“Where’s Joe, didn’t she want to watch the show from side of stage?” my brother asked as we went for the catering. I shook my head and put more salad on my paper plate before I sat down on one of the many sitting accommodations. He quickly followed to sit beside me, his plate covered by a mountain of meat – I swiftly looked away and concentrated on my “green stuff”, as they used to call it.
I looked up just to find my older brother eying me worriedly. Sighing, I put aside my fork and watched him do the same. He raised a brow and shifted in his seat to face me properly. When it came to me he was always quick to push away his macho attitude – but right now I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate it. In fact, I wanted to be left alone. I needed time to get over the loss of someone as dear to me as Joanne. I wasn’t angry with her for leaving early today, I could understand – actually I was feeling no differently. But with her out of my sight – forever? – the feeling of loss was intensifying. I couldn’t pretend any longer. I snapped out of my thoughts when Shannon started to speak.
“Now tell me bro, where is she?” His voice was as grave and deep as ever. I found myself shrugging which caused his expression to darken further. I realized it was better for me to start talking already, even though it displeased me greatly.
“I don’t know where she is,” I replied truthfully and tilted my head, which he immediately copied. “Shannon,” I said irritatedly and rolled my eyes.
“Will she be coming later on, then?”
“No,” I grumbled. Normally it was me interrogating others, not the other way around. I took my fork again and went on eating my salad, much to Shan’s disapproval, but I hadn’t eaten all day and usually he was the one who had to remind me that just by eating plants I couldn’t live on sunlight like they did. He didn’t comment on it, either.
Both of us looked up when Emma, my personal assistant and friend, came up to us. As usually, her blonde hair was slipping out of her ponytail, making her look more in a hurry than she actually was. And Emma was always in a hurry.
“Boys, you’ve got 4 hours,” she began in a frightening speaking rate, “The supporting act just finished the soundcheck, now it’s your turn. No interviews today, Meet and Greet will be half an hour after the show, in the hall. And Jared,” she directly addressed me, “Please eat more than that plate. You look a little pale. Does one of you know where I can find Tomo?”
“Dressing room – With Vicki. I would knock,” I answered dryly. Shannon, back to his normal behavior, smiled what our beloved fan base had dubbed the “porn grin”. Emma raised both eyebrows before she hurried out of the room towards the band dressing rooms. After she was out of sight I wolfed down my salad and got up to get myself a second serving. I knew better than to give the potato salad a try, concert venues weren’t exactly known for their gourmet food, and decided the veggie pasta looked good enough to be edible. With a full plate I went back to my brother who had managed to eat almost all of his meat in my absence. I was more than fine with that.
“With all that extra energy you could make your drum solo at the start of Escape twice as long,” I remarked and put a forkful of pasta into my mouth.
“I need my proteins.”
“You know you do.”
Shannon huffed and boxed me in the side. Playfully exasperated I leaped to my feet, put the plate on the table and planted myself in front of him threateningly. He may have arms like a bodybuilder but he had to stand on a chair to be taller than me. I put on my most vicious face and then burst into laughter when he shrunk back in his seat. The shocked expression on his face had been too hilarious. Smiling wryly down at him I said, “C’mon the soundcheck won’t happen without us” and helped him up.
“You didn’t eat up,” he muttered but followed me out of the room.
“I’m not going to faint on stage,” I sighed. He glanced over at me but kept his remark to himself, putting an arm around my middle in a brotherly gesture.
“Jared, tell me what’s wrong, will ya?” His deep voice had a tender edge to it that showed me he cared. Of course he did, he was Shannon. But I would have much rather not talked – the loss was too fresh. Once again I had failed at an attempt of a relationship. Once again I was alone. No matter how often I tried, it always went down the drain. Now, that was silly to think – there just was no woman fit to be in a serious relationship with me. I was sick of bad breakups. I was sick of breakups in general. I was sick of flings. After all, I was living the life I wanted to live – with or without a girl by my side. Trying wasn’t really worth it.
“Is it Joanne? Man, talk to me, Jared!”
“Fuck yah, it’s Joanne.”
Abruptly, Shannon stopped walking and moved to face me. “Are you alright, bro?” he asked.
“Pretty much,” I answered.
“Is she gone?” He pulled his eyebrows together, looking grim.
“Damn that woman she didn’t even say goodbye,” he muttered to himself.
“Leave it, it was better for both of us anyways, Shane.”
“So it’s over?”
“It’s over – I’m single.”
“Man I’m sorry,” he said with an honesty that amazed me. Then we hugged – it was one of those hugs that you don’t want to end even though you have trouble breathing through it. Shannon was a very physical person, he liked to express his feelings through bodily gestures while I was more, well, exclusive you could say. A hug from me wasn’t too common if you didn’t belong to my most inner circle – at least not a long lasting hug.
“Y’know Shane, I’m alright. It wasn’t meant to be and there’s nothing we could’ve done about that. I’m perfectly fine with being married to the band alone, that’s stress enough.”
He smiled and pulled away. “Says Mr. ‘Stress Is What I Live For’.”
For a few minutes, we said nothing. I knew that Shannon wasn’t really looking for a relationship, he wasn’t that type of guy. He liked women, but only for one night. Still, he wasn’t one of these heart breakers. He let the girls know what they could and couldn’t expect of him. I for my part wasn’t the Shannon type of guy. I didn’t favor one night stands and, apparently, didn’t seem to be meant to be in a relationship either. Well, so be it. I was married to the band and to the Echelon, happily married. I’d rather have that than me running around trying to find the girl like a madman just because I felt like I had to. That wasn’t me.
“Now, let’s get the soundcheck started before Emma throws one of her temper tantrums,” I spoke into the silence, knowing my assistant’s nerves.
“Emma’s temper tantrums? Baby bro, are you feeling sick, weak, anything? You are the only person here frequently having them.”
“You can call me Jared. I am never throwing temper tantrums, as you should know.”
“What’d you call it instead, PMS?”
“Nope, unlike you I don’t have PMS.”
Both of laughed lightly.
“Touché,” Shannon surrendered.
“I know.” I smiled and we finally found our way to the stage.
“Did you have a fight?” Tomo asked sometime late into the night, long after the show. We – meaning him, my brother, Vicki and I; Emma had gone to bed ‘early’ – were sitting around the switched-off television of my suite, snuggled on a couch big enough for ten people. I turned my head into his general direction. Tomo was looking at me scrutinizingly, meanwhile playing with a strand of his fiancee’s chestnut brown hair.
He had probably thought this over all day before actually asking me.
Vicki was interestedly watching my reaction to his question while Shannon continued staring into space. I knew he was listening closely, though. Crossing my legs, I leaned forward and rested my chin on my palm.
“No,” I replied and found myself wishing that a fight had been the reason for our ‘breakup’. Quickly, I chased away the off-putting thought. Tomo nodded solemnly, scratching his beard in thought.
“We aren’t going to set eyes on Joanne again, are we,” he voiced what sounded more like a statement than an actual question.
“Jesus. You sound like I killed and buried her in the courtyard, buddy.”
Shannon covered up a laugh with a fake coughing fit. Shaking my head, I went on. “But I guess we aren’t, yes.”
Quizzically, I looked over at the woman in Tomo’s arms who had just raised her voice. “Yah?”
Tomo gazed at her in a confused manner, but I understood. Raising the corners of my mouth into a sad smile I said, “Believe me, I am sorry, too.”
Sorry to have let her go. Sorry to have had no choice. Sorry to see that last look on her face, again and again and again, repeating in my mind. I looked down at my lap and wondered if they had noticed the change in our relationship, the missing tenderness and gestures. I wondered whether I was hurt or not. I couldn’t find an answer.
A yawn pulled me out of it. Groggily I shot a look at the clock, which was just striking 1am. Ignoring my usual motto – “I can sleep when I’m dead” – I stretched myself and asked my mates to call it a night. We’d have to get up early in the morning for we’d once again have to move into our comfy, cramped tour bus. Next stop of the tour would be San Jose.
Tonight it seemed like everyone insisted on hugging me goodbye, maybe because they were not feeling too good about leaving me alone, who knows. If I looked only partly the way I felt like… damn I guess I would have to use my sunglasses more frequently these days.
With a kiss on the cheek and a “Nighty night” I closed the door behind them. I stripped down to my trunks and in no time, I was fast asleep lying in my too big and empty hotel bed.