Bob smiles. “You can keep me company during the show.”
I wake with a crick in my neck and pins and needles running through my right leg. Grumbling, I sit up. I squint as I figure out where I am. I’m still in the lounge. I grab the remote and turn the TV off before sitting up fully and rubbing my eyes. The bus isn’t moving. I venture out to the bunk area, it’s empty. I wander further out, but the whole bus is deserted. I find a note scribbled in Gerard’s messy writing.
Mikey said you had a late night so we let you sleep. Went to get coffee. Sound check’s at 3. See you there.
I glance at the clock. 2:17. Damn, I really overslept. I head to the bathroom and straighten up, checking my hair and makeup are convincingly lame and my nerd clothes are clean and tidy. Then I head out to the venue and help some crew unpack the gear and set up for the show.
Sound check goes off without a hitch. The band disappears to their dressing room and I’m left back stage with some other techs and roadies. It’s nice, just chilling, not worrying about my every little move. I have Jamia all set up. My job now is to sit backstage once the show starts and be ready to help her if she needs a new guitar or a string breaks or something.
We’re still an hour from doors opening, and the empty venue feels like a playground. I wander out on the stage a bit, remembering my pre-show rituals and imagining how it’d feel to take the stage with my friends again, to a full and screaming arena.
“Nice view, huh?”
I jump as a voice behind me shocks me out of my fantasy. I spin around to see Bob watching me. “Oh, uh, yeah. Yeah it is.”
“First time?” he asks. My brain hasn’t caught up yet from the surprised of being caught off guard. At my confused look he continues, “Is this your first My Chem show?”
“Oh,” I nod. “Yeah.” In a way it is. It’s the first My Chem show I’ll be on the wrong side of the stage since basements in Jersey eleven years ago.
“Well, you need the whole experience then. I’ll get the other techs to give you tonight off. You should see the show from the audience.”
I admit it sounds tempting, I’ve always wanted to see one of our shows from the crowd, mix with the kids, get the whole vibe. But it’s not really one of our shows, because I’ll be out here and Jamia will be up there. Besides, I don’t want to bail on my first day of work.
“That’s really nice of you, but you don’t have to. Honestly.”
“I insist,” he says. “It might be my last show on tour, I’d hate to watch it alone.”
I shrug. The man insists, and Bob Bryar always gets what he wants. “Ok,” I say. “It might be your last show? I thought Gerard said you were staying in Chicago?”
He looks distant. “I thought so too, but something might have come up that needs my attention. I’m not sure yet.”
That’s Bob. Captain of vague answers and the silent treatment. I nod, pretending I have even an inkling of what he’s talking about. “Alright,” I say. “If there’s anything I can do let me know ok?”
He smiles. “You can keep me company during the show.”
Behind us I hear hurried footsteps and Matt, the stage manager’s voice. “Hey! Are we paying you to stand around or help out here? Come on, we’ve got to run through the light show again. We’re having trouble with the right spots.”
I throw Bob an apologetic smile and hurry over to help Matt. We find the problem quickly and have everything set again just at the gates open. I watch the kids file in.
The band emerges just as our opening act takes the stage.
“Twenty minutes guys,” Matt calls. I wander over and stand near them. Ray’s over somewhere obsessing over his guitars. Gerard is doing his pre-show meditation or whatever it is Gerard does. Mikey’s bouncing on the balls of his feet, hands in his pockets. I laugh, he looks like a cartoon character.
“Nervous?” I chuckle. Gerard growls at me for disrupting his chi and wanders away to continue psyching himself up in peace. Mikey smiles.
“I’m pumped man!” He grins. I laugh harder. God I love this kid.
Jamia grabs me by the elbow and drags me away. “Remember why you’re here,” she hisses. “It not to make friends, it’s to do your job.”
“Hey,” I snap. “You’re the one who brought me out here on tour. With my friends.” I have to struggle to keep my voice low.
We walk over to the guitars and I help her get ready for the show, making sure guitars are tuned and in the right places.
With five minutes to go we all line up for our customary all crew high fives. I botch my high five with Mikey on purpose, knowing his superstition. There are hugs all around and calls of “Good luck!” and “Kill it, guys!”
As they take the stage Bob leads me away to a spot off to the side of the stage just inside the security ropes so we won’t get trampled, but far enough back to see the whole stage.
I get caught up in the vibe as Dr. Death’s voice rings through the speakers and the kids go wild. When Gerard starts singing “NA NA NA”, I can barely stay still.
“They’re amazing!” I yell to Bob over the noise. He gives me a sad smile but says nothing. I think he misses it. I squeeze his hand then get lost in the music again. The band goes through “I’m Not Okay” “Destroya” and “Famous Last Words”. I hate to admit it, but Jamia isn’t doing half bad up there. When they play “Helena” I find myself choking up a bit.
Then “Kids from Yesterday” comes on. I looked at the set list earlier, this wasn’t on it. I thought they had decided not to play “Kids” without me. I forget where I am for a moment. A stray tear falls down my cheek. I turn away from Bob so he won’t see. As the song goes on so do the memories, and the tears. I feel Bob’s hand on my shoulder. I ignore him and he doesn’t push the issue. The song ends and I compose myself as the opening notes to “Sing” ring through the stadium.
I feel Bob’s stare as I pull myself together. I turn to him. “Sorry,” I mutter. “I just got a little emotional, I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not.” I stare at him, not expecting that. But that’s nothing compared to what I hear next. He looks me hard in the eyes.
“We need to talk, Frank.”