I really think we should call an ambulance
What if he has drugs in his system and they find out?
That's not the issue here! We don't know if he's had a stroke or what! He needs medical help!
And what if it all racks up a huge hospital bill? Who's going to pay for that?
I don't know, does he have health insurance?
f--king privatized health care
Hey, leave the political bullshit out of this, okay?
Dear god, why is everything so loud? And everyone's so mad, talk about negative vibes It's really bright, could someone dim the lights?
Hey, hey! His eyes are opening!
Andrew, buddy; can you hear me?
f--k, my head hurts so bad, couldn't they talk quietly? Then it kicks in again; the hunger, the stomach cramps.
Whoa, he's coming to
I try to sit up, but the cramps in my stomach make me scream when I try to move.
Easy, Andrew; easy! I think it's Sam. Where does it hurt?
My head, I groan, I feel like it's going to f--king explode
I knew it! Tommy's voice cries, it's a clot! A f--king blood clot in his brain; he'll never play the bass again! He'll eat through tubes and drool all the time and
Shut the f--k up Tommy! I hear Doc's bellowing voice.
I take a chance and crack open my eyes. The light blinds me at first and my head starts pounding worse than ever, but I force myself to keep them open. Eventually, as I start seeing shapes, the pounding recedes. There are four people around me; Tommy, fretting like my dear mother, Sam keeping a straight face and trying to assess the situation, Doc looking frustrated, angry and scared, and Steve holding a piece of damp cloth in his hand. I can see stains on my shirt, and I smell puke.
Hey, guys, I mumble, what's going on
The words have barely left my lips before my whole body starts shaking from the cramps in my stomach. I scream, then throw up; but nothing comes out. I lie on my side, gagging over and over and over, with nothing but air coming up. I start feeling really dizzy again, and my chest is burning. Finally the gagging stops and I gasp for air, making grotesque sucking noises and groaning from the pain in between.
Shit, his lips are really blue, and his face is white as a sheet of paper I hear Sam mutter anxiously.
That does it, I'm calling an ambulance. Steve says decisively.
No, I gasp, no ambulance. I'll be fine, just give me a few minutes
Slowly but surely, the cramps in my gut start to fade, and the pounding in my head lessens. I sit up slowly, Tommy puts a pillow behind my back and sits down next to me as I concentrate on breathing slowly and carefully. For the first time I take my surroundings into consideration; I'm in the backstage, sitting on the leather couch. There's some puke on the floor. Sam, Doc and Steve are all standing around me, Tommy is sitting next to me. They all have worried looks on their faces.
Seriously, I say, clearing my throat, I'm feeling better. Just give me a couple minutes.
I lift my right hand up to my face and see that it's shaking like a leaf. My teeth are chattering, and I realize that I'm crying. I spend a couple more minutes breathing slowly, trying to get control of my bodily functions. Finally I look up at the people around me.
So, anyone want to tell me what happened? I ask through shivering lips.
You passed out is what happened, Sam tells me.
Yeah, don't you remember?
Not really, I just remember being really hungry
Are you still hungry? Steve asks.
No, not particularly. I just feel hollow.
I'm hardly surprised, Sam says, raising one eyebrow, you haven't eaten anything for hours, and whatever you had down there has either been burnt up or thrown up. I'm not sure why you're even conscious.
Well, I am, I grunt. What's next?
Just then someone knocks on the door. Steve heads over to the threshold, opening it a crack.
Sorry sweetheart; band members and personnel only, I hear him say.
A familiar voice responds; wait, is Andrew in there? I need to talk to him.
He's not in great shape, I think he should just be left alone for now Steve says dismissively, shutting the door.
No, Steve; it's alright. Let her in, I know her.
Steve opens the door and I see my angel in a white blouse and navy-blue skirt. Her eyes fleet across the room for a second, before resting on me.
Oh, my god, she whispers.
I grin sheepishly. Is it that bad?
Tommy puts an arm around my shoulder; Andrew my man; you look like Rent-Boy in Trainspotting. So yeah, it's that bad.
I summon the energy to give him a playful punch in the shoulder. Amy rushes over, sitting down next to me and, ignoring the fact that I'm covered in sweat, puke and blood, gives me a long, warm hug.
Thank god you're okay, she whispers in my ear.
Feeling rather awkward, I say: um, good to see you to, Amy.
She breaks of the hug slowly and, seeing everyone staring at us, blushes.
Actually, I say, that's my bad: guys, this is Amy. Amy, this is Tommy, Sam, Doc, and Steve.
I watch as Amy composes herself, standing up and greeting everyone with a handshake and a smile.
Sam is the first one to recognise her from the caf a couple weeks back: hey, you're that waitress from the week before last
Tommy and Doc open their eyes wide as they make the connection. Steve is the only one that seems to be unphased.
Listen, Andrew, he says gently, I don't mean to abandon you, but if you're sure that you're feeling okay, I really need to get back to the bar.
Yeah, go ahead, I say weakly.
Steve leaves, leaving the five of us in an awkward silence.
Um, back to my original question, I stutter, what's going on? What's happened? What do we do?
Well, after you keeled over, Doc explains, a lot of people got really freaked out and left. We carried you in here and got our equipment off the stage and Renegade Asylum set up and started playing. But the room was half-empty, and most of the people left were folks from the party; people that we know.
Anyway, Sam continues, they played their first song, and people sort of liked it, but there wasn't a big reaction like with us, and then the vocalist started bitching and cussing us out, ranting on about how we had f--ked them over. Of course, people started getting bored because they weren't playing any music, just bitching on and on, and a lot of people felt sorry for you, you know; collapsing and all, and didn't like hearing those f--kers talking shit about us. Finally they got booed right off the stage.
I smile weakly. Poor bastards. Maybe we shouldn't have been so hard on them.
f--k that, Tommy snaps. Did you forget how they threatened Steve? They had it coming.
I turn to Amy, who's been holding my hand and looking at me with those Mother Goose eyes that chicks sometimes get when they feel sorry for someone.
What about you? I ask. What's your perception on the situation?
I don't know, Andrew, she says timidly. When you went down on that stage, I couldn't think. I just stood still and watched them carry you off while everyone else freaked.
I smile at her, and she smiles back, hugging me again. This time she breaks off rather quickly with a grimace on her face.
Oh, f--k, she says, holding a hand to her face, you smell terrible!
Tommy grins; yeah, that's not uncommon with ol' Andy.
I laugh hoarsely and elbow him in the side, then try to stand up. I manage to get to my feet, but what feels like a firework show goes off in my head and I come crashing down on the sofa.
Oh god, ow I groan, as my head starts pounding and the cramps return.
Easy there Andrew, Doc advises, take it reeeaaally slow.
He shifts his massive bulk over to me and bends over, letting me put my left arm around his broad shoulder. Amy helps me on my right, and slowly, a few inches at a time, I manage to stand up straight.
What exactly happened? Why did I faint? I ask, feeling weaker than a leaf in the wind.
Oh, I don't know, Sam smirks, how about lack of nourishment, intoxication combined with the before-mentioned, over-exertion, lack of sleep take your pick; I've got more.
Whatever, thanks for the lecture, I retort.
As I stand there, the hunger returns, and I feel really tired.
I hate to be a drag, I say, but could we maybe get some food and then go home?
Sure Andrew, Tommy says, come on guys, let's get him to the van. I can take care of him at home.
Leaning heavily on Doc for support and with Amy helping me keep balanced, we move out of the backstage and across the bar-room. The place is nearly empty, a couple old geezers drinking at the bar. Renegade Asylum are nowhere to be seen.
Steve calls across the room: are you guys heading home?
Yeah, Doc responds, is it okay if we pick up the equipment tomorrow?
Fresh air fills my lungs, and I suddenly feel much better; the stink of myself and the heavy bar-room air are wisped away and replaced with the cool evening atmosphere. Our group of five move towards Doc's tricked-out van. Quite suddenly, four figures emerge from behind the van. It's the Renegade f--kwads.
They move towards us, and the tallest one begins speaking: well, well, well: not so high-and-mighty now, are we?
I stare at him helplessly, not sure how to react. I'm ready collapse again.
Just who the f--k do you think you are, he spits out, now directly in front of Amy, Sam, Tommy, Doc and me. Trying to f--k us over like that, turning the crowd against us, playing way past the agreed time Just wait til my dad hears about this; you have no idea what the conseque
He doesn't finish the sentence. It might have something to do with Doc punching him in the gut with the force of a steam-roller. The punk stumbles back, holding his arms around his stomach. The remaining three lunge at Doc. He pushes Amy and me out of the way and we both stumble back, holding on to each other.
Doc is a big guy, but I don't know how he'll handle three-to-one. Luckily Tommy and Sam don't hesitate to take action. Suddenly there's three one-on-one fights. Despite it all happening rather fast, I manage to catch the action in detail: Doc grabs the pudgy one by the shoulders, ramming his forehead squarely into the kid's nose. I hear a nasty crunch, and the kid falls rather comically on his ass, moaning while holding his bloody nose. Sam easily sidesteps a clumsy swing from his opponent. The opponent looses his balance, and in a single, elegant movement; Sam kicks the punk's feet out from under him, before ending it with a solid thud as of one of his Converse Allstars ramming into the bastard's stomach.
I know from experience that Tommy can hold his own, but he's managed to get stuck with a burly, muscly fellow, and my friend taking a few punches. Sam comes from behind, grabbing the guy in a headlock, forcing him to his knees.
As Tommy catches his breath, Doc squats down in front of the guy Sam is holding headlock, speaking very clearly: now listen up; there's a little thing that we common folk like to exercise, it's called respect. That means that you don't bully people around, you don't use your daddy as a shield in fights, you take what you get and don't demand more when you are in no position to do so. Capiche?
The kid sneers and spits in Doc's face. Sam tightens his lock and the kid's eyes bulge.
Ok, let my try another tactic: If I ever see YOU LITTLE SHITS AGAIN, Doc screams with a ferocity that sends shivers down my spine, YOU BETTER BE COLLECTING MONEY FOR DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS, OR I WILL NOT BE SO F--KING KIND!
Sam throws the kid to the ground. I've been staring at the whole ordeal with wide eyes, now I finally glance at Amy: she has a few tears in her eyes, but seems to be okay.
Let's get you home, she says in a shaky voice.
Tommy opens the van door for me, and with Amy's help I stumble in. Doc gets in the driver's seat, Sam in the passenger's, and Tommy piles in next to me and Amy.
Then we go home.
Robert Ippolito, September 2009