Chapter One - F--k You Shakespeare
“What I’m trying to say...” I stumbled over my words, fidgeting with what was left of the cigarette clenched firmly in my left hand; a physical distraction which was by now slowly and cautiously dissolving towards my knuckle.
“What I’m trying to say...” I choked again, transfixing the threadbare carpeting of the rehearsal room with an intense but empty stare. Looking down on it now I realised it had been cream coloured once but now the remains of several years of raucous activities littered the floor; ash, used condoms, beer stains, whisky bottles and prescription pills, if you could name it we would have done it here, a fact testified to by the poor carpets now dilapidated and charred appearance. ‘Appropriate’ my mind divulged to itself ‘after all, rock and roll was never about the aesthetics, was it?’
“Get it out man
” The voice broke my chain of thoughts, echoing around the room and continuing to bounce around the recesses of my drifting mind for a few gaping and potent seconds as I tried to untie my gut long enough to formulate a working comprehension of the English language.
“I’m out” I spat the words out anxiously, trying to rid them from my system like some sort of poison, a venomous notion that desperately craved a swift and sharp expulsion. "Blunt and obvious" my mind mulled rebelliously "are you going to elaborate on that, make some distinctions, y’know, all that jazz, or are you just going to stand around looking the tw-t", "Shut the f--k up" I shot back abruptly. Going by this warped exchange of internal dialogue I was quite clearly on the path to insanity. This is what 42 hours removed from sleep does to a man, before I knew it I was going to be strutting round my apartment like a coked up rooster shooting out ponderous soliloquies like some sort of post modern Hamlet; "To quit or not to quit, that is the question?" "I quit. Go f--k yourself Shakespeare."
“Bollocks” there was that voice again, punctuating my stubbornly removed thought process and snapping me back into some sort of bitter semi-reality, I knew the words that were about to follow suit were going to be like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut, if there was any friendship left it was going to die at this point post-haste. I flicked the remnants of the cigarette to the floor, stomping on it with my right foot, slowly and deliberately twisting until the ashes were tamed, left tranquil and subdued. The cigarettes little corpse stared up at me rather deliberately, I chose to ignore its mocking me from beyond the grave by lighting up another smoke, my thirteenth of the day, unlucky for some, naturally.
“You realise if you leave this time we can’t let you back in, right? You’re gonna f--k up what’s good for you with that lofty ambition of yours.”
“Yeah, well, go f--k yourself Shakespeare.”
I turned my back and slumped out the room, barely able to defy gravity with my heavily numbed limbs, behind me a final wasted proclamation of disbelief;
Chapter Two – The Fruit Of Knowledge
William Blake once eloquently asked "How can a bird that is born for joy sit in a cage and sing?" – this clever sentiment seems to sum up a lot of things in life; relationships always seem like a brilliant idea till you’re in them, bands always seem like such freedom from an overly prescribed outside world until you join them. Four guys in a room making tunes, what a freedom, what a f--king kick. That is until you realise that most people, and for that matter the vast majority of musicians, despite liberal pretensions, always veer dramatically towards the conservative. People like routines and are afraid to break them, clinging onto their own little dogmas like if they dropped the bullshit for ten seconds and just lived it would be the end of the world as they knew it. Well actually, maybe it would, maybe that’s the point and maybe this is why most bands just sound like a carbon copy of their idols, too afraid to walk their own paths, too weak to commit to their own ideals. There ain’t nothing like having one good idea and repeating it a million times, it’s like getting the same sh-tty blowjob ad nauseam.
The cynical part of me had progressed to alcohol by this point, a substance which seemed to amplify all those dangerous little thoughts that stirred in the back of my mind - nefarious little demons dancing about; all twisted and sinister. "Is it morally reprehensible to push my crazy mother in law in front of a bus?", "What is the likelihood of getting caught whilst doing a shit on my bosses desk?", "What would happen if I were to become a drug dealer?" and so on. I swear to god every guy I have ever known has had the drug dealer fantasy at one point, doesn’t matter who you are, at one stage in your shitty little life you have probably considered – "Hey, now what would happen if I quit my terrible and unedifying office job and sold crack for a living?"
Half one in the afternoon and you find yourself still in bed, drinking spirits and comparing the merits and perks of Beverly Hills mansions to the contrasting delights of prison rape. Joyous.
The door rang, I silently prayed for another Christian outreach or Jehovah’s Witness group hoping to convert me to the wonders of Jesus and to alert me of the forthcoming apocalypse, if only so I could subvert their attempted rhetoric by answering the door naked again. After all, if Jesus died for all our sins then he shouldn’t mind if I add another example of indecent exposure to the rather lengthy list of heinous crimes. As it turns out, trying to deliver a front porch sermon without getting distracted by a wayward dick is quite a difficult feat, one that your average church goer is rather unprepared for. So unprepared for in fact, that half way through the garbled communion I can tell them I’ll be "right back", they tactfully presume I’m going to get dressed but in reality I often just return with a bowl of fruit and start rabidly consuming an apple. To catch them off guard I then often offer them one in turn and in their shock they often accept my bountiful produce. I think they miss my bulldozer style biblical metaphor ploughing its way through their unquestioning brains; throwing a spanner in the works has never been quite so literal.
Having considered all this I ride down the corridor on my high horse ready to dive into battle. I am currently Jill’s huge equine metaphor. Jack can get to f--k.
So it is to my surprise I open the door and she strides into my dank cavern. All normal and seemingly content with existence, at ease, why she was with this warped and cynical f--k was a question hitherto unknown. Until now.
I had been on the digestive diet again. For the uninformed this constituted the consumption of purely chocolate digestive biscuits, breakfast, lunch and dinner, supermarket value being the mainstay. I drowned in calories, slowly suffocating on my own chocolate excess as I lay around feeling sorry for myself like some sort of waster. I would become a benefits junkie soon – collecting state sponsored sh-t for cash and winding up in some right wing tabloid as a stereotypical example of our culture at large.
"Rock n roll messiah collects welfare cheque."
By this point I had stumbled awkwardly into a set of jeans and a stained t-shirt and we were now in the living room – my previous lack of clothes and now all the scattered and empty biscuit wrappers being, quite obviously, the initial things she had picked up upon. Cautiously probing for an explanation as to my eternally strange behaviour she reached out quizzically;
“Are you feeling ok?”
As it turns out this was just the verbal disclaimer for the curveball she was about to throw. If I answered remotely in the affirmative I obviously wouldn’t be throwing myself off a tall office block any time soon.
“Yeah, I guess.”
I could see her mentally going through the Cliffs Notes; Pre-rehearsed speech prepared? Check. Requisite sanity level for target subject confirmed? Check. Subject paying attention and fully clothed? Almost. Well, that’ll do, let’s play ball.
She rushed the words, spewing forth the sort of vacuous nonsense that wouldn’t be out of place in Cosmopolitan magazine.
"How To Dump Your Loser Boyfriend 101"
"Well, look, I’m going to try not to beat around the bush here, I came over here to say something and you know, we’ve had a good run and everything, but things have been weird recently, you feel all disconnected and you look like you’ve lost the will to live. I mean, what is this?! This place is a state."
“What are you saying?” I line up the words for that perfect and glorious cliché conversion.
“I’m saying, I think we should take a break.”
My mind wandered, my idea of ‘taking a break’ was, at best, temporarily misguided; I had a disinclination for sickly wafer biscuits as they were obviously the food for separation. Brittle little creatures regimented like little soldiers standing to attention. f--k you tinfoil dwelling beasts. f--k you and the wrapper you rode in on.
In my distraction I would be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming, however, I knew ‘taking a break’ was right up there in upper echelons of ridiculous platitudes along with ‘let’s just be friends’ et al, let’s face facts; you don’t take a break from a relationship, this isn’t a football game, we don’t take a pit stop half way through to top up on our protein shakes and vitamin C. Knowing this was half the battle, I kept quiet and waited for the twitch, predictably she operated purely on a feeling alone, lacking the ability to finalise the proceedings in the face of such a cold apathy. I waited solemnly for the inevitable demand for a statement of my personal intent.
“Well?!? Don’t you even care?”
“You’re right, let’s just be friends.” I deadpanned in what must have been a mildly facetious monotone.
The room endured a prolonged silence. I could feel the emotion simmering over as she realised I wasn’t playing along with the Paris Hilton script to exiting shitty relationships, common knowledge stated I should be begging for her forgiveness and another shot at redemption here; what had happened? At last she countered in a less than diplomatic retort delivered in a tone not unlike nails running down a blackboard.
“Jesus christ, why do you have to keep being such a sh-tbag? Just you keep playing your f--king sick games. Enjoy life in this sh-thole, you smug creep.”
I stared and continued to feel slightly lethargic.
She turned and strutted dramatically from the room, leaving behind a thin air of malice which I attempted not to asphyxiate on. I was a seasoned veteran at pissing people off by this point, drama haunted me like the ghost of parties past; this obviously wasn’t going to change the tone of my day, not at all.
Turning around I glimpsed momentarily at the couch and quickly noted the butt end of what once must have been a fairly packed joint. Picking it up I rolled out the lighter and sparked up. Inhaling sharply I coughed slightly and stared down casually at it; it was getting hot, nevertheless, there was still enough left to work on getting a nice body buzz going before I fully burnt it down to the makeshift train ticket stub masquerading as a roach.
These were still good times, I was sure of it.
I was perched precariously on the edge of the couch, this time slowly taking a more deliberate toke, holding it in, nice and steady. I exhaled. Time started to melt slightly and I smiled. A slow, deliberate, sardonic grin. Freedom had never tasted so good. It was time to play guitar.