A L L H A N D S -- ;
“I had no idea you were living in your car.”
I hadn’t expected Isaiah to know since I didn’t tell him, and didn’t initially plan to. In fact, I hadn’t even planned on telling the judging panel for TALENT! but for some reason, I ended up feeling the need to justify how raggedy I thought I looked. Even with a chance to shower and clean up at my co-worker’s place, my clothes were still out of date, and I was sporting ripped up jeans I’d been wearing since the beginning of high school. I had a pretty gnarly split lip I couldn’t cover up from being punched in the face by a friend. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded. I told him to do it because I was drunk enough to think it’d be funny, and he was drunk enough to agree. At least I totally had the pity factor going for me. I was thoroughly convinced it was the only reason I made it through to the next round.
“Ch’yeah… Designed by Subaru, it’s quite a feat. I’d make a great episode of MTV Cribs one day,” I mused, shrugging. Isaiah and I stood together in the parking lot after our audition waiting for Jacob, Isaiah getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness my extraordinary home in the flesh. He looked blown away -- and not because he was impressed -- but I was indifferent. I was used to it. The Outback had everything I really needed, minus a shower. I rigged some cool red curtains to the back windows so I could sleep without people messing with me. Everything had somewhat of a spot, aside from my keyboard and guitar, which were shoved anywhere I could fit them -- in the front seat if I wasn’t there, in the back if I was driving.
“I think you missed the boat on that one, buddy…” Isaiah looked into the front window, then turned his head away like he was afraid I’d scold him for peeking -- or like I’d be hiding a dead body, a fleeting thought that caused me to laugh a little.
“Don’t look too long, you might see something that makes you way more uncomfortable than the fact that I live in there,” I teased, sitting down on top of the hood and lighting a cigarette.
“Sorry…” Isaiah said, becoming way more serious than I was expecting -- way more serious than I wanted. What did he care about some dumb homeless kid anyway? I was his competition, right? “I just can’t believe you had the guts to come out here and live on the street to try this.”
I took a long drag from my cigarette, staring at the ground. Again, I matched his discomfort with indifference, although I could feel my chest getting tight My real reason for being there always lingered on my mind, but I could usually shove it to the back where it belonged. Suddenly, I could feel it creeping its way to the forefront. I remembered having to tell my grandmother while she sat in tears beside my hospital bed that I felt I had nothing to live for. I remember having to tell therapists I didn’t have anything going for me, that I didn’t feel like I had any goals except making music, but I had no way to start. When Dr. Morris told me about TALENT!, I thought that if I failed, I was out nothing because I didn’t care about living anymore anyway. I shook my head, smiling more for my own sake than Isaiah’s. I wanted to keep pushing that memory back. I wanted to keep not thinking about it. If I thought about it any more, competition be damned, I knew I’d be tempted to drive my home straight off a pier somewhere.
“I really had nothing to lose.”
Before Isaiah answered, we both heard someone wailing the lyrics to Looks Like We Made It coming toward us. Despite his efforts, Jacob sounded nothing like Barry Manilow, and when he sang like that, he didn’t sound like Jacob Brooks either. He was holding a little gold card, which meant all three of us were in for another round. When he approached us, still singing, Isaiah and I -- as if acting on some kind of weird musician instinct -- began harmonizing with him, which caused us all to eventually break the song for a laugh.
“So this is the Outback,” Jacob pointed, grinning.
“Yup, my pride and joy,” I said, patting the hood.
“Look, you guys,” Isaiah chimed in. “I know we just met n’ all, but I think if we don’t make it, we should all stick together.”
“Yeah, we’ll keep in touch.” I took a final drag off my cigarette, then tossed it out, shrugging. I wasn’t really sure what his angle was.
“No, no, I mean -- not like that, but as musicians. Did you hear the way we all just jumped right on harmonizing together? Or when we were playing in the hallway?” Isaiah clarified. He was becoming more adamant, and more intense than I’d seen since I met him. “We should really keep doing this, together, if we don’t make it.”
For the first time since I’d met Isaiah, I saw passion flourish in his eyes, and it excited me. The idea made my whole chest start fluttering. “Yeah?” I asked.
“Yeah!” Isaiah turned his head to Jacob. “Yeah?”
Jacob broke our weird train with a laugh. “Hell, I’m in. All hands?” He stuck his hand out.
“All hands in,” Isaiah repeated, then looked at me, arching his eyebrows as he placed his hand on top of Jacob’s.
I didn’t have to think about it. My heart was still going wild, and even though I felt like an idiot, I couldn’t control the smile on my face. When I placed my hand on top of theirs, it felt like I’d already known them my entire life. When I looked up at them, it felt like what I was finally doing what I was supposed to be doing.
“All hands?” Isaiah prodded, smiling down at me.
I nodded, “All hands in.”