Through All the Dust
Chapter Three: Fiction
After a few days of endless agony had passed, Matt had come to get Brian out of the house. He really needed to get out of the house. He’d been on a rollercoaster of emotion since Jimmy’s untimely passing and would flip from totally void of all feelings, to angry and aggressive. I was dealing as best I could, but Brian could get a little nasty at times. I figured it was probably better that he was letting it out; I could take it.
With Brian otherwise preoccupied, I decided that it might be time to go and collect my car from Lauren. It had been sitting in her driveway since the day we got back from our trip—obviously it hadn’t been a priority to go and get it.
But it was a good excuse to pop in on her. She hadn’t been answering the phone.
I took a cab to her house. It hadn’t occurred to me to feel nervous until I was knocking at her door.
It took a while, and a lot of knocking, before she finally pulled the door open. Her hair was a mess and it looked like she hadn’t slept in a month. She was wearing one of Jimmy’s shirts—my heart broke for her instantly.
“Hey,” I said quietly.
Her eyes were jaded, “Hey.”
She let me in, which surprised me just a tad. Her house was a fucking disaster. I recognized this form of agony from Tyler’s parents’ house—and my own, I guess. I’d been quite a mess for a while too. I couldn’t imagine losing a partner.
“I want to ask how you are,” I said to her, “but I don’t know that it’s appropriate.”
She flopped down onto the couch, shaking her head a little, “It’s been rough.”
I nodded, “How’s baby?”
She tried to smile, “Hanging in there.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner—”
“Don’t apologize,” she sighed. “I know it must be crazy at your house right now…How’s Brian? How are you?”
“I’m fine,” I said numbly. “Brian is…Brian.”
“It’s…surreal,” she exhaled deeply. “It comes in waves, you know?”
“I do know,” I replied sadly.
“You got through this with Tyler,” she told me. “How did you do it? How do you survive something like this?”
I wanted to give her an answer. I wanted to tell her that there was a secret to living through trauma, and that in the end she’d be better for living out the experience. But there was no secret. There were no answers. There was nothing to do but ride it out.
“I honestly don’t know,” I replied reluctantly. “It gets…easier…in time.”
She didn’t look too convinced.
“I shouldn’t say easier,” I recounted. “It gets…Fuck, I don’t know. It’s awful, Lauren. It’s really, really awful. But then one day it’s a little less awful, and then a little less…Eventually it’s like a scar, you know it’s there but it doesn’t really ache anymore. Not like it did when it was fresh. But then it’ll flare up with a throb that’ll remind you of when it happened…Is any of this making any sense?”
“I know it doesn’t feel that way now,” I said softly. “But it will eventually be okay.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to do this, Blair,” she whimpered. “How do I raise a baby on my own? How do I support two people? I’m totally alone in this. How the fuck am I going to do it?”
She was starting to work herself into a panic—steady and heavy breaths. Her face was flushing white.
“Lo,” I eased. “It’s okay.”
“It isn’t,” she hurried. “How am I going to do this? Oh my god.”
I moved myself to sit with her, rubbing her back as she worked herself into a frenzy.
“It’s going to be okay,” I assured her in my most soothing voice. “Brian and I will help you with whatever you need. Money, babysitting…anything you need, Lauren. We’ve got your back.”
She was shaking her head, running her hands through her hair violently.
“It’s okay,” I said again.
Her back straightened and she took three deliberate breaths.
“I don’t want to be a charity case,” she said seriously.
I furrowed my brows at her, “It’s not like that.”
“I need him, Blair,” she managed weakly. “I need him back.”
“I know,” I sighed.
“My parents want me to move in with them,” she said with great displeasure. “Is that what my life has come to?”
I shrugged, “Not if that isn’t what you want.”
“I want Jimmy,” she insisted.
There was nothing I could do to appease her soul but to listen and to nod along. She knew I’d be there for whatever she needed, even if she couldn’t process it at the time. But I could not imagine being in her position—it had been bad enough on our end. The amount of pain she must have felt…It was all too much.
“I have an appointment,” she told me suddenly, rising to her feet.
I guess I was being kicked out.
“Do you want me to come with you?” I asked thoughtfully.
She shook her head, “My mother is going to take me.”
“Okay,” I nodded. “If you ever need—”
“I know,” she smiled a little. “Thanks, Blair.”
“We’re here for whatever,” I told her again because I thought she needed to hear it.
She just nodded.
Once I’d retrieved my keys, I hugged her quickly and ducked back into the reality of my life. Without Brian or Lauren’s grief to distract me, I was left with nothing but my own. If I really stopped to think about what I’d lost, I was convinced it was enough to kill me.
So, I drove.
I drove my car that I’d spent entirely too much money on. It had been a gift to myself for putting out a decent album. Though, I couldn’t bring myself to scrap my old beater—so it still hung around in our garage. My new ride was beautiful; it was Tyler’s favorite model of car. A black ’69 Camaro SS. Every time I looked at it, I could almost picture Tyler’s approving grin.
It was a good car for doing some serious thinking in—but on that particular day I needed to do anything but think.
But that’s just not how brains work, is it?
All I could think of were the things I wished I could tell Jimmy. All of the things that I wanted him to know—how much I loved him. How he’d truly shifted my life. How wonderful of a human and of a friend he was. Maybe he’d already known those things, but I knew I hadn’t said them nearly often enough.
We never say the things we should.
When I finally pulled into my driveway, Matt’s car was in my spot. I guess that meant they were back.
I walked in, hoping Brian was in at least a semi-normal mood. He’d spent the entire day before trying to pick fights with me about literally everything. By the time we went to bed, we’d mostly smoothed things over. He didn’t understand why he was lashing out, only that he didn’t mean to; I understood. I was trying to be understanding, anyway.
“Hey, Pretty,” Brian said to me from over the couch.
He and Matt were deep into a video game—I wondered how long they’d been here. I waved a quick hello before darting out back to smoke in peace.
But the peace didn’t last long. Within minutes, Bri and Matt were beside me—Brian smoking, Matt unusually quiet.
“So,” Brian sighed, “there’s something I think you need to hear.”
“Oh?” I asked nervously.
Brian looked at me and I guess I choked him up. He looked at Matt expectantly as he focused solely on his cigarette.
“You know we’re writing our album,” Matt said slowly.
I nodded, “Mhm.”
“Jimmy had written a song for it,” Matt tried to explain. “It’s rough and obviously unfinished—”
“When?” I asked, sensing there was a punchline to this anecdote. “When did he write it?”
“We don’t know,” Brian said absently, his lungs full of smoke.
Matt nodded once, “But he gave it to us three days before…before he died.”
“Okay,” I said slowly.
“I think you need to hear it,” Brian told me.
My heart fell a little, “Why?”
“Besides that fact that it’s the last thing he wrote?” Brian asked smugly.
“Brian,” I said flatly.
He rolled his eyes at me.
Such a charming man.
“Well where is it?” I asked abruptly. “The demo.”
Matt looked at Brian and then at me. He looked uneasy. What the fuck was the big deal with this song? It literally had them spooked.
“It’s upstairs,” Matt told me.
I smashed my cigarette into the ashtray and hurried off toward our makeshift studio. It didn’t take a genius to extrapolate that that’s where the CD would be. I was right, as per usual, and I immediately hit play.
Now I think I understand how this world can overcome a man.
Jimmy’s voice sent chills through my spine. I’d longed to hear it just one more time—and it seemed my wish had been granted.
But not like this.
I made it into the chorus, Jimmy’s voice clear and concise.
Not that I would. Let it burn.
I hit pause.
My heartbeat was echoing in my ears. It was rapid and it was a little concerning.
What the fuck was this song.
I took a deep breath—I had to at least get through it once. I hit play.
The second it drew to a close, I tore through the house to find Brian. He and Matt were still outside—they tensed up as I slammed the door behind me.
“What the fuck is that,” I snarled. “What is it? What the fuck—”
“It’s called Death,” Brian grunted. “Go fucking figure, right?”
“And you guys listened to this,” I processed aloud, “before he died…and didn’t think to ask him what the fuck?”
“He said it was supposed to be the last song on the album,” Matt said. “It’s a concept album, Blair—it’s right in the theme.”
“Reads like a fucking suicide note to me,” I hissed.
Brian slammed his hands onto our glass table, the sound shook both Matt and me.
“Don’t you fucking dare,” he snapped at me.
“Doesn’t it?” I snapped back. “Three days before he fucking dies? He writes a song about everyone being okay without him? Are you fucking kidding me?”
Brian’s chair flew behind him as he pushed himself to his feet and pushed passed me—he also slammed the door behind him.
“Blair…” Matt said uneasily.
“How am I supposed to react?” I asked seriously, at my wit’s end. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m so fucking busy making sure Brian stays above water, and making sure Lauren doesn’t fly off the deep end—and then I come home to this? What do I do with this, Matt? What was the end goal of showing this to me?”
He stared at me—his usually chipper face was solemn and sad. He shrugged lazily at me, at a loss.
“I know it’s been hard,” he finally managed. “Give Brian some time.”
“That’s all I fucking give him,” I groaned. “Time. Understanding. Patience. He forgets that Jimmy was my friend too.”
“I’m not trying to take away your right over grief here,” he said slowly. “But Jimmy was like Brian’s brother. Everyone reacts differently to shit…I’m not condoning the way Brian’s been behaving—but fuck, Blair. Come on.”
I collapsed into a chair, my hands trembling as I lit another cigarette. My mind was racing a mile a minute—I was trying to understand what was the point of it all.
“Do you not think it sounds like a suicide note?” I asked lowly, less dramatically this time.
Matt frowned, “Sort of. I don’t know. I like to think that it’s just…really fucking good timing.”
“Good timing?” I asked sarcastically.
“Yeah,” he almost smiled. “It’s a song about finding peace…about everyone finding peace…If he’d written it a year ago, would you have this reaction?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know.”
“You wouldn’t,” he told me. “None of us would.”
“I really fucking miss him,” I said seriously, my eyes glazing over a little with tears.
He nodded, “We all do.”
I took a very long drag of my cigarette.
“For the record,” Matt added, “Brian can’t make it through that demo.”
“Fuck,” I grumbled, tossing my burning cigarette into the ash tray. “I’ll be back.”
I was hesitant as I stepped into my house. I was fearing Brian a little—I knew how angry I’d made him and I was feeling a little too weak to handle the wrath. But I’d been impulsive and insensitive and I knew I had to apologize. Even if I wasn’t sure I’d actually said anything wrong.
Brian was upstairs, he was pulling the disc from the stereo and putting it back into its case. I wrapped my arms around him, resting my sad face against his back. He stiffened.
“I’m sorry,” I sighed into him.
He hesitated before turning around and pulling me into him, his hands lacing themselves into my black hair.
“I’m sorry,” he echoed. “I have to stop pushing you away.”
“I shouldn’t have implied—”
Brian cut me off, “He wouldn’t do that. There’s just no way he’d do that to us.”
“I know that,” I said softly. “I do.”
“It’s haunting,” Brian sighed. “But Matt says the song is a good thing—it’s closure or some shit. I don’t know.”
“No such thing as closure,” I frowned.
Even in my case with Tyler’s passing, I’d gotten something that was supposed to bring my life closure. It didn’t. It had only caused me more conflict and created more questions.
This song was a similar paradox.
I leaned back to survey my lovely Brian’s face, which was now relaxed and less angry.
“I’m going to stop snapping at you,” he told me seriously. “I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I shrugged. “You do what you need to do…but when this is over, just come back to me, okay?
“I’m not going—”
“You are,” I said seriously. “You’re somewhere else. And I know you’re going to be there for a while…but I’m here.”
I remember leaving. I remember Tyler dying and the sheer weight of the grief sending me into a spiral where I could hardly recognize myself. I’d gone through the motions of living my life day to day, but at night when I was alone, I was far, far away. I was wrapped up in a place in my mind where Tyler still lived. It’s a dangerous place to venture into—and it was really fucking hard to leave it.
I just hoped that Brian would still be Brian by time he came back from that place.
“I love you,” he said for the first time in days.
It was almost enough to break me down. I’d needed to hear it so badly—but this time it wasn’t about me. This was about Brian. I needed to get him through this like he’d gotten me through Tyler. My sadness didn’t matter. I didn’t matter.
But hearing those words helped to soothe my soul, even if just for a second.
“I love you more,” I said and I meant it.
But I couldn’t help but long for the days before grief had been tearing through our homes. I wanted my Brian back. I wanted his love for me back—and my love for him.
I wanted fucking Jimmy back.
I wanted to wake up.
Why couldn’t I wake up?