We were sitting around in our hotel room, waiting on mostly nothing, too scared to make a move forward or back. Too wrapped up in our own heads to say anything. It was too soon for the conversation we should have been having, and I’m not sure I could have mustered up a proper response anyway. At some points, I wasn’t even fully aware of what was happening, the question occurring to me more than a few times - is this a dream?
Am I really sitting here?
I kept waiting for someone to jump on top of me and start yelling in my face, or dump water on my head, or hit me in the balls - something to prove everything was normal. That our entire life hadn’t just collapsed right in front of us.
My holding out made it impossible to cry like the other two. Impossible to feel anything. If they knew how numb I felt, they’d have probably kicked me from the band right then and there.
I finally brought myself to look up. Allen and Steve sat beside each other on the single couch and I was on the floor with my knees tucked to my chest. Their heads were ducked down, arms folded, glassy eyes. I was beyond crying. I could barely even think, let alone cry, but I knew within the hour I’d probably be inconsolable. I knew I was a f***ing idiot for worrying about it, but I didn’t want to face the crash alone.
“So, what’re we gonna do?” Allen finally spoke up.
Steve shook his head. I still couldn’t form a sentence, even with a hundred-thousand of them flying around in my head. I couldn’t seem to pick one up, to make it coherent, so I just stared at him and hoped he had an answer.
“Neither of you are gonna f***ing say anything, really?” He kept going. That got Steve’s attention. “I’m not doing all the f***ing thinking.”
“If you ask me, he should be the one talking.” Steve nodded toward me. It's easy to be singled out when you're the f***ed up dude, sweating your ass off and shaking in the middle of the room.
I furrowed my eyebrows. “The f*** is that supposed to mean?”
“It means you were f***ing with him when it happened, so you should be the one manning up.”
It was obvious he’d been waiting awhile to confront me, but manning up wasn't his style any more than it was mine.
“You guys couldn’t keep your sh*t together and now Jim’s dead, and you’re just f***ing sitting there, waiting for us to clean it up. We have to tell people, we have to figure out what the f*** we’re gonna do, and it’s like - f***, dude, at least throw something out there. At least SAY something. Do you even give a f***?”
“Hey, Steve -.” Allen cut in, but Steve cut him off. I still couldn’t form a proper thought, let alone an argument. I just sat there, waiting, fretting about the crash, thinking about whether or not I could muster the strength to jump up and deck him in the face.
“No, don’t ‘hey, Steve’ me. How many times have we told you guys to knock that sh*t off?” Steve ran his fingers through his hair. He was crying again.
“Just shut the f*** up, man.”
Both of them looked at me, and it was only then I realized I even said something - that the words actually made their way out instead of just joining the flurry in my head. But a follow-up got jammed in the back of my throat, so I ended up sitting there stupidly with my mouth open, not even looking at them. I felt tears finally making a grand entrance, but I wasn’t sure they were real at first, and even then, I wasn’t sure I wanted them. It was asinine to miss the numbness, I knew it was, but I couldn’t help it.
When was someone gonna wake me up?
“You don’t get to say shut the f*** up right now, Chris - you don’t. You don’t get to tell me to shut the f*** up when I literally told you this was gonna happen, and you guys went out and did it anyway, and guess what? I was f***ing right, so YOU shut the f*** up.”
“You think I don’t understand all of that?! You think I don’t feel like sh*t already?” I lost track of the steps between me sitting on the ground to me and Steve up by the couch in each others’ faces.
“Then act like it! Say something! Help us clean up your god damn mess!” Steve shoved my shoulder. “Jimmy’s dead, dude, is that sinking in yet? Huh?”
“F*** you, Steve!” Before I could shove him back, Allen got between us.
“Alright, stop!” He squeezed himself in the middle to separate us. My chest was on fire. I was shaking. I wanted to run away but couldn’t. “This sh*t isn’t getting us anywhere either.”
Steve rolled his eyes, holding his hands up. “Whatever, dude, I’m outta here.”
He glared at me one more time, then turned to the door. Allen reached for his arm. It was like watching a couple of kids, the tug-of-war afterward. “Steve, come on.”
“No. This is useless right now anyway. We’re all upset, this a**hole’s f***ed out of his mind. We’re getting nowhere, we’re just sitting here. I’m not just gonna sit here in f***ing silence, and if neither of you plan to fill that silence, I’m leaving. Call me when you guys know what the f*** you’re doing.”
The room went quiet after he slammed the door. It played in my head over and over, but it wasn’t waking me up. Even on the verge of being convinced I wasn’t dreaming, there was still that one stupid part of me clinging to the idea. I was jealous of Steve for escaping while me and Allen stood there and suffocated under the weight of everything, the endless choices looming over us. How would we tell everyone? What about Jimmy’s family? His girlfriend? What about the band?
Allen took a deep breath, scratching the back of his neck. I kept watching the door, biting my nails.
“Why don’t you lay down for a bit and then we’ll all talk? I’ll see if I can get Steve under control.”
“You’re not pissed at me too?”
“Oh, I’m so far beyond pissed that I don’t even have a word,” Allen corrected me, wiping his eye. “I can’t f***in’ believe it honestly.”
I deserved that verbal smack to the face, but it still made me sick. Before I could say anything - not that I had anything to say - he suddenly pulled me into a hug. It took a minute to gather the strength to hug him back right away, but when I did, it opened a floodgate for both of us. Some people say it feels freeing to cry, but I’d never felt more miserable in my life. Having always tried my hardest not to put myself in a position of crying in someone’s arms, as well as having to console someone who’s crying in mine, I have no idea what to do with myself when both are happening at the same time, so I had to just let it happen. It felt empty, not freeing. It felt lonely. We were hugging, but we weren’t united in any way; we were just sad. Neither of us could run to anyone else. If we could, Allen would probably have been as far away from me as possible, and I’d be cast out alone somewhere, and I deserved it entirely.
Allen suddenly started laughing, wiping at his face and shaking his head as he pried away. “But no amount of yelling at you is gonna bring him back, is it?”
I couldn’t fathom how he could possibly laugh, but he checked himself pretty quick. When he straightened up again, he put his hand on my shoulder. “But dude, for real, you gotta get your sh*t together, I’m not kidding. I’m not gonna lose you too.”