Through All the Dust
Chapter Thirty-Seven: God Knows I Tried
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I grumbled, pacing back and forth, each movement clicking loudly against the cement walls.
“Jesus Christ, Blair,” Justin laughed. “Stop. You’re going to fall and break your other leg.”
I disregarded him in lieu of more pacing. I’d been at the venue almost all god damn day. Brian had sent me off with a kiss and some love; I was Justin’s responsibility from thereon out.
Everything was pretty much as I’d remembered it to be. Except that now I had a team specifically brought in for ‘glam’. I’m not kidding. It was as uncomfortable as it sounds. I’d insisted that I could do my own hair and makeup but Gabe wasn’t having it. Apparently that’s just not how “popstars” roll. They went heavy on the makeup and back brushed my poor, formerly healthy hair.
“You look like a goth princess,” Justin had teased when I’d emerged, looking unhappy as ever.
They’d at least let me wear something I was comfortable in. An Avenged shirt, obviously, and a pair of ripped black jeans. I had adorned one of Jimmy’s belts for good measure, graciously loaned to me by Lauren.
I finally stopped, resting my shoulders atop the crutches’ tops. My fingers found my new necklace and they gripped it tight.
“Blair Peterson,” a voice called through the door. “In the wings in five.”
I knew what that meant. That meant that Haven was gearing up to head on stage—and for whatever reason, I really wanted to watch that train wreck.
“Let’s go,” I told the guys, gesturing to the door with my head.
“Shouldn’t you…I don’t know…sit? Until we have to go?” James, my guitarist, said to me.
I could never bring myself to call him by his name, so he was known fondly to me as Pete. There was no real reason for it—it’s just what I’d named him. I signed his paycheck so he didn’t contest his new branding.
“No time for that, Pete,” I told him seriously. “So…Let’s go.”
“Hold on!” Justin hollered at me as I’d headed for the door.
I turned to look at him, as did the others. He was grinning like a fool, his hands shaking just a little.
“I’ve been on stage with that beautiful bitch a few times in my life,” he told everyone. “But for most of you…this is the first time. So, be prepared. She’s going to knock the wind right out of your fucking chests.”
I rolled my eyes, “Jay. I promise you that I don’t have time—”
“It’s going to be good,” he said to me knowingly. “We’re all with you, Blair.”
They all sort of cheered, which made me doubly uncomfortable.
“Okay, I appreciate that gesture and all,” I laughed. “But I look like a fucking prostitute. So…the sooner I can wash this shit off, the better. Can we please go to the wings?”
He nodded, urging the others to follow me out. Once we were in the hall, my techs came flying by. Mona was the only one that lingered behind—she walked at my slow crutching pace as the others all scurried past.
“Hey,” she said lamely.
I just looked at her.
“I’m…Shit, Blair, I don’t even know what to say.”
With great disdain bubbling in my blood, I glanced at her again, “I promise you that I’m not in the mood for this conversation.”
“I just…I thought you were going to die—”
“Well I fucking didn’t, did I?” I snapped venomously. “Not that you’d really know. But I’ll tell you what, how about you run ahead and do your fucking job like a good little roadie and you and I can bitch and scream at each other later.”
Her jaw fell, “Blair…”
I was bitter with her. I’d never been bitter with her before. But it had been over a month since the accident and she still had yet to even drop me a line. That, as far as I was concerned, was not friendship. That wasn’t fucking anything. She was only there because she was a damn good audio technician and I wasn’t quite ready to burn the professional bridge.
The personal bridge was still up for debate. Its fate still left undetermined.
“If you’d like, this could be your last show. As well as your first,” I growled.
She swallowed down any pride she had left, nodding solemnly at me before making great speed to pass me. Justin was a smart man, and so he’d lulled behind just enough to eavesdrop with great ease.
“Harsh,” he said to me once I’d caught up.
I sighed, “I know.”
“This is where we’re at?” he asked helplessly. “Reducing our friends to their professions?”
“Don’t start with me, Justin,” I warned, already sore from the short journey. “I’m anxious, I’m sore, and I’m not in the fucking mood.”
“We can deal with it later,” he relented.
My eyes were fixated ahead, but the long hallway was daunting my spirits. I was already tired, and I was a little nervous I would miss our queue, not just Haven’s set. Justin eyed me curiously, watching as my face grew from frustrated to helpless.
“This is stupid,” he laughed as he snatched me off my feet.
Normally I would have argued; fought tooth and nail. But, no. I wrapped my arm around his neck and tried to hold my crutches up so he wouldn’t trip and kill us both. He carried me to the wings, saying not another word.
Haven’s techs were working the stage, prepping it rapidly for the band’s imminent arrival. I was a little proud that I hadn’t missed it. I wanted to see what had become of the band I’d once called my own. Curiosity is a bitch that way.
The crowd was roaring and booming. I’d heard it had sold out but I wasn’t sure how big of an audience it truly was. As I peered out, I immediately felt ill. I’d never seen so many people in my life. Thousands of them. Everywhere.
“Haven ascending,” a short man said into a headpiece as he darted by us.
Justin looked at me with anticipation. I just kind of squinted back. There were no words.
Two strangers flashed by, followed by the gentle creature I once knew as Chris. He didn’t seem to even notice Justin or I. Who did notice us, though, was John.
“Jesus, I thought you died,” he snarled once he caught sight of me.
“You should be so lucky,” I retorted. “Must be nerve-wracking, opening up for me.”
He scoffed loudly, “For some slutty pop act? Not so much. Have fun following us, though. It’s always a good time watching has-beens grasp at straws.”
I laughed sarcastically, “Oh yeah, ‘cause Haven is a household fucking name and all.”
“No, I’m pretty sure that’s Blair Peterson,” Justin added happily.
John rolled his eyes, grumbling a whatever, before another stranger swept him up and they crossed the stage.
“I hate him more than ever,” I laughed to my friend, nodding along with me.
They opened with one of my songs. To say that I was angry was…well, you know. But it was better than them playing one of Tyler’s, I guess. I tried to just be blasé about the whole thing.
“What’s up, LA?” their new singer screamed into the microphone. “We’re Haven and we’re here to fuck some shit up!”
They moved into a second song, which would be their final of the night, and all of us were groaning.
“Classy,” Justin noted with a laugh.
“Didn’t your guitarist die? The guitarist of that band?” Pete asked confusedly. “But they’re here to…fuck shit up?”
I just nodded.
“No wonder you left,” he chuckled.
To be fair, it would have been wrong for their new singer to address Tyler’s death. He didn’t even know Ty. But…given that everyone else was performing songs related to or in support of the event, you’d think they would have said something. Anything.
But, no. I watched in discomfort as they wrapped their very short set, thanked the cheering crowd and then bailed to the other side of the stage. I was grateful not to have to speak to them again.
Until it dawned on me that we were up next.
Mona and her crew darted onto the stage, replacing cables and kits that Haven’s crew was ripping apart.
“Okay, now I’m nervous,” I laughed. “Like…really fucking nervous.”
Justin grabbed my arms, rubbing them for comfort, “It’s going to be okay. We can’t be any worse than they were.”
“Just be yourself, B,” my bassist, Todd, cooed.
Mona exited the stage, giving me a sympathetic and yet supportive little head nod.
“Get it,” she winked at me, forgetting for a second that we were not currently friends.
They were calling us to the stage but I just wasn’t ready.
“Mona?” I called after her.
She turned to look at me, nervous.
“I’m sorry,” I said weakly. “For how I treated you a minute ago…You know you’re not some roadie.”
“I’m sorry,” she said back. “But you’re right, we can talk about it later. Go have a good show.”
I smiled, waving sheepishly.
With all my courage, I turned myself and headed—slowly—for the stage. The lights were blinding and I was immediately embarrassed, crutching along to center stage. Justin looked proud behind his drum kit. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might have missed drumming live—I’d been so busy enslaving him in the writing process for the last two and some years that it had totally slipped passed my insights.
Finally, after what felt like years, I made it.
“Sorry about that,” I laughed awkwardly into the microphone, adjusting my weight on the crutches and resting my broken leg gently onto the floor. “Life keeps trying to fucking kill me.”
The crowd cheered. I looked over my shoulder to Justin who was laughing like an idiot. This soothed me a little. Enough that I could face the crowd once more.
“I’m a little unconventional,” I continued nervously. “So…I promise we’ll get to the good stuff in a second here. But, I can appreciate that there are a lot of you in the crowd that have probably never heard of me—or never heard my music, at least.”
“My name is Blair Peterson,” I told them, adjusting the mic to sit more comfortably at my slouched level. “And three years ago I lost my best friend to suicide.”
A buzz fell over the crowd. In their defence, it probably would have been weird to cheer for that sentiment.
“I thought it might be fun to kick my set off with the last piece that he ever wrote…It’s a bit of a departure from my typical sound, so…don’t go getting too excited,” I laughed, turning to nod at my guys.
We moved into Pins and Needles with ease. I was relieved to find that I could get back into the swing of live performances without much of a hiccup. Granted, I’d sung metal for so many years that putting a rock spin on a song wasn’t exactly a challenge. I’d kept it simple—Tyler had made it beautiful.
“How did I ever let you go?” I finished solemnly.
My band faded out and the crowd went wild. The production value on this show was like nothing Haven had ever accomplished in my time with them. The lights were crazy and the sound quality was unparalleled. For a second, I felt like a true musician.
“Thank you,” I squeaked into the mic bashfully.
I waited for the crowd to settle just a little as I moved from center stage to the piano to stage left. The lights followed me as I moved ever-so-slowly. I sat with great relief, my leg throbbing already.
“This next one goes out to my best friends,” I said, swallowing my sadness. “They couldn’t be here tonight…But this one was written for them, about them…and I’d like to sing it for you all now.”
One lone light hit my face.
I took a deep breath, ready to start on my own.
“Carry me home, got my blue nail polish on. It's my favorite color and my favorite tone of song…”
Pete jumped in with light chords, enveloping me in comradery.
“I don't really want to break up, we got it going on; it's what you gathered from my talk, but you were wrong.”
Justin’s queue was met and I couldn’t help but smile as our sound built slowly, beautifully.
“It's not easy for me to talk about…A half-life in lost dreams and not simple, it's trigonometry. It's hard to express…I can't explain.”
With one hand in the air, the lights went up as the bass kicked in and we all grooved together in the deepest, darkest part of my soul.
“Ever since my baby went away, it's been the blackest day. It’s been the blackest day. All I hear is Billie Holiday; it's all that I play. Because I'm going deeper and deeper, harder and harder. Getting darker and darker…Looking for love in all the wrong places.”
My eyes scanned the crowd, hopeful that I might spot Brian. At first, I came up short and was certain that I needed glasses. But then I spotted him—and all of the guys from Avenged. They made a banner and everything. Brian was shouting and cheering and the others were bobbing along.
It was enough to make my heart full.
“Carry me home, got my new car and my gun. Wind in my hair, holding your hand, listen to a song…Carry me home, don't wanna talk about the things to come. Just put your hands up in the air, the radio on.”
I could almost see Jimmy, his hands above his head, his eyes alight. I was struggling with this verse, I’d written it with him in mind and…it was difficult to share.
“'Cause there's nothing for us to talk about…like the future and those things. 'Cause there's nothing for me to think about.”
I took a deep breath, purposely looking away from Brian.
“Now that he's gone, I can't feel nothing. Ever since my baby went away, it's been the blackest day, it's been the blackest day. All I hear is Billie Holiday; it's all that I play… Because I'm going deeper and deeper, harder and harder. Getting darker and darker. Looking for love… in all the wrong places.”
I wished that I could move around. It was strange to be so stagnant. When I’d performed with Haven, I’d run around the stage, jumping and dancing and doing my thing. But now, I was stuck here in my fiberglass prison, unable to walk without wooden aid. So, I busied my hands with piano keys as my guys continued the build.
“You should've known better than to have let her get you under her spell of the weather. I got you where I want you. You did it, I never…I'm falling for forever. I got you where I want you. I got you, I got you. I got you where I want you now.”
We moved back into the chorus, which helped save me from losing it on stage. I looked back at Brian, his arms above his head as he watched me bare my soul to the world. For Tyler, for Jimmy, and for myself.
“It's not one of those phases I'm going through, or just a song…It's not one of them…I'm on my own. On my own. On my own again. I'm on my own again.”
A little tear slipped from my green eyes when I wasn’t paying attention. I wiped it away with the back of my hand as the crowd went wild. I’d never felt a rush like this. For a second, I was healed.
We were set to move into my hit from the first album, also written about Tyler. But, as a last second impulse, I quickly and frantically waved for Todd to run over.
“What’s up?” he asked in my ear once he was by my side.
“Scratch the last song,” I told him seriously.
He leaned back to give me his most intense ‘what the fuck’ face.
“It’s fine,” I laughed. “There’s a song…I just need the piano. Can you move the others into the wings?”
He nodded awkwardly before running off and gathering my guys. They both looked at me weirdly but didn’t argue. I knew I’d hear about it later from Justin but I just didn’t care.
“Little change of plans,” I laughed into the piano mic. “We were going to play Old Money for you guys—”
The crowd went nuts. I instantly pegged those as my fans. They caused a most sincere smile to form behind my saddened face.
I took a deep breath, “I’ve…I’ve lost a lot of people in my life. I just recently lost someone very dear to me…and it, um, it brought out some real…struggles. So, let’s get personal for a second here.”
I spun my hips so that I could face the crowd, leaning back just enough to still properly use the piano mic.
“If you know someone who’s going through some really dark shit…or if you are that person…I’m not going to tell you it gets better. I don’t know if it does. What I do know, though, is that you have to look within yourself and find a strength…reach out to ones you love the most and hold onto them with everything you have…you never know when it’s going to be the last time.”
I’d successfully bummed everyone out.
“Have faith in something,” I added a little more enthusiastically. “This next song is called Change.”
I glanced at Brian quickly as my fingers slid across the keys slowly. He had his hands over his heart, bless him.
My piano and I, alone, began.
“There's something in the wind, I can feel it blowing in. It's coming in softly on the wings of a bomb. There's something in the wind, I can feel it blowing in. It's coming in hotly and it's coming in strong. Lately I've been thinking it's just someone else's job to care…Who am I to sympathize when no one gave a damn? I've been thinking it's just someone else's job to care. Who am I to wanna try?”
The crowd was quiet. Listening. I was grateful.
All I wanted was to help someone, anyone, to understand that they weren’t alone…that it could be better. That I understood.
“But…Change is a powerful thing. People are powerful beings. Trying to find the power in me to be faithful…Change is a powerful thing. I feel it coming in me…Maybe by the time this song is done I'll be able to be honest… capable of holding you in my arms without letting you fall when I don't feel beautiful or stable. Maybe it's enough to just be where we are because…every time that we run we don't know what it's from. Now we finally slow down, we feel close to it. There's a change gonna come; I don't know where or when. But whenever it does, we'll be here for it.”
I moved into piano, resting my voice for a second as the crowd finally erupted once more. My eyes found the Avenged boys, who were all unmoving, their faces sullen from what I could make out.
This was a song that Brian needed to hear. He needed to know—I was getting there. I was getting to that place where everything would be okay.
He needed to know that I loved him.
“There's something in the wind, I can feel it blowing in. It's coming in softly on the wings of a song. There's something in the water, I can taste it turning sour…It's bitter, I'm coughing. But now it's in my blood.”
As I moved back into the chorus, I couldn’t help but think about what was racing through Brian’s mind. What would he think of me? A sappy mess on stage singing about depression, willing people to push through when I couldn’t even do it myself? Was I just the queen of hypocrites? I wanted to believe that I meant the words I sang.
I was almost sure that I did.
“Lately I've been thinking it's just someone else's job to care. Who am I to sympathize when no one gave a damn? I've been thinking it's just someone else's job to care. 'Cause who am I to wanna try but change is a powerful thing. People are powerful beings. Trying to find the power in me to be faithful. Change is a powerful thing, I feel it coming in me. Maybe by the time this song is done, I'll be able to be honest, capable…Of holding you in my arms without letting you fall when I don't feel beautiful or stable. Maybe it's enough to just be where we are because every time that we run we don't know what it's from. Now we finally slow down, we feel close to it. There's a change gonna come, I don't know where or when…But whenever it does, we'll be here for it.”
My fingers slid across the piano, my throat fighting the urge to rebel as emotions began to well up.
“Yeah, whenever it does…We'll be here for it.”
The Blackest Day and Change, both by Lana Del Rey
In case you're curious, here are some links. In case you can't tell, I seriously love Lana. Most of her shit, anyway. And doesn't her sad, sad stuff just fit so perfectly with our Blair?
The Blackest Day: