Through All the Dust
Chapter Sixty-Six: War of the Worlds
We’d cleared another sound check, which had honestly become tiresome by day three. Mona was rewiring a guitar pack, citing a technological issue was the culprit for the delay in the audio. I hadn’t even noticed a problem, so I left it up to her; she was the professional after all.
As I pulled up a seat atop one of the amps, watching as Justin wildly berated the drum tech for an “out-of-place” ride. Justin was a bit compulsive when it came to all things percussion. Everything had to be perfect, and given that his drum tech was still pretty new to the industry, he was still not up to Justin’s standards. I felt bad for the guy; he was trying his best. But, at the end of the day, it really wasn’t my business and I felt absolutely no inclination to intervene. They’d sort it out.
My phone vibrated in my pocket, startling my heart into ignition. I had a general rule that cell phones were left in the buses during check; we were all easily distracted and I preferred to get sound check done and dealt with as quickly and painlessly as possible. While I didn’t want to be called out for being a hypocrite, I figured check was done and it was safe to pull out the mobile.
With a bit of a smile, I flipped it open and held it to my ear.
“Hey, what’s up?” I breathed into the phone.
“Oh!” he replied awkwardly. “I honestly thought I’d catch your voicemail. Aren’t you supposed to be at check?”
“I am,” I told him simply, pinning the phone between my cheek and shoulder so I could reach down and weakly massage my throbbing leg.
It had started to become a real problem in the days leading up. I was sure it was from excessive use—the pins and rods beneath the skin probably weren’t designed to withstand concerts night after night. So, the pain had returned and it was arguably worse than when I’d initially shattered it to bits.
“And you have your phone?” Brian asked suspiciously. “Everything okay?”
I laughed lightly, “Everything is fine. What’s up, Bri?”
“I just left the Sullivan’s,” he told me, his breathing a bit ragged. “They had an interesting proposition.”
“Oh?” I mused, sitting straight and trying my best to simply neglect the ache in my limb.
I heard Brian’s car roar to life. If simply walking to his car was exhausting his lungs enough to run his chest dry, I started to think maybe it was time he hung up the cigarettes. But I knew he’d never go for it—he could be diagnosed with COPD and he’d probably still insist that Marlboros were the greatest gift ever given to man.
“I brought Owen over there,” he began, “since, you know, it’s Thursday and Thursday is Browen day.”
“Uh huh,” I smiled.
Every single Thursday since I’d left, Brian had essentially kidnapped Owen from Lauren. I wasn’t really sure what they got up to during those Thursday outings, but Brian was always gushing about them and looking forward to the next one. I was overrun with jealousy—I missed the baby snuggles.
“And Joe was talking about how excited he is to have Owen for a week,” Brian continued happily. “And how good it’ll be for Lauren to get away for a bit.”
Everyone began to dissipate from the stage, except Mona. She had swooped in as the drum tech’s shoulder. Given that she knew Justin better than anyway, it probably made sense that she let his tech vent to her—she knew how absolutely infuriating he could be. Maybe she’d talk to Justin about it.
“What’s the proposition?” I urged, the pain in my leg growing to be nearly unbearable.
I just wanted to get out of the venue and into my bed.
“Would you want a Lauren for a few extra days?” he asked cheerfully.
“She’ll never go for that,” I dismissed quickly. “No way will she leave Owen for an extra hour let alone an extra few days.”
Brian laughed, “She’s already down, Blair. We asked her. Joe and Barb want baby time and Lauren wants Blair time. Turns out you’re important to her, too.”
The sentiment was warming, and yet I felt nearly nothing. How quickly I’d climbed back into my nest of apathy. This time around, I was self-aware enough to realize what was happening. I clawed my way back up the surface, pushing myself to really listen.
“Send me the dates,” I told Brian. “I’ll make it work.”
“We’re thinking next Saturday,” he replied quickly. “I don’t have your schedule handy. Where are you next weekend?”
I closed one eye in thought, scanning my mental calendar, “I want to say…Texas? Maybe? I think so.”
“Okay,” Brian breathed. “I’ll check out flights for her tonight.”
I nodded, like he could see me, “Just throw it on my card.”
“I’ve got it,” he assured me.
My phone began to vibrate from within my palm. I could only assume it was Lauren eager to break the good news. But all I could think about was the sheer amount of pain making its way up my body.
“Bri, I have to let you go,” I said abruptly, having had more than enough of the tension in my bionic limb.
I needed drugs. And I needed them now.
“Yeah, okay,” he cooed. “You’re okay, right? You don’t sound very excited…”
I bit at my lip like it was my favourite meal. Even from across the country, the man could read me like a children’s picture book.
“I’m fine,” I assured him unconvincingly. “I’m honestly just…I’m in a lot of pain and I need to go and drown it out.”
His voice dipped, “Leg again?”
“Mhm,” I hummed impatiently. “I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Okay,” he mimicked hesitantly. “I love you.”
“Yeah,” I replied without any sort of sensitivity.
I flipped my phone shut and stuffed it back into my pocket with no regard to the alerts that were still coming through. As I tried to shift my weight onto my feet, my nerves shot out in anguish. A grunt and a curse or two and I tried again.
“Mona!” I groaned loudly, realizing there was no way I was fighting to my heels alone.
She glanced over at me as I sheepishly waved her over. I absolutely hated to ask for help—but I didn’t want to sleep atop the amp, so I didn’t see that I had much choice.
Like the good friend she was, she abandoned her own life to jog over to me.
“I’m a turtle,” I told her with a faint grin.
Her brow-line contorted, “You’re a what?”
“A turtle,” I said again. “I can’t get up.”
“Oh,” she laughed. “You mean you’re ninety.”
“I haven’t fallen, Mona,” I teased, extending my hands out to her in a nonverbal means of asking her to pull me up. “I’m a turtle on its back.”
As she grabbed onto me and used all of her weight to pull me to my feet, she smiled, “But you’re not on your back.”
“Semantics,” I waved off.
I chuckled, “Tell you what, I’ll meet you in the middle and concede to being a ninety year old turtle.”
“Fine,” she smiled. “It’s your world, B. I just live in it.”
She released my hands, waiting hesitantly as I steadied myself. I threw all of my weight onto the leg that hadn’t been broken apart and welded back together. My hip was starting to really feel the strain I’d been inflicting on it—but I didn’t have a choice. So, neither did it.
“Do you need help walking back?” Mona asked me knowingly. “I’ll just be a few more minutes.”
I shook my head, “No thanks.”
“Mona,” I retorted warningly. “I’m fine.”
I limped off, desperate to avoid the conversation where she reminded me how very stubborn I could be. I wasn’t in the mood. I’d had enough of feeling down and out about who I was—a liability, right? Resentment pushed me forward. This had been the paradigm of my life. I tried my best to exist for other people, to find a place in the world, and then something life-altering and absolutely tragic would be bestowed upon my already heavy shoulders.
Why could nothing ever stay intact?
I couldn’t even maintain my body. It, too, had betrayed me. I would forever carry around the scars of someone else’s mistake. Because of other people, my life was in a constant state of disrepair. At least other people had the luxury of dismantling themselves; all I could hope to do was to learn to better manage my damage.
It was unfair. It had always been unfair. It was only a matter of time before something new and unarguably detrimental would be, again, thrown my way. So, what was the fucking point?
I used the frustration as momentum to use my dead weight leg. Once I reached the bus, I used the handle to pull my tired body inside. The guys were scattered about but I paid them absolutely no attention. Instead, I grabbed my small bag as I passed the bunks and then shut myself into the tiny bathroom.
With a little shake, three white pills fell into my palm. I threw them into the back of my throat without a second thought. I’d developed a tolerance and had been trying to slow down on my daily intake. They were prescribed, I’d reminded myself. I’m supposed to take them.
But Jimmy’s were prescribed, too.
I glanced down to the orange bottle in my grip, and for a second seriously considered taking them all.
I could throw these all back and go the fuck to sleep.
What a compelling compulsion that was. I bet it was peaceful. There was no way it wasn’t. It would have to be a delicate balance, though. Not enough and you’d wake up with violence. Your body would attempt to eject everything it had metabolized and you’d be found in a vile state of being. But just enough…hell, let’s overcompensate…and then I could drift away into the clouds.
I could leave the way Jimmy left. To hell with the wake I’d force to crack the concrete. To hell with what it might do to anyone else. I just wanted out.
Brian wasn’t enough. Nothing was enough. There was nothing I’d given to this world, or that the world had given back, that was enough to wash away the stains of my suffering.
I just wanted out.
I shook the bottle once more, six little pills falling into my palm. That wouldn’t be enough. Another shake.
I dumped the bottle into my hand and made a quick move to swallow them as a whole. But I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror—just a quick, fading and fleeting glance. And I didn’t recognize that girl staring back at me with contempt in her eyes.
How dare you, she’d had written all over her face.
Hesitating, I dared to look at myself.
Staring back at me was a wife. A friend. A daughter.
I was the whole world for several people…important people. What was I doing? What gave me the right? Who the fuck did I think I was?
If I gave into that impulse, I was no better than Tyler. No…I was worse than Tyler. He, at the very least, was forthcoming with his demons. I was a different breed. I kept them chained up in the attic and fed them in private, denying their existence to anyone who’d grow suspicious.
I was so fucked.
Maybe Tyler had been right all those years ago…Maybe keeping everything under lock and key had proven to be more harmful than good. I’d never felt so disconnected from myself.
Maybe not never…But it was quickly growing to be out of my control.
I dumped the temptation back into the bottle and sealed the lid on tight. Using the toilet as a makeshift chair, I eased my way onto it. My mind began to race. That persistent urge to leave still prevalent as ever. But I was trying to crawl out. I wanted to…
I did the only thing I could think to do.
As the phone rang in my ear, I bit a hole through my bottom lip. I couldn’t feel a thing.
“Hey,” Brian answered shortly.
“Brian,” my voice pleaded—it had come out so desperate that I was officially concerned that I was completely out of control.
“I…” I glanced around the tiny bathroom for answers. “I need to talk to someone.”
He paused, “What’s wrong, Blair?”
“I don’t think it can be you,” I said carefully. “I can’t…You don’t…I don’t…”
“Blair,” he snapped worriedly. “What’s going on?”
“It’s happening again,” I said flatly.
His voice was panicked, “I’m coming. I’m getting on a plane right now.”
“No you’re not,” I argued softly. “Please don’t.”
“I can’t keep leaning on everyone,” I told him seriously. “That’s been my whole life, you know? I throw myself into other people…and now I don’t know how to stand on my own. You can’t keep rescuing me. At some point… I need to save myself.”
He was quiet on the other end.
“But I’m struggling,” I finished sternly.
“Talk to me,” he urged.
While I desperately wanted to, I couldn’t. He could never know the extent to which my mind had wandered. He’d never look at me the same. He’d never be worry free. I’d already put him through so much….too much.
“I can’t,” I decided aloud. “But I’m going to have Gabe set something up. This is out of our league, Bri.”
“I fucking knew something was up,” he growled into the phone.
He was always beating himself up when I’d fall off the track in any way, shape, or form. He kicked himself every time he let me out of his sight. I was cursed. And so was he, by extension.
“I know,” I sighed. “I’m sorry.”
He hesitated, “You don’t need to be sorry, Blair.”
“Hearing your voice helps,” I smiled faintly. “That’s all I wanted. I just needed to hear your voice.”
“You worry me,” he told me seriously.
I nodded to myself, “I worry me, too.”
Although we didn’t talk about me, we talked for an hour. I stayed in that bathroom until the drugs had kicked in and Justin had kicked me out. Only then did I crawl into my bunk, still unwilling to face the world. Brian had effectively reigned me back in, if only for the time being.
I just needed to survive another week. One week. And then the light of my life would arrive in all her sandy blonde glory…But then she’d leave again.
Focus on now.
I was really fucking struggling.