In which our hero feels like the fifth wheel...
From here I can see through the door and into the kitchen and I see Izzy and Axl sat at the kitchen table talking to one another. I wonder what they're talking about. The band? Girls? Indiana...
I turn back to the pair on the couch as they explode into laughter once more and I pick up a few words between the giggles.
"Oh man the teachers were so pissed! Remember?"
Steven nods and clutches his sides laughing as he recalls this memory from their childhood. I really love Slash and Steven. I admire how cool and easy going they are. It's fun hanging out with them but they're a pair. A team. If I want to go out some place with Steven, I'll get a Slash for free. If I want to tell Slash something in private, there's a good chance Steven's listening too. Most of the time I don't get their humour and I can't join in with their jokes. Most of what they say is just one big private joke that only tickles your senses if you live in the world of Slash and Steven. And the population of this world? That's right, two.
Just as I'm thinking about the twosome in hysterics on the couch, in walks the other pair. A different kind of team but a team nonetheless, Axl and Izzy are the street savvy boys with the Midwestern background. That's what makes these two the coolest guys on the strip. Axl, the rockstar and Izzy, his mysterious shadow. These are two guys who I never want to cross because they could seriously fuck you up. And they'd do it together. Izzy never leaves Axl side and Axl doesn't do anything without Izzy. I like hanging out with them as well but there's a level of paranoia in dealing with these two. They always know what the other is thinking. Sometimes when I say something I can see it trigger something in Axl's head. He'll shoot a quick glance to Izzy and I can see that Izzy's thinking the exact same thing. How do they do that?
"Come on guys let's go play."
I love how Izzy never has to raise his voice. People just drop everything and do what he tells them. There's only one person who Izzy answers to.
We go downstairs into the freezing basement. I can see my breath it's so cold. I wait for someone to decide on what song to play and Slash is the obvious decision maker for this. I look over at him but he's not looking at me. He twists his neck and smirks at Steven and the drummer nods before they start into the intro for You're Crazy. How the hell would anyone else know how to read Slash's mind like that?
I fumble with the bass for a moment, completely caught off guard and get all flustered because I'm lost already. I look over at Izzy and he calmly finishes his cigarette before slipping into the song easily. Axl starts singing and I still can't work out my place. Fuck!
After a minute Axl tells everyone to stop and turns around to glare at me.
"What the fuck Mckagan? Forget how to play bass over night?"
My mouth dries out and I shake my head, scared he'll kill me at any moment. He looks at Izzy and I follow his gaze to the guitarist and Izzy's looking straight at me.
He rolls his eyes as if it's the most obvious thing in the world, which I guess it kind of is. I look back at Slash and concentrate really hard to guess when to start. It's really hard when you can't see the fucker's eyes but this time, miraculously, I start with them and we play it perfect. Thankfully the rest of the songs went smoothly because those songs have only one person starting with the intro so it's easy to just come in when you're supposed to.
Lunchtime and I'm starting to go insane. I feel so lonely! This house full of guys and I have no one to talk to. Slash and Steven are upstairs and they're just giggling their little hearts out like it's nobody's business! I walked past their bedroom and almost gagged at the sheer happiness of those two. It makes me sick that they're so close. I hate that they have someone to lean on when they're upset or in trouble. Or maybe I'm just jealous...
Axl and Izzy are sitting on the floor writing a new song, ignoring me.
"That's a cool riff Ax. Guitars on top of that would be killer."
What? I'm the bass player in this band! I decide what the bass riff should sound like! Do they seriously not even realise I exist?
"Hey don't I get a say in this?"
They look up at me, almost surprised that I was in the room. But they don't care.
"The song's pretty much finished dude."
Oh thanks a lot Izzy. Fuck this. I just scoff at them and leave the room, majorly pissed off.
I go outside and stand on the doorstep in the freezing cold smoking a well-earned cigarette. Am I invisible? Just because I'm the oddball from Seattle doesn't mean I have to be treated like one. But what am I supposed to say to them? Stop ignoring me? Talk to me? Be my friend? I'll sound like a thirteen year old girl!
The door suddenly opens and I jump, dropping my cigarette onto the ground. I stub it out with my foot and look behind me at whoever just scared the shit out of me.
"Are you okay Duff?"
He seems genuinely concerned. Must be high.
What the fuck? I sound like a huffing child! I turn my back to him and pick another cigarette out of its pack before fumbling around in my pockets for a lighter.
A lit match comes up to my face and after getting over my shock I lean in, cigarette between my lips, and light up.
He smiles back and I begin to relax a little. Maybe I could tell him about my little problem...
Where's Izzy? What the hell is wrong with me! Why did I even ask that? I don't want to know where he is! I want to talk to someone alone for once! Fuck!
"Are you sure you're okay? I don't think you are."
"Oh thanks a lot Axl."
Shit, now I'm being an asshole!
"I didn't mean it like that Duff. You just seem a little upset. You're being really quiet and I know we've only just got together in this band but I don't think you're a quiet person in general. Is there something that's bothering you?"
He stares at me waiting for me to pour my heart out. I never noticed how beautiful Axl's eyes were. They're like big green orbs, deeper than a black hole. Maybe he really does care.
"I just feel like..."
Just as it's all about to come out, guess who comes out the door looking for his beloved Axl.
"Ax where'd you go?"
Izzy joins us on the doorstep and I can't help sneer at him. Axl must have noticed because now he's trying to get rid of him.
"Izz I'll be back in a minute, I'm just talking to Duff."
Izzy looks at me with a confused expression, confused as to why Axl would want to spend time with anyone other than himself.
"There's something wrong with my guitar, will you help me fix it?"
Fuck off Izzy!
"Izzy you're the guitar player, you fix it. I'll be there in a minute."
Axl somehow keeps his voice calm and kind. If it were me, Izzy would be on the floor twitching by now.
He slams the door behind him and I sigh with relief. I can't believe Axl didn't leave me.
"What were you going to say Duff?"
Again those green eyes are staring right at me. I'll fall into them if I'm not careful. I'm so happy I've got someone to talk to. Then I pour my heart out, fighting back the tears. Tears of anger at the guys in my band for not including me, tears of sadness for feeling so lonely and depressed and even tears of joy that Axl's actually talking to me, and more important, listening to me.
I take a couple of deep breaths before opening the door and entering the living room, paper in hand. This is it. It's been waiting under my pillow for three weeks now. I've pored over it every single night. My baby.
Slash and Steven are sitting next to each other on the floor. They don't look up when I walk in. Neither does Izzy who's sitting on the armchair staring at the television. Axl beams at me and pats the couch next to him and I sit down.
He leans over a little to sneak a peek but I pull the paper away and hide it, blushing slightly.
"It's a song isn't it!"
His eyes sparkle and I notice that as soon as he said "song" the others looked over in our direction. Izzy switches off the TV and Slash and Steven turn fully around to face me.
"You wrote a song? Let's hear it!"
Izzy grabs his acoustic and shoves it in my hands.
Okay. You've done this a million times. This song is yours, all yours. It's complete. Nothing will be changed because all the elements are in place. This is your chance...
I dive right into the fist verse, strumming away at the guitar, stopping and talking them through it, going back to replay something, skipping forward to compare something, picking out a particular riff. They look at me wide eyed and in awe. They love it! I did it! I'm a genius! Now they'll talk to me when it comes to writing a song. Now they'll talk to me in general!
"Woah, woah, woah..."
Slash stops me and I freeze. Oh shit, maybe they don't like it.
"We have got to learn this song right now."
He runs over and picks up his guitar and plugs in and Izzy does the same with his electric. Steven jumps behind his drum kit and pulls out some sticks. Axl gently takes the paper out of my hands and whispers to me.
"I love your song Duff."
My heart skips a beat as Axl gets up and reads over the lyrics, tapping his foot to the rhythm that's already in his head.
We practise for hours. Everyone knows the song off by heart now. They're in love with it! Slash is even taking us all out for drinks in honour of my song!
No more Loner McKagan for me. It's So Easy is my song and it kicks ass.
And the best part of the song? The bass intro.