“Nick are you paying attention?”
“Nicky!” Howie called, finally causing Nick to snap back to attention. He’d found himself spacing out more and more during the past month. They’d finished the album and were now trying to block for the performances of their first single “Calling Out To You” and work out the choreography. They had yet to decide the final album tracklist, but they were more concerned on making sure the performances would be on point.
“Sorry! And don’t call me Nicky!” he half whined, half spit out, finding himself overly irritated at Howie.
Brian gave Nick a look as AJ caught his eye and just chuckled. “Nick must not be getting any lately. No wonder he’s cranky.”
Nick rather than laugh along, just rolled his eyes. He’d always had a case of diagnosed but unmedicated ADD, since he hated the effects of the pills. Over the years he learned tricks that would help him focus on whatever he was doing at that moment. But lately, he’d been having more problems focusing than he ever did before. When he was driving, he’d have to fight to pay attention or he’d end up on a random street with not a clue of how he got there. He’d space out during rehearsals when it was his turn to sing. And now, when they were trying to get down the choreography and block out on the stage which Boy went where, he found himself staring off into space and annoying the others, and himself.
He started wondering if maybe he’d been overdoing the drinking, if Brian was right. Or that the fact he’d only been getting five hours of sleep a night if he was lucky, was beginning to catch up with him. Maybe it was a combination of all of them. Maybe he was catching the flu again; he of all people knew how weak his immune system was to that, as he was always getting sick with one thing or another. The timing was bad as they had a promotional appearance on the Today show within days.
A tap on the shoulder caused him to jump and turn to see the culprit, Brian.
‘I must’ve spaced out again. Shit.’
Nick forced a grin. “Just imitating how you gotta leap to reach stuff.”
“You look tired.”
“I’m good… can’t we just rehearse?”
“You’ve come back down from Planet Nick right?” Howie remarked, the corners of his mouth twitching in amusement.
“I’ll have you know it’s called Nickopolis thank you very much.”
AJ snickered as he stretched a bit. “Otherwise known as the insane asylum.”
“Alright guys, let’s focus.”
Brian saluted Howie. “Yes sir Daddy Howie!”
“Remind me to tell Kevin thanks soooooo much for calling you to join.”
The music began to play as once more Nick forced himself back to attention. He followed the others in synch with the music and steps that their once again choreographer Fatima, had designed for them. Nick felt himself smile, he loved dancing these days. At one point, he used to hate it, having been slower to catch on to it than the others. But as time progressed, dancing had become natural and fun to do once more. Yet as he continued, he found himself fighting harder and harder to get the steps right. Eventually he tripped over his own feet, almost knocking AJ over from behind and missed by mere inches.
‘Thank God AJ tunes out the whole damn world when he gets into his dancing zone.’
The Boys danced effortlessly, making sure they didn’t bump into each other. Nick stood there, feeling stupid for having not a clue of what steps came next. Brian was the one who noticed Nick’s lack of dancing first. The look of concern on the southern man’s face was plain as day to see as his forehead crinkled. “What’s up?”
“I’m out, I’m done for today.” Nick retorted, furious at himself. How could he forget the steps? They had a performance coming in mere days. “You guys keep going, I need a break.”
For the first time in almost a decade, Nick felt the sudden craving for a smoke. He wondered if he could raid AJ’s stash. He shook the thought aside, part of the reason he’d quit was to get his voice back into shape. Now that it was and had been for years, he didn’t need to screw that up again. He walked outside of the dance studio they’d rented out, kicking the wall as he walked down the alleyway behind the building. Finally he stopped, slumping down to the ground with a sigh.
This time, instead of Brian checking on him, it’d been AJ. Nick would’ve bet five hundred dollars then and there that it’d been Brian who sent him out however. AJ squatted down beside him, lighting up a cigarette casually as he did. Nick watched the sun set, the sky becoming a mixed hue of blues, reds and pinks. It almost gave him the urge to draw. For now, it gave him something to focus on as AJ interrogated him.
“So what’s your deal?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been more moody than Rochelle when she was acting bi-polar and on her damn period. What crawled up your ass and started camping up there?”
“Dude, you know you’re gonna tell us eventually. So just talk and then Brian and Howie will chill.”
“Howie’s worried too?”
“Of course, you know how he is. He becomes that Puerto Rican Jumping Bean when he gets annoyed, but that’s cause you’re worrying us man. You come in looking half dead; you end up leaving angry…”
Nick ran a hand through his hair, trying to stifle a yawn yet failing. “I must just be tired. I haven’t been sleeping well…maybe its insomnia or some shit like that.”
“Maybe you should…”
“I ain’t going to therapy again. That’s a load of crap and was the last time I tried it. I’ll pick up some sleeping pills and see if that helps.”
“Come on then, we’re used to you stumbling around over those long ass limbs of yours.”
The two stood, and Nick followed AJ inside. He swore to himself then and there that he’d cut down on the partying a bit so he could get himself back together. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel like he was falling apart.
The sun was shining, clear blue skies, not too hot just yet; all in all it was a beautiful day in New York City. It was June 1st, 2015 and the Backstreet Boys were there for the Early Show’s Summer Concert Series. Nick sighed happily to himself, the crowd screaming their names as they walked up upon the stage. This was what felt natural. Despite everything else that his life could screw up, performing was not one of those things. The stage was where he belonged, where he thrived, and where he was happy. Nothing could go wrong here; this was him, simple as that.
He shot Brian a grin as the music began to play. As the track picked up, they began to dance and sing their song for all to see, doing what they loved. Nick felt himself thrive on the energy, the crowd and was actually able to focus on keeping himself in step. Brian stepped forward as he, AJ, and Howie danced behind him, singing his lead.
“As the world turns its back on me
And I lose all self control…
I see the darkness head my way
Only you can save my soul…”
The four all danced together again as they came upon the chorus.
“So I’m calling out to you…
You can save me as I fall
Now I stand here, hear my call
I’m calling out to you
I’m calling out to you
I’m calling out to you…”
Nick stepped forward, with AJ, Howie and Brian still dancing behind him. They’d long ago gone back to their old methods of performing, and decided whoever was leading should play and sing to the crowd while the others danced, preserving the quality of the vocals. The media still managed to mock them for dancing and singing like any old Boyband from the 90’s would, but they’d long ago stopped caring. Nick bent down, giving the smirk he’d become famous for. He opened his mouth to sing.
And then it happened. In one simple, horrifying moment, it happened. His mind had gone blank. He opened his mouth to sing the lyrics again, nothing came. Not from his mind, not from his mouth. Absolutely nothing. His mind was racing.
‘Please God; let me remember just what the hell I’m supposed to sing! Why can’t I remember? I never forget! What do I do? Oh fucking hell, what the HELL do I do now? Come on Nick, THINK!’
Despite his mental pleas, there came no sudden miracle revelation to save him. He was clueless at what his lyrics were. He’d been singing this song everyday to remember and now it did him no good at all. He felt like an amateur. For the first time in Nick’s life, he had no idea what to do with himself on stage. He had no lyrics to sing, he was on national television, live on stage surrounded by hundreds of fans.
And he had no idea what he should be singing.
He turned as Brian caught his look of horror and fear. AJ and Howie looked confused as Howie motioned for Nick to get started while the band behind them played, bewildered as well. Brian ran forward to where Nick was, throwing his arm around him, singing the lyrics that were supposed to have been Nick’s.
“As I watch myself crumble down
I see your face, I need you near
For I’m abandoned by the world
So please come save me from it all
Please come saaaaaave me…”
Nick got back in step for the chorus, acting as if what he did was simply part of the show. He wasn’t sure if they bought it, but there was no other option either way. As soon as the performance ended, Nick forced his final smile for the cameras. They were done for the day. He ripped off his ear piece and audio equipment that was strapped to him and set it on a random table. He thanked his lucky stars they’d only agreed to an already taped interview and one song performance. He bolted off the stage. He felt bad that he was ignoring the fans, but he doubted they were happy with his blunder on stage anyway. His massive screw up. Nick still couldn’t believe he’d done that; he never did anything like that before. The stage was supposed to be his safe haven. It was supposed to be the one place where everything was right.
Instead it betrayed him.
“Nick!” Brian called as they followed him through the building.
“Leave me alone Brian! And before you two say anything that goes for you guys too AJ and D!”
“Nick, just stop!”
“Nick, chill out and come back here.”
“I said leave me the hell alone!” His fast pace was slowly turning into a run. Nick just felt the need to get away, escape and forget this day ever happened. There was only one problem to that. He had no idea which way to go to get to the vans waiting behind the building. He mumbled a string of curses as he stopped and turned around. If he gave the guys some excuse, he could simply follow them out. They wouldn’t need to know he’d spaced yet again and forgot just how the hell to get out of there. He needed to find some way to start focusing so these things wouldn’t happen.
‘God damn ADD.’
“Fine, I stopped. What?” Nick blurted as they all came to a stop in front of him, his eyes narrowed.
“Look, we were making sure you were okay Frackolas.”
“What happened up there?” Howie questioned, looking not angry, just anxious. As far as Nick was concerned, he could just join the club on that feeling.
“Look…” His mind scrambled for a lie. He didn’t need the others on his back right then. “I went to the doctors the other day, about my lack of sleep and shit ya know? He’s got me on ADD medicine again, thinks that’s why. I took it before we got here and I think it made me blank out.” Nick simply hoped that sounded legit. It was one of the boldest lies he’d ever told to the fellas since his drug dabbling phase, but he needed them to believe this. He only wished he could believe this.
Howie nodded. “That makes sense, I guess....”
“I’m sorry I screwed it up so bad…”
“Oh, it’s okay man. Sometimes that happens to the best.” That was a lie, but it was a kind lie, so Nick appreciated it.
AJ smirked. “Tell the doc he needs to give you something else.”
Nick forced a laugh. He knew he had to act cordial despite his anger, humiliation, and frustration for this lie to work. “Yeah seriously, I will. That had to have been one of the worst moments of my life. I ain’t having that happen again. Thanks for bailing me out Bri. “
Brian simply gave a slight nod in response. Nick knew then that Brian hadn’t believed a word that he just said. He also knew however that Brian couldn’t prove he was lying, so that was why he was saying nothing. Nick sighed as he followed the others through the building. He tried to recall his verse once more. What scared him was that even after hearing Brian sing it, nothing came to him. He knew the title yet nothing else despite rehearsing the song every which way more times than he could count. Just a blank space within his head where the song should be.
His heart continued to pound at what his doctor would consider an unhealthy rate. It wasn’t drugs or alcohol causing this, like in the past. No, this time it was pure unadulterated fear. Despite all the excuses, Nick couldn’t explain this one away like he had been everything else lately. This time he was forced to see the truth, and it frightened him beyond belief.
Something was definitely wrong.