Authors: Sasha Marshall
"I didn't know,” he says and slightly hangs his head as he rubs the back of his neck.
"You've been a great friend to me for years Johnny. All of you have. And I've always been at your beck and call because I felt obligated. For all the great things you've done for me, I have to say you're still somehow one of the most selfish pricks I've ever met. Maybe while you're out on the road, you'll do some soul searching about you and what you expect of the people in your life. I lost my job so you could skip jail time. I was humiliated, so you could tell everyone you aren't a bad guy, you're the knight in shining armor. Meanwhile, I'll be here in Brooklyn picking up the pieces of my life while you go play rock star."
I stand there for several moments, but when there's no reply I walk out of his door.
I remain in my apartment for the last few days. I relived the harsh words I spewed at Johnny. While I'm sorry I said them the way I did, they were full of truth.
Jimmy, Ryan, and Rich have text several times to ensure I'm meeting them in the studio parking garage to see them off. I wouldn't miss it for the world, I just wish I wasn't in such a low place. Even more, I wish I was in a different place with Johnny.
His pleas for me not to let him go on tour with our friendship in shambles haunt me. I go back and forth with myself, wishing I'd not been so vulnerable the first night he kissed me. I could've stopped him, played it off, and we'd still be the Johnny and Noely we've always been. The other half of me is somewhat glad things came to a head between us. I'm grateful for all the things my friends and their families have done for me, but I'm tired of feeling indebted. I've done anything those guys ever asked of me.
I've held the girl's hearts they've broken so they didn't have to deal with the drama. I've held each of those men when their own hearts were broken whether by a woman, death, or life. I've bailed them out of jail. I've made sure they got home when they were too drunk or high to know where they were. I've always put them first. Their wants and needs have always come before my own. So much so that my entire life was centered around them.
I'd like to say I was selfless, but there was always an underlying fear for years of their good deeds being thrown in my face. It's not that I think they would as much as I fear the unlikely, because the unlikely would result in me being all alone. I'd be on my own. I have no blood family to speak of and my fear of losing these guys has made me a doormat. That's my fault.
I would've most likely continued being a doormat the rest of my life if Johnny hadn't crossed the lines he did. They weren't minor infractions that a simple apology erases. So for a few days I've been torn. I've done some soul searching. I've asked myself questions adults do when they go through life crises.
What do I want to do in life?
What do I want out of life?
What's really important?
What am I passionate about?
Who am I?
The answer to the last question leaves me sullen. Maybe I don't know who I am at all.
I'm passionate about building things and watching them grow. I managed Blood Feather's career until recently. I created their marketing plans, booked their shows, handled their publicity, and designed their graphics. I loved every minute of it, but then I graduated college and could only devote half the time I had originally devoted to their efforts to make it big. I went to work in what the guys call "the real world". Jimmy stepped in to help me and over the last four years I taught him everything I knew. We were both passionate about their music and we believed in them more than we believed in anything else.
Jimmy was their tour manager and booking agent now. Leo was, a viper, but he was also their manager. I didn't trust him as far as I could throw him, and I felt that way since the moment he opened his mouth and smiled at me with his wolfish grin. Him eye fucking me didn't help the snarled vibe I got from him.
With my friends leaving on tour, I don't know who I am without them. Maybe their impending departure is just another invisible domino in the stack that was so delicately placed, only to all fall apart at once. I'm not their manager. I'm not the college graduate who got the job she thought she always wanted. I'm not their biggest fan who can go see them perform two or three nights a week anymore. They're leaving. I'm not just Johnny's friend anymore. We crossed a line, and then he shook my world upside down with heartbreak.
The problem is I'm not sure what broke my heart the most. Is it the way he touched me? Maybe it was that he was gone the next morning? I'm sure the tears in his eyes the day I was fired is a part of it. I walked away from him when he needed me and it broke my heart, but I had to leave him there. I'd never left him before. Was it the exposed truths he promised to keep for me? The humiliation of the world discovering what Tony had done to me is a huge part of the equation, but it all leads back to those hidden truths that were supposed to stay buried between friends. Unemployment is another bullet to add to the list. The words he said the other night reached deep inside of me, but I didn't realize it until hours after he'd uttered them.
I'm fucking dying.
Fuck, I'm sorry Noely baby. I'm so sorry. Please stop shutting me out. I know I fucked up. I won't do it again. You're killing me with the distance and silent treatment. It's fucking killing me.
How am I supposed to ever turn back from this, Noles?
You got it in your head that you're just another one of those groupie bitches I fuck with after the show! News flash, babe, we haven't been at a show either time. If you can't figure that out, then I don't know how else to explain it to you. But just so we're clear I'd take you home every night of the week over ANY of them!
Don't send me out there without you like this. I won't make it out there if I have to leave with us like this.
I arrive at the garage five minutes early, but a whole gaggle of people is there to see them off. It seems like half of Brooklyn came out to show their support. It makes me smile. I really needed the pick me up.
I hang in the back of the crowd and watch on as our friends help the band load the small RV. It's bittersweet to watch them leave. They made it, even if they're just starting out. They worked hard for years for this very moment, but I'll miss them like hell. Even Johnny. Brooklyn will seem empty without them.
My phone chimes.
Jimmy: Where da fuck you at?
Me: I'm here.
Jimmy: You aren't up here.
Me: There's a lot of people.
Jimmy: Fuck that.
Then he yells out over the crowd, "Noely baby!"
His six feet eight frame isn't hard to spot. He's so much taller than, well everyone.
I raise my hand so he'll see me. A smile brightens his face the moment he finds me, and as he marches through the crowd, they part like the Red Sea for Brooklyn's renowned brawler.
When he reaches me he asks, "You fucking kidding me?"
I look up at him in confusion. He leans down, picks me up, and throws me over his shoulder. Whoops and whistles fill the air at his caveman antics.
He finally sets me to my feet when we reach the front of the crowd.
"Nobody puts Baby in the back."
I chuckle, "It's the corner, Jimmy. Nobody puts Baby in the corner."
He shrugs me off, but Ryan scoops me up into a hug before I can rag him any further.
"Come with us, Noles," Ryan gives me puppy dog eyes.
"And do what?" I ask.
"Be our muse, sell merch, be our hype woman, and kick Leo's ass to the curb."
"I think I'll stay in Brooklyn for a while," I smile.
"You coming to any shows?" He asks
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," I promise.
The crowd thins out as Jimmy loudly tells them, "Show's fucking over. We gotta get these boys on the road. Thanks for coming out. See ya in six months."
I tell Ryan goodbye with a hug and a request for all the details. I don't want to miss the good times they have.
Eventually, the guys begin to load into the small RV, Johnny is last. He turns around at the last minute, backs out of the door, and walks straight to me. When he reaches me he doesn't say a word, but stares at me for some time.
"Under the cornerstone, Noely,” he says.
"One day I'll explain."
Then he pulls me into a hug and holds me tightly. He rests his chin on the top of my head.
"One day you'll see,” he whispers.
We stand there for what seems like an eternity, both of us afraid to let go of the other. No one rushes us, instead they pretend we're not there. They give us these few moments.
I break away from him and see the hurt on his face.
I smile up at him, "You're going to be great. Stay away from the hard shit and remember who you are. Brooklyn will be waiting on you."
He grabs my hand in his and pulls gently, "Will you?"
That's a loaded question, but I answer him honestly, "Yeah, I will."
He presses a long kiss to my forehead and then to my cheek, then to the corner of my mouth.
"I'm gonna fucking miss you,” he says and then turns and enters the vehicle.
I walk home alone and realize how empty this place already feels without them. I pick up a bottle of vodka on the way home and toast to Blood Feather.
I cry an hour into it, because I miss them. I know I have to get my shit together while they're gone and prove myself. I have to put my life back together, or perhaps start living life for the first time.
I step into Dr. Webster’s office fifteen minutes before my appointment and fill out a mountain of paperwork. I had this idea in my head that a psychologist’s office would be filled with framed Rorschach blot pictures and other patients with various degrees of distress. I dreamed last night the waiting room had exactly four other people waiting when I arrived. One was a man in a straitjacket, rocking back and forth and speaking nonsense. The second was a woman who was silently crying, black mascara streaks marring her face. The third was a man who paced back and forth in the office speaking to no one in particular about governmental conspiracy theories. The fourth was my mother who sat across the waiting room with a warm smile on her face. She patted the seat beside her, and when I sat, she grabbed my hand and held it in hers. She stared straight ahead as I waited for my appointment. She’d been waiting on me. Mom didn’t say a word to me the entire time until I was called to the back by a nurse.
“This is where you start, darling,” she smiled up at me as I stood.
I leaned down and hugged her, taking in her smell. It’s been so many years since she passed that I forgot the way she smelled. She smelled like home and comfort.
I realized this morning when I woke that I haven’t dreamt of her in years. I also haven’t had the nightmares of the night my stepfather came into my room for years. I’m not really sure I dreamt at all for the last five or six years. The dream of Dr. Webster’s waiting room was the first I remember in quite a while.
I completed several evaluations about myself, rating how I interact with others and feel in different situations. Dr. Webster meets me at her lobby door and escorts me to her office. She was a woman who appears to be in her fifties, short brown hair graying, and an eclectic collection of abnormal psychology books on the shelves surrounding her office.
“What brings you to my office today, Noely?” she asks.
I’d thought of the answer to this question for the week before I made the appointment and the two weeks following, in which I had to wait for today, “I don’t know who I am.”
She chuckles slightly, “I’m assuming you aren’t referring to an amnesiac issue.”
I smile at her statement, “No. I don’t know who I am. I’ve played the parts I’ve been given or felt I had to play for so long, that I don’t know who I am. I don’t know who I really am.”
She nods her head, “You’re quite young for mid-life crisis.”
“I know. I don’t think I’m experiencing an early mid-life crisis though. I think I’m waking up.”
My response surprises me, and with a few moments to process my words, I agree with my self-evaluation.
For forty-five minutes, Dr. Webster and I speak about my mother, my childhood, my father, my mother’s death, and the eight months I spent alone with my stepfather. I tell her about Johnny, Jimmy, Rich, and Ryan. I include their families and what life was like for me from the age of twelve until now.
“You have a severe amount of anxiety,” she observes. “Part of this is easily linked to your father’s sudden abandonment. Your stepfather’s personality made you nervous, which caused you to be in a constant state of fear and that produced anxiety. Your mother’s death threw you into a state of chaos and confusion. You stated you felt like an orphan, and Noely you’re right. You have anxieties over abandonment, which is why your friends leaving on this tour has affected you the way it has. You feel abandoned. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, with the people in your life. Abandonment is at the core of your anxieties. You played the part you thought everyone expected you to play. You didn’t rebel as a teenager. You’ve never acted out. You’ve kept all of this anxiety inside and you’ve been so eager to please everyone in your life and to keep them in your life so you always did what you could to please them the most.
You’re fears over going into foster care were valid, but it created this monster inside of your brain that makes you need to feel needed, but contradictorily it makes you afraid to need. Feeling needed by the people who in your mind, rescued you as a child makes you feel worthy and secure. Yet, you still fear that if you act out, disagree, or pursue anything on your own they will abandon you. From what you’ve told me about your relatively adopted family members, I do not foresee them abandoning you for being you. From what you’ve told me, your constructed family structure is filled with artists, creative minds, social anarchists, and those that live on the fringe of what society may deem as unacceptable. They make no qualms about who they are, and I don’t think they would want you to do that.”