Categories > Celebrities > Guns n' Roses


by therealgloria 2 reviews

Do you know how it feels to always be second best? Because it hurts. It really fucking hurts...

Category: Guns n' Roses - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst,Romance - Published: 2014-03-15 - 4005 words - Complete

I'm lying on the couch in the Hellhouse, waiting for them to walk in. They always come back around one thirty in the morning, and I'm usually waiting. Not that they know it.
The couch I'm laying on is facing the wall. It's pretty funny, really. Izzy did it, and it's exactly like him: take something that's mainly meant for socializing, and turn it into a solitary thing. It's awfully close to the crumbling plaster, too. Only about a couple feet from the air vent near the baseboard, so in order to get on it you have to swing yourself over the back. He used to sit on this stupid sofa for hours on end with his guitar and a pack of cigarettes, just staring at the wall and strumming. It never looked like he was getting much done, but afterwards he'd come and show the rest of us some slick new riff or a touching acoustic melody. He's like that, I guess. You think he's just some spaced-out junkie, and then you realize he's the only thing holding your band together. It's funny.

The door slams, and I hear a voice. Not /voices/, just a voice. It's deep and gravelly- Axl. Someone that hasn't heard this routine before might think he's just talking to himself. But I know better. Izzy's right beside him, and he's not saying anything, but he's there. Just like every other hour of the goddamn day. And sure enough, I hear him throw in a "yeah," and laugh a little. I swear, Axl's one of the only people that can ever make Izzy laugh. Usually he's laughing at himself, but not in a good-natured way. Usually he's laughing at one of his thoughts or at people or at a human nature, I guess. Axl's the only one I can remember getting him to laugh good-naturedly. Happily, really.
Not that Izzy's not good-natured. He is. It's just that he's got a weird way of showing it.
I hear them sit down, and it's the same as every night before. Izzy's in the leather armchair, I can hear the fabric squeaking. I know that's his spot when he's not on the Nonsocial Couch, because one time I found a syringe and a belt stuffed underneath the cushion. And Steve doesn't leave his shit here anymore. Neither does Slash. It seems like the three of us are the only ones left. Not that Izzy or Axl notice me living here much.
Axl sits in the rocking chair with the busted arm. I know that because I can hear it creaking, and his baritone is coming from the far left corner that we shoved it in. I smell the smoke when one of them lights a cigarette.

I'm lying on the couch with my head on the arm and my legs curled up. I would stretch out, but my feet and part of my calves dangle over the end when I do that. And I don't want them to know I'm here. Not that they'd talk much different if they knew I was- they're in their own little world together, and no one, including me, is invited. But there's some kind of allure to being incognito. So I fold myself up and just listen.
“This place may be a bitch, but we’ve sure made some memories,” Izzy’s saying.
“Yeah. Remember when Popcorn fell out of the window? Best day of my life.”
“Very funny.”
“Seriously, Izz.”
He laughs again, and I imagine I can feel my insides shriveling into little curls, the way dried tomatoes do, and then just disappearing entirely.
I block their voices out for a moment, because I don’t think I can take this right now. Instead, I study the Izzy Sofa that I’ve packed myself onto. When he first got it, it was already pretty shitty. He found it in a back alley or in a dumpster or something- I don’t remember. But after just a couple of weeks in the Hellhouse, it got absolutely fucking trashed. Covered with whiskey blotches, come stains: that sort of thing. So one day, Axl came home with a secondhand couch cover, saying that if he didn’t, Izzy was going to get crabs just from sitting on the damn thing so much. It was a pretty average gesture, but Izzy lit up like the noonday sun. I guess because when Axl does something thoughtful for you, you say thank you and jizz rainbows and do backflips and blow kisses: but that’s not really Izzy’s style. That one time, though, he loved Axl for that fucking couch cover.
So, of course, I hated it.
And now, after I’ve been hanging out on it for about a month, the arm’s stained blue where my head goes and the arm’s beginning to wear away even more where I have to jam my feet to avoid being seen. Well, the arm’s blue, but there are these big splotches where some of the color’s washed away, so it’s really kind of polka dotted. After those discolored spots showed up, I actually made a conscious effort to rub my hair against the fabric. I really want them to disappear, because they make me think things I don’t like to.
Because they’re a reminder of the one time actually I cried over this.

I bury my head in a pillow, trying not to go there, but my heart easily overrides my mind. It’s like squishing a fucking gnat.
Izzy was the one that recruited me. Coming down to L.A. from Seattle was a big shift. Less punk, more makeup and hairspray. So I drifted around for a while, until some guy with greasy black hair a nose ring comes up and practically demands we jam. At the time, I just said alright and didn’t think too much of it, because the offers were pouring in. I have a feeling that if I’d paid more attention to him, I wouldn’t have been so nonchalant about Izzy.
Fast forward three months. Suddenly, I’m living in an apartment with 4 other guys and I’m in a band. We’re drinking, snorting, partying, playing. When you’re around people that like to get fucked up, you get fucked up. And I got fucked up. I was plastered and hammered ninety nine percent of the time. When I finally snapped the hell out of it a month later and started working again, I loved him.
The most disturbing part was that there was no raging battle with myself and my values, no inner turmoil. I just loved him. It was as simple and easy as that.
It’s like when you stare at a word too much, like ‘fingers’ or ‘sugar’, and then they have no meaning. The question of ‘why’ has become that way to me, I’ve asked myself so many times. There are a thousand different reasons, and no reason at all. Does it matter?
No. It doesn’t. And now their voices are trickling back into my consciousness. And I nearly jump out of my skin, because I heard my name.
“Lucky thing we found Duff, eh? Only one that knows what the fuck he’s doing…”
“We, Ax? I seem to remember I was the one pushing for that.”
There’s an edge of possessiveness in his voice, and my stomach jumps and my heart’s racing. He’s right. He found me. And I owe everything and nothing at all to him for that.
“Yeah, well, you’re right…” creak, creak. “You definitely sold us. Dunno what you said to make a guy like him join a crew of miscreants like us.”
“Yeah… well, he’s no angel, either.”
But Izzy.
I want to be your angel.
“Yeah. He’s not. But Izz, he walked us through a contract, so he might as well be.”
“Duff’s great at the business side, but I dunno.”
“What? Don’t you like him?”
“No, no, I dig him fine. Just… he’s not passionate like you and me. But that’s alright. Every band needs someone to handle that sort of thing. And he’s… great at it. Great guy.”

Do you know how it feels to always be second best?
How it feels to know that someone likes you, but loves someone else?
Do you understand how it feels to know that given a choice, the person you’d pick over anyone in the world wouldn’t hesitate a second to pick someone else over you?
Do you know how it feels to not be able to do anything about it?
Because being second best hurts. It really fucking hurts.
I’m lying there and for the second time in my eavesdropping career, I’ve got pinpricks in my eyes and my throat feels like a balloon with too much air in it.
Izzy, Izzy, Izzy.
I can’t override nine years. It’s impossible, and so I try not to attempt it. But again, my heart squashes my brain and it tells me to take a stab. And just when I think I might be getting to know him a little better, dig a little deeper, the two of them show me just how much I can never be part of their little world.
Izzy, Izzy, oh, Izzy.
He’ll never know how much alike we really are. We burn with a fire that Axl doesn’t have, never will have, and can’t understand. Because what we're doing? It's not his life.
Oh, it wouldn't be true to say that Axl doesn't love the music. He does. It wouldn't be true to say that he's not ridiculously passionate. Because obviously, he is.
But it's not his life.
Do you how it feels to want something so badly, love something so much, that it’s excruciating? How it feels to want to get somewhere so desperately that you’d do anything at all, sell your soul, sleep with the devil, just to make it?
Me and Izzy do.
Do you know how it feels to share a love with someone? A love of something, of doing something. Do you know how it feels to be aware of the fact that they're the only other person on the face of the planet that burns with the same unbearable fire that you do?
Do you know how it feels when they don't even know that?

I can feel the couch splotching again.

"Well...." Axl yawns. "I'm off to bed. You should hit the hay too. We've got a bunch of negotiations to schlep through tomorrow."
"Alright. I'm going to smoke a joint and I'll be in."
"See you tomorrow."
“We’re on our way, man.”
I can hear the elation slipping into his voice, and I don’t know whether to smile or cry some more. You’ve got me to thank for that, you little rat bastard. And you’re talking to him about it.
“No. We’ve made it now, dude.” Axl doesn’t bother trying to hide his feelings, his delight, his confidence the way Izzy does. “Now all that’s left to do is take over the world.”
Another difference.
Axl wants to rule the world.
Izzy and I want to change it.
“I dunno about take over, but the dream’s coming alive, Ax.”
“You said it. Izz?”
“I’m glad we did this together. I love you, man.”
I can’t tell if Axl’s drunk, or if he and Izzy don’t have to be drunk to say things like that. I wish I could say that to Izzy without being drunk. I wish I could say that to Izzy when I am drunk. But he’s no good with feelings, and sometimes, neither am I.
“I love you too, man. We’ve come a long way, Axl. Bill.”
Izzy’s fine with feelings when it comes to Axl, though.
I can hear the smile in Axl’s voice. “Goodnight, Jeff.”
His footsteps thump down the hall, and the door to his room creaks shut. I’m lying on the sofa with tears squeezing out of my clamped-shut eyes and my arms wrapped around a pillow. There’s no good way to describe how I feel right now. Imagine being stabbed in the chest and the back simultaneously, and then multiply that by one hundred. That’s one hundredth of how I feel.
Because heartbreak is one thing. It’s one thing when you love someone for a couple months or even a couple years, and you’re happy, and then one day you wake up and it’s dead or dying. When that happens, at least you had the opportunity to love someone fully, and they loved you back. It hurts when that love is gone, but at least you had it.
This is a different feeling. If there’s a word for it, I don’t know what it is. When you love someone that’s completely unattainable. Someone who you can try to get in with, who you can be friends with, maybe even become a brother to eventually. But never in the way you want. Izzy might as well be the stars. A million miles away.
You know, I could probably get drunk as a lord off of gin, which takes away my inhibitions in a way that vodka doesn’t. I could probably find Izzy. I could tell him I love him.
But he’d take it that I was at an ‘I love you, bro,’ stage of drunk, and that means that he’d take it in all the wrong ways.
But now I’m dragged away from my thoughts, because Izzy’s singing softly to himself, and that makes my heart jerk in a way that I can’t even begin to understand or explain.
“Born and raised in a small town, decided to make his own way,
And chased a dream to Hollywood, ended up livin’ in L.A.”

I smell the pot smoke drifting through the living room, and I’m suddenly extremely grateful that he didn’t come and sit on his wall-facing sofa to smoke, because then he would have seen me. I could have pretended to be asleep, passed out drunk, something like that- but I have this sneaking suspicion that halfway through the act I would have broken down and cried. It just gets so hard to hide.
And now he’s talking to himself, and I take careful note to listen, because I know he thinks he’s alone.
“Hellhouse… can’t believe it’s the last night here…”
He’s right. This is the last night that we’ll be living in this shithole apartment. Tomorrow, we’re all moving to higher-scale outfits, where the rent is more than three bucks a month. This is the last night that I’ll be living with Izzy Stradlin under the same roof, at least in nitty-gritty circumstances. And nitty-gritty circumstances are easier to have a secret in, and it’s easier to confess that secret. Because everything’s so fogged in a haze of grime, sleaze, drugs and alcohol, it’s easier to tell yourself they’ll have forgotten everything the next day. Because there’s a good chance they will have, and that’s both relieving and devastating at the same time.
I’ve opened my eyes now, and I’m staring at the stained ceiling. There’s the sound of water dripping somewhere, and a kind of scrabbling that could be mice underneath the floorboards. My hair’s bunched up underneath my neck, and there are fresh saltwater stains on the couch. My hair’s getting awfully long- it just reaches my shoulders now. The record company doesn’t like the color: it’s too punk for them, apparently. I said I’d color it something different, but I haven’t done it yet. And everything’s getting finalized tomorrow.
The leather chair squeaks, and I know that Izzy’s getting up, killing the joint with his heel, or maybe the toe of his boot. Tonight’s the last night. He’s going to go to his room. I’m lying here, not ten feet away from him. I should just tell him.
I should just tell him.
I could stand up, stretch, act like I just woke up. Start talking about the signing. Just say it. I’m obviously as sober as I’m going to get. Just say it. “I love you.”
My heart’s beating a thousand miles an hour and my mouth is bone dry just from thinking about it.
Just do it.
Just get up, just say it.

And I realize it’s too fucking late, because his footsteps are going down the hallway, go into his room.
Too fucking late.
I sigh. It’s not like I would have had the courage to do it, anyways. There’s a margin between what you think about, fantasize about, and what you actually do. Maybe this just doesn’t cut it.
I get up slowly, unfolding myself. Sure enough, the room’s empty. The firehead and the gypsy have both left. I stretch leisurely, trying to pretend my body’s not pulsating with an excruciating ache from head to toe. It’s like when you try not to cry, and your jaw hurts and your throat’s constricted and you start getting lightheaded, and you know it’d go away if only you could cry. It’s like that, except it’s my entire being. And crying offers no release. Nothing does.
I wobble through the tiny living room, my legs unsteady from being so cramped. Limp through the hallway. Izzy’s door is shut, and that means he’s not coming out again tonight. It’s for the best, I guess.
I made a promise to myself, when we first started negotiating this deal. Love him, okay. Go ahead. But if this works out and we get signed, the second that deal is stamped and sealed, you’re done. Close that chapter, shut off the feelings. Start the healing process, and if there isn’t one happening, just clamp them down the best you can.
And it’s now two in the morning, so it looks like I’m starting the clamping.
But I don’t want to.
I sigh, stepping into the bathroom and flicking on the light. The mirror’s cracked, and there’s some kind of gunk permanently ground into the grout between the tiles. This has been home for the past year. And now we’re leaving.
There’s a box on the counter that I bought yesterday. “Bright Blonde!” the front reads, with a picture of some platinum-haired chick smiling coyly underneath it. I might as well do it now. I reach out, pick it up, rip underneath the top flap with my middle finger. I overturn it on the counter, and three bottles fall out. Color, processor, and some kind of conditioner that I stick in one of the drawers. My hand looks funny unscrewing the cap to the bleach. Like it should be more feminine, less calloused and manly. But hey, if you need proof that men can dye hair, just look at Nikki fucking Sixx. Whatever.
I’ve got both the processor and the bleach unscrewed, and I should pour them together, shake them up, and get started.
But I don’t want to.
I just don't want things to change.
I just don’t want to let go.
I sigh again, frustrated that I can’t even function properly enough to bleach my fucking hair. A goddamn monkey could do it. What’s wrong with me?
I just shake my head, like I’ve got water in my ears. It’s late, or maybe early would be more appropriate. But I set down the bottles and amble out of the bathroom, head to the kitchen. I need a fucking drink. I just want to stop thinking, and everything’s already kind of weird-feeling and fuzzy. Just want a drink.
I grab the vodka bottle and take a giant swig, already feeling relief from the fiery liquid that scorches as it goes down. I just want to feel normal again. Which for me, is drunk as a skunk and bandhopping 24/7. But I can never feel like that again, because I’m tied down now, in more ways than one.
This band could be big, and I know it. All they needed was to get signed. But was getting a record deal worth this kind of pain? I don’t know. I really don’t.
I’m going down the hallway and hugging the Grey Goose when I realize that Izzy’s door is open. I tell myself it’s time to stop caring, but I walk a little slower, get a little more alert. I hate it, so much. /Unattainable/, I tell myself. You’ll always be second best, and he’s unattainable. But I just can’t let go.
Almost out of my control, my legs stop in front of his doorway, and again, my heart leaps at the sight of him, black hair falling in his eyes, his legs folded Indian style underneath him. He’s plucking his guitar and muttering to himself. Such a beautiful mind. He’s probably never considered the fact that we practically share it.
He looks up. “Hey.”
I lean against the doorframe. “Hi. What’re you up to?”
“You know.” He gestures to his guitar. “Usual. What’re you doing up?”
“Got up and wanted a drink,” I lie. “I think I’m gonna go ahead and bleach my hair. I won’t want to do it tomorrow morning.”
“It is tomorrow morning.”
“Yeah, well, you know what I mean.”
I’m standing here, talking to him, and there’s an elephant in the room and he doesn’t even know it. Lucky bastard.
He just nods, and I can tell he wants to be alone. So I peel myself off of the doorway and take a couple steps down the hallway. Once I’m out of sight, I freeze. No, no, no. This is so wrong. I love him. I love him. I want him to know. I want to tell him. Why can’t I tell him? Three words. They’re just words. Just say them, Duff. Just say them. Just do it. Just say it.
Before I lose my nerve, I take three ridiculously jerky and fast steps back in front of his room, and his name is tumbling over my tongue before I can stop it.
“Izzy?” I sound croaky and hurried, but I want to keep saying his name until my voice gives out. Izzy, Izzy, Izzy, Izzy, Izzy, Izzy. I’m going to tell him. I’m going to do it.
“Mhm?” He doesn’t look up, just keeps futzing around on the guitar, and suddenly my throat seizes up like I’m going to cry again, but I don’t think I’ve got any tears left. My throat and my eyes are both bone dry.
He still hasn’t looked up.
I run my hand through my hair.
No reaction.
My heart’s racing like it’s going to burst right out of my chest. I’m so close. So close.
“Good… goodnight.”
“Night, Duff.”
I blink and stagger back to the bathroom, slamming the door and sweeping the bleach off of the counter. And then I start laughing and dry-sobbing at the same time, and I wish it would stop so that I could pour more vodka down my throat. It’s funny, really. I should know better.
Because he’s no good with feelings, and neither am I.
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