Believe in 2012
“You believe in 2012?”
I Say, “I believe that it is the year 2012.”
She says, “No, do you believe the worlds going to end?”
I cram my hands into the pocket of my pea coat because it’s uncharacteristically cold for November in California; And in the middle of an uncharacteristically hot week. There was a super storm that just wiped out the east coast and yesterday I heard someone make an honest to god comparison between the antichrist and Obama, using dark skin as bullet point number one. So yes, the world is most likely coming to an end.
I Say, “No.”
She doesn’t like this. She doesn’t like a lot of things. She doesn’t like the PO-lice as she calls them. She doesn’t like this bar and she doesn’t like not having cancer, sucking deep on that cigarette.
She says, “But they, like, calculated that, like, based on the sign of the devil,666, and the year, the world is going to end on December 21st.”
The sign of the devil is 616 according to documents recovered from a rubbish pile in Egypt. This is a widely accepted fact among most biblical historians. Just a typo that went uncorrected for a really long time. If the calculations are based on 666 then the whole theory falls apart and her point is moot. Furthermore, her whole theory is based on a Christian belief working in tandem with scientific theory, two ideologies that fundamentally oppose one another. So I say,
It’s 1215 am, and it’s 36 degrees outside and I am a bouncer. I didn’t really sign up to be a bouncer and I didn’t know I was one until I got here a few weeks ago. The ad said restaurant security guard and for some reason my stupid ass thought I’d be standing in for weddings and checking to make sure that the place was locked up at night. But here I am checking ID’s and throwing drunk people around. Behind me and down the steps the sound of HipHop climbs out of the bar, teeming with bodies, the beat mixing with the city sounds around me like arrhythmia, a little bit off. Slightly symptomatic. There are people milling around outside smoking, talking, sweating from the heat of all the bodies crammed into one crowded basement.
There’re four Latino guys beat boxing, leaning against the hood of the car in front of me, the f bomb filling in most of the gaps in the rhymes as alcohol takes over and their brains shut down. There are a few people standing around alone near the steps, there’s the girl standing in front of me puffing on her cigarette and then of course the older gentleman in the a T-shirt with the boys name scrawled in Graffiti font below a picture of the boy in front of a turntable. The boy is about 21 in the picture, wearing baggy clothes and a sideways hat, thick rimmed glasses, and the guy in the shirt says he taught the boy everything he knows about mixing music. Cars scream by on B Street as the beat boxers box and the music tumbles out of the basement. The girl talking to me is a friend of a friend of the cousin of the deceased and when wanders away from me to snub out her cigarette in the ashtray, and the old guy, seeing that my time has freed up, creeps up. Says, “Yeah man, I taught him everything he knew.”
I nod, because I didn’t know the kid. I don’t know if he was a great beat boxer or a famous DJ. All I know is that he’s dead. Say,
“How did you know him?”
The old guy takes his ball cap off and runs a hand across his bald head. Something swirls across his face like sadness and he says,
“I’m his uncle.”
Say, “I’m sorry for you loss.”
Uncle nods. Cars scream by on B and my breath hangs in a cloud in front of my face. Say,
“How did he die?”
Uncle says, “went in his sleep thank god. Went to bed, didn’t wake up.”
Say, “How old was he?”
Uncle says, “22.”
Say, “Was he sick? Any medical conditions?”
Like I’m a fucking detective.
Uncle says, “No, Just passed in his sleep.”
It’s out before I can reign it in. Like I’m judging him. Like I’m not the bored looking bouncer standing out in front of his nephew’s memorial service. Like I have any right to. Uncle smells it too, a dash of anger bubbling up through the liquor and the sadness. He wanders off without another word. Behind me I can hear him on the stairs talking to two guys in knee length T-shirts, "I taught him everything he knew."
The wind picks up. Single gusts at a time peeling through the courtyard, stirring the elms above me, and a Carls Jr. cup goes skittering through the lot and suddenly, I’m aware that the music has stopped. As a bouncer the normal sounds of the inside of your bar become ingrained in you. The tone of the voices and the clinking of glasses. When they’re something’s wrong, you feel it like a palpitation. Downstairs, the music has stopped. I turn and take the steps two at a time, calm but in a hurry and when I get to the door I see this:
Over the tops of a lot of heads, through the darkness and the dancing blast of the strobe lights I see the DJ against the back wall, with his hand over the mic, talking to someone, leaning in close to hear over the bar sounds, nodding. The guy he’s talking to is a chubby guy, probably 24 or 25. His shirt is unbuttoned and there are stains on it. His hat is off to one side and his hair is tousled. There are dark bags under his eyes that I can see even in the dark. As I start to move through the bar to pull him out the DJ takes his hand off the mic and says,
“Alright, Alright. This is ONENOTE’s Brother. He wants to say a few words.”
So, I stop. Hang back in the doorway.
ONENOTE’s brother takes the mic amidst a barrage of cheering and applause, stumbles a bit and has to put his hand on the table that the mixer is on. His eyes are glassy like the puddles of old rainwater in the lot and he’s had a few too many. When he speaks he puts his face too close to the mic and his voice crashes down like a fist on the bar. Says,
“Yo Yo Yo, listen up,”
See the DJ scramble to turn the mic down, as the brother plows on ahead with the mic almost in his mouth. Says,
“I wanna thank all y’all for coming here tonight. My brother would’ve thought this was the shit,”
He stumbles into mixing table again, says,
Rights himself, fixes his hat on his head again and says,
“I just wanna say that I love all y'all and that we’re gonna miss you ONENOTE and wherever you are we love you B. We fucking love you.”
His voice is pinched with grief as he finishes, the sound of it drowning in the cheers that crackle through the bar. A whistle goes up from somewhere near the front and glasses clink and the Brother turns to the DJ and says, half into the mic,
“Drop a beat.”
And there’s a tension in the room. This is going to be a mess and everybody knows it. Someone near the front even reaches for Brother. Tries to get him to sit down, but Brother waves him off, the drunken courage twisting with the inconsolable sadness and beat jumps out of the speakers. It’s simple, drum and base. Simple and slow and terrible and inappropriate. Brother starts to freestyle. I turn and go back up the stairs because it’s too much. But there's no smothering it in the empty silence of the parking lot. Just cars on B and wind in the elms and his voice through the speakers.
“I miss you bro,
Where’d you go
Had to leave
before your time
Fucking cant believe
When we were kids
you taught me well
Showed me the rap game,
Love you bro
with all my heart,
Without you we're
gonna fucking fall apart…
Love you bro… fucking love you… love you..
The beat persists like a whip-crack driving him onward, pushing him past his limit and he says into the mic,
Mom, Come up here.”
A pause, the beat still moving,
I hear footsteps on the stairs behind me and I look over my shoulder at mom coming up the stairs with tears in her eyes, leaving past me, as down below in the bar brother sobs into the mic, the beat cracking steadily, incessant and unwavering. The wind tousles the elms and the cars tumble by on B.