A story inspired by an enigmatic sentence in Slash's biography.
We had been touring endlessly after Appetite came out and finally, after a year, it had skyrocketed to the top of the charts for weeks. Everything seemed perfect, I had anything I could have ever dreamed of… and after the tour, Slash and I thought that we deserved some smack.
It was non-stop partying and drugs. In order to not wake up feeling sick, drinking had to start from the minute I opened my eyes.
I remember the night it happened, the night everything changed.
I had just done my fair share of drugs, so fair that it was an unfair share, if you know what I mean. I was home, trying desperately to sleep it off and get off my edge but nothing worked.
Like a speeding train, I was in danger of crossing the lines and becoming a crash, a calamity of my own, self-inflicted of course. Heroin had been running through my system all these days, so I had to keep myself in level in order to appear normal and somewhat capable of human interaction.
From what it looked like, this was Slash’s place… or someone’s pad Slash was crashing, probably taking advantage of the person, like we all had done countless of times, usually with chicks.
I shot up, remembering I had hid the stash under a mountain of towels in the filthy bathroom. The walls were mustard yellow, as if someone had eaten something bad and it had to come out the wrong way, that’s what it reminded me of. It did smell the part too.
In a matter of minutes, I felt the high taking over every other sense in my body. It was true about heroin, it was the best drug out there, it was so good that it scared me… back when I was a rookie at using it.
Upon further investigation, there was no sign of Slash and I had even checked every floor, his favorite place to sleep nowadays. I settled down, looking at the ceiling for the longest of time, wondering when I should shoot up next.
Just then, I heard a knock sound off in the empty apartment. My eyes searched nervously, trying to find the source of the noise and put two and two together… I knew that the noise meant something and after that I should do stuff, but what?
The knock returned, this time a bit more violent. The door! In my attempt to get there faster, I stumbled over my feet twice.
I swung the door open as soon as I got a firm hand around the doorknob. There was Axl, looking like his normal self, emotionless.
“Hey man,” I tried to muster without sounding high. He would have gone crazy if he knew we started going down that road again.
“How are you?” he asked just to be polite but I knew him, he’d ask about me and would immediately go into what was troubling him at the time and he did seem to have something going on because he had that look in his eyes. I sat across him, on the other couch, rubbing my eyes as if the pupils would return to their normal state by doing that.
True to my words, he spoke before I could even spit out a vowel. “Its been driving me crazy… I’m afraid that all we’ll do is crash and burn,” he said in a deep voice and played with the bracelets around his wrists, “I wanna be more than a one-hit wonder.”
I nodded, he was right to be stressed. But I wasn’t psychologically in the mood to give advice to Axl right now. I was in a dream land where I was slowly nodding out. I tried my best to keep my fucking eyes open but they felt like they were weighed down by an elephant.
“Have you even been listening?”
I snapped at the aggressive voice coming out of Axl’s mouth. He had apparently gone on with his monologue and I had been day-dreaming without hearing a word.
“Yeah man… go on,” I encouraged him but he sure as hell didn’t buy it.
“What was the last thing I said?”
His eyes were sparkling viciously. Usually, I handled him excellently but being high didn’t help at all.
My mind struggled to answer. Part of me wanted to just fall asleep and avoid this whole confrontation. This felt like a chore, like something my mother made me do, clean my room or mow the lawn.
“C’mon Bill… I’m fucking tired,” I said and closed my eyes.
I heard him stand up. When I opened my eyes, he was one step away from having one of his usual temper tantrums.
“What did you call me?” he asked slowly.
Shit. I hadn’t called him Axl… great, ten points off for Izzy.
Bill, I had called him Bill.
“Sorry, got mixed up…” I mumbled. He stepped closer and grabbed me by my throat, pushing me against the wall.
“You wouldn’t have been mixed up if you weren’t playing with drugs,” He hissed.
I tried to squirm free but to no avail. His grip was strong and I could feel my blood pulse get stronger around his fingers. But for a junkie like me, cutting the blood circulation to my head was more than welcome, it actually made me feel better, in a fucked up way. I was sure I had a smile plastered on my moronic face but it wasn’t something I could control anymore.
Combined with the heroin and coke and everything I had done earlier, I was flying high.
“You’ll always be fucking Billy to me.”
I was far from lucid, fuck, I was digging myself in a hole but didn’t do anything to save the situation, I just made it worse.
“Billy is dead.”
Three sharp words, thrown gently in my face. A confirmation nonetheless. Billy had died and another person had feasted over his remains. Axl, the cannibal, the sometimes fun loving friend I could jam with and talk to, go out for chicks with him.
Now, it was all different. The band’s ego had grown but his had grown even more… I knew he had a different approach of looking at things. His actions made sense in a wacky place, he was the only one to think his deeds were okay and right for everybody involved.
Yet, even when he was a prick, I could never be mad at him, we grew up together, back when we were high school nothings in Indiana. He was Bill and I was Jeff. Now, there was an Axl and an Izzy, not the same guys you used to find at your local gas station wrecking havoc.
Why was I so analytic and smart tonight? Or was it today…? The curtains had been closed shut.
He was still holding me by the throat. I didn’t know how much time had passed, it could have been two seconds or ten minutes… I had no idea. My brain was getting confused. I didn’t know the time, I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know the guy strangling me anymore.
“Where is Bill?” I said all of a sudden, breaking the silence like a rock through a window.
He let go, with a concerned look on his face, hadn’t seen that in a very long time.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS BILL?” I screamed at the top of my lungs, running around the room, trying to make some sense.
“Izzy, calm down. Calm the fuck down!” he tried to say and catch me, hold me in order to calm me.
I kneeled down, taking a closer look at the carpet, feeling its texture underneath my fingertips. It was quiet again in the room but my insides weren’t.
Darker dots appeared on the carpet so I turned it over, wondering what was staining it. There was nothing under it though. More dots were appearing until I traced them up through the air and on my cheeks.
My cheeks were wet, my eyes felt hydrated. I was crying, still crying. My face was wet and I had big fat tears rolling down and following gravity’s law. There was no sound to prove my cries, no proof that I was a stupid fucking baby.
“Fucking get your shit together you jackass. Look at you.”
He had kneeled beside me, looking at me like I was second-rate trash. Was I?
“My Jeff isn’t dead…” I whispered. I looked at him and touched his chest. “Your Billy is though, long gone.”
His eyes shined as I said so. I wasn’t sure if he was going to scream or agree, I couldn’t read him. I closed the distance between us, trying to see if any Billy was left, the guy that I knew a long time ago.
Axl’s breath went up a notch, he had never liked such close human interaction by anyone, not even his trusted ones. I tried putting my ear against him, looking for signs but they were long gone. I tried to feel but Billy’s smooth and soft skin had been traded for tattoos and attitude.
“I love Bill,” I whispered on his neck and felt a few tears squish between me and him. The moisture was the only thing connecting us now… but it was my own only.
“Are you a fag?”
He pushed me abruptly and I almost fell on my back. He had emotion written all over him, from head to toes.
My actions dawned on me. I loved Billy but he was dead. What should I do, mourn? I had confessed my love to a stranger, who only shared the vibrant carroty color of hair with my best friend Bill.
Bill was a weird kid, that’s why we became best friends in no time at all. I was a scrawny kid with dark hair parted in the middle and Bill was in the track team, with a bowl-cut… that said a lot about us.
He was so innocent at times, even when he got himself arrested. He always patched up things with grand gestures, he does so even to this day. Not to me though, because I almost never piss him off in order for him to react and then eventually to apologize in a way that isn’t really an apologie but leaves the other satisfied enough.
I had forgotten Axl’s question until I felt a blow on my jaw. The punch was strong and it knocked me over. I clenched my muscles in my mouth, all I got back was immense pain.
It was stiff and I could taste the blood on my tongue. I winced and looked at him. I looked at me. Drugs had fucked me bad but they had also let a door open for all the things that bothered me. I realized I was not happy. I knew nobody now… people who were my friends were just acquaintances now, personalities had been warped into personas and friendships had become business associates.
I had loved Bill in a way that I had never expressed to anyone. I expressed it to Axl and ended up with a battered face. Bill would have said I love you too. We were closer than brothers, closer than butter on bread.
All we had now was a space between as big as Grand Canyon and no way to cross the gap. Izzy and Jeff were on one side, Axl was on the other… Billy had jumped down the cliff a long time ago.
I was crying when Axl left, slamming the door so hard that I was sure it was hanging by one nail. I cried silently, while the carpet turned darker, from the tears and from my bloody spit.
I was in my own apartment. It had been my own mustard-colored bathroom and I hadn’t seen Slash in a week or so.
I picked up the phone and waited as it rang for what felt like ages. I still remembered the number by heart.