When I woke up, my head was still pounding and I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I almost left the bedroom to go on a Tylenol hunt when I remembered what happened downstairs and my anger resurged. I stomped back to the bed and reclaimed the notepad I had dropped earlier – the notepad I reserved for my song writing. Opening to a new page, I let my anger out. The lyrics I wrote were truly beautiful, let me tell you. They went something along the lines of: ‘Fuck you Kevin, Fuck you Howie, Fuck you AJ’ and just for good measure ‘Double fuck you Kevin’. When I was done, I felt a little better. The sick feeling in my stomach had disappeared and my headache had lessened considerably. But I was beginning to get restless.
I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before, but suddenly the sounds of laughter came to me from downstairs. This only served to make me angry again and intensify my restlessness.
I need to get out!
I contemplated sneaking out the bedroom window and climbing down the gutter, but that was cowardly. I’m not their prisoner and if I want to leave I will leave! I wasn’t scared of them. That’s what I told myself at least.
I briefly toyed around with the idea of just walking out the front door. Telling them ‘hey guys, I’m going out and there’s nothing you can do about it’, but then memories from my childhood of Kevin grabbing me in a headlock resurfaced. Besides, I couldn’t face them right now – not after what just happened.
So sneaking out the window wasn’t going to work and neither was just walking out the front door like everything was peachy. I would have to compromise: I would sneak out the front door.
I walked to the door and pressed my ear against it. I don’t know why I did that since their laughter was so loud that anyone within a five block radius could have heard them. I slowly turned the doorknob and inched the door open, trying to be as silent as possible. I froze when the door gave out a small moan, holding my breath and expecting to be caught out. But when the laughing from downstairs continued, I knew I was safe and opened the door wide, slipping through. I treaded downstairs on the tips of my toes, willing for the non-existence of a trick step. When I reached the bottom, I made sure to stay close to the walls, silently weaving and ducking through the living room until I reached the front door. I was like a freaking ninja.
As I opened the door and escaped into freedom, I couldn’t resist: “Douchebags.”
Kevin’s yell made me jump but it was the silence that answered him that made me nervous. Suddenly all these ‘what if’ thoughts jumped in my head and my nervousness quickly changed to anxiety.
Ok, remember what Dr. Gellar said, AJ, deep breaths and rational thoughts.
He’s probably dead. Drank himself silly, passed out and drowned in his own vomit.
Ok, so not a great start to the whole rational thinking idea.
“I’m going to call the police,” Kevin snapped me out of my “rational thoughts”.
“What for?” I asked.
“Don’t you think that’s being a bit dramatic Kev?”
“No Brian, I don’t think that’s being a little dramatic,” uh oh Kevin was mimicking. Never a good sign. “He’s walking around with PCP in his system.”
“And what are the police going to do exactly?” Howie asked. “Lock him up for the night?”
“Bring him back here?” Kevin retorted.
“Not if they give him a drug test and find the PCP in his system,” Howie shot back.
“We should go looking for him,” I suggested. I was worried, I admit it. I really wasn’t too concerned at first, but that was until Nick came downstairs and we had our mini-intervention.
Howie shook his head. “No, he just needs space,” he said calmly. “He’ll be fine.”
Kevin had the most stupid look on his face when Howie said that. “He’s walking around with PCP in his system and he’s probably off to another bar!”
“You saw his face when he found out he took PCP,” Howie objected. “He was horrified. If I know Nicky he’ll be too paranoid to take even a sip of a beer.”
Howie was right. Nick could be incredibly paranoid about these kinds of things. When news about Mad Cow Disease reached America, he refused to eat beef for a whole month.
“He’ll be fine. If we go after him, he’ll never trust us again.”
It was funny how time changes things. When we first took Nick back to my place Howie was freaking out and I was pretty confident he’d be fine. It was the other way around now.
“Who cares?” Kevin all but screamed. “I mean, does he even trust us now? Why should he?” Kevin was getting emotional again, I could hear it in his voice – it was getting all wet and everything. “I mean when was the last time any of you spoke to him? Like a proper conversation?”
Well this had taken an unexpected turn.
“Brian?” he turned to Brian suddenly, questioningly.
Brian looked violated. “Why is it always me?” he demanded angrily.
“Frick and Frack right?” it slipped out of my mouth, but now that Kevin had said it, I was slightly resentful of Brian for ignoring Nick. That kid loved Brian – it must have torn him all which way not to speak to Brian at least once a month.
“What about you?” Brian turned on me viciously. “What do you live, like, two blocks away from him? You can’t take a five minute drive to visit?”
“Five blocks,” I whispered. It had hit me: that’s what Nick had been shouting about. We only lived five blocks apart and we hadn’t seen each other in months. I was just as guilty, if not more so, than Brian. Suddenly there was a bad taste in my mouth.
“And what about you?” Brian directed at Kevin. “Big brother right? You were the first person he called last night!” Was that jealousy? “Where have you been?”
“There is no point in blaming one another,” Howie to the rescue. “We’ve all been crap friends.” Way to console, D.
I walked over to the kitchen table and collapsed on a chair. We had been crap friends. But not just to Nick – to each other. We always said in interviews we were like brothers, closer than our own family sometimes. Family shouldn’t do this shit to one another.
Kevin sat down opposite me and Howie beside me. Brian seemed too agitated to sit.
“So we won’t go after him,” Kevin said quietly. “Give him some space.”
“I can’t go through this again.”
I winced. They didn’t want to go through this again. Because I had put them through it the first time.
“I just don’t get how it got this bad and we never knew,” Howie said. “I mean, how did it get this bad?”
How did it get this bad? When I was in rehab, Dr Gellar told me that we all have habits and sometimes they might seem like a good, enjoyable thing, but most times they’re not. Habits can make you feel safe – like a comfort blanket. My habits had become my comfort blanket – I drank when I was sad, snorted coke when I felt anxious. It all felt good at the time, it felt safe. But I didn’t realise the damage it was doing.
So, how did it get this bad? It got this bad through habit. And we all learn our habits from somewhere.
March 5, 1998
I pounded on the bathroom door. “For fuck’s sake, Howie, how long are you going to take?”
“Give him some time. He’s only been in there for forty minutes,” Brian laughed from the couch in the living room of our suite.
“He better be ready soon,” I huffed, abandoning my crusade on the bathroom door and going over to sit with Brian.
“And Nick better be ready now!” I screamed in the direction of Nick’s bedroom.
“I’m looking for underwear!” Nick screamed back.
Brian and I made faces at each other.
“Gross,” I said just as the door to the suite opened and Kevin walked in, carrying two bags of KFC.
“Yummy!” I shouted, jumping up from the couch, grabbing one of the bags from him and rummaging through it.
“Not for you,” Kevin stole the bag back and dumped them both on the coffee table in front of Brian. “You’re going out. This is for me and Brian.”
“No fair,” I whined, but when I glanced down at my wristwatch, food was the last thing on my mind. “HOWIE! NICK!”
A door slammed open and Nick came stumbling in, zipping up his fly.
“I’m here!” he panted, looking flushed. “I looked everywhere for that spare underwear but I couldn’t find it.”
“What are you wearing then?”
“Oh gross Kev, don’t ask him that!” I shuddered.
Nick smirked. “Brian had a new pair sticking out of his luggage.”
Brian wrinkled his nose. “Nick!”
“I’ll give them back,” Nick said, rolling his eyes as if Brian was being overdramatic and he then proceeded to put on socks.
“You can keep them,” Brian said. “Next time buy your own damn underwear.”
Nick beamed. “Thanks Frick. Hey Aje, don’t you think we should leave soon? It’s eleven-thirty already.”
I glared at him but didn’t reply.
“He’s probably applying another layer of foundation,” Brian laughed, referring to Howie’s insane amount of time in the bathroom. He bit into a chicken leg and slapped Nick’s hand away when he tried to reach for some fries.
“Only one layer of foundation for me Littrell.”
Howie waltzed in, cool as anything. I wanted to smack him.
“Gosh AJ, we’re running a bit late aren’t we?”
Yep, I’m gonna smack him.
“Hey not the face!”
“Calm down AJ,” Kevin laughed. “What’s the hurry?”
“We’ve been cooped up here all day,” I snapped, watching Nick tie up his shoelaces – at a snail’s rate. “I want to try out this new club and you have to get there early because it fills up fast.”
“Ready!” Nick announced.
“Thank fuck,” I cried. “Let’s go!”
I headed towards the door, Howie and Nick followed me closely.
“Hey guys, wait up a minute,” Kevin called after us.
I groaned – loudly. Was I ever going to leave this God forsaken suite?
“You better hurry Kev,” Nick said. “AJ might pop an aneurism.”
I was too frustrated to take any notice of Nick.
“We have an interview at nine tomorrow so don’t stay out too late,” Kevin instructed. “And don’t drink too much. AJ, Nick, I’m looking at you.”
“Yeah great,” I said turning my back on him and opened the door, escaping into freedom.
We took a taxi down to the club. We were held up at the door because the security personnel weren’t convinced that Nick was eighteen even though he had his ID and he had the same stupid bowl haircut in the picture as he has now. When we were finally in, Howie made a beeline for the bar, pushing his way through the crowded club and bopping his head idiotically to the dance music the DJ was playing. I noticed a cute girl sitting by herself on one of the couches they had on the side of the dance floor. I made my way over to her, leaving Nick standing at the door by himself. As I got closer, I realised she might not know English – I was in Quebec after all.
“Hey gorgeous,” I said in my Barry White voice.
She looked very unimpressed. “Pass,” she said simply, standing up from her seat and moving away.
“Ouch,” I muttered, feeling my face flush. “Not to worry, the night is still young.” I headed off to find another girl.
I want to say that the night improved for me, but I’d be lying. I only racked up a total of three phone numbers (not that I was gonna call them or anything) but I mostly got blown off – one girl claimed she was a lesbian but I distinctly remember her sucking the faces off at least two guys before I made a move and then continued to feel up another guy while I was standing less than four feet away from her. Meanwhile, Howie had made out with five girls – okay one, but that was one more than me! What the hell?
I ended up at the bar drinking a Jack Daniels and wallowing in self pity – my forte. Sometime after my third drink, Nick came out of nowhere and slapped me on the back of my head playfully. I swatted at him as he took the stool next to me.
“Check out D,” he laughed, pointing over to where Howie was now tongue wrestling with a blonde.
I shook my head. “Man, how come he gets all the girls?” I asked bitterly.
“He’s the Latin Loverrrrrrr,” Nick purred out the R and I swallowed the last of my Jack. This was not the night I was hoping for. Suddenly, an idea popped in my head – a way to get me out of this rotten mood.
“Wanna do shots?” I asked Nick.
Nick looked uncertain. “I haven’t done shots before,” he said awkwardly.
“You mean you lived above a bar most of your life and you never had a shot?” I teased. If I knew anything about Nick, it was that the easiest way to get him to do what you want is to tease him into it. “You’re like eighteen, dude,” I laughed. “Bit slow, aren’t ya?”
It had the intended effect I wanted. His face turned red and he puffed out his chest.
“Nah man, just haven’t felt the need,” he replied
casually. “But I can totally drink you under the table.”
I smirked. “Prove it.”
Half an hour later, I was feeling much better. A few shots left me giddy and a tad more confident. Nick, on the other hand, wanting to prove himself, was bent over the bar, breathing heavily. I slapped him on the back.
“Who knew you were such a good drinking buddy,” I glowered, slightly proud. I had made a man out of him.
“I don’t feel so good,” he mumbled, a hand over his mouth.
I laughed again. “Have another, it gets better,” I shoved another shot in his face, but he shook his head.
Nick was starting to bore me. I wanted to try my luck with the ladies again. I started to get up from my seat when Howie came over, a girl on his arm.
“Hey guys,” he grinned. “This is Clar- what’s wrong with Nick?”
“That’s a strange name,” I laughed as the girl gave me her hand.
“AJ, what’s wrong with Nick?” Howie asked again, tapping Nick on the shoulder as he now had his face on the bar, his arms wrapped around his head.
“He’s a lightweight,” I said, noticing as Howie’s girl detached herself from him and started to lean on me. Take that D.
“Lightweight?” Howie suddenly noticed the shot glasses that littered the bar. “AJ what the hell, man? We have an interview tomorrow morning!”
I shrugged and turned my attention to the girl whose name turned out to be Clarissa. We started to flirt and I completely lost track of what was going on beside me as I turned my full attention to Clarissa.
We were just about to lock lips when Howie grabbed me roughly by the collar and forced me away from her.
“We’re leaving,” he said. “Help me with Nick.”
“Nah man, you guys go, I’m good,” I said, trying to turn back to Clarissa who had a miffed look on her face.
“Sorry darling,” Howie said addressing Clarissa. “AJ still hasn’t gotten over his herpes yet.”
Clarissa’s mouth shot open, she gasped, gave me a dirty glare and walked off in a huff.
I turned to Howie. “The fuck D?”
Howie looked livid – Howie is never livid. “You gave Nick shots?” he said.
“I didn’t force them down his throat,” my high had gone, the shots had done their job and Howie had undone all their hard work.
“No, you pressured him into it, right?” Howie turned back to Nick who was now sitting up straight in his seat, his eyes wide open and his throat working furiously as his mouth opened and closed sporadically.
“Howie, I don’t feel so good,” Nick said, ending his sentence with a gag.
“Alright, we’re going now,” Howie said and helped Nick to his feet. Together they made their way past the dancing people and towards the exit. I followed begrudgingly, no longer wanting to stay in this club anyways. What a dive.
When we got out, Howie flagged down a taxi. The ride back was awful. Nick starting blowing chunks halfway through. The taxi driver was not impressed. Howie promised him that we’d pay for the dry cleaning. I thought the vomit was an improvement to the decor of the taxi and the taxi driver should have thanked us.
When we reached the hotel, Howie paid the man and gave him his number for dry cleaning services. We helped Nick through the doors of the hotel, his vomit lingering on his clothes and his breath, and into the elevator. When the elevator doors opened on our floor, he made a mad dash for our suite.
We ran after him and Howie got the key out, ready to open the door, but apparently Nick couldn’t wait that long. He started banging on the door, his cheeks blown up as he tried to keep another round of puke inside.
Howie opened the door and Nick ran inside and to the bathroom. Howie ran in after him and I stepped inside to see Kevin and Brian standing outside their bedroom doors looking confused and a little alarmed.
“What the hell is going on?” Kevin demanded as the sound of retching came out to greet us from the bathroom.
“Nick is a lightweight,” I huffed, still annoyed at Howie.
“What?” Brian rubbed his eyes.
I pointed to the bathroom.
Kevin stormed over to the bathroom, took one look inside, wrinkled his nose and turned back to face me.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I think he drank too much,” I replied, making my way to my own bedroom, suddenly so tired. Nick would be okay. He had a great time. This was just a little hitch in a great night and he’ll recognise that.
As I passed the bathroom, I peered in. Nick was bent over the toilet, his hair slicked back. Howie sat on the bathtub next to the toilet, his hand on Nick’s back. When he saw me, he stood up.
“AJ!” he yelled when I walked past. He walked out of the bathroom, passing the vomit baton to Brian who took his place. “What were you thinking?”
“You did this?” Kevin looked murderous. “We have an interview tomorrow morning! How is he supposed to do an interview hung over?”
“He’ll be fine,” I said, never stopping to address them. My bedroom was only a few feet away now and suddenly I was tired. “He had as much drinks as I did and I’m fine.”
“He’s never done shots before!” Howie said.
“Shots?” Kevin was coming after me, I could hear his steps. “What shots?” yep, there he is. Grabbing my arm and stopping me.
“Vodka,” I answered, tuning to face them. I didn’t know what the big deal was.
“He’s eighteen!” Kevin was beginning to shriek.
“It’s legal here,” I reminded him.
“I don’t care!”
“Whatever, I’m going to bed,” I wriggled my wrist out of Kevin’s grip and opened my bedroom door.
“And next time, get your own girl!”
Ok, so if you’re still interested let me know. If you have lost the plot completely because it’s been ages since last chapter, I will post a reminder of what’s been happening if there is a chapter 12. Thanks for reading and hope to see some feedback.