A Moment in Time
We all sat around my small table and laughed our asses of. We haven’t done this in such a long time. I’d almost forgotten what it was like. Just the five of us guys all alone on a bus. Yes, I did say Five. I haven’t forgotten that Kevin abandoned ship a few years ago. But, he surprised us tonight by showing up for our concert. He, Kristin and Mason were all backstage to greet us before we went on stage.
I always get so nervous when I see him. I’m not sure why. It’s kind of like knowing that big brother is in the wings watching, literally. I mean when we shared a stage it was different, but now that he’s just an observer, he can be even more critical of our performances and when I say our, I really mean mine.
When we were done though, he walked right over to me before any of the other guys and pulled me tight into a hug “You were awesome tonight little man!” He whispered in my ear. “I’m so proud of you!” He then tapped my stomach and moved on to AJ. He still calls me little man. He probably will until the day I die.
After talking for a few minutes, he let us know he was going to Boston, just like we were. He was taking a flight straight from our show so the family had their bags with them. Originally, he just wanted a lift to the airport, but we convinced him to take the bus with us the entire way, just like old times! It took some convincing, but he finally agreed. I think it was actually Kristin he had to really sell the idea to.
So, the girls decided to take Brian and Howie’s bus and the five of us settled for mine and AJ’s. The trip was only going to be about two hours long but that’s more than any of us have spent alone with each other in a really long time!
I know…I know…the four of us are together all the damn time, but it’s different. Even though we are together we’re never alone. Now that we’re all older, we have more people traveling with us. Brian always has his wife and Baylee with him. I couldn’t help but glance at him as I was thinking that and had to giggle when I saw he was wearing his neon orange shirt. You know, they always have to match that family, just in case one of them gets lost. Yup, I rolled my eyes. I bet I didn’t even have to say that though. Anyway, where was I?
Right… never alone…
Howie always has his family with him now and of course there’s AJ’s Monkee girl. Yup, did it again! Not to say I travel alone either. I usually have Lauren with me but that’s the thing, it’s never just classic Backstreet anymore. This was a rarity and I was enjoying it!
“Do you remember when the bus broke down on our way to a show in Ohio back in 98 or 99?” Brian asked taking a swig of water and chasing it with a piece of cucumber. I know, he’s weird but he insists it is better than alcohol. Have I mentioned he’s wearing a neon orange shirt?
“Oh God, yes and Kevin had one of his classic meltdowns!” AJ said starting to laugh.
“Excuse me? What do you mean by classic meltdowns?” Kevin raised his brow at AJ.
“Come on dude, you used to always freak out about the littlest things!”
“I’m not freaking out now!” He said slowly sipping some tea and eating the last of my Chips Ahoy cookies. He’s Kevin I can slap his hand but I’m afraid he’ll kick my ass.
“That is true. Maybe, I stand corrected.”
“Buses break down, it happens.” He added shrugging.
“You didn’t say that in Ohio. Remember, you almost threw a toaster out the window!” I had to remind him.
“It wasn’t because of the breakdown it was because you were driving me nuts and for the record I wasn’t aiming at the window, I was aiming at your head!”
“I was young, and was supposed to drive you nuts. That was my job.” I gave him one of my adorable smiles. Yes, I do have an adorable smile. I’m told it’s irresistible. Stop rolling your eyes at me! Only I am allowed to do that here!
“You did your job very well.” Howie said as he hit the top of my head.
“You just liked to blame me for everything back then. You all did!” I pouted and tried to grab the very last handful of popcorn out of the bowl in the middle of the table. AJ got to it first and laughed as he stuffed it all into his mouth.
“See? This is why I’m skinny now. Everyone keeps eating all my food!”
“Aww poor Wittew Nicky pooh!” Howie said grabbing my cheeks.
They all got a kick out of that. Why did I say I was enjoying myself again?
“I wonder how long it’s going to take before we’re back on the road.” That was Brian who seems to have anxiety and separation issues when he’s more than five miles away from his neon orange family. I’m sure if he looks close enough he could still see them glowing from here.
I guess now’s when I should mention that about 45 minutes into our journey, our bus decided to just stop working. It made a kind of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Sound and then started smoking on us. By the time the bus driver decided to let Brian’s bus know, they were already way ahead so we just told them to keep going and we’d catch up with them in Boston. That was about an hour ago.
“We have never had great luck with buses. Remember in Germany?”
They all let out groans which made me laugh, “That was the best Kevin freak out ever!” I ended by looking over at him and mocking him the best way I knew how “I CAN’T BELIEVE THESE PEOPLE! I SWEAR I’M GOING TO LOSE IT!” To get the full effect I stood up and started jumping up and down, exactly like he did all those years ago.
Everyone started laughing, “Okay fine, I used to get a little upset about these types of things. Now, I’m more relaxed.”
“I can’t believe you forgot the biggest Kevin freak out of all, especially you, Nick.” Brian said giving me his all too familiar “Don’t you remember what I’m talking about?” look.
“I’m so glad I decided to ride with you all so we could relieve my best moments. Remind me to just bring my own damn car next time!” Kevin shook his head in a fake disgust as he opened a bag of Sun Chips. A small correction, as he opened a bag of MY Sun Chips. Man…even the Sun Chips? I need to just start licking everything before it gets eaten!
I was trying to think back to what Brian was talking about. He smiled at the lost look on my face. “Canada….polar bears….remember?”
“Oh my God!!” Howie said. I guess he remembered as did everyone else and then finally it hit me as well.
“Shit! How did I forget about that one?”
Kevin was still shaking his head, “I seriously thought I was going to kill you.”
“Hey, the bus was broken and we had time to spare. I didn’t know I’d get trapped in the polar bear cage.”
We all sat quietly for a few minutes after the laughter had died down. That was the other thing I missed. The quiet times like this when we could all five be sitting not more than a foot away from each other but yet feel comfortable enough to not say one word for long periods of time. I know I am a talky person and also kind of obnoxious, but it was times like this I loved best. I always felt safe during the quiet times. I felt the love in the room. Even when we seemed to hate each other, when it was quiet it was always a good quiet.
“I miss this.” I decided to say and yes, I was usually the person who broke up the quiet time.
They all looked over at me, “This has been nice, huh?” Howie admitted.
“Do you remember when we would be totally bored and play the bus game?” I asked.
“Wow, that’s really going back in time.” AJ said. “I’m pretty sure they invented that game for you and your ADD dude.”
Kevin nodded, “He’s not the only one AJ. You were pretty rambunctious yourself.”
“Thank you Kevin!” I said, reaching over and giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“How did that go again?”
“You don’t remember, Brian? Whenever we passed a bus on the road we all had to yell BUS and freeze! Whoever didn’t freeze had to do something dumb in public.” I explained.
“Howie usually lost!” Kevin added.
“I hated that game.” Guess who said that?
“That seems like such a long time ago. We were all so young back then.” Uh – oh Kevin’s getting reflective now.
“It was bro. When we first met, I was taller than this kid.” AJ said pointing to me. It’s weird to think about it, but he was right. He used to tower over me. They all did. “Speaking of which, I need another drink.” He handed me an empty can of Coke.
“Excuse me, last time I checked I wasn’t anyone’s butler monkey.”
“I can use another one too.” Howie said, ignoring my statement.
“I’ll take another tea.”
I looked over at Brian, the only one who hadn’t given me their drink order. “Anything for you?”
“Nah, I’m good but thanks for offering.” He took another bite of cucumber and chased it with his water. I love him.
I forgot this used to happen when it was just the five of us, I became the gopher. When I was little it used to be the little brother thing. If you do something nice for me, I won’t do something mean to you later on! At least that’s how they tricked me into doing pretty much everything for them. Now, I know better. I say as I am still doing whatever they want.
I restocked everyone’s drinks including my own and noticed not one of us was drinking anything more lethal then water and cucumber. Wow, things really have changed.
You could really gage our best and worst of times just by looking at our small table. In the best of times, our table was filled with junk food, sodas and cookies. Just like today. In the worst of times, the food was replaced by bowls of pills and bottles of Vodka and Tequila.
“The bus should be moving momentarily. Sorry for the delay.” Our bus driver said as he grabbed some Sun Chips out of the bag and moved back to his seat. Even Rob has to steal my food! Amazing!
“You know, for a kid who seems to be eating healthy these days, you sure do have a lot of junk food on this bus.” Kevin said as he popped some more Sun Chips in his mouth. Like the guy should talk. He hasn’t stopped eating since he walked onto this bus!
“It’s for company…obviously!” I moved my hands to the table to remind them that they were the ones eating all the food. I seriously had maybe half a cookie and a handful of chips the entire time.
“He’s right, he barely eats this stuff. Me and my Monkee always go through his secret stash and clean him out.”
“See? And by the way, you seem to be enjoying the junk food. What happened there?” I asked Kevin and jokingly pat his belly the way he always used to pat mine. “Maybe I should start calling you pork chop.”
He cringed at the nickname he gave me back in the day. I used to cringe too. “I’m sorry about that. I should have never called you that.” He apologized again. I admit that’s why I brought it up. I knew it was the one thing that he really did feel sorry for back then. He could be really mean to me when he wanted to be and at that point in our lives, he was not a nice guy, when it came to me. Looking back on it, I know it was out of concern and love but when you’re a teenager who already has low self esteem, being constantly reminded of how fat you are isn’t very fun. I think he got it, finally.
We heard the engine rev and we began to move. I have to admit, I was a little sad about that. I kind of wanted to stay in this moment as long as possible. We were having less and less of these and eventually they would disappear completely. Who knew when the next time the five of us would be together like this?
“What’s wrong?” I looked over at Kevin who was staring at me intently. The same way he would always ask me when I was a kid, homesick or so exhausted I would almost want to puke. Ready to quit the band and life in general, until he would show up with that look saying “Don’t worry buddy, someone does care.”
I smiled at him, “Nothing…just, this was nice.”
He nodded and gave me a hug. “Yes, it was…minus all the Kevin meltdown talk.”
“That was my favorite part!” AJ said just as the bus suddenly lurched to a stop.
“Crap.” Brian said, looking at his watch.
“I guess I better get us all some more drinks. I have a feeling this is going to turn into an all nighter.” Howie said standing up and moving to the fridge. I’m surprised I wasn’t summoned to do that.
Kevin looked over at me and smiled once again, knowing that deep down inside I was happy about this breakdown. The old one would have thrown about ten fits by now but just like I had grown, he had also done his fair share of growing.
“So what do we do now?” AJ asked, but he didn’t have to wait long for an answer as a Greyhound Bus traveling to of all places Boston, was passing by the bus.
“BUS!!!” I yelled at the top of my lungs and then picked the goofiest pose I could muster. Everyone else did the same…well almost everyone.
“Damn it! I HATE this game!!!” Guess who that was?