled like a girl on a first date, which didn’t reassure me in the slightest. “Come in,” I told him, unaware of what I was really welcoming into my life. How could I know? People don’t come with warnings… although they fuckin’ should.
A knock on the door in present time interrupts my train of thought, sending me plummeting back to the future. “Yeah.” I answer, taking a gulp of vodka. My hotel room door swings open, and for a fraction of a second, the psychoactive properties in the alcohol and my own twisted perception of time conspire against me. Blurring the lines between what’s real and what I wish were real… I am 25 years old again, watching a beautiful doe-eyed boy walk in through the door. “We’re heading out.” Brandon tells me, his voice cutting through the static of my reverie. I feel like this is the first time he and I are alone in a room in ages. I look up at him with dreamy eyes. He’s not the same boy he was back then. He’s not a boy at all. He’s a man now. He’s a husband. He’s a father.
There are times, though incredibly rare and evanescent, that I catch him looking at me when he doesn’t think I can see him. He thinks I’m solely concentrated on the guitar strings beneath my fingertips, but he’s wrong. If I look up at the right moment, I can catch him, beaming and triumphant beneath the warm incandescence of a spotlight, watching me with those eyes. I can see a smile begin to form, I can feel him falling in love with me, or maybe letting himself realize that he never managed to stop…but it’s an epiphany that he quickly denies with a turn and a glance away.
You’d think I’d get accustomed to this kind of subtle rejection, but I don’t. I’m such a fuckin’ queer that it hurts every time. And people wonder why I always need to drink so heavily before a show. “Put that shit down,” Ronnie will tell me, stealing the bottle out of my hands. “Drink this,” Mark will suggest, pouring me a glass of his herbal vomit. I’m a raging alcoholic, they figure. I’m a fucking wino. If they only knew that it’s the only thing keeping me from shattering in front of all those people out there.
I stand up from the stupid couch.
Brandon looks at me for a second too long before saying anything, his face difficult to read beneath a mask of week-old facial hair. “Ready?” He asks, and I nod. God, I hate him. I hate him so fucking much. I hate his fucking feathers and his gay little boots and the way he sounds like a deflating helium balloon when he laughs. I hate it all.
“Well, let’s get goin’,” He tells me, and I nod again, raising my glass in the air as mock toast to my life. I take a giant gulp and feel the fire slide down my throat.
The crowd is pulsating to the sound of our instruments, creating a harmonious heartbeat that roars in the dome like thunder. Everyone is jumping and dancing and singing, flooding the room with enough energy to power Vegas itself. We feed off the euphoria, playing as if we’d never see a stage again. On nights like this one, I want nothing more than to live in a perpetual encore, as deliriously in love with the people chanting my name as they are with me. Nothing else matters. Nothing else can matter; there isn’t enough time or room or need for anything else to matter. When you’re standing in front of two thousand people, feeling the floor tremble with life beneath you, everything slows down. Everything becomes languid, like rum oozing out of a bottle. Suddenly, there is a single, beating thought reverberating through you. It’s a reminder of what you’ve known all along, but will inevitably forget once again as soon as the stage lights dim… it’s worth it.
It’s all worth it.
Discreetly, so that my eyes don’t give me away, I glance over at Dave during the end of “Read My Mind”, and I watch as magic radiates from beneath his fingertips. He arches his back in ecstasy, hitting the kind of peak that is only paralleled when you’re making love to someone. I know what this feels like; I know the ardor that’s burning inside him, and I’m compelled by forces beyond my control to join him. I wanna go right up to him and just touch him, place my hand on his heart, and sing a song to that rhythm. I want to cradle my head in the crook of his neck and breathe that fire again. I take a few steps towards him, and he sees me, his eyes bright under all the fluorescence. I feel my pace quicken, and I almost run to him, hoping for a collision where he and I become too entwined to ever part…but I don’t. I can’t. I can’t lose to this again. My heart surges with instant regret, and I stop walking towards him. I watch his face shadow in the dark as I move away; I watch him become nothing more than a silhouette against a backdrop of smoke and lights. I turn around, face the audience, and smile at them with closed eyes, making a wish that won’t come true.
12: 51 AM
After the show, there’s an after party, and I can work up a seemingly endless list of things I’d rather do than show up... but I can’t sit this one out. It’d be too suspicious if the designated drunk decided to call it such an early night, considering it’s the last show of the year, and tonight’s suppose to be a fucking riot. The guys have been really concerned about me lately, too, and I can’t afford to raise anymore eyebrows. I’m pretty sure they’re on the brink of staging an intervention as is, despite my best efforts at pretending I’m fine.
I’m so fucking transparent that I can’t even fool strangers; I’ve got fans complaining about me at the meet and greets. They say I’m cold, and unapproachable...and it’s true. I hate myself so much for that; I hate that I can’t even fake a smile for people who really deserve one. I wish I could tell them, “I’m sorry I’m not who you hoped I’d be… I’m sorry you waited so long for someone that doesn’t exist… I’m sorry I’m such a fuckin’ mess. I want you to know that it’s not you. I have nothing but love and gratitude for all of you. Please know that… and try to forgive me.”
But instead I mumble a “hello”, force a grin, and scribble what they’ll consider to be my name on a CD case. It actually says Anakin Skywalker; I like to switch it up every now and then to see if anyone notices. They don’t…nobody ever does. I could sign it as Princess Cornelia Crumplebotton III and they would never be the wiser. But of course, nobody fails to notice your red eyes, or that you haven’t said a word in hours, or that you’re not there again.
It finally hits me that it’s Christmas.
There are tiny light bulbs twinkling all around us, and Anna is handing out Santa hats, insisting that we put them on for a group picture. I oblige, and through my peripherals, I see Dave roll his eyes, pat his hair down, and put it on too. We have Jeremy take a picture of everyone, as we smile to the tune of “A Great Big Sled”, at my request; it’s the first Christmas single we ever made, and it just makes sense. A high-pitched “Merry Christmas” replaces the customary “cheese”, and before long, everyone’s got more rum in their eggnog than they do eggnog. I see Mark lounging comfortably on a couch with Boz and a few others, and Ronnie is telling some story about how, in Italy, his great grandmother would spend 48 hours in the kitchen prior to Christmas Day, preparing salted cod and making fresh tortellini pasta until guests were beginning to arrive; everyone laughs and Ronnie takes a few sips of beer.
I scan the room for my guitarist, and find him hanging around awkwardly by the bar, still wearing the Santa hat we had all already taken off. He’s got a drink in one hand and another waiting for him on the counter. He’s gonna get wasted tonight, and by no means am I surprised; he had been spending nearly every minute of his leisure time searching for something at the bottom of a bottle. I don’t know what he’s looking for, but I do know that he won’t find it there. A part of me wants to go over to him and slap the drink right out of his damn hand, and maybe I would have done this in earlier years, empowered by the fearlessness that comes with youth (and a few drinks in my system), but it’s Christmas and I’d hate to ruin everyone’s night. I grab a drink for myself instead, my first in one month exactly, and force my eyes away from him. I hate to see him like that, anyway; it’s nothing good I’m missing, I know this... but it still hurts to look away.
I shuffle around long enough so that I seem like I’m having a good time, and everyone can stop visually checking on me. I deserve an Oscar for this performance, because “Don’t Shoot Me Santa” is blasting, and all I want to do is shoot myself. As soon as I feel like I’m no longer under a microscope, I make a dash straight for the bar with one goal in mind: get fucking trashed. A blonde chick wearing more eye shadow than clothes sits next to me. I look at her through heavy eyelids, and she smiles. I can tell by her overly enthusiastic grin that she knows who I am…and she has a goal tonight too. ‘Maybe I will fuck her,’ I think, imagining how easy it would be to do so, which instantly ruins it. Like the dog that I am, I enjoy the chase.
I urge the alcohol down my throat, and feel my muscles relax as it begins to take effect. Everybody’s laughing and cracking jokes. Fiddy does an interpretive dance fueled by Bacardi, and Ronnie tries to mimick it but accidentally falls onto Boz’s lap, and we all laugh. Mark kills the buzz with his silent, pensive disapproval, but Ronnie talks him into having a beer and soon he’s giggling at nothing like the rest of us. The music is gradually becoming louder, and for reasons that appear to be unimportant, we’re all laughing hysterically now. Anna calls me a wanker, whatever that is, and I laugh. Ronnie whispers something in my ear, and I laugh. Mark looks at me with those quiet, deep eyes, and I laugh. I shift my gaze over to the bar, expecting to see Dave drooling all over the place in a Santa hat, but he’s not there.
I peel myself off the couch and walk over to where he had been sitting; all I find is his Santa hat, lonely on the counter. “Where’d he go?” I ask the bartender, suddenly more coherent than ever. “He just left… he paid for a bottle of tequila and just left with it.” My face heats up, and it’s got nothing to do with alcohol. ‘Fuck, David,’ I think, cursing him to hell. ‘It’s fucking Christmas!’ I grunt, and head for the door. I can imagine Dave stumbling down the street, chugging a giant bottle of liquid poison and making a complete spectacle of himself; I imagine the cruelty of strangers. I imagine him falling flat on his face with no one around who gives a fuck.
I’m not laughing anymore.
I pour a show of tequila down my throat. It burns, and I want more.
I see my blue eyes staring back up at me from the warm amber liquid. The truth becomes clear in my bottle, floating on soft yellow waves. It’s like a silent sepia film, a montage of everything I could have been and nothing that I am. I see myself tossing my baby boy in the air. I see myself strumming a lazy tune on my guitar. I see Brandon reach over and tuck away the curls clouding my vision. I see us in a room, kissing in the dark. I see the confusion glimmering in his eyes. I feel the tears in my own.
It takes me a second to realize that I’m crying.
This is low, Dave. Even for you.
My thoughts are coherent; I am more aware of myself than I have ever been.
You’re a grown ass man, crying about your unrequited fag crush, sitting on a sidewalk, on Christmas Eve! Ha, it’s like a pathetic remake of “Life Is Wonderful!” This is gold! Oh, God, I hope I can get a copy of this later. This is un-fucking…
My mental monologue comes to an abrupt halt when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I jolt upwards, and nearly laugh at the sick desperation that engulfs my life.
“What the fuck do you want?” I ask, a little louder than I intend to.
Brandon glares at me. I feel him fill up with anger, with resentment and disappointment.
I feel myself not give a fuck.
“Why the fuck are you here?” I ask again, even louder. It must have been his turn to contribute to the Save Dave foundation tonight. Brandon grabs my arm, pulling me up with formidable force. I stumble to my feet and proceed to be pulled like a child, sliding across ground against my will. I protest, “Leave me alone, get the fuck off, go pray or somethin’,” but these all fall onto deaf ears. Brandon pushes me through the revolving doors of the hotel, and I almost end up outside again. He shoves me into the elevator and follows me in. I am expecting the Wrath of Flowers to wreak havoc as soon as the doors close…but he says nothing, which is actually worse. We ride up 26 floors in silence. The elevator doors open again, and out I go, no more qualified to walk than I am to fly.
Brandon drags me by my lapel down a long corridor that I cannot recognize. Of course, I can’t recognize my own reflection in the mirror by this point. “Why are you still here!” I yell, violently shrugging off his arm. Without skipping a beat, Brandon thrusts me hard against the wall, and I feel my back arch on impact. Where was this strength coming from? Where was my fragile, precious cargo?
“YOU HAVE A FUCKING PROBLEM, DO YOU KNOW THAT?” He shouts, his breath hot on my tear-stained face. “YEP.” I answer bitterly, trying my best to fight him off. Super Mormon isn’t having it. Instead, he tightens his grip on my collar, pinning me to the wall with an admirable lack of effort. Maybe it’s all the alcohol in my system, slowing me down... I feel so weak. “YOU ARE MY FUCKING PROBLEM.” I yell, the smell of tequila still fresh in my mouth. Brandon doesn’t loosen his grip, but I see his face soften a little, so slightly in fact that I’m surprised I even notice it in my inebriated state. “Blame yourself.” I continue, this time in a low voice. Brandon furrows his eyebrows, unsure of what I mean. He scans my face for an explanation. At first, he doesn’t understand. He’s confused. He thinks the alcohol is speaking vicariously through me. He figures I’m just being belligerent, and incoherent, and-
His eyes suddenly turn a murky shade of green.
And his fists release their strain on my shirt.
And for the first time in a long time, he sees me.
And he knows.
I look at him, with the tragic eyes that I can’t even recognize myself behind anymore. He is so close. He is the closest he has been in years. I see him blink in slow motion. His long, dark eyelashes caress his cheek and I’m jealous of them. My gaze shifts down to his mouth.
This is a mistake.
His jaw is clenched and the residual tension has settled in his lips, making him pout. I try so hard to look away, to ignore the plump strips of pink flesh that tease and mock me. I try to drag my vision towards the floor, my pointy ass shoes, anything. I try so hard it hurts. I exhaust every ounce of discipline and self-restraint…but it’s in vain. I’m still staring, mesmerized. I feel myself leaning in slowly, as if the air were thicker around us. I keep my eyes open, studying his face for any sign of an opposition. He is expressionless. Maybe I’m moving a lot faster than I think I am. Maybe I’m not giving him enough time to react. Time is always playing tricks on me… why not now?
My lips descend on to his, and I finally close my eyes.
This is a mistake, but I can’t care less. The pain is hell in me tonight.
A warmth surges through me like electricity; my body is a lightning storm. It feels poignant, and it feels sweet and it feels like…home. I savor this moment, absorbing the syrupy moisture of his lips with my own. ‘Hold on,’ I think, clutching at his shirt as if I were clinging on to time itself. I know it’ll be over soon, I know I only have seconds left, but if I can just hold on a little longer, it’ll be enough. I dissolve into his mouth, certain that every cell in my being has diffused into the atmosphere.
And it is enough.
In the swift, breathless moment that our lips meet, for the first time in years, I feel the past flash before my eyes in brilliant bursts of light. There’s an image of me kissing Dave on the cheek on some red carpet, him squirming beneath my touch in front of a dozen flashing light bulbs. I see Dave again, walking into my dressing room, his usually calm eyes jolting up to planet-size at the sight of me shirtless. I relive our first night together; both of us awkward and scared, fumbling around in the dark. We weren't exactly sure what to do, anatomically, but we desperately determined to find a way. I feel him now, tugging at the fabric of my shirt, reaching for something beneath the thin layer of clothes between his skin and mine that he wants to conquer again. My heart, I think, and allow myself to exist in this moment for a second longer, breathing the fire until my lungs are black with smoke and it’s worth every future cough. It’s sweet. It’s so sweet, and I take it all in until it engulfs me completely.
But then, the inevitable happens, and overwhelming guilt washes over me like wave. My body is hesitant to move away, but the mind is poison, and it commands me. I oblige it, and begin to break the embrace. I do it slowly, so as to soften the blow, pulling away until the collar of my shirt has completely slipped from his fingers. I watch his eyes flutter open, instantly stung by the wretchedness of reality. I’m so sorry, I want to say. It’s killing me too, I want to say. I love you, I want to say.
“I can’t,” I say.
I raise my hand in the air. “So don’t.” I tell him, and he stops. Standing there, his soft features shadowed by the sadness that comes with hurting somebody you hate to hurt, he looks every bit the boy I fell in love with…the boy I’ve always been in love with, from the moment I opened the door.
And suddenly, I’m not angry anymore.
His mouth sits tensed with unspoken words. I know what he wants to tell me; I can read his mind. I look at him through misty eyes and think, ‘It’s okay’, hoping he can read mine. I look down and walk to the elevator. There’s nothing left to do. The doors open with a metallic ping, and I step inside. Brandon takes a few steps towards me and pauses, his shoulders slouched with the heaviness of truth. “Where… are you going?” He manages to ask, in a voice that is lower than a whisper. “Down,” I answer with a grin, pressing the lowest digit on the panel.
“I…” he begins clumsily, but it’s too late. The elevator doors are inching toward each other, racing to meet in the middle like lovers in the night. “Hey!” I manage to blurt out, watching as he turns into a sliver from in between the metal. “Merry Christmas, Brandon.” I say, looking at him through a haze. His eyes are a dark, shimmery green that peer directly into me, saying so many things at once. “Merry Christmas,” he replies, not a second too soon. Trying to force my blurry vision into focus so I can do this moment justice, I accidentally catch a glimpse of something behind Brandon right before the doors close all together. It’s green and it’s hanging from a strategically placed hook above the spot where we had been kissing only a few seconds earlier. Realizing the beautiful irony of the situation, I smile…and I mean it, more than anyone could ever know.
I watch Dave disappear right in front of me. It’s a cruel kind of magic trick that I’m not impressed by. I stumble backwards and hit the wall, feeling every atom in my body burst as I slide down. I sit on the velvet carpet and stare at the long limbs outstretched in front of me. I imagine Dave entangled in them, his every thought contradicting his every movement. It was such an incoherent rush, that night. We had both been drinking too much, but I was especially out of control. I nearly fell off the damn stage during that show, endorsing indie rock and roll laced in vodka and beer and who knows what else, like some sort of dirty, lyrical politician. I was a fucking mess. Ronnie and Mark offered to take me back to my hotel room but I refused to go with anyone besides Dave. If that wasn’t an instant red flag, I don’t know what could have been.
Dave was pretty buzzed himself, but I insisted he call a cab and ride with me to make sure I didn’t end up passed outside a stranger’s door, or singing “Mr. Brightside” at the top of my lungs at cars and potentially armed strangers. I should have just gone back by myself, I know this now. Hell, I knew it then too, but alcohol creates a barrier between logic and desire that gradually becomes harder and harder to tear at until finally, it’s indestructible. I was at the point where that barrier was made out of pure tungsten, and I was in no condition to try and do the impossible…nor did I want to. Dave agreed half-heartedly to take me back in the end, clumsily dialing numbers on his cell phone and successfully reaching the taxi service out of sheer luck alone.
We stumbled down the stairs together, and threw ourselves into the cab, the driver shaking his head in disapproval, or disgust, or both. But we didn’t care, or I didn’t at least. Like a dog that doesn’t mind being utterly pathetic as long as he gets what he wants, I kept crawling onto Dave’s lap only to have him push me off. “You won’t get rid of me that easy,” I told him, giggling, and continuing to run my hands up and down his chest, familiarizing myself with the texture of his shirt to the point where, to this day, the memory of a fine cotton-polyester blend still reminds me of that night; of that impulsive cab ride where no part of me was willing to accept defeat. Dave smiled, and pulled my hands off him. I thought he was being coy… and I was right. It wasn’t until the very second that we burst through the door of my hotel room, that he finally looked me dead in the face, as if we were about to engage in a western showdown, and kissed me so hard that it hurt; so hard that the pressure of his lips left bruises on my own for weeks after.
The best pain I’ve ever felt.
I dash out of the elevator, attempting to escape my own humiliation, and race across the hotel lobby with equal conviction. I run out into the street, and instantly regret it. ..it’s so fucking cold. Within minutes, my fingers begin turning pale shades of blue, and I’m lost in every sense; I can’t even hear my heartbeat above my own shivering. To add insult to injury, there’s a buzz that I can’t get out of my head: it’s an echo of engines stirring, and my own heavy footsteps, and…a voice. His voice, singing some song. His voice, whispering my name. His voice, breaking my heart.
It’s so damn cold.
If I could only find a fuckin’ bar or a bench…or a black hole. I’ve read that black holes are so dense that nothing can escape their gravitational pull; they create ruptures in the space-time continuum that can propel you forwards or backwards in time. You float in a sea of darkness for what will seem like either an instant or an eternity, until you find yourself eating cereal, on the first Tuesday of next month, or stargazing on a clear night in 1932.
Or maybe you’ll be opening the door to a stranger seven years ago.
It’s fucking freezing. I’m numb all over.
I pull my jacket tighter around me in a lonely embrace. The wind caresses my cheek and plays with my hair, but it’s only fun for one of us; it’s so cold it hurts. I feel an icy little accumulation on my cheek, and then another melting into my eyelash, and then another and another, falling all around me and blanketing the gray pavement in white. “It’s…snowing?” I think out loud, tilting my head back to look up; everything is dark and still. I can make no distinction between snowflakes and stars; they glimmer above me in the cool atmosphere. They glow like stage lights.
I lose my balance, underestimating my level of intoxication, and I feel myself fall back. I take a few stumbling steps to steady my footing, but this only accelerates the descent, and I hit the ground hard, my body heavy with the weight of sadness. My head bounces off the concrete, and for a second, it hurts. It’s a sharp, piercing pain that ends almost as soon as it begins and suddenly, it’s replaced by a sweet, dizzying sensation. I feel the tension in my arms and legs surrender involuntarily to gravity until my entire body is sprawled out on the ground like a wounded bird. Snow gathers all around me, and the part of me that will never grow up wonders if there is enough for me to make a snow angel. I want to disappear into the snow again.
But there isn’t enough.
Brandon’s voice echoes in my head, strange and melodic. “I love you…I can’t…” It’s a song playing on repeat, blasting through the speakers of my weary mind. I see his beautiful, pretentious face relax in relief as I
open the door and unleash the future; I see my innocent, eager face disappearing across a thick field of snow on a cold Midwestern morning; I see my son’s perfect, fearless face beam as I toss him in the air, so high his body is shaking; I see Brandon’s tired, gracious face widen with a smile beneath the familiar incandescence of a limelight.
But it’s not at me. It’s at all of them. He loves them.
After that, it became nearly impossible to hide it. Even during a show, it became routine. Thank God that I wrote the lyrics that I did, otherwise a lingering hand on Dave’s chest would have no place during "Mr. Brightside," nor would a husky whisper during “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine.” I led two lives that obviously, could never collide; how could Superman and Clark Kent ever exist at the same time? But when I was with Dave, he was everything; we were everything together. Music was our declaration, and love was our secret.
During the last leg of the Sam’s Town tour, we were in some strange city, in a dim-lit hotel room, tracing invisible lines on each other’s skin. I set my wedding ring aside, and slid my fingers across his chest, drawing a heart where his own would be. “I love you,” I told him. I know these to be very heavy words, the heaviest words anyone could ever say, but they floated right out of my mouth with an ease that was unaccompanied by anything else I’d ever said or sung before. Dave looked at me, his pretty baby blues glittering by the gleam of a lamplight. “Well, whatdoyaknow,” he began, teasing my jaw with the corner of his lips. “I love you too.” As soon as those heavy words escaped him, I was made suddenly aware of the gravity of the situation. I wasn’t just fucking around anymore; I wasn’t playing dress-up, I wasn’t some drunk college kid experimenting on a Friday night…I was in love.
I was in love.
I was in love.
I was in-
I was in way over my fucking head.
That night, I waited for Dave to fall asleep, and I left, tiptoeing away from him in the dark. I ran across the corridor and into my own room, sobbing and shaking and praying for some kind o f sun soaked epiphany in the morning. But I didn’t get it; there was no brilliant moment of redemption. My God betrayed me, just like I had betrayed him, and everybody around me…including myself.
I see a thin river of crimson trickle down and disperse into the grainy veins of the street. I hadn’t realized until now that the source of this river… is me. The blood blazes a bright red trail though the otherwise monochrome gray and white landscape, tarnishing the pavement and melting the snow. I lift a reluctant hand and gently press my fingertips, callous now after years of playing the guitar, against the back of my head. The dark, warm liquid stains my skin and is clotting in my hair like morning dew. I feel it flowing it out of me, settling at first in a stagnant puddle beneath my neck and then dripping down the cracks in the concrete. I don’t have the strength to stand.
“I love you…I can’t…”
I look up, my weary eyes struggling to open. The sky is somber and silent. All I see are stars, twinkling like little diamonds amid a canvas of black velvet. The snow continues fall, even though there are no clouds above me. There are only stars; hundreds, thousands of stars twinkling in the distant darkness. I am nearly covered in snow now, but it’s not cold anymore. Instead, it’s lulling me to sleep.
“I love you…I can’t …”
I open my eyes; everything is bathed in light and it hurts. I see Brandon smiling at the audience, and then at me. I see him glide across the stage towards me, wrapping his arms around me in a momentary embrace before pushing me to the middle of the platform, something he often did even though there was never any need for it. “I don't shine,” he whispers, placing a hidden kiss on my shoulder that no one sees. "If you don't shine,” he says again, walking back to the microphone. "So shine," he mouths to me, with a giant grin.
And I do.
One last punch-drunk glimpse of him smiling at me across a stage is all I get, and then I let myself go. And you know, there’s no pain... there’s no regret... there’s no great climactic moment of panic. Instead, it just feels peaceful, and it feels sweet, and it feels like…
I’m going home.
My shoulders are shaking and I’m sobbing by now. Everything leading up to this moment was a mistake, and I need to make it right, because…I love him. I blink away tears and force myself onto my feet. The epiphany that never came just did, and I’m crying and laughing at the same time. I straighten myself up and sprint to the elevator. I feel every emotion in my body amplify during the 30 second descent, and I rush out before the doors even fully open. I love him… I love him. Fuck everything, fuck it all. I love him. I burst out through the lobby doors and into the crisp winter air.
“Dave…” I whisper softly, almost expecting an answer. My breath dances before me in a brisk ballet, and I watch as my chest rises and sinks like a ship on turbulent waters. I’m running, I’m beaming, I’m euphoric, there are feelings surging through me that I never thought I’d allow myself to experience again. I disappear into the cool December atmosphere, in search of something I should have never lost, with my heart exploding inside me.
Everything will be alright.