Through All the Dust
Chapter Thirty-Six: Something in the Wind
The day had come and it had brought severe nausea with it. I’d hardly slept all night, partly from anticipation and partly from Brian’s insistent snoring. Eventually, I’d given up all hope of getting any rest and had moved myself from the bed to the studio. I tried desperately to be quiet as my crutches clicked and clacked down the hallway. With a lean to peak through my bedroom door, I could still hear Brian’s snores.
I closed the door tightly behind me, thankful for the sound proofing Brian had insisted we do when we’d had our little studio installed. I’d been sure we wouldn’t need it, but on nights like those, I was thankful for Brian’s insight. With a couple of deep, calming breaths, I ran through the lyrics of the three songs we’d be performing in only seventeen short hours. To say I was nervous would be the understatement of the year.
What if I wasn’t good enough on my own? What if I lost the crowd and they booed me off the stage? What if I would never be anything more than a former metal vocalist, grappling at the idea of a solo popstar career? What if I just was not enough?
I plunked my fingers down on a couple of piano keys, wishing away my anxieties. What I really needed was Tyler. He’d been my support system for so much of my troubled life, that I really could have used his morale at that moment. I needed to hear that everything was fine; that I could do it. I sighed to myself, scolding my soul for being so broken. Why was it so easy for everyone else? It hardly seemed fair. In my life, the hits just kept coming—and at first I could bop and duck as well as anyone…But it had so quickly grown to be too much.
Something inside of me knew that I had to change. And I had, I guess. In some ways, anyway…I’d started to cope with everything that had happened. My mind had finally begun to process the loss that Jimmy had sprung on me when I wasn’t looking. I’d been so naïve, so trusting. I genuinely had believed that the world would keep turning while I rested my head at night. I thought that I could escape my life for a while and everything would be as it was upon my return. But, I should have known better. I should have fucking known.
And what could I do when my world went up in flames? Sure, I could have grabbed a bucket of water in some malnourished attempt to save my own skin. But, no. That just wasn’t who I was. I leapt into action, pulling everyone from the smoke—despite my inhalation. As I lay, gasping for air, who was there to pump life back into my jaded body? Brian? Lauren? They were trying…now. But where were they then? Always so caught up in our own flares that we can’t stand to see the light dimming in another.
“Just have faith,” Marge had told me in a compassed attempt to soothe me. “Things will get better. You just need to have faith.”
But faith in what, I should have asked. Faith in the world that had always been so cruel to me? The same world that had ripped parents from a child? Had torn away any consistency that child had ever known? And then when she found solid ground and had finally learned to walk again, that too was pulled away. The world that I knew took great pride in kicking me while I was down. I longed for what I’d had. I wanted what I’d lost. And then, when I wasn’t paying attention, healing had come. I’d started to finally move on, to move along with my new life.
And then Jimmy.
It was too much to hold…and my hands were forever trembling. How many times could you dance with death before finally admitting that you were not in control? He was leading and there was nothing I could do but follow in the steps set out for me. Death held me up and death let me fall.
But after the accident, something shifted. Something in my brain decided it was ready. It was ready to fight; it was ready to revolt. I needed to fucking change. What would it mean if I couldn’t? What would that mean for Brian? What would he do if I left him? I couldn’t bear the thought of burning his beautiful soul…He was bruised already. I couldn’t find the strength to beat that dead horse. And, so, my life became about him. Maybe it had always been about him.
But that needed to change, too.
That’s where music stepped in to save my life. If I couldn’t lose myself in the ones I loved, I sure as shit could lose myself in the only passion that I had left. It was the one thing that I could still control. The one thing that could never leave me.
My fingers slid across the keys slowly, my throat croaking as I tried not to fall apart in the midst of my own darkness.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning to red, blue and yellow lights,” I sang quietly to myself. “On Monday they destroyed me…But by Friday I'm revived…”
If I could go back in time, to my life before I ever signed the dotted line…would things have been different? If Tyler and I had never found fame…if we’d never gone to that god damn festival. If I’d never met Jimmy…
“Wear my blinders in the rain; I've got nothing much to live for ever since I found my fame…”
What was a life without Brian? Would I have survived Tyler’s passing without him? I wanted desperately to believe that I was strong enough that I could have weathered that storm alone…but the reality was that I’d just never know. I’d leaned so hard on Brian that I wasn’t sure where my roots began and where his ended.
My hands stopped themselves. I took one, deep and solid breath to stop myself from teetering over the edge that had formerly beckoned me on so strong. Stepping away from the piano, I hobbled over to the desk that housed many, many of Brian and my songs. There were Avenged songs, some transcribed, some rough drafts, everywhere. Mine were neatly sorted and folded into binders, labelled for my convenience. I laughed to myself at the visual representation of the vast difference between Brian and I.
The tips of my fingers sorted through pages, some of Brian’s writing, others of Matt’s. And then I found Jimmy, buried deep within Avenged’s most beautiful work. The lyrics to Buried Alive—which were perhaps, lyrically, my favourite. I hadn’t seen the words since Brian had handed them to me to prove a point. But Brian had played the demo for me once and it was…captivating. If anyone asked me what the most meaningful song Jimmy had left behind was…well, at first I may have said Fiction. But, no. Fiction was hardly a representation of the brilliance and burden that was James Sullivan. That, hands down, was Buried Alive.
I dug around deeper, knowing full well that if the lyrics were still homed here, that Brian’s transcribed guitar chords would be too. Sure enough, I found them. Plopping myself back down onto the piano bench, I stood the notes onto my piano and plunked at the keys. A tiny smile graced my lips to hear the notes reflected back strangely.
It took a while, but eventually I had it down. Music was like therapy, but arguably cheaper. With each key, a piece of my heart could be heard by anyone willing to listen.
A piece of Jimmy’s, too…
“Take the time to listen, when the voices screaming are much too loud,” I sang softly. “Take a look in the distance, try and see it all. Chances are that ya might find that we share a common discomfort now. I feel I'm walking a fine line…Tell me only if it's real.”
I could feel him still. Lingering around me always. Sometimes it was as simple as a hand on my shoulder, and other it was like he was leaning against me, like he often did when he was tired or he was bored. I could smell his scent lingering on my clothes, and the echo of his laughter ringing through the coldest parts of my mind.
I couldn’t let go. Even if I’d wanted to.
“Still I’m on my way,” I croaked. “On and on it goes…”
I remembered playing him my very first solo demo song. He’d bobbed his head along as the piano roared and Justin kicked at the drums. I was nervous, anxiously tearing apart my lip in anticipation. Jimmy was my biggest fan, but he was also by far the most judgmental. Endlessly, I sought out his approval.
“It’s awesome,” he told me happily once it had played through. “You’re insane.”
“Even though it’s…pop?” I asked cautiously.
He laughed, rubbing at my back with his tattooed hand, “It’s not even…It’s just fucking awesome, Blair. Really.”
“Babe?” Brian’s voice cut through my memory.
My spine startled alert as I whipped around to the door. Brian was leaned up against the doorway, yawning.
“Shit,” I muttered. “Did I wake you?”
“Nah,” he waved sheepishly. “I thought I heard Buried Alive, though.”
I smiled, “You did.”
“You know,” he sighed sleepily, stepping into the room and sliding onto the bench beside me. “You never stop amazing me.”
“Sure I do,” I half-laughed.
He shook his head, “Not for one second.”
The keys rose and fell under Brian’s touch, much like my very core. He messed around for a minute before sighing to himself.
“Missing him, huh?” he asked me knowingly.
I bit at my lip, “Always.”
“I wonder if it ever gets better,” he thought aloud. “Like actually better. Where it isn’t just living with it anymore.”
“I’m not sure,” I told him honestly. “I still feel like I’m mostly just living with Tyler…and I’ve had ample time to deal with that one.”
He shrugged, “You don’t really deal though. You push things away until they’re convenient, which they never are, and then when they force themselves backwards, you panic.”
I frowned at him, feeling a lot like I was being attacked. Maybe scolded. Perhaps both.
He smiled affectionately, nudging me with his side, “It isn’t a criticism.”
“So much as an observation,” I sighed softly, reeling as Jimmy’s words passed through my lips.
“Are you nervous?” he asked. “Is that what’s got you worked up?”
“I’m not worked up,” I argued lightly. “I’m just…Yeah…I’m nervous.”
His face softened, “Hold on.”
He darted away, vanishing into the darkness of the hallway. I wasn’t really sure what I was holding for, so I sat with my hands in my lap. My wrist was aching with a dull pound, which I knew meant I should give it a rest for a while. I needed my working limbs in proper order for the set later.
Brian returned a minute later with a long, black box. He sat himself next to me again, staring at the little box. I eyed him suspiciously.
“I was going to wait until later,” he told me quietly. “But maybe you should just have it now.”
He passed the box to me, which I took with great hesitation. Brian and I were hardly the gift-giving type and I wasn’t sure what called for the occasion.
“It’s your first show,” he told me sweetly. “And I know you’re scared…So, I had this made.”
I looked at him weirdly as I pulled the lid from the box.
My breath escaped my chest.
“You’re never really alone,” he assured me. “Not really.”
On a white gold chain sat four crystal letters. On one side, TB and on the other, JS, a black stone sat in the middle. I ran my fingers atop the initials of those I loved—and those I lost. My eyes welled up against my will.
“It’s…beautiful,” I managed weakly.
Brian laughed, taking the box and pulling the chain from inside.
“Up,” he told me happily.
I pulled my black hair back as Brian snaked his arms around my neck and fastened the clasp in the back. He ran his fingers carefully along the letters, admiring their placement.
“You like it?” he asked me, finally gazing back up at me.
I was weak, “I love it.”
“They would have both…” he stopped himself. “I’m so proud of you.”
“I know,” I spoke lowly.
He smiled, tipping my chin with his thumb, “They would have given anything to be here. You know that, right?”
“Of course,” I choked. “That just…isn’t really the issue, is it?”
He shook his head solemnly, “It’s going to be a good night.”
“You’re going to be great,” he assured me because he knew I needed it. “You have a solid band backing you, you’ll have Justin with you…and now you’ll have Tyler and Jimmy too.”
“I just wish they were here,” I tried not to cry. “I wish it was all different.”
“Me too,” he frowned. “But life goes on…”
My chest hurt, “Whether we want it to or not.”
He brushed his hand against my cheek, loving me through my curse, “We’ll get through it. Just have a little faith.”
“I know,” I said seriously, leaning into his roots again.
I knew I needed to change.