February 25th, 2020
Country: United States
August 14, 2018
02/08/2020 04:22 PM
When you stain your clothes, you try and wash the stain out.
When you can’t get the stain out, you get rid of the clothes.
What was the protocol on a stain of your entire person?
What happened if you couldn’t get the stain out?
“Case. Hey, you ready?”
I was busy staring at the venue. It took two Xanax to get my down there, and I still didn’t wanna do it. There was a lump in my throat I could neither swallow or speak past, so I just nodded my head and started to climb out, my head swimming. I knew the entire drive over if I was doing too much too soon, but I was too stubborn to cancel. I didn’t want to ruin it for everyone else just because I was afraid. When I got out of the car, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked at Stephen, who stared at me with his eyebrows arched -- as if to silently say ‘I told you, you didn’t have to do this.’ I wished there had been a way for me to silently tell him to f*** off. “You sure you’re good?”
“Yeah,” I finally choked out. “I’m good, man, but I’m about to be not fine if everyone keeps asking me.”
Stephen held his hands up. “I was just making sure.”
“And I already told you the last time you made sure. It’s fine, okay?”
Inside the venue, people were already lined up, yelling and reaching their hands out for high fives. I kept my head down, hands in my pockets. Stephen tried to calm them all so we could get through to a little table set up in the back, arranged with markers and posters for the upcoming tour. My timing was impeccable. I wondered how many album sales I cost us with my mistake. Jacob took a seat to the far right, then Isaiah, then me. Stephen and a few security guards got the line back in order and started to run people through.
I could barely speak. I settled into a routine that kept the contact to a minimum: A small smile, a signature, then let them go. Small smile, signature, then let them go. A few obviously disrupted the flow asking questions, making side comments.
“I’m really stoked on the new album!” One girl was jumping up and down in her place talking to us. She giggled after everything she said. Jacob and Isaiah were still smiling from whatever interaction they had with her. “I already have the pre-order for both bundles.”
“Both of them? Wow.”
“Yeah! Are you excited to go back on tour? I bet you are, that’s a silly question.”
I shook my head, smiling. “Nah, it isn’t. We are excited. What’s your name?”
“Thank you, Brit.”
My chest burned. I knew how ridiculous it was to wonder if Brit was one of the people telling me to jump off a bridge on social media; to ask myself how many of those people posted “hashtag Team Sarah” in their name, yet told me meeting me was a dream come true; how many celebrated their victory when I disabled my social media pages because they were too flooded and overwhelming to look at anymore. It was ridiculous, but I just couldn’t help it. I glanced at the door, contemplating how it might look if I just got up and left. Bad. Worse than me sitting there trembling. Worse than me being unable to muster up a simple “thank you” even to those who were nice to me -- even to those who were excited.
The next person stepped up. “Hey. What’s your name?”
“You don’t have to include my name.”
The room stopped. I stared at her for a second, waiting for the explanation -- the punchline, maybe.
Another girl who I assumed was her friend stumbled into her laughing. They both reeked of alcohol, but the first girl was maintaining a lot better than the second. “We just wanna post yours for Ebay,” she blurted out. “Team Sarah!”
I was scared of it the whole time, but for some reason, their response left me entirely dumbfounded. They took the breath -- and the words -- right from me, leaving me looking like a complete doofus with my mouth hanging open. I was second-guessing whether or not if I heard it right -- if I’d passed out in the car from the Xanax, and I was experiencing some weird fever dream, but none of that was the case. Everything remained still, and everyone was watching. A security guard moved to mitigate. I slid my chair back, holding a hand out. I couldn’t do it. I suddenly no longer cared how terrible running looked. How bad could it possibly be when everyone already thought the worst of me?”
“It’s an exclusive poster. I’m sure you can probably still get a lot without it being signed.” I slid the poster back across the table and walked off. I couldn’t take it anymore. There were several reasons why I never came clean about my side of things with Sarah, one of them being that I didn’t want anyone to do to her what she had people doing to me. And because of it, I was walking out of my own meet and greet. I’d tried to wash the stain out and it only grew bigger.
“Casey!” Stephen shouted at me, trying to catch up with me in the hallway leading out the back door. “Casey, hang on.”
I held my hand up to him. I could barely breathe. I felt like I’d throw up on the spot if I tried to say anything, so I just kept walking.
“Casey, I know you’re upset --.”
“Look, I’m not going back out there no matter what you say to me, dude.” I finally snapped, turning to face him. “I’m gonna wait in the car and you come find me when you guys are finished. I’m not going out there so everyone else can make fun of me too.”
Stephen took a deep breath through his nose, then shook his head. “Fine. You go.” He was agreeing, but in the way a disappointed parent might if their kid decided to go to art school when the hope was law school.
I didn’t care if he was disappointed. I walked out anyway. I couldn’t go back out there.
What was the protocol if you couldn’t get the stain out?
What was the protocol if it only grew bigger?
02/08/2020 04:21 PM
cw: self harm
“You know you can give yourself kind of a tattoo with just a lighter?”
I was laying in the bed of Sydney’s dad’s truck, staring at the stars. Late at night, you could make out every one of them. You could find planets and constellations and everything. The moonlight was enough to get us by with no lighting outside. I fiddled with the lighter after we smoked our last stolen cigarette, and I guessed that was what reminded him. I ignited the flame, then stifled it with my thumb, raising an eyebrow. “Oh yeah?”
Sydney was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking down at me. “Yeah. If you hold it down, the metal gets really hot. Then you press it on your skin and it makes a little smiley face. It’s kinda like a tattoo.”
“So, it’s a scar.” I looked up at him. He was scouting his arm for a placement.
“Well yeah, but what’s a tattoo - it’s a scar filled up with ink. Bet it hurts like a bitch.”
“I mean, you’re essentially lighting yourself on fire, so…” I thought it sounded crazy, but it would have been a lie to say I wasn’t scoping out places on my own arm to try it. I’d already let Sydney pierce three holes in my ear with a safety pin, so how bad could a homemade tattoo be? “Kinda cool though.”
“I think it is.”
“You know from experience or what?”
“Nah, my brother told me. He tried it, but it just looks like a huge blob ‘cause he moved or something.”
“Nice.” I laughed, still looking at my arm.
“…You wanna try it?” I think we were both waiting for the other to ask. I was kind of excited he broke the ice, but then my nerves set in. I felt my chest get tight.
“Like right now?”
“Yeah! Gimme your arm.” Sydney climbed down so he was sitting at my side. I didn’t get up, but he didn’t really seem to need me to. He took hold of my arm and grabbed the lighter and flicked it on, tilting it so the metal could get hot. The more I watched, the more my stomach turned. I furrowed my eyebrows. “You’re gonna do it too?”
“Hell yeah, I’m gonna do it, we can match.” Sydney grinned. “Ready?”
What did I have to lose? The safety pins didn’t hurt forever. I stared at my arm, pursing my lips together, then finally nodded. “Okay.”
“Take a breath,” Sydney urged me.
“Take a breath,” he repeated. “Take a deep breath through your nose.”
I did, and then the pain hit and I lost it. “Ow, f***.” I couldn’t control my reflex to draw my arm back, but Sydney held it in place, keeping the lighter pressed there.
“Take a breath again.”
“F*** off with that, dude, that sh*t hurts.”
“Yeah, and now it’s over.” He let go, peeling the lighter away from my skin. Sure enough, there was a little smiley-shaped mark there. I looked it over with my teeth still grit together. I was sweating, and my arm felt like it was on fire still. “Don’t forget to tip your artist,” Sydney teased me and then handed the lighter over. “Do mine.”
I started to sit up, still looking at the mark he left on me. “You really sure?”
“Um yeah, now I have to. I did yours first so I couldn’t back out.”
“Nerd.” I laughed. I took hold of his arm once the pain started settling in mine. I started to roll up his sleeve, but then paused midway. I didn’t know if he wanted me to see what I did. His arm, although missing the smiley face, was already covered in other scars. I stared for a second, then looked up at him. “It’s all good,” he assured me. He was smiling, but I wanted to cry. He never told me. Should I have asked? Should I have paid more attention?
“Dude, it’s fine. Promise.” Sydney tried to stir me. “They’re old. Just pick a spot, then I can have at least one cool one.”
I had so many questions, but it wasn’t the right time. I could tell he didn’t want to talk about it. I nodded, igniting the flame again. We both watched the it together. Sydney had to remind me when to breathe, but he already knew. He sucked in a deep breath when I pressed the lighter down, and again when I lifted it up. He never once pulled his arm like I did, not until I was done, and only so I could see. “Did it work?”
“I think it worked.”
“It worked, so I guess… now you’re stuck hangin’ out with me forever.”
“I think you should be more worried about that than me,” I remarked. I didn’t want to bring up his arm again when he tried so hard to brush it off, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. I had to give him something. I laid back down where I had been before, smiling up at Sydney. I sucked at the whole comforting thing, but I couldn’t help but feel like he needed it. “I’m glad we met.”
“Heh.” Sydney smiled, then laid down next to me and we both watched the sky together. “I am too. Glad you decided you didn’t hate me anymore.”
02/08/2020 04:21 PM
“This one is very near and dear. It’s been revamped about a thousand times since it was written, but a lot of you may remember its actual debut on Talent. This was, uh… funny enough, this was the last one I played before I was kicked off the show.”
His fingers glided along the keys of his new piano, in a different time, on a different stage, yet every time he began the song, he thought of it. - - -
“There you are, Jesus.”
“Sorry? That’s it? We kinda had to move around the whole schedule for you -- where were you?”
Casey remembered it so vividly, the way Byron leered at him, his jaw slightly unhinged -- appalled at the single word to fall from his mouth, and rightfully so. In the time he’d been on Talent!, Byron had always been the one standing in Casey’s corner, but he was slowly starting to unravel under the pressure of the executives who were less patient. It wasn’t the first time they had to switch the schedule for the same reason, and each time, his answer was the same: “I overslept.”
“Yeah… I don’t have a phone right now, so I couldn’t call.” - - -
“That day was a total nightmare to get me on the stage. I showed up an hour late with the hangover from hell, having not showered or anything in like days -- they had to clean me up backstage, and I’m sure that was real fun for them. But worse than that, was our buddy Byron had to run around moving the show all over the place so it could all still work, after he already got cleared for me to sing something I wrote.” Casey watched the keys, listening to the idle giggling permeating the auditorium. Years later, it was a humorous story, though at the time it hadn’t been. Casey was sure Byron still wasn’t at a point of finding humor in it. - - -
Byron sighed and took off his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose. Casey couldn’t look at him.
“Look Casey, I want to fight for you. I want to see you make it far here, but you can not show up an hour late, looking half-dead and expect everyone to just work around you.”
Looking half-dead. He’d felt half-dead too. Running his fingers through his hair, Casey gave a small nod, still avoiding contact. He had never experienced the heartache of disappointing a parent, but he thought disappointing Byron probably came pretty close. “I know.”
“Yes, I do -- but you’re making us even later standing here lecturing me.”
“I’m not lecturing you, Casey, I just want you to see the gravity of the situation you’re in. This is an opportunity for you, I don’t wanna see you blow it. Do you have your song ready -- did you practice?”
“I’m ready, yeah.”
“Good, get back there and get ready. We pushed you guys from third to fifth. Go on.” - - -
“Byron actually helped me get the song ready to perform it, and when we decided we were gonna expand on it after the show, he was right there helping us arrange and record it. It’s a song that means a lot to all three of us, and the more we worked on it together, the more we realized just how alike we were in that we all kinda lived on the sidelines, constantly feeling like, or -- hell, even being told to our faces, that we were a little too weird to connect with the people around us.” - - -
“You gonna make it out there?”
Byron sat across from Casey, who was huddled into the corner of the dressing room. Stylists had done their best to get him up and ready for the show, replacing the beat up band T-shirt he showed up in with a white button down, combing through his hair, yet they couldn’t cover up the most blaring issue -- he was falling apart. “I can’t sing it,” he whispered.
“What do you mean you can’t sing it? You forgot the words, or?”
“No, like I just can’t get through it.”
“You lose your voice?”
Casey shook his head. “Not like physically.”
“What happened to the proud kid from last week? You got the highest votes, didn’t you?”
“Guess I left him wherever I left my phone.”
“Look, don’t worry about that.” Byron shook his head, then leaned over and picked up Casey’s guitar resting on the vanity. “We worked really hard on this song, and I know you can sing it. I know you want to sing. I know it maybe feels awkward to go out and sing something YOU wrote, especially since it’s close to your heart, but it’s actually the perfect one for this. From day one, you were always walking outside the lines. You walked in here literally off the street with no guarantees. You’ve never followed our advice fully, you’ve always taken the reigns on your performances. You fought me tooth and nail to do this, so do it.”
Casey looked up at the screen. He knew it was almost his turn. “What if I screw it up?”
“Then you hope for the best. You can’t expect everyone to like everything you do, and if you are expecting that, you’re getting into the wrong business, kiddo.” - - -
“I didn’t want to sing it that night on the show ‘cause it meant a lot to me, and I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone not liking it, or it being my downfall, which is silly looking back on it ‘cause now I can’t imagine a set list that doesn’t include it.” Casey gave a fond smile as he looked out at the audience, who’d silenced in the midst of his speech. “When I was younger, I was the kid everyone either made fun of or wanted to stay the hell away from. I watched everyone around me carry on with each other, but I could never be with them, because I couldn’t think like them. This is sort of an ode to that feeling. And if you’ve ever felt like an outsider, then this is for you too.”
- - -
Isn't it weird?
Isn't it strange?
Even though we're just strangers on this runaway train
We're trying to find a place in the sun
We've lived in the shadows, but doesn't everyone?
Isn't it strange how we all feel a little bit weird sometimes?
Isn't it hard
standing in the rain?
You're on the verge of going crazy and your heart's in pain
No one can hear, but you're screaming so loud
You feel like you're all alone in a faceless crowd
Isn't it strange how we all get a little bit weird sometimes
Sitting on the side
Waiting for a sign
Hoping that my luck will change
Reaching for a hand that can understand someone who feels the same
When you live in a cookie-cutter world, if you’re different, you can’t win
So you don't stand out
But you don't fit in
02/08/2020 04:20 PM
drabble; 99 bananas.
At midnight, Pahrump was like another planet. The city seemed to run on a timer, and once the sun went down, it was outrageously quiet other than crickets and other animal sounds. Then, on some nights, the entire city could probably hear me, drunkenly fumbling with my keys to get through the front door. Sydney’s parents weren’t home, and we’d been sitting in his dad’s truck all night, sharing a bottle of 99 Bananas he stole from the liquor cabinet. When he got the call they were getting in earlier than expected, I had to walk my drunk self back home. An adventure in itself.
I didn’t know what time it was when I got to the door, and for a second, I questioned whether or not I was at the right place, but I got confirmation when it swung open and my mother was standing over there. It was like waking a sleeping bear -- the fury in her eyes, meanwhile she simultaneously looked totally disheveled like she was probably drooling all over herself asleep just a few minutes before I got there and ruined it. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Get in here.”
She pulled me in by the arm. I jerked it away as soon as we were both inside.
“You trying to wake up the whole damn town? What did you do to your face?”
“I think you’re gonna wake up the whole damn town by slamming the door,” I blurted out, wandering over to the couch, plopping down on top of it. I didn’t want to tell her some kid at school finally settled our ongoing beef. I didn’t want her to know I lost. I stared at the ceiling, watching it spin until it made me nauseous, then I looked at her.
I could see the moment it hit her. Her eyes shot open, any grogginess completely shaken. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face, even though I knew it wasn’t that funny. I knew I was in trouble, but I couldn’t help but snicker at how quickly it changed. Like night and day.
“Noah Casey, are you drunk?”
I was caught red-handed, but I didn’t have it in me to care. I guess all I’d really cared about was soothing the searing pain in my lip, which was a success. I never once considered my mom seeing me. I didn’t consider that I’d have to come home. “No,” I muttered.
“Get up.” My mom was suddenly hauling me up off the couch. “Get up, right now, and explain yourself -- are you drunk?”
“Stop, let go.”
She had a vice grip on my arm, but neither of us were going anywhere. In fact, I was trying to pull away and lay down again so I didn’t throw up.
“What the f*** were you thinking?! What if someone caught you, huh? Who gave it to you?”
I said nothing.
She shook me as if to rattle my memory. It rattled my stomach more than anything. “Who. gave. it. to. you?!”
“Get the f*** off me!” It happened before I could control it. I shoved her away from me, and she rebounded with a smack across the face that silenced the entire world around us. All I could hear was the ringing in my ears. Both of us stared at each other with our mouths stupidly agape, wondering what the hell happened.
“Hey, hey, hey…” My mom’s door opened up. Neither of us looked over. Richard stumbled out of the room, rubbing his eyes. “What’s goin’ on? Oh hell.”
“He’s drunk,” my mom snapped, but she was kind of subdued from the shock of everything. She went from a boil to a simmer, folding her arms, receding. As much as I wanted to run, she did too.
“So what, he’s drunk, ‘e’s got a big ol’ hole in his lip.” Richard motioned at me. I was gonna pass out. I watched them go back and forth about what to do, but at some point, I couldn’t even make out what they were saying. Apparently Richard won, because the next thing I knew, he was throwing his arm over me, leading me into the bathroom -- and after that, nothing. After that, I was waking up on the couch, sweating my ass off and shivering all at the same time. The sunlight coming in through the window was like fire to the eyes. I rolled over. I heard a laugh come from the kitchen table. I wished I never woke up. I wished I’d choked on my own puke or something.
“Rise n’ shine, princess. Up n’ at ‘em. You about ready to work off that hangover?”
I didn’t say anything. I buried my head into the pillow and shut my eyes, hoping he would leave me alone. I liked Richard, but I hated that he always felt the need to teach me life lessons whenever I got myself into trouble. I thought my mom slapping me across the face was a good enough punishment, and embarrassing enough to keep me in line for awhile.
“You wanna eat some breakfast before we get started?”
“You’re gonna regret that.”
If I pretended to fall asleep again, I wondered if he’d leave me alone.
“I don’t know why you’re trying.” My mom came out of the bathroom, her arms folded over her chest.
I turned my head to look at her. Her face looked like it was gonna explode from all the insults she probably wanted to hurl at me, but she was holding back for some reason. Maybe smacking me across the face was enough for her too. Or maybe she just knew she couldn’t get away with it a second time while Richard was there. She went over to the kitchen, fixing her coffee. The smell of it made me sick to my stomach. “He’s just gonna be useless on purpose if you expect him to work. All I really want is to know what the hell you were thinking.”
I wished I’d never looked up. I couldn’t pretend twice. “I wasn’t.”
She huffed, rolling her eyes at me. I didn’t have a better answer for her. “Get up and get showered so you can help out.”
02/02/2020 12:59 PM
drabble; never let go.
NEVER LET GO.
Everyone on stage makes a swift exit as the flames from the previous song are extinguished and the crowd starts to simmer down. The lights dim briefly, and when they come back up, there’s only Casey on stage, sitting at his piano. The crowd bursts into a frenzy. Casey waits a few moments -- allows the screaming and cheering to consume and fuel him with a smile on his face before he finally decides to move things along. He touches his fingertip to his lips, makes a ‘shhh’ sound that isn’t heard because he isn’t near the microphone, but it’s seen, and the crowd starts to quiet down.
Casey’s heart hammers in his chest once he has the floor. Suddenly it’s like there’s a rock in his throat, but he knows he has to speak -- and more importantly sing -- through it. The song has been a set list tradition ever since it was written just after Savannah was born. In light of losing Amelia, Stephen suggested cutting it out, but Casey refused. As much as it pained Casey to sing it during practice, he knew omitting it was like trying to hide Amelia when he should have been commemorating her. It wasn’t fair to the rest of the band to cut such an important song either.
When he looks around, he catches a glimpse of Jacob, Isaiah and Stephen behind the curtain. Stephen gives him a thumbs up, eyebrows raised, as if to silently ask him if he can make it. Casey gives him a nod, takes a deep breath, then finally starts to speak into the mic as his fingertips graze the piano to find the right keys. “This song is, uh… It’s one that’s very important to us. It’s a tradition on our set lists for many reasons, but the most important one…” He takes another breath before he chokes again. “Is because we all have someone, or a few very little someones in our lives that we want to protect. That we want to hang onto, and never ever let go of. If I could ask one thing… is that you kinda bear with me on this one.”
Casey’s request is met with another wave of cheering, which brings a soft smile to his face as he starts to form the melody on the piano. “I’m gonna make it through it, this one’s just a little hard to sing right now.” He assured. When everything is quiet again, he finally starts to sing. “Just lay down, and let your worries sleep…” Casey remembers all the times he sang the song while laying on Sarah’s stomach, feeling the idle wiggling and kicking. He remembers teaching Savannah, and Savannah promising to teach it to Amelia. He tries to swallow that rock in his throat, but it won’t go down, leaving the melody strained and cracked. But he pushes on. “Don’t think now of waters dark and deep. ‘Cause you know that I’ll love you and never let go… you know that I’ll love you forever -- love you and never let go…”
There’s a pause -- an unexpected intermission as Casey’s fingers fumble around on the keys. He’s lost his footing. The tears cloud his eyes as he hangs onto the last threads of his composure. He remembers fighting against Stephen’s proposal to cut the song and wants to slap himself. He makes it through the second verse of the song with little more incident than a constant burn in his chest. His gaze flickers up. Stephen looks about ready to jump from behind the curtain, swoop him off his piano stool and drag him off stage. He avoids looking him in the eye, and goes back to focusing on the piano, taking another intermission to find his voice for the final piece.
“You don’t have to ask me, do I love you? As I hold you it says how much I do, I’m yours until, forever is through…” Although the song normally calls for more power, it’s too much for him to muster, and what should have been the powerful breakdown of the song, becomes shrill and shaky. “Anytime I stand for you, I know I lay my life down for you, I’ll never let -- not ever let -- sh*t.” He suddenly backs away, the last word nearly inaudible as he turns his head away from the audience.
There’s an idle hum coming from the audience, people starting to talk and whisper. Stephen comes rushing from behind the curtain and kneels down in front of the bench, a hand placed firmly on his shoulder. “Hey… you good? You gonna make it?”
Casey shakes his head, covering his face with his hand, more out of embarrassment than anything. It’s entirely unlike him to be rendered unable to finish a performance -- to be able to do the one thing he knows he’s good at. To be so incapable is a harsh reminder of how broken he is, and how broken everything else is. “Case,” Stephen says more firmly, raising to meet him at eye level. He pulls the stubborn hand from Casey’s face so they can look at each other.“Do you need to stop?”
Casey looks at him, lip quivering as tears stream down his face. He doesn’t want to. He’s been so adamant, but the idea of continuing on has him on the verge of a panic attack.
“Do you need to stop?” Stephen repeats, and Casey finally cracks.
“I can’t do it…” He whispers, shaking his head. “You were right, I can’t finish it.”
Stephen’s expression softens. He pulls Casey into a long hug, then starts to stand. “Go on,” he ushers Casey off, then makes his way to the microphone. “Thank you guys for being patient. Give us five minutes and we’ll be back out!”
Stephen catches up to Casey backstage, where he sits on one of the benches with his head in his hands. “Sorry,” he mutters, speaking to the band as well as Stephen. “You were right, we should have cut the f***ing song.”
“I wasn’t right to ask you to cut the song,” Stephen answers, coming to sit beside Casey. “I wasn’t right at all.”
“Yeah you were, I couldn’t even finish it.”
“Yeah, but you still tried. You gathered up all your strength to sing about something very important to you. Doesn’t matter that you didn’t finish, you tried to. And that’s a hell of a lot better than running from it all together. YOU were right.”
Casey shakes his head, not convinced.
“Maybe what you need, though, is a little more time.”
02/02/2020 12:58 PM
drabble; i will come to you.
I WILL COME TO YOU.
“When you have no light to guide you, and no one to walk beside you, I will come to you. Oh, I will come to you.” The lyrics are sung in a small voice, a muttering one not meant for performance, but for learning. Casey sings them over and over, each time with a different part played on the keyboard in the corner of his room. He’d gotten it as a gift from his grandparents his last birthday, and he’s played it every day since.
“When the night is dark and stormy, you won’t have to reach out for me. I will come to you. Oh, come to you.” Again, the part is played over and over, a switch in the keys. He stops to write a piece down in the notebook beside him, then tears it out, crumples it and tosses it behind him with his other failed attempts. Then he starts over. He writes the part down again, with a few tweaks in he melody, then he finally moves along.
“Sometimes, when all your dreams may have seen better days… When you don’t know how or why, but you’ve lost your way. Have no fear when your tears are fallin’. I will hear your spirit callin’. And I swear that I’ll be there, come with me.”
Casey has already perfected this part. It’s the heart of the song -- the origin line, and he’s been trying to build the rest around it. It has a melody. It has an instrumental part. It’s everything he wants, but the rest isn’t coming together as he’d hoped. He has chunks of lyrics and little else.
“You wrote that?” A voice chimes in behind him. The process is ruined. He’ll have to start over. Casey grits his teeth together and turns his head to see Richard standing in the doorway, his arms folded loosely over his stomach. “S’ pretty good, kiddo.”
“Eh… it’s not really finished.” Casey shrugs, looking over the papers scattered across the room, wondering how long he’s actually been sitting there.
Richard steps into the room, picking up a piece of paper along the way, unfolding it. He reads over the lyrics with a nod. “I liked this one, but you tossed it out?” He kneels down, holding out the sheet, which Casey snatches from him, his face flushed. He wasn’t expecting anyone to hear it, or care about it. He wasn’t expecting anyone to pick his work up and inspect it.
He scrutinizes the lyrics one more time, trying to decide whether or not Richard is just being kind.
We all need somebody we can turn to
Someone who'll always understand
So, if you feel that your soul is dyin'
And you need the strength to keep tryin'
I'll reach out and take your hand
“I dunno.” Casey shrugs, then turns back to his keyboard, messing with some of the settings, shifting between different sounds. He’s given up finishing the song.
“You don’t know?” Richard asks, fixated. He picks up another sheet. Casey grits his teeth together to keep from snapping at him.
“Yeah, I wasn’t liking it.”
“This is good too.” Richard hands him another sheet. “How come this one was bad?”
“Because it was? Can you stop?” That one, he doesn’t look at. He just sets it aside, then goes back to doddling, his heart hammering in his chest, his body on fire from the inside out. Please let this end soon, he inwardly begs, but Richard sits down right beside him, as if to squash any hope he has of that.
“Did you write this for someone?” Richard asks, picking up the notebook.
“Dude, come on.” Casey snags it back. “It’s not for anyone.”
“About someone then?” Richard assumes. “Friend? Girlfriend? …Boyfriend?”
“No…” Casey looks over his newest page with his lips pursed together, shaking his head. Frankly, it isn’t about anything he’s ever actually been familiar with. Suddenly he realizes that’s why he can’t finish it. He can’t write about something he doesn’t know. To him, every lyric he’s written sounds insincere when he tries to sing it, because it it is, each drawn from places he’s never ventured. Is it even possible to be that kind of shield for someone? To guide them when no one else will? He has no idea, but in a perfect world…
The realization has him furrowing his eyebrows. He ultimately opts to throw the newest page away too after looking at it too long. “It’s not about someone I know, it’s more… I guess about someone I want to know.”
01/15/2020 03:38 PM
drabble; modern hearts.
loosely based on this song.
“So, how are things?”
Christian’s voice was staler than the coffee. They sat across from each other at a small diner just outside Franklin. It was fate they’d both been passing through Tennessee at the same time, but Casey had yet to determine whether that was good or bad. So far, bad. He stared out the window, watching a group of bicyclist travel along an otherwise empty road. Without looking over, he gave a shrug. “They’re great.”
“How’s sh*t with Sarah, you all settled into your new place? You need anything?”
It was obvious neither of them knew what to say to each other. Or, they knew, but didn’t want to open the door to a conversation that could further traumatize their friendship. Casey leaned his chin into the palm of his hand, shaking his head. “I’m all settled, I’m good, dude. Sarah’s… probably fine too, I dunno.”
Christian nodded and took a long sip of his coffee. When Casey finally looked over, he caught a grimace, and smirked. “You’re right.”
“This coffee sucks.” Christian’s nose scrunched up, and he scooted it away. “My bad.”
Casey shook his head.
“So, why’d you agree to come meet with me?”
The question came out of the blue, abolishing the small hints of lightheartedness Casey had begun to take solace in. He hadn’t realized how tightly he was clinging to it until it went away, and when it did, he was reminded how vulnerable he was. Christian knew every part of him and then some. He’d seen him at his darkest, and his lightest. And regardless of whether or not Casey looked him in the eye, he could read him like a book. “What do you mean?”
“You didn’t have to agree to come talk to me if you didn’t want to,” Christian answered. “From what I can see, you’re still pretty pissed.”
“I am pretty pissed,” Casey blunted. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss you.”
Christian gave a small nod, then looked out the window. “I guess it was kind of a d*ck move, huh?”
“Now are you starting to see my issue?” Casey rolled his eyes, though a smirk tugged at the corner of his lip. Pissed off or not, he couldn’t deny the instant karma being somewhat comedic. All the years he spent running around behind peoples’ backs, causing trouble, and he never saw the consequences of it. Looking at the big picture, he knew he deserved it and probably even more.
“I told you I was sorry though,” Christian pointed out. “And said we could still be friends. You said that was cool, and then never texted me back any time I tried.”
“I was pretty clear I needed a break from you,” Casey reminded him. “I said that from the get-go.”
“So, my question still stands then, why’d you come here?”
“Because I don’t want that break anymore? What do you want me to say?” Casey’s eyebrows furrowed. He looked up at Christian, then out the window. “I just literally said I missed you, you want me to come grovel at your feet or with my arms around your waist or somethin’?”
“Okay, okay.” Christian didn’t look at him. He just nodded slowly, continuing to stare at the empty road. He and Christian sat in silence, the clamour of dishes in the kitchen filling the gap their voices left in the air when they ceased.
It was harder than he thought it would be. Maybe it was childish to think they could hug it out, and everything would continue on like normal, or something close.
“You remember like a year ago, we met up in New York while you were on tour?” Christian asked, his voice almost completely concealed by the clamoring and the sounds of other voices as the cafe began to fill up. Casey registered it a few seconds late, but then suddenly looked over.
“And I said I wasn’t gonna be the one who f***ed you up?” Christian continued.
A fire ignited in Casey’s chest, the memory of it stinging more than he was prepared for. He went on lockdown, teeth clenched, posture suddenly straightening. “Okay, where are you going with this?”
“I’m getting there, I’m getting there.” Christian held a hand out, urgent but tender. The sharp look in his eyes kept Casey from snapping at him. “I’m sorry I did anyway. I really am. I know how f***ed up that probably looked, and I get that. I thought I wasn’t afraid of what would happen, but I was, and when it all happened, I ran. Because that’s what I’m good at doing.”
“Yup. Been doin’ it my whole life.” Christian rolled his eyes, smiling. “When things get hard, I take off. I always really envied you because you just tackle all your confrontations head-on. If someone comes at you, you stay, and you work it out.”
“I’m not sure about that…” Casey mused, lowering his eyes.
“I am. Maybe you couldn’t confront Sarah, but you didn’t really run from ‘er either. And when people were giving you hell, you stayed quiet, and you kept doing what you were doing. I can’t do that.”
“I get it.”
“Sure. We have reputations to uphold, I get it. I got it from the get-go.”
“Nah, it’s not just that, take your mental block off for a sec. I’m talking about me personally here. Not me, fame me.”
Casey wanted to argue that there would always be a link there, but instead he decided to hear Christian out.
“I run whenever anyone confronts me about anything, so when this came up, I couldn’t handle it. I usually don’t feel bad about doing that, but this time it hurt you, and I’m sorry for it. I hate what it did to you.”
Casey pursed his lips together. He wanted to ask, but couldn’t. And Christian, again with his uncanny ability to read him, went on. “You would have never shut me out like this before, and I don’t blame you, but I hate that. You would have probably never ended up in the hospital, or any of that sh*t either.”
“Guess that’s your karma,” Casey muttered. “And mine’s watching you move on without me.”
“You’re saying there’s no hope for us?”
Casey shrugged. “I wanna still be friends,” he admitted. “You’re one of the only people in the world I feel like I can tell anything to, so… I don’t obviously wanna let that go. But you’re right, we’d be stupid to think it could be like it was. It’d be naive to assume anyone would let us have that, huh?”
“And it’d be naive to think we’d be above caring about our public image,” Christian jabbed, smirking.
“Told you I get it.”
“Yeah…” Christian looked out the window again.
Casey breathed a deep sigh through his nose. “I do miss you.”
“I miss you too, kid.” Christian smiled. “But we still got each other. Right?”
“Yeah.” Casey started to stand, tucking his chair into the table. “I’ll pick up this,” he offered, motioning toward the coffees neither finished.
“Thanks for taking one for the team.” Christian came around the table. When they hugged, it was like nothing changed. For at least a few seconds, Casey could close his eyes and pretend they still had time to fix everything, though the reality beyond that felt like a barren wasteland. “So we’re okay? Kinda?” Christian asked.
“We’re okay. Kinda.” When they parted, Casey finally smiled. “I just needed a little time is all. Love you still, Chris.”
“Yeah, you too. A hell of a lot. I’ll text you.”
“Sure. I promise to actually reply this time.”
01/15/2020 03:38 PM
drabble; get it together.
cw: suicide mention, alcohol
GET IT TOGETHER.
It felt like a lifetime ago, sitting at the kitchen table with his grandparents, trying to convince them to let him go to LA. “Are you sure you wanna do that?” his grandmother asked him. Her tone was soft, but lacked the understanding Casey had been craving at the time, and therefore was met with a sharp-eyed stare. His grandfather followed shortly after, taking her side.
“You haven’t even finished school. You’re gonna need a job, and someone to stay with, right?” He battled, and Casey fought back with a lie: “I have someone to stay with.”
It felt like sitting in an interrogation room, the way his grandparents’ eyes joined forces to blaze into him, only deferring to hold silent conversations among themselves each time Casey gave them a response. Casey was never quiet about his goal, but each time he voiced it, his grandparents refused to take him seriously. His grandmother switched game plans. The plea to finish school wasn’t working, so instead, she used his state of mind. “I know you’re not feeling your best right now, but --.”
Casey’s grandparents, while always supportive of any of his ventures, would typically advocate for stability over day-dreaming. They were convinced Casey’s desire to audition for Talent! was day-dreaming. He knew she would make a plea for him to give it more time, but the hospital band was proof enough he’d already given it too much time. “It’s not about how I’m feeling right now, it’s about I’ve been wanting this for a long time, and how many times am I gonna just let it pass by while I’m out here goofing off?”
At that point, his grandmother stole the argument. “But you made that decision because of how you feel right now. We understand that, and you know we support you no matter what, but I really do think you should stay and finish school first. Get a job, save up some money, and then go out there. What if whoever you’re staying with doesn’t work out, and you’re stuck out there? How much money DO you have saved?”
Casey remembered wanting to tell her that school was the reason for his little stunt, but she already knew. Before long, everyone would know. “Aunt Barb said she’s gonna help me.”
“So she’s okay with this…”
“I say let the kid go then,” his grandfather finally jumped in. At that point, it was Casey furrowing his eyebrows, looking dumbfounded. That wasn’t the usual code. It wasn’t like him to jump on the day-dreamer side.
“What?” Casey would never forget the way his grandmother grabbed his grandfather’s shoulder, as if checking for illness.
“Yup. Don’t get me wrong, I really think you should finish school first, but I know you… If we don’t back you up, you’re just gonna go, and I’d rather at least know where you are and what you’re doing”
He was right. Although ideal, approval wasn’t the main goal as far as Casey was concerned. Even if they told him no, they didn’t have any authority over him, and he would find a way out there with or without their help.
“But I do want you to promise me something. You mess up, or decide it’s not working out, you call me, and you come home. You finish school, and get stabilized. Deal?”
“Deal.” - - -
“You mess up, or decide it’s not working out, you call me, and you come home. You finish school, and get stabilized. Deal?”
The promise played over and over in his head. He thought about it all the time, yet when the time came to follow through, Casey sat there, staring at his phone in silence. He had nothing. He’d quit his job on the spot. His deal with Byron was up in the air, and his pact with Jacob and Isaiah was uncertain with Isaiah still in the competition. “Yo, C.C.!” Randy walked over to him. The last few nights, they’d both been staying with Randy’s friend and drug connection, Tony. Casey was five shots in, still staring at his phone, vision hazy from tears he was fighting back. The last message from his grandmother said to call if he needed anything, and he did, but he couldn’t talk to her. He couldn’t bring himself to admit she was right.
Casey snapped out of his trance, smiling when he saw Randy standing over him. He’d huddled himself up into a corner of the living room while everyone else sprawled out on the couches. “Heyyy.” He waved, leaning his head back against the wall, sliding his phone away from him.
“You good, dude?” Randy plopped down beside him.
Casey ran his fingers over his hair. “I’m f***ed up…”
“Uh, yeah, no sh*t.” Randy laughed. “How much did you have?”
Casey shook his head. If he talked any more, he would either explode into hysterics or throw up. He sucked in a deep breath through his nose, keeping his hand over his face.
“Hey…” Randy straightened up. He hadn’t had enough to drink to ignore Casey like the rest of them, but Casey wished he had. “Dude, you good? You gonna throw up?”
“No… I’m not gonna puke, maybe”
“Oh…kay, then what’s up? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, man…” Casey finally whispered, pulling his knees up to his chest, swiping furiously at his face. Only right then did he notice how close Randy was sitting to him, and the rest of the room was a blur. He could barely hear himself think, let alone talk, and he felt like all his words were just coming out like mush, but he couldn’t stop them. “I just feel like a f***in’ loser, you know? Like I had that one shot, and I blew it, so now what am I even supposed to do at this point? And I told my grandparents I’d call them, but I don’t want to, I don’t wanna go back home -- I don’t wanna go back home.”
“Dude, it was just one avenue.” Randy lit up a cigarette between words. “It’s just ONE way of getting where you wanna be, but it ain’t the only way. And sh*t, if your grandparents are gonna support you ‘til you figure it out, let ‘em. Go home.”
Casey shook his head. “I can’t…”
“So, what, you’re just gonna sit around, get drunk and cry ‘til something happens? Because that’s not the way this sh*t works.”
“F*** you, Randy…” Casey rolled his eyes, scoffing a small laugh. “I am not.”
“Really, because that’s all I’ve seen you do since you got kicked off, man. You gotta pick yourself up. Reapply at the restaurant, I’m sure Lia would gladly take you back. Get your sh*t together, and get goin’ again. You are way too young to be doin’ what these idiots are doing.” Randy pointed behind him at the huddle on the couch. “They’re gonna go nowhere and they’re too f***ed up to care about it. You don’t have to be that.”
“Maybe I’d be f***ing happier if I didn’t have that kinda pressure on me.” Casey muttered, wiping his face again with the back of his hand. “If I was just happy being a loser, this wouldn’t suck so bad.”
“That’s bullsh*t.” Randy took a long drag off his cigarette, then passed it to Casey. “You’re gonna die here if you think like that.”
Casey took a drag off the cigarette, staring at the couches. They’d all done a lot more than drink. Casey wished he could be as numb as them, laid out on whoever without an ounce of concern. He wished he didn’t have to think about the show, or Byron, or his grandparents. He shook his head slowly. “I’m gonna die if I go home too.”
“Then the solution’s obvious, bud. Take a few days, cry it out or whatever, then get the hell back to work. You didn’t get kicked off the show because they think you suck. Get your sh*t together like they told you. You went through therapy and all that sh*t. You got yourself all the way out here. The willpower’s there, let your pride take a back seat for a sec.”
Casey rolled his eyes.
“You’re gonna get rejected over and over if this is what you wanna do, kid. So get used to that. I’ve had labels tell me I wasn’t worth sh*t, but I’m still goin’.” Randy took his cigarette back. “You can too. But the next time I see you doin’ this crap, I’ll take your phone and call your grandma myself.”
“You never wanted to just say f*** it?” Casey asked. He slid his back against the wall until he was laying on the ground, watching the ceiling. “The whole time, you never just wanted to do this ‘cause it was easier?”
Randy laughed. “Hell yeah, I have. Which is why I’m telling you not to.”
Casey was back and forth between listening, and fighting for awareness, and in the midst of it, Randy’s point was becoming lost. “But it all worked out for you.”
“I think it did.”
Casey gave a small nod, bringing his arm underneath his head. He let out a deep breath to still his churning stomach. “I’m really f***ed up.”
“I could see that the second I walked up to you,” Randy teased. Casey felt a tug on his shoulder, Randy starting to pull him off the ground. He hadn’t realized how out of it he was until he tried to stand, and it took both the support of Randy and the nearest wall to hold him together. Randy pulled his arm over his shoulder and started trudging toward the bathroom. “C’mon, if you throw up all over the place, Tony’s gonna freak. Think about what I said, though, I’m serious. I’m not afraid to heckle you sober too.”
“I know, I know…” Casey muttered, but stopped walking.
“What’sa matter, can you make it?”
“Mhm.” Casey turned to pull his arms around Randy’s shoulders. “Love you, dude. Sorry I’m such a f***ing idiot right now.”
Randy laughed, pulling Casey into a tight hug. As he pulled back, he ruffled up his hair a bit. “You’re not an idiot. I get you, it’s why I’m not gonna let you do what I did.”
“Well, thanks.” Casey laughed, swatting his hand away.
“So you gonna get your sh*t together and move on?”
Casey wobbled a bit in his place, leaning onto the wall with a lopsided grin on his face. “Yeah… yeah, after I finish throwing up, I’ll get my sh*t together and move on.”
01/03/2020 12:33 PM
drabble; Q and A.
Q AND A.
“Hello everyone. I’m Casey from 24 Times Rock, and today I will be answering your questions. The stream is moving pretty quickly already, so uh… sorry in advance if I miss you, I’ll try and get to what I can. Alright!”
Casey claps his hands together, settling himself at the keyboard. He leans closer to the screen, trying to fish out his first question among the hundreds being posed at the same time. Most of them are questions he’s answered before: How did you get started? What instruments can you play? What happened with Sarah? A thousand I love yous from a thousand different hometowns. “I love all of you too, I’ll get that out of the way right now,” he mutters idly. “Alright, question one: What instruments would you love to learn? I’d love to be really good at the banjo. No particular reason. I don’t have any written material to line up with such an occasion, I’d just love to be a badass banjo-player.”
Moving along, Casey scrolls past more virtual mush. He shakes his head. “What’s your least favorite instrument to play? The drums, hands down. If you look close enough, you can see the life literally drain from my face any time I have to play them.”
The next question he latches onto earns a laugh, in spite of the instinctive churning in his stomach. “Why do you still wear your wedding ring? ‘Cause I like to wear rings and this is the only one I have.” He glances up at the camera, grinning, before shaking his head. As he prepares an actual response, his eyes cast to the ceiling. “Totally kidding. Um, honestly, it just feels weird to take it off. I’m sure Sarah had no problems getting rid of hers, and there’s nothing wrong with that either, but I’m just not really like that. Maybe one day I’ll bring myself too, but… who knows.”
He moves on. The stream starts to move more aggressively, some apologies and well wishes, some slight annoyance over his response. He acknowledges the collective passion with a small nod. His stomach continues turning. He takes a deep breath through his nose, then sighs. “Interesting reactions. Um, moving on, what’s your favorite part about touring? I honestly love the feeling of being on the move, you know? Like I like sleeping in the van, or huddling up in hotel rooms. I like seeing a new place every day. And of course actually playing the shows is, like, really cool, but it’s the traveling that does it for me. Oh! Shopping. I am a MAJOR shopaholic. You can ask anyone who travels with me, I’m the first one running into all the stupid little souvenir shops and stuff.”
He watches his redemption live time, his response about the wedding ring seemingly forgotten. He shakes his hands out, as if to ward off all the lingering anxiety. “What’s your least favorite part about touring? I miss my kid, and I miss my cats.”
He squints, then laughs at the sudden influx of cat pictures. “You all have very cute cats,” he muses while scrolling. “Did you sell your piano, or did you destroy it? I took it apart and recycled what I could of it. It’ll make another really great piano some day I hope. I have a new, better one that’s coming out for the tour.”
He reads on, catching a slew of comments about the new album. “Glad you guys are digging Young and Dumb. One question I just caught -- what does the song mean to you? So… Young and Dumb was an interesting song for us, in terms of our writing process. Most of the time, when we start a song, it’s usually one of us is coming up like ‘hey, I wrote these lyrics and I’d like to work on this’ or something to that effect. So it means more to one person than maybe the rest of the band, even though we’re all involved. This is one of the rare occasions where the song means a little bit to each of us, and we all had a very equal hand in deciding how it was gonna go. For me personally, it’s a song about time. It’s a song about reflection. I know some people could say ‘well you’re still young, so why do you wish you were younger’ but that’s not really the point. It’s not young in a literal sense, but in the way that like… when we were first starting out, we had a bit less to lose, and therefore we were able to be more whimsical. We were able to throw caution out the window and pursue our adventure with a lot less limits. Over the years, we started to lose that. We have more people to answer to, including ourselves. We have more to lose, and therefore, we limit ourselves. The song is also about trying to break free from this mold we’ve sort of put ourselves in. In moving on from Absolute and starting our own label, it’s actually a step toward this young and dumb feeling described in the song.”
Casey reads through the responses, smiling. “I’m probably really bad at explaining it, Jacob can describe it really well, so I hope that didn’t sound too stupid. If it does, I guess you got the evidence now. Here’s another song one -- tell us the meaning behind a song you’ve never talked about before? I think we’re generally pretty open about this, but there is one song called I Will Come to You. This song is one we play a lot live, and it’s on a few live CDs and DVDs or whatever, but we’ve never really put it on an album. I wrote the song when I was about… thirteen, maybe fourteen? And it was one of the first ones I ever wrote actual music too, but I’ve always held off putting it on an album or producing it beyond a live show, because I like the way it sounds when played in the moment. It means a lot to me, and I feel like the sentiment is only there when it’s played with few added effects. The song sounds kinda like a love song with the lyrics, but it’s actually about a friend. I wrote it kinda about the friend I WISHED I had back then, so, the person who’s coming to me didn’t really exist at the time. It was just a person I wished would come to me, to be there when I had no one, you know? It’s a song about loneliness.”
The response is endearing. A rush of emojis, and well-wishes. A few questions about his well-being. “Mmmm, I wouldn’t say I’m totally un-lonely, but getting there. I did late on find people who were there for me, yes. And I still have that, but I think there’s just that part of me that’ll always feel that way. You all have nothing to worry about, because you don’t have to deal with me personally.”
He chuckles at the disagreement, then catches a question. “What’s the worst fight you and the band have ever been in? I can honestly say we’ve never been in any like… HUGE fights. We tend to be pretty agreeable, but there’s always times where one of us is in a sh*tty mood, and it makes tensions high, which cause us to argue a little. I think the one time would be me and Jacob had a pretty good fight last year. I won’t go into detail, but we’re over it now, and we’re cool.”
He gives a thumbs up at the camera, and purposely ignores further inquiries. “And, I have time for this last one -- what’s your favorite place to visit on tour? I think Hawaii, we always have a lot of fun there, but I’m a big traveller and I can find something awesome pretty much anywhere. That’s it for now. Thank you for joining the stream, and asking your questions, or… sending I love yous and whatever else. Stay tuned for more details on our website about the upcoming tour. G’night!”
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