“Ray, if you hurt someone you were really close to, and you want more than anything to tell them you’re sorry but you can’t, what would you do?”
The days blur into weeks and I still haven’t heard from Bob. The tour is going smoothly and I quickly got into the routine of hiding my tattoos and keeping my hair dyed so that it always looks natural. For the most part I keep to myself and just watched the guys at work. I’m a good little guitar tech for Jamia and nobody suspects anything is amiss.
But I’m starting to burn out. When Bob confronted me I thought we’d have this all worked out by now, but no, it’s been almost a month of this tour and I haven’t heard a single peep out of Mr. Bryar since he left. I’m starting to forget who I am. I haven’t cracked a stupid joke, or played a guitar, or smeared makeup on my eyes, or hugged a fan in far too long. Everyday I’m becoming more and more like Jason and less and less like Frank.
I can’t let that happen. I can’t become Jason, he’s boring.
The latest show ended about an hour ago and the band went out for wings. I declined to join them. Vegetarianism is something I made sure Jason and Frank had in common.
So here I am, wandering around the venue, checking that the equipment is in order and that nothing gets left behind. At least that’s what I was doing. I finished about half an hour ago. And now I’ve ended up here. At the guitar rack.
I knew I would, eventually. Honestly I’m surprised I lasted this long. I knew eventually I wouldn’t be able to stop myself and I’d have to come play. If I don’t I’ll lose my mind. I shrug to no one in particular and sigh. Now’s as good a time as any, the guys aren’t around to hear me.
There’s nothing wrong with Jason Demarko sitting down and playing guitar, is there? I mean they all know that he plays. Playing Frank’s guitar might seem a bit odd, but I can explain it away if I get caught. I'll think of something.
And the best part? All my old guitars are still here. They never got thrown out when I left and so they’re still just sitting there waiting for me. I run my fingers over them slowly, lovingly, before picking up my favorite, a solid white one, and sitting down to play.
I sit there for a minute, just loving the feel of a guitar in my lap. I close my eyes and let my fingers move where they please. I find myself strumming the intro to ‘Mama’. I sing along quietly. “Mama, we’re all full of lies,” I smile inwardly. That line has never seemed so true.
I sit here playing whatever comes into my head. My Chemical Romance, Misfits, Iron Maiden, even some random shit I make up on the spot. It feels so good to play again, I seriously lose track of time.
I wake from my trance to the sound of a small cough behind me. I have no idea who it is or how long they’ve been standing there, but I get the impression that they’re not coughing to get my attention. They just had to cough.
I fumble a few chords on purpose, in case it’s one of the guys. I don’t want them to recognize me by my playing. I finish the song I was playing – ‘I Don’t Love You’ (When you go, would you have the guys to say I don’t love you like I did yesterday? It seemed fitting to my situation) – then stop and wait for the other person to make the first move.
“You’re really good,” the voice belongs to Ray. Shit. If anyone might recognize my playing it’s him. I depended on that connection on stage. Now I fear it.
“Thanks,” I say, turning around to face him. “But I’m nothing like you. You’re amazing. Really.” I know it’s not Frank saying it, it’s Jason, but still it goes some way towards relieving the guilt I still have from calling the guys horrible musicians.
He blushes slightly then notices the guitar in my hands. “That’s Frank’s guitar,” he says quietly.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t know. I just thought it was an extra, you know? Since we never use it in the shows.”
“It’s alright,” he smiles. I get up and put the guitar back in its place.
“I’m surprised he didn’t come back to get it,” Ray sighs. “He loved that guitar. At least I thought he did.”
Ray looks at me quizzically. “How would you know?” he asks, not unkindly, just confused.
“He scratched ‘The true guitar hero’ on the back.” I smile remembering when I wrote that. After the one and only time I’d ever beaten Bob at Guitar Hero. I pull the guitar out and show him. “Would he do that if he didn’t love this guitar?” I shrug. “Or maybe he did it because he doesn’t love this guitar. Either way it’s a sign of lifelong attachment, trust me.”
Ray laughs at me. “I like you, you’re pretty cool about stuff.”
“Easy, man. I don’t swing that way,” I joke. Ray laughs. I can feel Frankie coming back inside me and I love it. But I have to be careful.
“So why are you out here anyway?” I ask, trying my hardest to sound casual.
“We got back and you weren’t on the bus. I just figured someone should make sure you were alright.” God I love this guy. He hardly even knows me and he goes out of his way to make sure I’m ok. I must have really hurt him to make him let me go.
I feel tears in my eyes and I look down quickly to hide them. But I’m not quick enough. “What’s wrong?” he asks, stepping closer and taking my guitar, setting it aside safely.
I can’t tell him, I know I can’t. But I have to tell him something. “Ray? If you, um…”
“It’s ok, Jason, you can talk to me.”
Sniffing, I nod. “If you hurt someone. Someone you were really close to and now they hate you. At least you think they do. And you want more than anything to tell them you’re sorry but you can’t talk to them. What would you do?”
Ray looks at me thoughtfully for a full minute. “Girlfriend issues?” he asks finally.
I smile. He’s given me such a perfect way out. I nod vigorously. “Tell me what happened.”
“I was angry. I said some things I didn’t mean and she kicked me out. And now I’m on this tour, I haven’t really talked to her since we left, and I miss her. A lot.”
“Have you called her?”
“I don’t think she wants to talk to me.”
“Well that’s your first problem right there. If you’re the one who messed up, she’s not going to make the first move. You have to. Swallow your pride and just call her.”
“You really think so?”
“Hey it’s over the phone so she can’t slap you, right? The worst she can do is shout or hang up. I think it’s worth the chance that she might actually want to talk to you.”
I smirk. “Wow, you’re pretty good at this, Dr. Phil.”
He smiles. “Hey. That is quality television.” We both laugh. “Just let me know how it works out, ok?” he says.
“Oh, trust me, you’ll be the first to know.”
“Great. We should get back before the guys leave without us.”
I fake surprise. “They would do that?”
“You have no idea.” I smile. Yes, I do. Most of the time it was my fault that Ray got left behind.
He grabs me from behind, his hands on my shoulders. He’s so much taller than me. I remember him doing this to me all the time, before. I used to hate it but right now it feels so right. We walk back to the bus like that.
When we get there Ray’s cell rings and he steps aside to answer it. I walk onto the bus and back to my bunk alone. Almost instantly Jamia’ face is at my side.
“What were you two doing?”
“Nothing, just talking.” She narrows her eyes suspiciously, but finally turns and walks away.
I let out a sigh and hug my pillow. Maybe Ray’s right. Maybe I should call the guys. Just to let them know I don’t hate them. I want to talk to them, as Frank, so bad.
But that could be dangerous. Jamia would be sure to find out and I’m sure she wouldn’t be happy. And if I did get the guys to believe I was sorry, they might ask me to come back. Then what?
Suddenly I’m exhausted. I’ll decide about calling the guys tomorrow. That is my last thought before I’m consumed by sleep.