In which our hero’s life has spiralled so far out of control that he clings on to the one thing he has command over…
I shake my head and continue playing my guitar, not looking up at Duff. He sighs audibly and sits down on the couch next to me.
"Come on Izz! You haven't gone out with us for a while. Don't you want some yummy pizza?"
Again, I just shake my head, concentrating hard on the sounds I'm making and avoiding Duff's eyes. Then Axl walks in and sits on the arm of the couch on the other side of me. Not good.
"You guys coming? We finally kicked the car back to life. It might die any minute now but it should get us to our pizza." He says.
Duff stands up and walks towards the door, picking up his jacket along the way. He stops and turns and I know he's looking at me. I can feel him staring. But I don't look up.
"It's just gonna be the four of us." Duff says to Axl, and with that he strolls out of the apartment and out to the car in which Slash and Steven are waiting.
Axl slides down the arm of the couch and flops down next to me, nudging me slightly in his graceful fall. He stares at me expectantly, like he's waiting for me to look at him but I don't.
"Izzy why don't you come with us."
It's not a question, more a suggestion. I ignore him and keep strumming. Axl doesn't give up that easy though. He stands up and walks over so that he's now standing in front of me, casting his shadow over me.
I sigh and look up at him. It's hard to say no to him when he's being cute.
"Maybe some other time." Is all I can say.
I smile at him before resting the guitar on my lap, leaning back onto the couch and lighting up a cigarette.
"Some other time then." Axl sighs and leaves the apartment to join the rest of the guys, leaving me alone.
"This would have been more fun if Izzy was here." Slash says as he chews his pizza. I agree with him.
The four of us were sitting in our favourite pizza place tucking into three large pizzas covered in all our favourite toppings. Being so poor we don't really eat good food. McDonalds coupons and cheap pizzas are all we can get our hands on. But it's not as if we actually care about eating healthy. Fuck nutrition this tastes too damn good.
"Yeah he never hangs out with us anymore." Steven adds.
"Yes he does," I object, "Sometimes he just likes staying home instead of going out."
"Well why?" Duff asks.
"I dunno." I shrug and sip my Pepsi.
I think I do know why Izzy isn't here but I don't know how to tell the guys. Or even if I should tell the guys.
Lying on the couch with a beer in one hand and the TV remote in the other. It's another boring night for me then. There's nothing on tonight. A documentary on elephants, some crappy chick flick, the news...I had decided on cartoons and gotten myself comfortable.
It's been hours already and I don't know how long the guys have been gone but just as Jerry was about to stick Tom's tail into the mousetrap, they stroll into the room, apart from Slash who is being carried by Duff. They're all drunk except Axl. After saying hellos and goodbyes to me Duff, Steven and Slash wobble upstairs to bed leaving Axl alone with me again.
He sits down on the edge of the couch to avoid sitting on me. I suspiciously eye up the paper bag in his hand.
"Brought you some dinner!"
Axl places the small bag of fries in front of my face and I can't stop myself from scrunching up my nose in disgust and pushing it away.
"It's only fries!" He cries as he pushes the bag back to me.
"I'm not very hungry. Maybe later."
Just as I said it my idiot stomach gives out a loud, obvious rumble. I look up at Axl and to my great dismay he had noticed it. He grabs my hand and drags me off the couch and into the kitchen where he sits me down at the table like I'm some sort of child. He starts rummaging through the cupboards and brings back a plate and sets it in front of me and pours the fries onto it.
"Enjoy!" He smiles as he sits down opposite me at the table.
I look down at the fries in front of me, watching them and willing them to jump off the plate and attack Axl. But they don't.
I sigh and start tucking into my dinner, occasionally glaring at Axl who is monitoring me as I eat.
"Want some?" I offer.
Axl shakes his head and continues watching me with narrow eyes. It's really starting to piss me off.
"Why are you staring at me?" I ask.
"Why did you say you weren't hungry?" He fires back.
I don't know what to say so I shove another fry into my mouth and shrug. Why can't Axl just go away?
"How come you don't come with the rest of us when we go out for food?"
Again I shrug and avoid Axl's glare, now just poking at my fries rather than eating them. What was with Axl and the questions today?
He's avoiding looking up at me again. I notice he's stopped eating his dinner. He can't possibly be full already, he only ate like four fries. He's probably hating me for asking him all these questions but I can't just ignore it can I? He's my best friend and I love him too much to not care.
"Izzy you haven't been eating anything for more than a week now." I say it quietly and calmly so as not to make him mad, or even worse, upset.
I search his face but find nothing. Big brown eyes stare beyond me, blank of any emotion.
He doesn't say anything for a few minutes, just stares at the wall, avoiding my eyes and the fries.
"Yes I have."
I just about heard it. He spoke so quietly it was as if he had whispered it to me from a million miles away.
"Liar." I couldn't help saying it with venom.
I've noticed it. Even if the guys haven't, I definitely have. He doesn't fucking eat any more! Maybe a nibble of half a biscuit here and there but he doesn't eat actual food. He's been getting skinnier and skinnier every day. And Izzy's always been a skinny guy so that's not a good thing at all.
"Axl I am eating! Stop asking me stupid questions!"
Now he's angry. Fucking great. I just sit back and glare at him.
"Why do you care anyway? You're not my fucking mother Axl!" He screams at me before pushing the plate away and storming out of the kitchen.
That fucking hurt. Why do I care? Because he's my best fucking friend! Of course I care that he's not eating and turning into a fucking skeleton! I can hear him stomping up the stairs and slamming our bedroom door shut. I hate his guts right now. Hate his guts for not just telling me the truth.
What's it to him if I don't eat? Goddamnit! What an asshole! I pace back and forth in my bedroom. Our bedroom. Fuck I'm gonna have to face him again tonight. I curse this apartment for being so small. Maybe I could switch with one of the others. I open the door and slowly creep across the hall and into Duff and Steven's room. I can't see much in the dim light. Just enough to know not to step on Slash who's passed out on the floor at the foot of the bed. Duff and Steven are sprawled on the bed, snoring loudly. I shake Duff gently and his eyes slowly open and he groggily looks up at me, annoyed and confused.
"What?" He moans and buries his face in the pillow.
"Duff can I sleep here tonight?" I ask as sweetly as I can. Duff's usually an angel but now he's drunk and tired so I'm totally gambling it.
"Fuck off Izz! It's already crowded enough in here."
He rolls over so that he's got his back to me and pulls the covers over his head. I'm desperate, I pull them back down and plead.
"Please Duff! You can sleep with Axl tonight! Please just let me stay here?"
He rolls back over and looks at me with a cocked eyebrow.
"You two have a fight?"
I nod and bite my lip. Please say yes, please say yes...
He rolls over again and points towards the door. Fine then! Fuck him anyway! I trudge back into my room and shut the door as loud as I can, hoping the sound pierces through Duff's head like a bullet on fire. I'm surrounded by assholes.
I take off my jeans and my t-shirt and crawl onto my side of the bed. If I'm still awake when mommy dearest comes in I'll pretend I'm asleep. I could pretend I'm dead to scare him. That would be funny.
I shouldn't be so angry. I shouldn't be so moody but I am. I'm so fucking hungry! My tummy hurts so much and every now and again I feel really dizzy and think I'm gonna pass out. Oh well...at least it's better than eating...
I slowly and quietly enter the room, just in case Izzy's asleep. I hope he is. I don't want him to lash out at me again. The lights are off so I assume he's in bed. I take off all my clothes except my underwear, because being naked under the sheets with your best friend is not cool. I'm extra careful taking off my bangles so as not to make them jingle.
I crawl under the sheets beside his sleeping body and stare at him. He's lying on his side facing me; eyes closed and hair falling onto his face. He looks so peaceful. I reach out and gently brush the dark waves off of his skin and run my fingers along his bony cheeks and razor blade jaw line. Why doesn't he eat anymore?
Questions fill my head and I'm exhausted trying to figure them all out. I slowly drift into a dreamless sleep and next thing I know the afternoon sun is shining into the room, casting an orange glow over Izzy and me.
I yawn and rub my eyes. I can't stand the sunlight when I wake up. Curling up into a ball, I pull the covers up over my shoulders. I look over at Izzy and he's still asleep, lying on his back with his head turned away from me. After a few moments of just staring at him I pull the covers down, off of both of us. I sit up and my jaw almost drops from utter shock.
Izzy really has turned into a walking, talking, guitar-playing skeleton. He's so skinny his ribs are sticking out. I can see every single one of them, protruding up out of his pale skin. His stomach isn't just flat, it's fucking concave and his hipbones are so sharp I'm surprised they don't cut right through his skin. His arms and legs are so thin I could probably wrap my hands around them. There's nothing left to him. No fat, no muscle, no flesh whatsoever. He's just skin and bones. Soon to be fucking dust if this whole no eating bullshit doesn't stop.
Suddenly an idea pops into my head. I pull the covers back over Izzy. God knows he needs it, it's not as if he's got body fat to keep him warm. I throw some clothes on and grab Slash's keys before leaving the room and heading downstairs and out the front door. This better fucking work.
Bright sunlight penetrates my eyelids. I pull the covers over my head and turn my back to the window. It's cold on this side of the bed. I open my eyes and pull the covers down and I see no Axl. He's usually not up this early. Maybe he didn't even go to bed last night. Good! I still hate him! Hope he's dead...
I let out a sigh because I know it's the pain inside my body that's talking. I don't hate Axl, I know I love him to death but I'm hungry and moody and I've just woken up.
And then I smell it. The sweet, delicious smell of pancakes. Pancakes like I used to have back in Indiana. My mom used to make them. I haven't had any since coming to LA. They're my favourite food in the whole world. Pancakes covered in dripping, melted chocolate...
I practically jump out of bed and run downstairs and into the kitchen but stop dead in my tracks when I see the sight before me. Axl is alive and he's making pancakes, expertly flipping them about. Another familiar smell hits me and I look over to the direction it's coming from. Melted chocolate, bubbling away in a pot.
I walk over and stand next to Axl and watch him as he pours another little pool of batter into the pan. What the fuck is he doing? He never gets up this early, especially not to make pancakes. If these are for me, I definitely don't hate him anymore.
That bony little fucker better appreciate all this effort. Getting up early, driving to the shops to get ingredients and then calling his mom to tell me how to make these goddamn pancakes. I remember her making these in the mornings when I'd stay the night over at his place. It's a sure fire way to get Izzy to eat something. Make him his favourite food. I'm a genius.
Just as I'm about to pour the last few drops of batter into the pan I feel something brush against my arm, making me jump out of my skin.
The idiot laughs at me being startled.
"I didn't think you'd be up so soon." I say as I resume my pancake making and my normal pulse rate.
"Me? What about you!" He says, "You're always the last to wake up and here you are making pancakes!"
I don't say anything back to him. I just flip the pancake onto the stack that I've already made, like a tower of pancakes balancing on a tiny plate. I carry the plate over to the table and place it into the middle before going back to get the pot of melted chocolate. Use your oven gloves, don't forget to put the pot stand on the table, wait a minute or two before pouring the chocolate... I asked Mrs. Isbelle every last detail about this preparation. All to make Izzy eat again.
I turn to look at him and see him eyeing up the pancakes anxiously. That makes me worried. What if this plan doesn't work and he's so far gone that he won't even eat his favourite food?
I hear a loud grumble and Izzy immediately clutches his stomach, grimacing as if he's in dire pain. He probably is.
"Izzy you need to eat."
He just stands there holding himself, staring longingly at the food.
"I'm not hungry." His says it like a sulking child.
I'm not in the mood for this.
"Izzy if you say that one more time I swear to God I'll hold you down and shove these fucking pancakes down your skinny little throat!"
He looks at me, wide eyed and startled by my yelling. After a moment he slowly pulls out a chair and sits down at the table. My heart breaks as I look at his sad face. I feel bad for yelling now.
"I'm sorry Izz."
He doesn't say anything. Just turns his head away from me. I sit down next to him and wait for him to say something, anything. He doesn't though. I can't stop myself from staring at his body. He's so skinny, so bony. If the wind blew he'd probably fall over. If you touched him he'd probably break.
And then he turns his head back to look at me and I hear that tiny voice of his and it melts my heart.
"Thank you for making me pancakes."
He leans over to give me a hug, wrapping his thin arms around my shoulders. I gently squeeze him back, feeling the hardness of bone against my own body. And it scares me to death.
I know what he's trying to do. He's trying to fatten me up again. Trying to make me eat again by making my favourite food. Nice try Axl. He's hardly going to make pancakes with melted chocolate every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can tell he's worried about me so I'll ease that worry for now. I'll eat these. He went through all that trouble just for me and they do taste amazing. Just like mom used to make them.
I eat as slowly as I can, taking ages to chew one tiny bit of pancake at a time and sipping lots of water in between. The water should fill me up and if I take ages on one pancake I won't have to take more. The rest of the guys will be down soon so I'm counting on them to eat the rest of the pancakes. Even though this tastes so good, there's still something inside me making me feel ill. I feel so repulsed by the fact that I'm filling my body with food. It makes me want to throw up...
Duff and Slash slowly enter the kitchen and sit down at the table with us. They're like zombies in their hung over states.
"Who made pancakes?" Duff asks, rubbing his eyes.
"They better be good." Slash says jokingly as he fills his plate up.
Izzy thanks me again for breakfast before he gets up and leaves. I'm a little more relaxed now. I think this is the first time he's had breakfast in ten days. I really hope this keeps up.
"What are you smiling about?" Duff asks, licking chocolate off his fingers.
I just smile back at him some more. I'm so glad my plan worked. Izzy's going to go back to normal now. He's going to eat again and he won't die of starvation and malnutrition. Somewhere in the distance I can hear Steven upstairs banging on a door and yelling.
"Izzy get out of the bathroom, I need to pee!"
Fucking Steven! I wipe my mouth and flush the toilet before opening the door. He's hopping about on his feet holding his dick in his desperation to pee.
"I'm gonna fucking burst!"
He tries to push past me but I decide to fuck with him instead. I block the doorway and grin down at him.
"Izzy! Get out of the way!"
I keep doing it a couple of times until he can't take it anymore. He ploughs right through me, winding me and knocking me to the ground and running to the toilet to relieve himself. I hear him pissing as I gather myself up off the floor. That fucking hurt! I turn to glare at him as I walk to the sink but he's too busy in his own euphoric state to notice.
I quickly brush my teeth and rinse before he gets over here to wash his hands. I'm not in the mood to talk to him. Or to anyone for that matter. My throat is fucking killing me.
Steven's making sandwiches and I'm trying to think of ways of avoiding them. Axl's out so I don't have to worry about him seeing me ditch food again. I guess I'll just use the age-old excuse.
"No thanks, I'm not hungry." I say as he holds up a plate full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in front of my face.
"Do you ever eat?" Steven says with a mouth full of food.
"Yeah man you must have no appetite whatsoever!" Duff says laughing.
I laugh with them, trying to act normal and not raise suspicion. I don't need to worry though. I'm talking to the ditsiest blondes in LA.
"I have an appetite!" Steven says excitedly.
"An appetite for what?" Duff asks.
"Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...duh!"
They both laugh like idiots and so do I, at the sheer stupidity of them.
"A girl I went to school with had no appetite." Duff says.
"What happened to her?" Steven asks, interested.
"She just didn't eat. She got skinnier and skinnier until she was a skeleton! It was really scary. And she was a really nice girl. Such a shame that she was anorexic."
Anorexic. The word itself makes me shiver to the bone.
"You better not be anorexic Izzy! Or else Steven and I will have to strap you to a chair and feed you like a baby!"
The goofy laughter erupts again and I laugh too, a little more nervously this time.
This is my new favourite song. I love singing it. We only started writing it yesterday and it's already finished and ready for fucking recording! Which we would do, had we a record deal. The guitar parts are so amazing and Duff and Steven make it all that much better. The lyrics are so sexy in this song and I haven't told the guys yet, but I'm thinking of recording a sex act to dub over the slide solo. That'd be cool.
We've got the amps turned up and we're playing the living shit out of this song. Sometimes practising is more fun than doing the actual gig.
There's a cool change in the song near the end and just as it's about to climax I hear a loud crash of guitar noise and then the piercing sound of amp feedback.
I really love this song but right now I'm not in the mood to play it. I'm so hungry and my insides hurt so much. The muscles in my throat are aching and it's hard to concentrate on what I'm doing.
And then the dizziness kicks in. The room starts spinning like crazy and my head suddenly feels light. I feel the eyeballs rolling back in my head and then black.
I slowly open my eyes to see four pairs of very frightened eyes staring down at me. I'm suddenly aware of an excruciating pain in my bones, my back especially. I try to get up but Duff gently pushes me back down. It's better that way; the light-headedness hasn't gone away yet.
"Izz man, are you alright? You passed out!" Slash sounds genuinely concerned about me.
"Yeah Izzy, what was that all about? Are you sick?" Steven asks, also worried.
"Do you want me to get you some water?" Duff offers.
He's such a saint. I slowly nod and he smiles down at me. He gets up and disappears into the kitchen while Slash helps get my guitar off me. I love my friends. I look over at Axl, getting a little full of myself with all this attention. I'm expecting him to baby me, place a pillow under my head or maybe rub my aching back but the look in his eyes wrenches my heart. He looks like he's about to cry.
"Izzy maybe you fainted because you're hungry from not eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?" Steven suggests.
Shit Steven! With my heart in my throat I look at Axl, ready for him to kill me, but he doesn't. I can see tears welling up in his big green eyes.
I quickly turn away before Duff comes back and hands me a cold glass of water. Steven and Slash slowly help me up into a sitting position so that I can drink it. I don't dare look at Axl. If I do I'll probably cry. The realisation of what I'm doing has just hit me. The realisation of what I'm doing to not only myself but to my friends.
I'm slowly killing myself by not eating. I'm too exhausted to do anything anymore, I'm always cranky and I lash out at my friends, I get dizzy every now and again and I'm scaring Axl. This is the first time I've actually passed out and it just had to be in front of the guys didn't it?
"Guys do you mind if I talk to Izzy alone?"
I'm trying my best not to burst into tears. Slash and Steven get up and leave the room, glancing back at Izzy with faces full of fear. Duff gives Izzy a hug and a kiss before taking his empty glass and leaving.
He's not looking at me again. I don't know why though. He's probably afraid I'll yell at him like I did in the kitchen. I'm not going to yell at him. I'm too scared to yell.
"Izzy you can't go on like this."
He stays silent. He's got his thin arms wrapped around his skinny legs, which are pulled up to his bony chest.
He shakes his head before resting it on his knees, facing away from me.
Now I can't hold back the tears. I start sobbing and sniffling, wiping away the tears flowing down my cheeks. Why can't Izzy just go back to normal? He doesn't even look like Izzy anymore. He's become a pale shadow of my best friend, all sharp angles and deep hollows.
I crawl over to sit next to him and I can feel his bones next to my body, shaking.
"Why don't you eat Izzy?"
I can feel his body shake some more and I place a hand on his shoulder. He finally looks up at me with silent tears running down his cheeks.
"It's the only thing I can control."
I can barely hear his voice even though his face is inches away from mine.
"You have control over everything you do Izzy!"
He shakes his head again and buries his face in his knees.
"Izz what about music? You have control over the music you make! You're an amazing guitar player and the music you write and produce is incredible!"
"But we haven't got a record deal and we're not getting gigs." He says, face still hidden so his voice comes out muffled.
Then it all comes out. He shares with me everything that's going on in his mind. I never even realised how insecure Izzy was. I always looked up to him because he always seemed so sure of what he was doing. Going to LA, playing guitar, wanting to be in a band, he was dead set on doing everything his way. I really admired that. But now he's confessing all his insecurities to me. With every uncertainty he cries even harder. I rub his back and try and calm him down but I don't say anything. I just sit and listen. Something I should have done since a long time ago.
"And the drugs too! I thought I could have some kind of control with the drugs but it was the other way round Axl! They took control over me!"
Now he's bawling his eyes out the way a baby does. He is like a little baby. Tiny, delicate and scared.
I hold him close to me and we say nothing for a while. After his crying calms down, wide brown eyes with tearstains underneath look up at me. I wipe the tears away before leaning down and giving him a soft kiss on the cheek. His eyes slip closed and he snuggles his head underneath my chin before whispering softly.
"It still doesn't work though. When I think I have control over eating, I'm losing control over you. I don't want to scare you anymore. I can't imagine how I would feel if you started slowly killing yourself. I'm sorry Axl. I promise it will all go back to the way it was."
He squeezes me tight and then I bawl my eyes out.
It's been four weeks since Izzy started eating again. He's happier now. No more mood swings or lashing out at people. And maybe now he's less insecure. We're in the midst of negotiations with Geffen, we're the most popular band on the Strip and Izzy writes more of our music than the rest of us put together. That's why we're so damn good!
But Izzy's still a skeleton. He's gotten even skinnier than before. I didn't think he could possibly lose more of what little body fat he had but I was wrong. Every single bone in his body is perfectly defined. He may as well not have skin. He'd look the same with out it.
He's been eating though, eating as much as the rest of us. Eating crap again. He goes out for pizza and McDonalds with us all the time. Sometimes he even eats more than I do! But he's not gaining that weight back and I don't understand why.
I open my eyes and stare up at the ceiling. It's a hot summer night and I can't sleep. I look over at Izzy's side of the bed but he's not there. He probably can't sleep either. Maybe he's downstairs getting a drink or watching TV.
I swing my legs over the edge of the bed and get up. I need to pee. As I make my way through the dark to the bathroom at the end of the hall I can hear snores coming from Duff and Steven's room and I stifle a giggle. But in amongst the snores I can hear another sound. Something like choking. Then I notice the bathroom light is on and the door is slightly ajar. I slowly push the door open and freeze when I see what's inside.
Izzy is on his knees kneeling in front of the toilet, coughing and choking. Little beads of sweat glisten all over his body. Vomit and blood dribbling from the corners of his mouth and some dripping from his finger.