You know there's something about being young that makes you wanna break all the boundaries, jump every threshold, **** every woman, and win every battle but one thing I've noticed with age is that you can't break em' all, you can't jump em' all, you can't **** em' all, and you're definitely not winning every battle.
"Good evening everybody! I am James Duke!"
The good thing though, is you don't have to fight every battle. You don't even really have to win any either. You don't have to win, you just have to not lose. As long as I'm still walking, I'm still not losin'.
"How's everybody feelin' tonight?"
These people out here, they don't love me. Quite the opposite really, most of them hate my stinking guts but they're all here to see what the fuss is about. They wanna know why I've been with more women than they ever will be; they wanna know what makes me so much better than them. And now because of it, I've got every dickhead that I know paying their hard-earned cash to watch someone they hate. Me.
"I gotta say, you people put me in the mood!"
They love this shit. They eat it right up. They remind me of my cat Tabitha, no matter how much you feed em' they'll always eat more. That's because these dumb animals have no mind, no ambition, no desire aside from those basic instincts and needs that we all know I am so familiar with. Dr. Johnson said, "He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man." What else needs to be said?
"Let me introduce my partner in crime! The single greatest bass player to ever live..."
It's so damn cheesy I really manage to astound myself every time we sell out a venue, which coincidentally happens quite often these days.
"...the greatest musical force I've ever had the pleasure to reckon with! Alfonso Perez!"
Look at them. Wild animals. Every last one of them is a goddamn beast, sucking the soul out of every person on this stage. That's what we do you know; we provide these people with souls. We get up here and bare it all, honesty in music, and they take it all in, they suck every ounce out of us and expect more. That's exactly why Ian Curtis killed himself. Fonz broke into the opening bass line.
"Playhouse Jam everyone!"
Things seemed well. I hadn't seen Mikel since that day outside the coffee shop and I doubted I would see him anytime soon but that feeling, my fists going into his jaw-line, lingered in my memory like the sweet kiss of a new woman. You ever notice how a girl seems so much sweeter, so much prettier when you first find you have a soft spot for her? As time drags on though you lose that feeling and you sort of think to yourself, "What the hell am I doing here? I don't like this woman at all." So you take off. For the first time in my life I wasn't the one feeling that way, she was. I gotta say, it's a bit disheartening, being on the other side of that deal.
"You guys suck!"
"Who the **** said that? Huh! I have no problem kicking the shit out of you right here!"
A banana shot from the crowd and hit me in the face. I was less than pleased.
"Alright you pig-****ers, who the hell threw that...banana? You can't be serious. A banana? Really?"
I grabbed hold of it and crushed it in my hand, gooey banana oozed over my hand and I chucked the glob into the crowd, hitting multiple people.
"You think this hurts me! HA!"
I grabbed hold of my empty bottle of beer and broke it against the side of my head. I felt the warm flow of blood running around my ear.
"You don't know a damn thing!"
Out of the shattered wreckage of glass I found the largest, sharpest piece and everyone watched, silently, to see what I was about to do. Even the expressions of my bandmates bared horrified looks at the grisly ends they knew I was about to go to.
Glass shard in hand, I dug it into the upper corner of my chest and slashed all the way across, slowly, painfully, but it was worth it to watch these people squirm like trapped flies. They'd gotten a bit too much for what they'd paid for. Mr. Alguin rushed on stage screaming,
"You sick ****er Dook! You never play here again!"
"This is what happens when you don't pay a man his money!"
I clenched my fists ready to jump this cat the moment he would try to get away but there were arms wrapped around me, pulling me down, holding me back, and then I realized it was my bandmates fearing not for my safety, but for their careers. The drummer and the guitarist held me back and pulled me to the ground and as they brought me down I looked up to see Alguin, grinning and holding up my guitar. He'd destroyed it. And that, well it destroyed me. I felt queasy, and blacked out soon after.
Beep...beep...beep...hospitals. Oh how I loathe hospitals. And yet here I was, laying in an overly revealing hospital gown, tightly wrapped under blanks and kept in place by leather restraints. I heard someone say I was awake and my bandmates all walked in, single-file, and huddled around my bed. They looked despondent, but I already knew what was coming. The drummer spoke first.
"Duke, you really screwed us over with that man. You know that right?"
"The hell do we wanna play there again anyways huh?"
"We do wanna play there again. The people are friendly, it's familiar and the money's not half-bad. You ruined that for us though. Just like you ruin everything for us."
"Kiss my ass. You got no balls man. You know that? You're a spineless spick with no sense of rhythm and that's all you'll ever be."
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy about this but you're out of the band. Hope you have a shitty life. No one deserves it more than you."
I didn't say anything, just laid there quietly as they filed back out the same way they'd come in. Only Fonz stayed behind.
"I'm comin' with you anyways, right?"
"Well how'd you know?"
"My cousin was outside smokin' a cigarette and he heard you and Mikel talking."
"Well, yeah. You've got the job."
"Good. You know there's no way in hell they're gonna last without us."
"Yeah I know. But that's what they get for turning their backs on me."
"But you were planning on firing them anyways."
"Well yeah, but that's not the point."
"And what about the songs?"
"The songs we spent weeks writing for those dicks."
"Well we wrote em', so we keep em'. They'll go on our new record."
"They're gonna be pissed haha."
"Yeah well, there are worse things in life. They'll get over it. Or they won't. I don't let it bother me too much."
"That's a nice attitude."
"I suppose. By the way, what the hell am I doing in restraints?"
"Well you woke up and tried to strangle a nurse."
"Really? How'd she look?"
"Scared. You thought it was Alguin."
I had a nurse release my restrains and I checked myself out to find that the day was cold, raining, suiting to a day such as this. The clouds coated the sky in a dark, almost black, grey and people walked past me; unknowing of the man that would taste greatness, walking among them, still a nobody. My boot heels clicked against the ground, Fonz followed beside me and I took deep breaths as we walked. Cold, crisp, air filled my lungs and I felt renewed. I was still a bit angry but at the same time I couldn't help but feel alive. Something about the air today, the mist against my skin, my brush with anarchy; it all made me want to take things three steps further. We weren't far from the beach so I convinced Alfonso to walk with me there. The sand was a mass of mud and I began to strip down.
"What are you doing? You wanna die?"
"Lets go for a swim."
"A swim? It's raining, and the water's like 50 degrees. I think we shouldn't."
"I'm going in."
But I took off running through the mud, peeling off clothes as I got closer to the water until I was nude. Fonz followed and it was really the first time I got to see him relax a bit. He was usually so reserved, so secretive about everything but he just let go as he ran and soon we were racing each other, hopping over the water like gazelles until we dove under a wave and surfaced new people. My legs went numb at first but I could feel the heat emanating in them, a burning between the stitches of my gashed chest, and short hallowed breaths. It felt good, I felt clean and I wanted to stay for a while longer but we decided for someone who just got out of the hospital I shouldn't be in freezing water for too long. We squeezed back into our wet, muddy, clothes and took a cab back to my apartment.
Warm showers and hot soup came after that. We sat around cutting demos, each one of us bundled up from head to toe, and it was one of those moments where all that little shit that builds up over time begins to subside and you find an inner peace, at least for a little while. I thought of Angela and Mikel, and I began to wonder how'd I ever get to be with those two again. They were both so far off it made me doubt the possibility that the three of us would ever be together and happy. But putting those things aside I was pretty happy where I was. Eighteen years old now, on the verge of success, and I felt like nothing could stop me. But things have a funny way of turning out.