Flash

July 2008

Summertime, and the living’s easy. As easy as it could be while the blistering arrows of the sun stung my pale, vampire skin. I was cooped-up inside our house on that sweltering day. A day among some of the hottest in Texas. Thermometers were even dying of heat stroke, reading triple digits for weeks straight.

I was sitting on the green couch, which was originally Scarlett’s. I felt I had deserved it after we had broken up, so I after taking it, I donated it to the new house. The young ladies I lived with became some of the greatest friends anyone could imagine. They accepted and welcomed me into their house knowing full-well that I was a recovering heroin addict. I had been off of dope for only a few months when I moved in but they took a chance on me.

It turned out, living with women was what I had needed. Looking back at how I had used to hang around a young Tanya and the other girls, I had figured out I was much more comfortable around girls. Instead of the incessant competitiveness that lies within a group of guys, I felt more at home with women. It could’ve been from that small club we had as kids why I felt this way; otherwise, I haven’t the slightest clue.

There’s just something about a women’s presence that I long for—any guy can agree with that. Women are far braver and you can be more frank with them, while they are always receptive to hearing what troubles you—as long as you listen to them, or course.

I wanted this.

I needed it.

Therefore, after high school, all my best friends became women, except for Randy. And even then, I had been with Scarlett. But the women who enjoyed my company as much as I loved theirs, before I entered rehab, had to witness the bad side of me—drunk and/or drugged. Whether it was breaking up with a cute girl via text message or manipulating a sweet girl by telling her I wanted to date her just so we could hook up for one night—granted I was on mushrooms, ecstasy and drunk, but that does not justify my poor actions. There was the poor girl I dumped because I didn’t like her type of birth control—NuvaRing. These were merely a few of the things of that side of me that drove everyone away. Even I wanted no part of being with myself.

That guilt was carried on my shoulders night and day, even after many people had forgiven me since I was doing well,

… at least, for now.

I’m on the green couch on my side of the house with my computer while Jane watched T.V. She and Sam had made me a Facebook page in secret after I explicitly had told them not to. I was fine with my MySpace page and nothing else. But they insisted without my approval and went ahead to make me one.

I think it only took a day before I became hooked like millions of other people.

I was surfing through other people’s posts when I received a message from a complete stranger. Flash Bathory was her name. A cute, rocker-chick with bright red hair with a punk, rockabilly style. Not the punk-look you’d find at Hot Topic, but the kind you make yourself out of leopard print, leather and lingerie. In her picture, she was holding a white, custom-made guitar.

There was a music video for one of her solo songs which was a showcase for the guitar company she was sponsored by. In it, she played fast and profusely. With great precision, she hit notes with her tiny hands and delicate fingers faster than I’ve seen in many today’s metal bands.

She said that she was starting an international-touring band from California with a sound influenced from The Misfits, Pennywise, Danzig and Rancid. Those were some of my favorite punk bands, so she had my undivided attention. They were a guitarist and bassist looking for a drummer and to please message them back. I wondered, How did they know I played drums? Other than my profile picture of me playing the drums, there was no other way you could know this. I know I didn’t pop-up on any search engines, for sure. It must’ve been fate, because what happened next changed my life…

I messaged them back notifying them that I was indeed interested. She and the bassist, Matt, told me they were holding all the auditions at the Guitar Center™ down south at 4 p.m. on Friday, and to not be late.

“Don’t be late, got it. I’ll be there,” I typed back. .

It was a day away, so I went straight to my drums I had set up in the garage, which also was a part of the house. I believe it used to be a garage, but then had been renovated to be another room. It had been many things, like a kitty-room and a dog-grooming station, but while I lived there, it was my jam room.

I practiced, and practiced, and practiced, with my headphones on, playing along to the different punk songs they had listed. Hitting those drums and cymbals like it was the end of the world. I thought about Scarlett, which made me play harder, angrier, and faster. I played my heart out, or what was left of it—thanks to the damage she had brought upon it.

After a few hours, my shirt and pants were soaked with sweat. All I could taste were the salty drops falling into my mouth.

My face and body were on fire.

My knuckles were bleeding, from where I’d hit a cymbal then catch it with my hand to stop its ringing.

There were red drops covering my snare drum from blood flying around me as my arms were wailing about like Animal from The Muppet Show™.

I was ready.

I woke up late the next day, something I had anticipated already. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I had to be at Guitar Center in two hours. I got dressed and did a little number on my set to warm-up. After that, I felt good, confident.

I knew I was going to need an energy drink to play fast and hard. It was the style they were searching for. I pulled over at a gas station on the way. It wasn’t a full convenient store, only about half the size with gas pumps and a rinky-dink car wash that looked like it hadn’t been used in months. Nevertheless, I got my Monster energy drink and I was ready to roll.

The sun was beaming down frying my hair, it felt like. When was this heatwave going to end?

I bought my energy and water to keep me cool, but before I opened the Monster, waves of anxiety washed over me. It could also have been laziness. For some reason I just didn’t feel up to the task. My head was crammed with second thoughts, third thoughts, fourth—

What am I doing? I’m not that great on drums. They’re professionals. That Flash chick could wail. They could have anybody they wanted as a drummer. Why would they pick me? I should just blow it off and go back and read.

I almost turned around calling the whole thing off. But something inside of me told me to keep driving. I put myself into auto-pilot and cruised the four or five miles to the center while my brain was still going at it.

After what I could only imagine as a bloody battle going on in my head was still raging. I was here so I was going to get on with it and screw it if they didn’t like my playing. At least I’ll get to meet the attractive goddess of metal guitar—what she was known as in town. With that, the war in my head ended.

I pulled up and started to chug what was left of my energy drink. On my way to the door, I took a huge gulp of water to wash away the metallic, liquid-candy taste that I loved. Okay, here we go…

Inside the store, guitars of all kinds floated along the walls, each hung from a hook screwed into the bright-lit wall. The light reflecting off each guitar was like looking at a solar eclipse, risking damage to your eyes just to see something beautiful. I was scanning for bright red hair and black clothing, which was like finding Waldo with most of the guitars being of the same colors.

I checked in every section—drums, guitars, basses, amps, pianos—but didn’t see her. Perhaps, it was just the bassist coming and I couldn’t recognize him. Or maybe they had forgotten. I decided to stick around for a while in the drumming section, just in case.

Time passed by, and after a few minutes of playing it was 4:15pm. I sat up from the electronic drum set and looked for the exit. That’s when two young people walked in, a guy in a pink and yellow Sex Pistols shirt and a girl in all black. I knew it was them.

She was shorter than she had looked in her pictures, but was drop-dead, glittering gorgeous. She didn’t have the bright red hair I was looking forward to; it was solid black with bright red bangs. Her eyes were masked by her jet black sunglasses that looked custom-made to fit her petite face. In the pictures, she had looked like she was in her mid-twenties, but in the flesh, she couldn’t be a day over eighteen.

I had signaled them over and after introductions—they were Matt and Flash—they told me about what they were looking for and what were the styles they preferred.

I was cool and calm, but inside my heart was racing, bones were vibrating, and muscles were shaking to go ahead and play, and get this over with. They gave me the go ahead after I had told them to keep in mind my muscles were not used to this drum set I was playing.

“Oh yeah, we know. I think everybody we’ve auditioned has said the same thing,” the bassist laughed.

“Just give us what you got. Don’t be nervous,” she said.

How could I not be nervous? They were supposedly going to be a world-wide touring band. I remembered they had asked if I had a passport when I first talked to them online. This was a serious band they were starting—something I had wanted since my last band had given up.

My last band was a jam-band in high school. We had at least fifty to a hundred people come to every show at what used to be The Vibe on sixth street every Thursday and Saturday night. Until the last show we had played, where someone came to us wanting to sign the band. This was during their Christmas break from college. I had asked them, if we got signed and started recording a record then going on tour, would they take a break from school to do that? They each said no. And so, that was the last I played with them. I wanted a band just as dedicated as I was. I believe this was another thing that fueled my drinking and drug use.

And here it was, the dedicated band I had been looking for who played fast-paced music, not dancing hippie, jam-band music. So when they told me to play, I sliced open my chest and gave them my heart.

I started off banging on the snare and cymbals, kicking the bass pedal in between to the beat of Rush’s YYZ, but a lot faster and harder. After that introduction, I threw in a long drum-fill leading into Rancid’s “Maxwell Murder.” I played that from its beginning to the chorus. That’s when Matt gave a “Hell Yeah, Maxwell!”

I was surprised he could tell what I was playing. But then again it made sense since he was a bassist and that song was written with a wicked bass solo. After a while, I had a bad feeling. I sing a lot in my car and my voice sounds great with the song playing in the background but when the song ends and it’s just me singing, I realize how bad I sound. I was thinking perhaps this might be happening so I switched things around and quit playing songs and went for a straight drum solo, improvising the rest. I threw in everything I had known—sick fills, double-bass pedal metal, catching the cymbals with my hand. After about two or three minutes of playing, I ended it.

I was off on many things. This happens a lot but I just play through. That’s all I can do. Plus my muscles were used to my own drum set, not this electronic padded kit.

I was sweating profusely. I had almost lost a drumstick in mid-play due to it.

“Alright. That was good. Very nice,” Matt said.

Flash stood there with glasses still on and a cute smile on her face.

“Will you give us a sec?” Matt asked as they both walked a few feet away.

I knew I had failed. There was no way they were going to pick me. I was an alright drummer, but for being in a band with her, a guitar-goddess, I was nothing. I prepared my farewell speech in which I’d say, “Aw, it’s okay. Gave it my best. Good luck with your search, and thanks for letting me try-out.” Then I’d never see them again.

They’re tiny huddle didn’t last more than two minutes. I couldn’t tell what Flash was thinking through her dark sunglasses, nor Matt with his straight face. There were no butterflies in my stomach. I was expecting the worst, like I always do, that way when the truth comes, it doesn’t feel all that bad.

“Do you want to be our drummer?”

They both asked this concurrently. I was stunned. How could they have picked me? I knew I couldn’t have been the best they’d seen.

“We heard a few screw-ups but we figured it was the drum set issue. But, you’ve got chops and we like your style. And you seem like a cool dude, so yeah, you’re in.”

We shook hands. I was beyond excited. They started to tell me all about what they’re trying to do.

Flash’s dad had been a bus driver for big acts like Paul McCartney, Madonna, The Backstreet Boys, and a bunch of other big name bands. He had also toured along with the Warped Tour for a few years—so we had connections. That’s where Flash came in. She had been with him the entire time and got to meet and hang out with hundreds of different punk and rock groups. That’s where she became a phenomenal guitarist. She had even played a solo act on the Warped Tour. Plus, she was sponsored by Tregan Guitars that made her those custom-made guitars in all her pictures. Matt would soon be sponsored by Tregan, as well, for, he was an incredible bassist.

My luck had returned to me. I must have been doing something right in life because I could not have been any happier. I invited them over to a barbecue my house was having so they could meet everyone. They came over and fell in love with the house.

We had one thing to take care of before we could become rock stars. We needed to find another guitarist.

Flash had only stayed at the barbecue for a minute until Matt had to drive her back to their apartment. Although, Matt did come back and stuck around for a while allowing us to get to know each other. Matt was a cool and chill guy, but he was only seventeen, and acted like it when you gave him liquor. I wanted to get to know Flash better, so I invited her every time our house had a party or went out. I did come over to their apartment a few times. She introduced me to a few punk bands that I came to love, so I bought her a CD that she had been trying to find. I was lucky to spot it at a used record store.

To me, it was strictly a friendly gift, nothing more. Though I believe she had gotten a different impression.

Although, in her pictures she had looked in her 20s, Flash was only nineteen years old—two years younger than I. So this meant they couldn’t get into any clubs or bars we frequented. However, we knew a bunch of people who worked on downtown 6th street, including the manager of the club, Speakeasy. I had invited both of them to come with us one night and at long last, they both had agreed.

We walked up the four or five sets of stairs to get to the rooftop where the best part of the club was located. The rooftop was nothing short of magical. It was naturally dark with Christmas lights lining everywhere which illuminated the entire space. There were two separate bars on the side and a DJ booth in the middle. Surrounding everything, on the sides, were many couches and mattresses filled with pillows and tables for drinks and bottle service. The atmosphere was surreal underneath the sparkling night sky.

Our whole house was there, including some other friends from high school. I was talking to a girl I hadn’t seen in a while—I used to have a small crush for her which was coming back the more we talked.

We talked for a good minute while I watched Matt and Flash having a blast. They had never had the full “being-21” bar experience, so they were taking advantage of it. I noticed Flash eyeing me now and then. I came close to flirting with the other girl. That’s when Flash interrupted our conversation, bringing up a “band meeting.” I had a feeling she just wanted to talk to me alone because there we were, by ourselves. I could actually see her alluring blue eyes this time.

They were beautiful. She was beautiful.

Next thing I knew, we were making out.

I barely knew her, yet I gave her everything I had, cradling her head as she tossed it back and forth. She could’ve been a vampire with her red lips and black eyeliner. Not to mention, her nibbling on my bottom lip which turned me on more than dirty, heroin sex.

This had started off our wild, “No Doubt” relationship, between drummer and guitarist.

At around the same time, I had started attending the Art Institute of Austin pursuing a bachelor of science degree in audio engineering. But soon, school had been placed on the back-burner, for there was something much else boiling that needed my full attention.

For a month straight, Flash and I would hang out, yet never to practice as the band we claimed we were in. We did talk of the band and what covers we should play, but never actually put the words into any action. However, there happened to be much action of another kind. All of it behind a locked door.

Flash and I were glued to each other.

The frequency of our coitus would have rabbits gasping. I could come over to their apartment—albeit Matt wasn’t home—in the nude, for there wouldn’t be any need for clothing. A shirt and pants would be an inconvenience and would mean less time of us fitting together as one. The band became more of an idea that would solely be talked about.

Everything seemed like magic in the beginning, but it all happened with disregarding speed. Neglecting any chance of getting to know each other to make the relationship bloom.

We told each other how much we loved one another, but in all shameful honesty, the love I declared for her was anything but genuine. Things were happening too quickly for my taste. Not to mention, the level of immaturity I would end up having to babysit each night we drank alcohol. And there was seldom a night we wouldn’t drink.

What would begin as a night with a beauty in black and red lingerie would become a night filled with red headaches, black tears, and colorless doubt.

On another sweltering day, I received a phone call from an unknown number. It happened to be Flash’s doctor, wanting to get ahold of her. How he had received my number, I haven’t the slightest idea. I said I’d put her on until I discovered Flash in the corner of my sight whispering “No!” What was I to do? I told the doctor I was her boyfriend and then asked what was the matter. He legally couldn’t tell me much, only that she was a manic depressive who should not be drinking at all. I had already figured that out, being bipolar myself, but I maintained it with medication. Though, the entire time we spent with each other, I’d never seen Flash take or even heard her talk of medication. He then asked, “How is she with her drug problem?”

I felt a train had rammed into my head. I jumped up and walked into the other room, leaving Flash oblivious to what was asked, watching TV with Matt.

“What drug problem?” I asked him.

He seemed shocked. “You don’t know? You’re her boyfriend and you do not know of her issue with drugs?”

Anger grew within me. I thought, How dare he? And, this asshole is out of his mind because to my knowledge she had no problem at all with drugs. Alcohol yes, but drugs, no. I had been with her every waking hour and there had been no drug use. I told this to the doctor who then changed his condescending tone. I thought maybe he believed me. Which he then confirmed and told me to keep an eye on her.

I figured since she was with me, a recovered heroin addict, she would be safe. I knew what to look for and what situations to keep her out of. However, I hadn’t known the situation could come find us.

We had a genuine band meeting, at long last. The decision was made to put ads out in the paper and internet looking for a rhythm guitarist. The ad read, “World-touring band looking for rhythm guitarist with punk and metal influences. Ages 18-28. Guns ‘n’ Roses meets The Misfits.”

Not one day after it had been published, we had calls coming in for weeks. People from all backgrounds and ages called to secure a date to come play.

I had made the drum room into a legitimate jam space with posters and black foam along the walls to catch the sound. Without the foam, the music would bounce around turning it into intolerable noise. I had previously played in a band when I had first moved in and it had sounded great. But we had to break it up due to some issue I can’t remember.

Most of the guitarists were decent, but we hadn’t found the one yet. Plus, none of them were like Flash. I couldn’t watch her play without my tongue hanging out. The way her hands would glide up and down the neck in that sensual way, pressing down on each string so fast and precise. I wanted to take her right then and there.

I had a feeling about this one guy who came into audition. He was the older brother of a kid I had known from high school. His glasses plus his messy clothing style made gave him the look of a punk rock Buddy Holly. We played a song by Rancid and I loved it. We all did. If we did choose him, I had the perfect nickname already. He even sang too, which was going to be the next thing we would be looking for.

At around the same timing as the auditions though, Flash had been driving me insane. She would call me at two or three in the morning begging me to come over. Even if I had a school test early the next morning, she didn’t care. This was a constant occurrence, in addition to the child she would become once a drop of alcohol touched her lips. The sex was still phenomenal but it had become the sole reason I was with there.

After a while I had stopped coming over to appease her attention-wanting and turned my phone off. She then started threatening to kill herself if I wouldn’t come over. This was the last straw, so I had talked to her about perhaps taking a short break, for the band.

I could tell she was devastated but tried to play it cool on the outside.

We had that guy I liked back over to play some more. After a short practice I went to smoke a cigarette with Matt out back while the guitarist and her continued playing.

Matt and I came back to the room to find it empty. No Flash, no guitarist. But he had left his backpack so I figured they had run to the store or somewhere real quick.

She didn’t come back till after midnight. When I asked where she went, she rambled on about how it’s not any of my business anymore. I was in no mood to argue again, so I went to bed because I had class early in the morning.

But still, I received phone calls all night from Flash. This time she was threatening to kill herself if I didn’t come over. It wasn’t the first time. Every time I did show up, she would forget why and would fall asleep. I had to just shut my phone off if I was to get any sleep.

After class, the sun sat alone in the endless ocean of the sky. It had never been this hot before. I started sweating walking not even halfway to my car. My black Mazda 3 is like sitting in an oven when I first get in. When the vents kicked on, they would exhale hot dragon’s breath until the A/C slowly took over. However, today I had to turn the A/C off since I was running on empty. I drove around for a mile and found the nearest gas station.

As I was pumping gas, my phone rang. It was Flash. I wasn’t in any mood to talk to her since I had likely failed the quiz my teacher had given us in Physics.

My phone rang again.

Ignored.

Then again.

I gave in. “Oh for God’s sake, hello?!”

It wasn’t Flash though. “Hey man, you gotta come over man.” He sounded worried.

I had thought it just a ploy set up by Flash. She setting up an emergency scenario just so I would come over and see her. I wasn’t buying it.

“No way man, I know Flash had you call a say a bunch of shit just to get me to come over!”

He was adamant that wasn’t the case, yet he still would not tell me why I must come over. Until, I had threatened to hang up

**That’s all I’m going to give for this chapter! Sorry! Gotta give you some incentive to buy it when it comes out.**

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