“This is K-Dog with the Old School Lunch Hour. Now, do y’all remember NSYNC? I bet you do. Whatever happened to Justin Timberlake? He had his solo career, movies, and then…nothing. Anyone know where he is now?”
“I know I haven’t got a clue…it was like he vanished.”
“Speaking of solo careers from 90’s Boybanders… Nick Carter’s latest album, I Did It For You is in stores today….call in and tell us what you think of it! And now, we take you back to the 90’s…”
…Hey hey…Bye bye bye…bye bye!
“Ugh, turn that shit off Brian.”
Brian smirked, reached forward into the front, and changed the station as requested. He sat back again, as their two bodyguards chuckled. Josh and Mike had been with them for some time, and knew them well. “NSYNC’s been gone for over a decade, and they still can’t resist comparing you to Justin.”
“Even if that asswipe’s been practically missing for three years.” Nick replied rolling his eyes as the van made its way down the heavily congested New York City roads. He yawned a bit, trying to stretch as much as he could within the back seat. When he had pictured this, he thought Jenn, rather than Brian would be in there with him. Instead, Jenn was smoothing out the complications his situation brought on, while Brian came along for the support.
The date was July 25th, 2016; a day would stay in Nick’s mind as long as he could keep it there. This was the date of his final solo album. He knew there was a treasure trove of unreleased material, but he wasn’t sure if the fellas would ever release it. Today was simple, an interview with Regis and Kelly, stopping over at the new MTV show “The Video Store”, a show that was very reminiscent of TRL. It amused the guys that it took MTV so long to reinstate TRL in its original format, and that when they finally did, they advertised it like it was a brand new idea. Which, in essence it was, to the newest generation of teenagers.
“Well, look on the bright side; soon you won’t have to remember him or his annoying pitchy voice. Cry me a riiiiiiver! ” Brian teased, grinning.
Nick laughed, Brian was the only one other than himself able to really make light of the dark prospects his future held for him. But that was always how Brian dealt with anything rough that came their way, he would joke about it. What fans saw as annoying, was really his defense mechanism. Nick’s was similar, always goofing around when everything seemed too much to handle. It was partly why their bond had been so strong since the beginning. It felt natural to have that fallback. No one else could really handle it being taken so lightly, and it simply helped remind Nick that nothing was ever going to be the same. He tried to shake away the dark thoughts from his mind. Wasting time dwelling wasn’t going to solve anything.
It was something Nick had to tell himself often.
“And I won’t have to remember them ripping us off half the time.”
Nick shuddered. If it hadn’t had been for Kevin, all those rumors about Lou having gone too far in his role as their “backer” would’ve actually been true. It had happened with other groups Lou formed, always with the young and “pretty” ones. Kevin however, had been suspicious when his own mother hadn’t bothered to be. It had saved him from being more psychologically scared than he already was. Over the years, he wondered if Lou had done anything to Aaron. His little brother never discussed his days under Lou’s management, and Nick had been unable to be there. He thought it could be the reason why Aaron was as troubled as he was.
If that was true, it would be just another thing he would be better off forgetting.
“What else?” Brian lead on, sensing the joke had somehow struck a sore spot.
“Or how Paris gave me that damn STD scare!”
“I can’t believe you didn’t see that one coming.”
“I was young and stupid.” Nick snickered. It was funny now, even if it hadn’t been back then. He’d called Kevin then, panicked, scared, and feeling like nothing could ever be worse. He'd just been lucky that when he got tested, they found nothing. That was up until last year, the worst phone call he’d ever gotten, when she told him the news.
That’s what I get for thinking.
And once more, he was brought back to reality. Back to the inside of their van, on the road again. He wondered how long he spaced out this time. Nick sighed. Once, that used to be because of his unmedicated ADD, and now this just added right on to it. He wondered again why it seemed God cursed him with a brain that could never quite function properly, and now seemed to fall apart.
Nick ran a hand through his hair, his eyes skipping around the van. He felt confused. Where was he? Where were they going? What were they doing? He glanced around the vehicle again, his heartbeat beginning to rise nervously. He didn’t like not knowing just what was going on. At the same time, he didn’t want to ask. All it did was make him feel weak and helpless, and he wasn’t ready for that yet. He opened his mouth anyway, before closing it again. Nick bit his lip, searching the depths of his mind for a clue into the answer he desperately needed right then.
Is this always how it’s going to be now? He asked himself, feeling a weight drop into his stomach at the mere thought.
Brian’s eyes met his and his eyes softened, being able to read the uncertainty written so clearly on his best friend’s face. He swallowed. “Nick, you okay? We’ll be at the MTV studio in a few minutes for your interview, about your album being out today. You up for it man?”
“Um…yeah, I’m okay.” Nick nodded, feeling nervous. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea, promotion for the solo album. How was he going to do this while keeping it all quiet till it was time to tell the world? What if he forgot what he was saying on stage? Or forgot how he got there? Fear ran down his spine like a trail of dancing icicles.
Thank God I have Brian.
The windows overlooking Time Square. The room filled with screaming fans. The douche of a host looking completely apathetic at the idea of interviewing Nick Carter. Of course on camera, he would look excited to be there with him. If Nick didn’t know better, he would think he was back in 1999, at the height of his career. A career so many would’ve killed for. Sun filtered through the windows, making the dust particles glitter in the air. Nick looked around with a wistful smile as he waited just out in the hallway, away from the view of the fans.
He had to enjoy this, while he still could.
“And we’re back at The Video Store. I’m Randy Myers with your top twenty countdown. You voted, you demanded, and we got it for ya. Today on the show, we have…Backstreet Boy, Nick Carter…” A chorus of new screams erupted. “That’s right, and he’s here to talk about his third solo album, I Did It For You…so come on out Nick!”
A grin was forced upon his face, and a glance back showed Brian there, looking supportive. He ran out into the main studio, throwing himself in to the arms of his fans. They embraced him and screamed. Soon, he was beaming, and it was no longer forced. The host, a young man no older than twenty, with bright red hair, pale faced, and freckled, watched looking bemused.
“You gonna do the interview from the audience Nick?”
Laughing, he continued to hug his fans. “Can I?”
“Come on Nick, I know you love the love…”
Nick smirked as he sang into the microphone, a song he was amazed he remembered given all the reasons he probably shouldn’t. “Love to love the way that you love me...”
The fans screamed yet again, recognizing the old song tossed aside from the Black and Blue days. He slowly made his way back through the mob towards the stage, embracing more fans as he did. Nick felt he needed to do this as much as he could. The love they had for him as a performer, for his music, it meant more than he could ever say. There was a reason why the album was titled the way it was, and this was it.
“Alright I’m coming…” Nick stated as he gets up on the stage finally. When the cameras shifted, the host rolled his eyes at him. Nick just smirked.
“Now that you’re up here, let’s talk about your album. “ A picture of his last official solo album flashed on the screen. The pain of knowing that, and choosing not to say it to all the loyal fans hurt more than expected.
“Let’s talk.” He walked over to the big open windows, waving down at those waiting in Times Square. It was almost an exact replica of the old TRL studio, and Nick wondered if it was the very same one.
“You seem to get more personal with this album, tell us about one of the songs.”
Nick swallowed hard, knowing the answer that was safest. But, he didn’t want to be safe. He could’ve answered about his family, since he knew the fans knew plenty about that. He could’ve answered about his life of fame, since his song “Thrill Ride” covered that really well. Nick took a deep breath, readying himself for one of his most revealing answers to the public since he was diagnosed. His tongue ran across his lips, thinking of how to say it.
“Sorry, tough question.” He chuckled. “I’d say my most revealing song is ‘Forget Me Not’. It’s the last track of the album. It’s simple, just me and my acoustic guitar. And…you can really hear the emotion I was feeling in the song. I’ll never perform it live, but it’s probably my favorite track on the record. I’ve never gone that deep before, and well ya know, I don’t think I’ll ever go that deep again.”
“Can we play a bit of that?” Randy asked, looking over at a few of the crew members offstage.
Nick braced himself. Hearing it now would be painful. As the gentle strumming of the beginning notes began to play, haunting and beautiful, he had to fight back the tears that suddenly threatened to fall. Looking around, he did his best to keep control. No one around there had a clue of the inner struggle taking place as he heard his own voice once more.
Just know when I’m gone,
When I think back to us,
I know the tears will come.
Memories will fade with time
But the pain never stops
Will you be able to think of me
And all we’ve been through
Will you keep me in your heart…
Even if I won’t do it for you?
The room had gone silent as the music faded away. In essence, this seemed to be his true goodbye to the world, even if he didn’t mean it to be. With the VMAs only a month away, it suddenly felt to Nick that this was the moment everyone would remember. And that was what he needed most, to be remembered as the artist he was above all else. Noise filtered through his head, but it was like a jumbled mess at first.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that man.” He gave an easy grin, forced and false.
“Was the song about anyone in particular?”
“I had people in mind as I wrote it, I guess. That song is like a combination of experiences, and I think that’s what makes it so special man.”
“Now your single, Thrill Ride, hit the radio this week. Talk to us about it.”
Nick was thankful for the change of subject. Suddenly however, the lyrics for the song he had chosen as his single went blank. Just as he opened his mouth to answer, he lost everything he was about to say about it. Mentally, Nick panicked. He couldn’t have this happen again. Not now. Not when soon everything he did leading up to the next month would be specifically remembered. They would look for signs and Nick wanted to be sure he gave them none.
Only those who knew him well would’ve seen the pure horror in his eyes, been able to decipher what it meant. Nick swallowed back hard, and decided to improvise. What else could he do when his mind failed him yet again?
“Oh well, I think the song speaks for itself there. Just listen to the lyrics, and I think everyone will see what I mean.”
When they went to commercial break, Nick glanced up at the ceiling and gave a silent prayer.
Just give me long enough to finish my goodbyes. That’s all I ask.