Dirty Verse by Cassidy London

1

Jax

The desperate need to flood my brain with endorphins was debilitating. I either needed a good, hard fuck, or some blow. Probably both. No… definitely both.

We’d only been offstage for thirty minutes and thousands of fans were still being ushered from the stadium. I could hear the hum of the crowd still chanting the lyrics to Obstruction, our final song of the last set. It was a song that was close to my heart and the theme of our tour. Not that many knew, but lately, it was also the theme of my fucking life.

Writing music used to be the only thing I wanted to spend my time doing. When we first started the band, I used to get up early and go to bed late because I was constantly writing songs. Now, after three albums with a major record label and countless tours, I was fucking stuck. Obstructed in the worst way. And it was all because of the fame that we had brought on ourselves. In the beginning, it was all about getting noticed by a label, but once we did… it was the end of us.

This new, fast-paced lifestyle was more about the brand than it was the music or the message, and that shit stuck in my throat like a cancerous lump. Branding had stifled my creativity and increased my anxiety. My obstructed muse and I couldn’t break the spell. Obstruction had been just that, the last song I wrote that meant anything to me, and despite the hard bass lines and growling sounds, it was really more of a lament than a celebration. The critics had loved it, as had the fans. It was an easy spin, too. Our manager, Devon, had done that. He’d taken the lament to my obstructed muse and turned it into the voice of a generation. A generation that felt blocked by the expectations of society, beaten down, and trampled on by those who had come before them. That’s what the October 1994 issue of Rolling Stone magazine had called us; Desolation Sound - the band of the generation. Apparently, we were Gen X music at its finest. The fucking pressure. It was killing me. This wasn’t what I signed up for. How could I represent a generation when I could barely get my own shit together?

I had hoped we could take a break once this tour was done. But as Devon had reminded me just hours ago, I had forgotten one very important thing. We still had to shoot the video for Obstruction It had been my stupid idea to include live footage from the tour, which was why we hadn’t even started the video. Pre-tour, when I was still feeling creative, I’d convinced the band and the label to hold off on making the video. Some shit about using live footage as the base, then creating around it. As usual, I’d dug my own grave. Now, instead of having time off to regroup and think about what we wanted to do next, we just had more work to do. All to say, we basically had a few weeks before the label would begin hassling us about the next album.

Normally, after a show, we were swept out the back door so fast our heads spun. But not today. Today we were starting a new routine. Devon said it was called a de-briefing. Seriously? What was this? A law firm, for Christ’s sake? The guys and I were itching to get out and start partying, but fucking Devon wanted to review the ups and downs of every last detail from the show.

“I fucking hope I don’t have to sit here and listen to how many guitar strings broke tonight,” our main guitarist and my long-time best friend, Ace Novak, complained.

Ace and I had been inseparable since the seventh grade, back in Kelowna, BC, where we had grown up. Back then, the only goal for our little band was to make music that spoke to our soul and get chicks to like us. I suppose we had accomplished those goals. Maybe we should have aimed higher? In any case, Desolation Sound was not just a band on the rise anymore. It was the band of the decade, and maybe, if Rolling Stone was right, the generation.

Somewhere inside the haze of smoke that filled our dressing room, Devon’s voice rambled on, muffled like that teacher from Peanuts. I let my mind wander to all the ways I was going to numb the voices in my head. I needed to page my guy, Kade. He didn’t seem to be around, which was unusual. He usually met us backstage after each show, armed with all the best illegal treats.

Kade was my personal bodyguard and the band’s unofficial dealer. He was a Kelowna boy, too, and had kept me supplied with a constant assortment of fun ever since my first dime of pot. Those days were long gone though, and now I found myself using his help to start a show, get through one, and come down afterwards. He brought us up with blow and chilled us out with smack. At first, it hadn’t seemed too damaging. As time went on, deep down, I knew it was fucking with my abilities. But it was to the point where I now had difficulty functioning without it. Besides, it was my only chance if I was going to come up with new material. I had nothing on my own. Drugs were the only way to access that part of my mind.

“Jax! Jax!” I zoned back into the conversation at the sound of Ace’s irritated voice.

“Sorry man, I’m fucking exhausted. Any chance we’re done here?” I mumbled, still lost in the depths of my own shit.

Our bassist, Gage Silva, grumbled under his breath, making every cell in my body jump to attention. “Fuck you, Jax!”

“Hey! What the fuck is your problem?” I answered, giving it right back to him.

“My problem is you! Devon is trying to do right by us and make sure we rock out perfectly every night, and you’re only thinking about how fast you can leave, snort coke, and shove your dick into some dumbass stripper!”

I snickered. Gage wasn’t wrong.

“You’re just jealous because I get all the chicks,” I teased him.

The words were barely out of my mouth before Gage lunged at me from across the room, his large hands extended, reaching for my throat. We tumbled off the couch together in a mess of hands, snarls, and grunts. Fighting had also become the norm around here. We had spent too much time together and were getting on each other’s last nerve. But Gage had it out for me personally. Couldn’t blame him, though. The last two girls he had brought back to the hotel had ended up in bed with me. But only because he’d left them to take a phone call in the other room. By the time he got back, I had them both in my bed and was snorting coke off their naked asses.

“You’re still bent outta shape from Vegas!” I taunted him.

“No fucking kidding, Jax,” chuckled Rocco Mueller, our drummer. “Wouldn’t you be if it were you?”

“It never would have been me because I take care of my women. I don’t leave them to masturbate while I take phone calls,” I growled, pulling myself off Gage and standing up.

“Fuck you, Jax!” yelled Gage, who was still sitting on the floor, nursing a mildly concerning gash on his head. Guess I’d gone at him a little too hard.

The bickering continued as we all blamed each other.

That was when Devon lost it. “Okay guys, that’s it!” He looked pissed as hell. “I’ve had enough of your shit. I’m trying to improve your performances, and all you idiots do is get high and argue. You’ve been through three managers over the nine months you’ve been on tour. Do you really want to look for a fourth? Because there’s only so much I can take!”

The room went silent. Suddenly, we all knew we had to shut up. Fuck. I needed to get a hold of things; we needed Devon. He was one of the best, and after the last few disasters, I couldn’t take another one.

“Sorry guys,” I mumbled. “You’re right, Devon, my bad. I’ll shut up,” I mumbled as I picked up the phone on the side table and dialed Kade’s number, then punched in my pager number while I spoke.

“There you go, he’s quieting down because he’s calling for blow. Fucking fabulous, he’ll be an asshole again in less than thirty minutes,” Gage grumbled.

I didn’t engage. Holding myself back was brutal, but I was also very aware that our band was on the brink of destruction. After everything we had worked so hard for, I couldn’t let that happen. I noticed Ace glaring at me out of the corner of my eye. He was pissed and had every right to be.

Reaching inside my leather jacket and grabbing the pack of Du Maurier, I held it up, offering it to the guys. “Anyone?”

“You and your stupid Canadian cigarettes,” Devon laughed.

“You still want one though, eh?” I answered as he grabbed a few and flicked them across the room at everyone.

“Seriously though, guys, tonight’s performance was fucking epic… as always.” He nodded in respect.

We might have been a bunch of boys from BC, but we were certainly holding our own in the US.

“Early media reports have said tonight was one of our greatest!” Ace volunteered as he leaned back in his chair and took a long drag of his cigarette.

“Where’d you get that information?” Rocco asked, exhaling smoke rings.

Ace just pointed to Devon.

“Hardly media reports, but I spoke to a few journalists who were in the VIP section,” Devon clarified.

My pager buzzed. Kade would be here any second, and Devon’s meeting would be over. I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Kade’s selection. Although I may have been his top client of late, every one of the boys took advantage of his services.

“But here’s the thing, guys. The label is annoyed that you haven’t started working on the video for Broken.

“For fuck’s sake!” I snarled, anger spilling out of me. “I said after the fucking tour!”

“Yeah, and initially they agreed, but it was their understanding that it would be made by now and they could release it immediately after the tour. When they found out that it’s not even in post-production yet… well, they flipped,” Devon said.

Frustration raged through me. “Then it’s your job to tell them what they want to hear.”

“The thing is, Jax, no one does this. Videos get made long before tour dates are even announced. You’re insisting on doing things in a way that is totally backwards. They agreed at first, but it’s going to take a few weeks to get this video ready and they are…”

The irritation in Devon’s voice was real, but I didn’t care. My frustration broke through and cut him off.

“For fuck’s sake, I had a plan!” I yelled. “It’s not my problem if they didn’t understand it. Besides…” I continued. “We all agreed that having some live footage would be a good thing.”

“We could have still filmed half of it,” mumbled Rocco. “Now we’re committed to more work after this stupid fucking tour. I would’ve rather had a break.”

“Would you idiots stop calling the tour stupid?” yelled Devon. “This fucking stupid tour is what’s paying for your drugs, women, and whatever else you spend it on.”

Once again, silence. No one spoke. We all knew the situation was fucked up, but no one, especially not me, was about to admit it.

I took the lead. “Anyway, the tour is over. I want to party tonight, so let’s leave this for another day.”

Devon just sighed. “There aren’t many days left, Jax. The label wants you to produce a video and have it ready by the end of the month. MTV Video awards are coming up and they are only considering videos that have come out in the past year. Deadline is in eight weeks. So, you guys get tonight to celebrate, then we need to sit down and figure out some serious shit… like tomorrow.”

Devon’s words hit hard. The guys looked exhausted and worn out. If I hadn’t insisted, this video would have been completed before the tour. It felt shitty being the reason that we now had a crazy deadline immediately after an exhausting tour, but there wasn’t anything I could do to change it now. I used to pride myself on being the creative force and lead singer behind Desolation Sound, but now it just made me feel guilty. Despite how awful I was feeling and how much I had nothing left to give, I had to at least pretend.

“We’ll get it done, Devon. I promise,” I assured him.

A loud knock on the door interrupted my attempt at redemption.

Gage, who was closest, opened it up and walked away without even speaking.

“Heyyyy! It’s my favourite musicians!” came Kade’s voice as he stepped into the small space.

“Not now please, Kade. We’re having a meeting,” Devon began. “Besides, you know that drugs inside the stadium will get us banned permanently. Can’t this be done later, or somewhere else?”

Kade took a seat and smirked. “Never bothered you before, my man.”

“Maybe if you all get the fuck out, you won’t have to see it or be part of it,” I suggested sarcastically. “Or did you want some, too?”

“Whatever, man, meet you on the bus,” Rocco mumbled as he and Gage left the room, followed by Devon.

“You want?” I questioned Ace as he sat down between Kade and I. Kade was already taking out his stash and laying it on the table in front of me.

Ziploc bags of powder, weed, and pills. Everything I needed to black out the darkness that ran through my mind.

I wanted to make things right with the band and with Devon. I definitely didn’t want the label to dump us, but no matter what I said or did, something inside me had flatlined. I was beyond caring about anything except filling the gaping hole in my soul. There was a feeling of desperation. Of being lost… and the realization that we had, like every other band, sold out. We were frauds. Puppets for the label, the media. But the real people… the fans… the guys just like us, well, we had failed them. And in turn, we had failed ourselves.

Initially, my muse had been the only thing that pulled me out of the cycle of poverty, addiction, and turmoil. She had taken me to the top, but once there, everything had changed. She couldn’t stay in that environment. It wasn’t her scene. I didn’t blame her for leaving, but I sure as hell blamed her for leaving me in it. The pressure to maintain a flashy appearance was not who I was, or who this band was. But now, without her, I had fallen back into old habits. Bad ones. Addiction was killing me. It was something that I’d have to deal with eventually, but today was not that day.

“Just take it easy, okay Jax?” Ace said as he got up and made his way to the door. “I don’t want to have to rush you to the hospital again.”

I grimaced at the memory. Ace had found me in a puddle of my own vomit just under a month ago when we had been in San Antonio. It was only by sheer luck that he found me in time. That’s what the doctors told him, anyway. Another couple of minutes and I could have been brain dead.

Maybe I was already brain dead. In a way. My muse was gone, my bandmates were at the end of their rope with me, and I was an asshole junkie who couldn’t get through a set without illegal substances. I was a fucking mess, and I knew it. Kade was probably the last person I should have been left alone with. Rehab was in my near future, I knew that, too. Fuck, if my mother could see me now, she’d wring my fucking neck. I got out of that life for her, to save her from the years of trauma she’d endured at the hands of my junkie step-father. Yet here I was, doing the same shit that he’d done.

Getting out of this cycle was necessary. Just not tonight. Tonight, I needed to fly. Fly away from it all and forget. Tomorrow was a new day. Today would be my last. Tomorrow I’d get my shit together and start planning the video and figure out a plan for dealing with all of this. Tomorrow would be a new day.