Through All the Dust
Chapter Thirty-Five: What If? Why Not?
“Well we’re glad to hear you’re feeling alright.”
“Thanks,” I replied sweetly. “It’s been a long road but things are definitely improving.”
I’d successfully managed to get back into the piano keys just shy of a week before having my wrist prison removed. The range of motion was weirdly satisfying, and I was rotating my wrist like a weirdo the entire drive back home. Brian just laughed it off, knowing better than to try and avert my attention.
The day after my freedom was granted, I was scheduled for a telephone interview for a satellite station based out of Nevada. I’d signed on for a bit of promotion for the benefit, and since we were sitting only a week away, there was no time like the present to get it done. Brian was busying himself in the kitchen—I wasn’t sure what he was making but it smelled divine. I was stretched out on the couch, as always, a little higher than usual. The pain in my leg had done all but subsided and it appeared I’d grown a tolerance to the pain medication. So, naturally, I’d had to start doubling up—which I was smart enough to leave out in conversations with Brian. But I wondered if that’s how Jimmy had gotten himself so deep; you know, growing tolerances…pushing the limits further and further to find the relief. Eventually finding the release…
The man asked a couple of questions about the benefit; the typical shit like how’d you get involved? When did it get started? Blah, blah blah. I was twirling my hair in my fingers as I answered as monotonously as he asked.
“This will be your first live performance since branching into a solo career, is that right?”
I nodded slowly, “Yeah, I guess it is.”
It hadn’t really occurred to me that I had yet to stand on any stage completely alone. I supposed then that it would be a good indicator of touring life and what the shows might be like. We, myself and my session band, had been busy with rehearsal for two weeks straight. I could still only stand for so long, so we were practical in our approach. We’d specifically chosen three songs, each more personal than the last.
“Are you nervous about playing to a crowd that may not be fans?”
I laughed awkwardly, “Well, I wasn’t….”
“Sorry,” he laughed back. “But the benefit has artists ranging from pop, to rock, to rap. It must be daunting to take that on.”
“Daunting?” I mimicked thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t say that. I mean…The last time I performed, I had four other people to hide behind—so, in that sense, I guess it’s daunting…But I’m honestly just excited. I’m really looking forward to getting my music out there. The message that this benefit is spreading is an important one…and it’s one that I can get behind, so I’ll play to a crowd of metal-heads if I have to.”
I could hear the smile in his voice, “I’m sure you’d have their love and support, just because of the man you’re dating.”
“Oh no, no,” I snickered. “You think every metal-head loves Avenged Sevenfold? You’ve picked the wrong crowd there, sir. They get enough hate that I’m sure I’d be greeted with tomatoes.”
“No way,” he laughed. “Synyster Gates is pretty highly revered in my neck of the woods.”
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear it,” I smiled.
He added with a chuckle, “Especially now that he’s mostly ditched the eyeliner.”
I let out the loudest laugh known to man. Brian’s attention was peaked as he whipped his head through the doorway in suspicion. I waved him off, still giggling to myself.
“Fair enough,” I agreed playfully. “But I think he looks good any time. On the record.”
“Can we expect Synyster Gates to be in attendance? With, or without, the eyeliner?”
I nodded, “Yeah, for sure. He won’t be playing with me—which will be strange by its own right—but he’ll be there. You know, as individuals we’ve been through…a lot…and so, this benefit really hits home for us both. He knows how much this means to me and how much it means to play at something like this…so, you can keep an eye out for him. He’ll be in the crowd, probably the most excited human you’ll ever see.”
“That’s great,” the man’s voice smiled. “You hear so often about celebrity relationships hitting the tanks. It’s uplifting to know that some can make it work.”
“Thanks,” I laughed oddly. “We uh…we do what we can.”
“I don’t mean to get personal,” he continued, on live air might I add, “but I wanted to take the opportunity while I have you on the line to just…you know, offer my condolences. It’s been a few months since The Rev died—”
The ringing in my ears returned. It was the same ringing that came around any time someone I did not know mentioned Jimmy or his death. Or his life. Anything about Jimmy had my head buzzing. It didn’t matter what I did, I could not shake the feeling. I was dead inside—and though I was finally ready to take it to battle…I was weak. Without my friend, I was so fucking weak.
I tried my hardest to tune back in, muttering something of a thank you and a couple ‘no comments’. I’d become almost notorious for my absolute refusal to get into details or discussions about my late friend. Lauren tried to get inside my head about it…almost every day…but I couldn’t bare the strain. I needed so badly to move on, that at that point, it seemed almost easier to just let it be static. Nothing but static.
“We all miss him dearly,” he said to me like he meant it.
I tried not to be bitter.
“You guys have our thoughts,” he added fake fondly.
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
I guess he caught the dead air between us, realizing he’d stepped over a boundary that so many before him had set. It blew my mind that the reporters still found the audacity in their balls to ask me about it. It was no secret that I would not participate. But here he was, like all the others, grasping at straws for listeners or headlines. I was so fucking over it.
“Well thank you, Blair,” he said quickly. “We’ve loved having you on and look forward to catching your set Saturday!”
“Thanks,” I tried to sound more enthusiastic.
As I hung up, I couldn’t help but sink into my soul a bit. I was trying to picture life as it had been. I wanted to open my tired eyes and find Jimmy looming over me, pestering me about my poor answers and my social anxiety. But when I did, there was nothing. Brian was still pacing around in our kitchen, Billie Holiday lamenting softly from the stereo to my right. With an irritated groan, and a spinning head, I rolled myself against the couch and forced myself to stop.
Somewhere in that tired anger, I must have fallen asleep.
“What are you doing here?” I groaned tiredly, rubbing at my eyes. “Why are you always here?”
Jimmy grinned, “Don’t be like that, B.”
“Don’t call me that,” I whined. “Only your girlfriend can call me that.”
He was stretched out on my couch, watching my tv and eating my food. As fucking always. We’d been out for drinks and Brian was passed out upstairs. I’d come down for water, feeling a little like I might die—and I hadn’t known Jimmy had followed us home.
“I was just going to smoke this,” Jimmy told me, holding up the world’s biggest joint for me to see. “Coming?”
“Am I coming to my own backyard?” I asked pointedly.
He nodded, “To smoke your own weed.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sakes, James,” I smirked.
He laughed, shaking his blackened head, “Stop being such a biznatch about it.”
“Biznatch,” I repeated with a scoff. “Now I’ve heard it all come from your mouth.”
“Aren’t you so lucky,” he laughed, prancing over to me like some gothic gazelle.
He wrapped his arms around my waist, resting his chin on the top of my head. I stood there uncomfortably, feeling more and more dehydrated by the second. But he was always touching me, we were always connected physically somehow. It was like some weird platonic magnet had been implanted into our brains. It drove Brian nuts, in the most hilarious kind of way.
“Do you guys even know when you’re touching anymore?” Brian had asked with a laugh. “You’re literally holding pinkies right now for fuck’s sakes.”
We hadn’t known. We’d snapped apart like toddlers being called out for a crush. But within five minutes, we were somehow connected again. It was, admittedly, ridiculous—but it made for a pretty good drinking game at the best of times.
“Off,” I yawned, giving his gut a little shove. “I need water. But then we can get as high as your big heart desires.”
“Don’t talk about my heart,” he snickered, releasing me to hold his hands over his chest. “It’s sensitive. It might hear you.”
I rolled my eyes, headed for the kitchen sink. Jimmy loomed around me, watching as I lived my life. His eyes could be a little intense if you weren’t expecting them. He was always watching, always reading. He was constantly inside everyone’s heads, analyzing their every thought. It was unnerving and at the time, annoying.
“Get out of my head, Jimmy,” I warned him playfully.
He raised his hands to his chest, “I was just looking at you, jeez.”
I pushed him through the kitchen and out back, ultimately plopping myself into the chair beside him. He lit the joint immediately, taking a couple of big puffs before passing it my way. My brain told me I didn’t need any more stimulants—but who was I to say no? So, obviously, I took the biggest lungful that I could.
“So, what are you doing here?” I asked wheezily.
He shrugged, “Lauren was moody. And I, go figure, wasn’t in the mood.”
“Don’t you have your own home?” I laughed, passing it back.
He shrugged again, “I like your home better. My two favourite people live in it.”
We smoked the joint until it was ash in my hand. I smashed it out and replaced it with a cigarette. Jimmy immediately got to work rolling a secondary joint, lit only by the moonlight. He grunted and groaned but eventually got it done. He lit it, offering it to me right away—but I was more than high enough.
“More for me,” he smirked.
I nodded, watching as the ember of the joint lit up his face beneath the dark night sky. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of Jimmy and he’d look almost unrecognizable. I imagined that was what people on the outside might see him as. I knew him so well that I wasn’t sure I really understood his appearance anymore.
But sometimes, just for a second, he’d be stunning. His eyes were crystal and his smile was enough to melt the coldest heart. His face was strong and his lips perfectly plump. He was as beautiful as anyone, second only to my Brian. I wondered, though, why I’d never been attracted to him. He was wonderful—charming and hyper intelligent. He could make me laugh like no other and we cared deeply for one another. I would have given my life for him in an instant, no questions asked. So, amid all that truth, why had we never fallen in love?
“Jim?” I hummed.
“What’s up?” he asked, a lung full of THC.
I felt weird even asking, “Why didn’t we date?”
“What?” he erupted with laughter, spilling smoke from his lips. “What the shit kind of question is that?”
“I was just wondering,” I blushed awkwardly.
“How fucking high are you?” he cackled, staring at me seriously. “If you’re trying to convince me to run away with you…Well…I wouldn’t say no…but I have some concerns.”
I snickered, shaking my head, “No, you fucking nut. I’m not implying we should run off together.”
“Then what?” he asked curiously, pulling at the joint.
“It’s stupid,” I laughed awkwardly. “I’m high. Forget it.”
He looked at me carefully for a minute, as if working out which thoughts to verbalize and which to abandon. I was always blurting out weird shit, completely unaware of how they might be construed, or in this case misconstrued. I was socially awkward to the bitter end.
“Because we get along so well?” he asked finally, quiet and reflective.
I nodded with a subtle shrug, “Yeah…I mean…among other things.”
“Well,” Jimmy replied, his voice cracking a little from the smoke, “There’s the whole Brian thing for starters.”
“I didn’t mean—” I stopped with a laugh. “Fuck, this isn’t coming out right at all.”
“I’m just fucking with you, Blair,” he assured me with a serious grin. “You’re asking if Brian didn’t exist, and you two had never met, would we have dated?”
I wasn’t really sure if that’s what I was asking at all, but it sounded pretty close. So, I nodded in agreement. Apparently, marijuana made me reflective about weird shit. I’d had almost this exact conversation with Tyler many times throughout our entire friendship. His response, though, was always ‘because that’s gross’. Jimmy was, at least, a little more of a participant in my strange brain. Probably because he had one, too.
“I’m not sure,” Jimmy said honestly. “I’d like to think we wouldn’t.”
“Ouch,” I smirked, taking a long puff of my cigarette to hide my embarrassment.
He shook his head, “Don’t get me wrong. When I met you…Fuck.”
“What does that mean?” I asked seriously.
“Have you looked in a mirror, dude?” he laughed. “I had every intention of bounding over to you and stealing your affections. Which…ya know, is probably why Brian was so pissed when I kissed you that one time.”
“Uh-huh,” I groaned, reeling at the awkward memory.
He grinned, “Whatever. It’s the truth. You’re a babe. And you’re hilarious…and smart. I wasn’t expecting you to be smart.”
“Fuck you,” I snickered.
“You’re witty and…I’ve always loved the way you don’t take shit from people,” he told me affectionately. “You remind me of me. I like me.”
“That’s why we could never date,” I replied cutely. “We’re too alike.”
He shrugged, “Once I started to really talk to you, I knew.”
“That we couldn’t date?” I asked confusedly.
“No. I knew you were the perfect counterpart for Brian.”
Jimmy was a little matchmaker and I hadn’t even known it.
“If Brian evaporated into thin air,” Jimmy continued. “Or, fuck…didn’t ever exist. I’d probably try and steal you, for sure. But so long as there’s a Brian on this planet—there’s no way. There’s just no fucking way. So now I just have to brood around in my lonely life, pining for the girl I can’t have. It eats at my soul, Blair. Unrequited love is hellish. I’m sad all the time—just hoping and praying for the day that Brian kicks the bucket so that you can be mine.”
I stared at him blankly as he continued on his drunk and dramatic rant. The hand gestures grew more and more theatrical the more he tossed around the word ‘pining’. Finally, I slapped a hand over his mouth.
“Please,” I groaned. “Shut the fuck up.”
He laughed, pulling my hand away and leaning himself onto my shoulder, “I’m happy we’re friends. It’s so much better this way—I love you like you wouldn’t believe. But the idea of putting my dick in you makes me want to puke.”
“That’s so sweet,” I said seriously. “Maybe the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
“I try,” he assured me.
I ran my fingers through his black hair, adjusting the spikes in the back and pulling the long pieces behind his ear.
“Are you two ever not touching?” Brian’s voice startled us both.
We jumped—Brian was pleased.
He sunk down onto the ground across from us, gesturing for me to toss him a cigarette.
“What’re we talking about?” he asked curiously, catching both the smoke and lighter.
“Oh, Blair wants to date me,” Jimmy said very seriously as he smashed his joint into the ashtray.
Brian shrugged, “Sounds about right.”
“That’s—that’s not what I said,” I stammered. “At all.”
“Right,” Jimmy winced playfully. “She asked if I’ll date her when you die. Sorry, my bad.”
“Fuck you!” I laughed loudly.
Brian just shook his head, a cutesy smirk toying with his lips, “You two are too much. You could never date. You’d constantly be competing for who could be the most ridiculous. You’d end up murdering each other.”
“I’d stab you for sure,” I told Jimmy with raised eyebrows.
“Fifty fucking times?” Jimmy asked happily.
I nodded, “I can’t believe it.”
“But would you rip my heart out right before my eyes?” he asked me.
I giggled, trying to keep a straight face though, “Eyes over easy, baby.”
As Jimmy and I erupted into a fit of laughter, probably too overzealous for the joke. Brian just scoffed.
“Maybe you two should date,” Brian groaned. “Save me the fucking headaches.”
“You love us,” Jimmy assured him.
“Besides,” I shrugged. “You have my heart.”
Jimmy grinned, opening his mouth to say something but stopping himself. I was waiting. I was ready. Brian groaned, sensing the anticipating—and reluctance.
“Say it,” he demanded lazily. “She’ll never stop if you don’t say it.”
Jimmy rolled his eyes, “Well now it’s ruined.”
“Yeah, way to go, Bri,” I added. “You ruined it.”
“We were having a great old time,” Jimmy continued hastily. “Talking about our undying love that you went ahead and shit all over because you’re greedy and possessive. We could have had a sister husbands thing going on here…sister husbands? Sister wives? No, there’s only one wife…Sister…No…Brother! Brother wives! Fuck…”
Brian rubbed at his temples, “Brother husbands?”
“Yeah!” Jimmy cheered. “But you ruined it. Way to go.”
“Well,” Brian announced, climbing to his feet, “you two can go ahead and have each other. Sounds peaceful in the Haner camp.”
Jimmy shook his head, “You’ve tainted her with your love.”
“You two will kill each other in two days and she’ll be back here begging for my attention,” Brian grinned. “So…live your blissful few days and I’ll go buy a heater.”
“A heater?” I asked confusedly.
“Yeah,” Brian stifled a laugh. “For your thighs.”
“This has been a good night,” Jimmy cackled. “This is good stuff.”
Brian looked at me, “We fell apart.”
“Let’s make a new start,” I replied seriously, as dramatic as humanly possible.
“Maybe tomorrow,” Brian said flatly. “I’m going back to bed. You two keep your love sesh quiet.”
Brian disappeared back into the abyss from whence he’d come. Jimmy and I were quiet for a minute, save for Jimmy’s humming of A Little Piece of Heaven.
“You know what’s awesome?” Jimmy asked absently.
I lit another smoke, “What’s that?”
“You two are totally going to get married,” he smiled. “And make me tons and tons of little nieces and nephews and we’re going to tell this story to them forever.”
“No,” I said flatly. “No, we’re not.”
“…To which part? I said many things.”
“We will never tell my children about this,” I told him.
He laughed, “Uncle Jimmy will tell them all sorts of crazy shit,” he adjusted his voice for effect, “Hey, kids. One time, when your mom and I were young and stupid, I fed her all sorts of drugs and she overdosed on stage and nearly died! Isn’t that great?”
I stared at him.
“I fucking love you, kid,” he told me happily. “I promise I’ll run my stories by your first.”
I smirked, “That’s all I ask.”
“You would though, right?” Jimmy asked me pointedly.
“Marry Brian,” he said suspiciously.
I nodded, “In a fucking second.”
My eyes fluttered awake. Brian was smiling at me, his head tilted ever so slightly.
“You fell asleep,” he told me. “Dinner’s ready if you’re hungry.”
I nodded sleepily, letting Brian pull me up.
“Good dream?” he asked. “You were laughing in your sleep like a fucking psycho.”
“Was I?” I blushed.
I followed Brian into the kitchen where he’d made some sort of pasta. It was a strange colour but it smelled delicious. He scooped me a plate, tossing some bread on for extra carb loading.
“Remember that night,” I started weirdly. “When you came outside, and Jimmy told you that I told him I wanted to date him?”
Brian searched his memory bank for a minute before nodding.
“You never, like…read into that…did you?” I asked awkwardly.
He laughed, “You and Jimmy? No.”
“Where’s this coming from?” he asked curiously, leading me and my crutches to the dinner table.
“I dreamt about it,” I told him. “The drugs give me weird…dreams, I guess.”
He smiled, “Interesting.”
“We just…never actually explained what we were talking about.”
“Honey,” Brian smirked. “The patio is directly beneath our bedroom. You seriously think your conversation didn’t wake me up?”
I blushed. Stupid word vomit—even if it was old word vomit.
“It’s funny,” Brian told me as he sat in the chair next to me. “That was the night after I told Jim I was going to propose.”
“Really?” I choked.
He nodded fondly, “Yep. And then you went off at him about how you guys should date.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “That’s not…”
“I know,” he grinned. “He loved you a lot. Enough not to date you.”
“What a weird sentence,” I smirked. “You know I didn’t want to actually date him, right?”
“I know,” he said again. “You guys would never have lasted. You were far better off as friends. If you two were left on your own, hell would break the fuck loose. You guys would be so fucked up all the time that there’s no way you wouldn’t both over…dose…and…die….”
We were quiet for a minute. Brian had started out so playful, forgetting for a second what had gone on. He’d accidently run straight into his trauma.
I decided to neglect the error.
“And besides that…” I added hopefully. “You had my heart.”
Brian smiled, “At least for the most part.”