(DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. It’s important to remember this is all totally fabricated, embellished, and exaggerated for entertainment purposes.)
When he got cold, I brought him inside to the theater where we sat unaffected in the dark and kept talking like nothing had interrupted the earlier discussion. The projector was shut off, so we were surrounded by silence, apart from our own voices. There was a funny stench in this place, which I hadn’t sat in for over a year. The seats needed to be aired. The carpet could do with a shampooing. This whole place could use a touch up actually; as it was musty and dusty as fuck.
We had taken our boots off at the door, now he propped his feet up on the back of the seat in front of us, flexing them about. His socks were slightly mismatched, but similar enough where he probably hadn’t noticed when he was pulling them on. I wanted to rub his feet and get him a cup of hot cocoa, and help him unwind, but I figured I needed to ease into things. We’d taken our coats off too, so he was slowly but surely loosening up. Our elbows were touching on the armrest, and it felt right.
Rolling Stone had offered him a cover spot, which he accepted. He would tour sometime later this year, God willing, taking on iconic showrooms he had seen his idols play. Places he had dreamed of playing his entire life—undercutting his worth in my opinion—but I respected his decision to establish an intimate relationship with his audience before he returned to arenas. In them huge places the fans all sort of faded into the background and became a bedlam of screams and flailing hair and red-rimmed eyes. Without doubt, the smaller shows would be a nice warm-up for whatever came next.
“This here got me a bit down, I’ll admit,” he flexed the fingers of the injured hand. “Can’t play as much as I’d like. M’thinking about surgery later this year—”
“—but that might set me back a bit more.” He looked at me, hopeful I’d provide a solution.
“Better to get it o’va with before the shows start, I guess. What would they even do to it? It’s not broken is it?”
“I’ve had it looked at a few times here and there last year. Nothing’s broken really…just, uh, tight tendons or something.”
“How’d youh even hurt it?”
“Jerking off too much—” We burst out laughing.
“To be honest, that wouldn’t be the least bit surprisin’. If anyone injured their hand violently jerking off, it’d be youh, Haz—”
“Oh c’mon, mate, you jerk off way more than I do. I remember that shit—”
“Fuck off broh, youh know that’s a lie! Youh literally can’t goh a day, I’d bet.” At that he laughed and buried his face in his palm because he knew it was true. I wanted to run my fingers through his hair. His grey Carhartt beanie was begging me to snatch it off.
“Touche, mate, touche…” he conceded, settling in the chair and tossing his head back over it.
“Takes one to know one, I suppose. Don’t worry, you’re not alone…my wrist is all fucked up.” I assured him. He kept on about the things coming up this year. How it would make or break his life. He wondered if the fans would think he switched up too much and choose not support his new sound; or the new look; or the new crew.
“I’m sohhh jealous, broh…I tried to get a band together a while back. It’s hard to trust people to stick around, yeah?”
“Well, sumtimes. But you, uh, just have to vet them better I find. I was lucky I guess, especially when I found Mitch—”
“Who, the pizza shop guy?”
“Yeah,” he chuckled drily, with barely concealed disdain. He hated when I called him that.
“And it was cool Adam was down, as well. You’ve been knowing him forever—”
“Almost as long as you.”
“Yeah…” I nodded. “Hey, can I be in the band? Not as a vocalist or anythin’…I know that’s all youh.” He had shut his eyes while he rested, but now opened one and looked over at me.
“What’re you bringing to the table then? No one’s paying you to stand around and look pretty.”
“I play a mean triangle, mate. Youh forgot about that?”
“Sorry, mate, Sarah’s got the percussions covered, and she’s a bit of a hard-ass when it comes to that. What else you got?”
“Shit, that’s it then, innit?” I laughed, sitting back and tossing my head over the headrest like him.
I could already see the places his career would go—more remarkable than Nolan movies even. It was only a matter of time, and he was the sort of artist who would excel more and more with age, like Elton John or Prince. Our time in the band was only a taste of the things he’d experience on his own, I was sure of it.
For some artists, boybands were a good way to become rich and famous with little unique effort. Everyone got the same rewards no matter the size of their individual contribution, sort of like taking an equal grade in a group project that one didn’t help to fulfill. That wasn’t the case for him, though. He was like one of those kids who had done all the work and had everything figured out and actually understood the assignment, but still had to split the recognition among five others who didn’t do nearly their fair share.
Not to slag myself or the other boys, because I certainly feel as though I contributed my fair share in the vocals department, but the other boys and I never really understood the assignment. Not just the band shit, but all the peripheral stuff like celebrity, networking, brand diversification and evolution. A lot of that stuff flew clean over our heads and we simply lived in the moment, totally unlike him. Haz was rarely ever a part of 1D. Most days we felt we were just a part of his breakout story.
We kicked it a while longer, remembering incriminating moments from on the road. Drudging up things that maybe needed to be addressed in therapy. We all picked up our vices over time; some of us more than others. I smoked too much—he drank too much sometimes whether he was willing to admit it or not. The sound of his laughter filled the room and made this old cavernous dungeon feel like a home again. I told him I was glad he was here, then finally got up the balls to lean over and kiss him on the cheek. The sound of it echoed throughout the theater and for a moment we paused. He smiled, looking ahead, rubbing his eye after.
I asked him who he kept in touch with, but he hadn’t spoken to any of the other boys in a while. Too much had come between them before he left, diminishing any notion of them coming together again. A reunion was out of the question. Much had come in the way, diverting them onto different paths. The deeper he was driven down this solo route, the more he realized there was no plausible return. It would be condescending for him to do so. The others had taken roads that tentatively led back to each other if all else failed and if ever they should choose to reunite, but Haz’s path would take him very far, very quickly.
Like me, when he cut ties it was tacitly understood it was not a temporary arrangement, no matter how promising the media-trained answers they were instructed to give the fans. He didn’t have the heart to tell them the truth anyway, nor did he need to clarify anything upfront. Let the chips fall where they may, and in time the world would amend its expectations and understand. That’s how most things worked out. His most loyal would unquestionably follow him wherever he went, and the fake ones would be the first to fall by the wayside, as I’d heard someone say one time.
“Sumtimes I just think,” he began, speech lazy, jetlagged off his ass. “…maybe we want too much? But then again, uh…it’s like…is it really even that? Or is it just that the band thing went so crazy, a lot is expected of uz now? And we’re afraid to do less? It will never be okay for uz to do less. Our egos are out of control. Plus, they’ll eat us alive if our albums aren’t number ones, if we don’t sell out aren’ers or our own. Right? Won’t they?”
“Mm-hm. I feel youh. I felt that a little on my own, but then eventually I was just like, fuck it, y’know? I can’t keep up with all that mindset. It’s toxic, maan. When youh think about it, like really think about it, Haz, youh don’t have to worry about impressing a single person in this world, or living up to their irrelevant expectations. I mean really, who says youh have to anyweh? That’s the power youh hold as an artist. Youh make the rules that’ll govern your career from start to finish.”
“Make yourself proud first, Haz, honestly. That’s cliché and all, but if I’m honest, that’s where it’s at. If at the end of the day when youh lay your head down to rest, if youh are proud with the things you’ve accomplished, who the fuck can tell youh you’re not successful? Youh just gotta beat them at their own game, that’s it, yeah? Redefine what success means so that it meets your expectations and no one else’s. It’s that simple.”
Later our hands gravitated towards one another. Fingers brushing back and forth, tentatively but on purpose, making my ears burn. Now he was nervous about what lie ahead, just as I had been a year ago. Now was the time to finalize the ideas that’d been stewing in the safety of his mind for so many years. It was a scary thought, because you only had the one shot, and damn if it weren’t the most important first impression you’d ever make on your listeners. I totally get what he was feeling though. History demonstrated that no one who failed on the first album try really has any credibility for a second. In this industry, you had to get it right the first time or it’d chew you up and spit you out and piss on you as you lay in the dust.
Most of us had been planning our first solo album from the time we could hit a decent note (I remembered vividly nailing a few and my older sister telling me to shut up, that I couldn’t sing.) It was all a part of the dream to become a singer, envisioning how you’d be received by the world. What your sound would be. What your stage name would be. What your first album would look like. The title—everything. Simply everything. Now he was thinking up visuals for his concept art and looking to set up a photoshoot soon.
A while later he said he wished I could come to the premiere of his movie, but promised he’d cop me the link to stream it before it was released to theatres. It was like an editors’ copy they sent around for notes, and he had managed to gain access to it. The longer we sat there, fighting the prevailing silence, I got a sense he was pissed at me. We walked to the kitchen so I could get him that cup of hot chocolate I owed him, and he sat atop the counter while he drank it. Like an idiot I left the bag of marshmallows too close, and he started popping them into his mouth and talking with it chock full of them. The bar of Hershey chocolate I liked to shred on top of the finished drinks was nearby too, and he started wolfing the little rectangles down one by one.
“Youh not gonna save me any?”
“Nope. You don’t deserve any.”
“Youh mad at me or something?” He just nodded, setting his cup aside and swinging his socked feet.
“Why youh mad?” I asked, setting my cup on the counter and moving to stand between his legs. There, I gazed up at him, directly into his eyes for the first time since he arrived. He kept looking down, so I held his face with both hands, forcing him to look at me. “Wus wrong, babe?” His eyelids fluttered downward, just short of closing. I could tell he felt embarrassed about something.
“Hazza…?” My voice had softened, since I knew that’d get to him. “What’s up babe? Youh mad at me?”
“Well…you hadn’t kissed me yet—” he blurted out, beginning to pout. It was the cutest shit ever. “I been here how long, Z? You think I came all this way not to be kissed?” My eyebrows lifted in bemusement and shock. He was seriously upset with me. His cheeks were still a bit red from the outdoor walk so I couldn’t take his attitude seriously. His eyes were downcast again. I knew I had sensed something off all along, but I would’ve never guessed it was this.
“Well fuck then!” I laughed. “M’sorry, babe…I’m an idiot….don’t be mad at me.” I murmured, stroking his cheeks. “C’mere…” He was right. What the hell had I been thinking? It was our first time kissing in practically a year, so the jolt that ran through me the moment our lips touch was crippling. His tongue was sweet—super chocolatey and playful. He was going to town, tonguing the shit out of me. I could tell he was hungry—had been waiting to do this since he first laid eyes on me in the backyard. When we broke there was a visible spit line, and he was hazy eyed and smiley. Perfectly content.
“I didn’t want to rush it,” I told him, wiping my mouth with my thumb, then wiping his. “I thought it might freak you out if I jumped all over youh as soon as youh stepped foot at the house. Youh know the gate’s not that high.”
“No, you’re right. There’s no rush. We can take it slow,” He nodded, holding my chin and planting a few more rapid pecks to my lips, showing he didn’t want to let go just yet. I counted half a dozen pecks my now. His lips were softer than I remembered; his tongue sweeter. His breath smelled like Hershey and I was growing drunk on it, staring at his mouth relentlessly. He set our noses together and laughed. Now his hands were all over my ass, slipping beneath my waist band and over my briefs. He had trapped me between his legs by locking them around me and crossing his ankles. I hugged him in forfeit, resting my head against his chest as we picked up our conversation where it had left off. We rocked side to side a little and I could see myself falling asleep like this. Gucci cologne overwhelmed my senses, and I burrowed between his pecks to inhale it, full-tilt.
I asked him what he was driving lately; the question was muffled against his distressed Led Zeppelin T-Shirt. I started humming “Stairway to Heaven” just then. When I stopped, he asked me to keep going. He liked when I hummed. Eventually he told me he had bought two new cars since I last saw him, a bright yellow ’72 Ferrari and a vintage Land Rover from the 80s for camping trips.
I stood up and fished for a jay I rolled just before he arrived, which he then took my lighter and lit for me. Eyes locked on the task at hand, he studied the tip until it caught fire and filtered down to a smolder. Then he kept playing with the lighter’s flame, swiping his fingers in and out of it. Burning a piece of plastic from the marshmallow bag.
Satisfied with himself, he smirked, looking up into my eyes with a strange sort of detachment. Almost like he expected something. Almost like he wasn’t fully present in the moment. It was like we were strangers, but not. I felt at home with him, but also never really at ease. It was always a battle to find middle ground with this guy. And his eyes were eating me alive. The lights in the kitchen were half out, but I knew every incandescent speck of those irises by heart. Every sinuous discoloration seated deep within the jewel-like membranes. I had spent so many nights getting lost within them. Enough to know how he was feeling at any given moment, and right now he wanted me to take him to bed more than anything. He was salivating for it. I smirked ever-so subtly, letting him know that I knew. I sensed just how desperate he was for me to get inside his guts. His lids drooped in a silent plea for me to quit staring at him. I didn’t care. I wanted to fall into his eyes and make my bed in that lush, fibrous green forever.
Now I grabbed his jaw after a few hits and exhaled into his mouth between kisses; kisses that were spilling hungrily onto his chin, his mole, his nose. We were getting more stoned on each other than what we were smoking. He started coughing, but then laughed it off. Kind of belatedly, I told him he couldn’t possibly live enough lifetimes to drive all them cars. They’re sitting and collecting dust.
“Yeah, but I like to look at ’em,” he grinned, taking his beanie off and shaking out his hair. Shit, I had forgot how short it was now. There was still a good length though, just enough for me to pull on. He squinted over at me through the smoke. I gave him a lazy wink. Sometimes he just looked a lot like his mum. Normally all I saw was Des, but around the eyes, no one but Anne manifested. I kissed his puffy red lips again and forgot about Anne in a heartbeat. He scooted to the edge of the counter so that his bulge met my belly, becoming forceful and demanding, letting me know where his mind was.
He was wearing a wacky Gucci cardigan with all these clunky embroidered appliqués and “Spaceboy” sprawled across the back. I discovered the letters when I reached around and started massaging the back of his neck and shoulders from where I stood. The design was a tribute to Bowie. I stole it immediately—at least for the duration of his visit—and the cherry on top was that it smelled like him. Well, now it smelled like weed, but I still got a few whiffs of him on occasion.
I tried it on and told him how obsessed I was, but it was oversized and the sleeves fell over my hands. I looked like a kid sneaking and trying on my dad’s clothes when he was at work. We snickered as he rolled them back for me. He kept trying to unbuckle my pants, but I wouldn’t let him. It was too soon for all that. When he popped a piece of chocolate between his teeth, I surprised the shit out of him and ate it right out of his mouth. His laughter made me feel soft and summery, and I took advantage of his head being tossed back by sucking and biting his neck; lips mouthing his Adam’s Apple. His skin tasted warm and clean. He shuddered when I nibbled his collarbone, biting my way back up to nip at his earlobes.
Apparently, this particular cardigan was sold out, so there was no hope of getting one in my size anytime soon. “It’s yours,” he said, totally out of breath, but I wouldn’t dream of taking it. I knew he was just as obsessed with it as I was. Moments later we forfeited all pretense and went upstairs so he could shower. We barely made it up the steps for falling over and making out midway. The jay had been left on the counter, burned down to a blackened stub.
When he came out of the shower in a towel, I went in to undress and got freshened up a bit. Now he was waiting for me in my bed, wearing absolutely nothing. I was looking at his underwear crumpled on the floor in the corner by the stall. He had to leave the next day—always in and out like a phantom. This was starting to feel like nothing but a super expensive booty call; but I sure as fuck wasn’t complaining. We wouldn’t link up again until his birthday, so I knew I couldn’t let this moment go to waste. It was like our first time all over again, and the thought made me bone-weary and giddy.
I stood undressed (down to my briefs) having reapplied my deodorant and a dab of cologne. I faced the closed bathroom door; heart was raging against my chest. A weird energy seeped through the threshold and filled the bathroom air. I could almost feel him on the other side, cock in his hand, lips parted and panting, preparing himself for me. I shut the light out and stood in the frigid darkness like a fiend, shoulders heaving at every inhale. Fuck it—I thought at last. He had come all this way just for me. Now was the time to act. It was do or die.