BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 47

February 21st, 2017
Oslo, Norway
A reason to fight - Disturbed

Smiling and shaking his head as they hung up, he did what Leah had suggested. What he should have done the moment his friend turned off his phone.

Why the fuck were they always like that?

Søren called Alex. Once, twice, three times.

Nothing.

The damn device was still off.

Worried, he changed his sweatpants for a pair of jeans he had left on the bench and threw a hoodie over the t-shirt he was wearing. Without wasting a second, he strode down the stairs, grabbing the keys from the entrance hutch.

He practically ran towards his car, turning the engine as soon as he hopped in.

Alex used to like to be left alone from time to time. Angry or not he needed that personal space to be by himself, but the bass player had been silent for two days, not even showing up on Sunday when they met to talk about the new material they were working on.

At any other moment Søren would have gotten mad at him for neglecting the band, but after what happened with his mother, he didn’t want to bother him. He was probably lying on his bed, smoking pot, healing his wounds with music blasting through his headphones. That had always been his modus operandi.

However, the singer couldn’t help but worry. That woman had not only abandoned him once, but she had toyed with him, making him believe she had changed, only to betray him again. Alex wasn’t in his best moment. The drug consumption was not as massive as it used to be but the mental pain mixed with alcohol, and opioids was like bottling nitroglycerin and approaching a source of fire.

Guilt invaded Søren. If he hadn’t let him taste a drop of alcohol when he got out of rehab, if he hadn’t let him smoke pot during the Asian tour, if he had watched him even after their fight, if he had confronted him, even knocked him out if necessary, Alex wouldn’t have gotten so far.

Of course, he was an adult and made his own decisions, but Søren was the one that started playing with drugs, pulling Astrid and Alex with him when they were barely seventeen... It was his fault.

Fortunately, Astrid had completely stopped taking any shit, except alcohol and tobacco, after she found her best friend choked in her own vomit with a needle in the arm, reality hitting her hard. And even though she tried to get them away from that shit, taking care of them when they had a bad trip, fighting them on and on so they’d quit, the two musicians never listened to her.

For a few years it was just a way to have fun. They drank, smoked everything smokable, took LSD, magic mushrooms, and sniffed all kinds of dust, but they only did it when they were partying—Jørn and Ian had joined them several times too.

It wasn’t until the second year working with their current discography that Søren started losing control, getting trapped under the spell of cocaine and its numbing, euphoric effect.

Feeling tied and suffocated, as if he was drowning, he started getting high before the concerts, in rehearsals, in the mornings... Anything worked as long as the memories from his past stopped playing in his mind like a damn horror movie on a loop.

He had tried to get clean a couple of times, but he was very weak. He was tired of the real world and floating in that daze was the only glimpse of happiness he could find.

Alex jumped on that train of self-deception and cowardice a bit later. Music, drugs, and meaningless sex becoming their way to cope with shit, to feel alive.

It was pathetic, but they didn’t care. They still got their touch with music and women didn’t seem to mind that they weren’t really there, so they just kept going.

What he never understood was why Nadia started dating him. He was a total jerk, and she was a well-known actress and model that had built her career from scratch. She literally could have had anyone she wanted, but she stayed by his side.

After some time he stopped asking himself what a girl like her was doing with someone like him, whether it was out of love or a personal charity project, she gave him some sense of stability, a reason to change. She even stayed when he almost killed that man the last night he got high, always going to visit him, taking care of his mother when he couldn’t.

Søren wasn’t in love with the model, but he cared about her and it was comfortable having her around. He liked being there for her when she needed to rant about her job and how snobby some people were in her world. He always encouraged her to reject roles in movies or TV shows when she was unsure of what to do when they asked her to lose weight or shit like that—she was fucking perfect. She always supported and helped him to stay focused on the important things in life. Nadia was a fucking angel, but of course, he had to fuck it all up—and couldn’t even blame the illegal substances since he was clean by that time. He betrayed and hurt her by sleeping with someone else and that was something he would always regret.

As soon as he pulled over in front of Alex’s house, a chill ran down his spine. He didn’t know why, but he had a terrible feeling.

After knocking on the door and ringing the bell a few times, he waited, but no one opened, not a single sound from the inside.

“Fuck!” he mumbled, shoving his hand inside the pocket of his hoodie to get the spare keys to his friend’s house. “Alex!?” he shouted as he stepped inside. “Dude, come on! You’ve been MIA for two days...” The kitchen and living room were empty, dark, a disturbing silence wrapping around the space.

With his heart hammering hard, thudding in his ears, he went upstairs. “I get that you need some time alone, but you could at least—” A gagging sound interrupted him. “Shit!”

Søren ran up the flight of stairs he had left, striding towards his friend’s bathroom, only to find him in some grey sweatpants, kneeling, head ducked inside the toilet.

It was fucking cold outside, and even though the temperature inside the house was warmer, it wasn’t tropical, but Alex was sweating, a glistering layer covering his back as drops rolled down his scrawny body. Søren could almost count his vertebrae.

When has he lost so much weight?

Grabbing a towel, the singer crouched beside his friend, rubbing the piece of cloth over his skin as he kept shivering and tensing, puking his guts out.

The odor was nauseating, Søren could almost taste it. His skin crawled. He had to clench his jaw and swallow hard a few times before he could focus on what he was doing. He hated babysitting people when they were like that, but it was Alex.

The faint yellowish illumination from the night lamp in his bedroom mixed with the moon glow slipping through the window, giving an eerie air to the darkness surrounding them.

They were there for another ten minutes and the only thing he could do was rub his friend’s back, putting his hoodie over his shoulders to dry the cold sweat.

“I can’t keep doing this...” Alex sobbed, tears running down his cheeks as he put on the sweater, wiping his mouth.

“What are you talking about?” Søren asked, moving aside to give him some space.

“I’m tired of everything, I can’t...” Rubbing his nose with the back of his hand and sniffing, he sat on the floor, “I need to get clean, can’t keep living like this.” He paused and ran a hand over his head, looking at the ceiling as he rested his elbows on his knees, back pressed against the cold tiled wall. “I had lost everything before I met you and Astrid, and this shit almost made me lose you too...”

“Dude, it’s alright—”

“You should have punched me for being such an asshole,” he shouted, brows creased together, unbearable pain clouding his gaze.

Søren didn’t say anything because he knew perfectly what he was talking about. He knew how he was feeling. All the demons, the fears, the anger, the frustration, the difficulty to breathe. The entire world weighing down on his shoulders. Clarity was a scary state when you’ve been through hell.

“Why didn’t you call me?”

Alex snorted, eyes filled with crippling sadness, making Søren’s chest narrow. “After everything I’ve done and said... I—I couldn’t burden you with this too. It’s my fucking problem.”

“You’re an idiot.” Søren rolled his eyes “No matter what kind of a jerk you are, we’re family. I’ll always be here when you need me,” he said, getting up and offering his hand.

Shaking his head and sighing, Alex gave him a half-smile.

“Thanks, man.”

“No need.” Søren patted his back. “Now lets—”

Before he could finish the sentence, Alex had wrapped his arms around him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” His voice broke. “You’ve been my only support... The only person who made me feel I was worth—” The bassist sobbed, soaking Søren’s t-shirt. “You’re the first one that made me feel I wasn’t a piece of shit... I—I’m sorry... about everything.” Tears brimmed in his eyes. “I’m such a shitty person, always giving you those low blows... I’m so fucking weak... I hate myself... I never meant those words...” The raspy tone dying in his throat as if someone was strangling him.

Sobs and sniffs flooded the space in the room as Alex cried his heart out, breaking Søren’s in the process. They had been together for over fourteen years, and he had only seen Alex cry once—when the dog they had in their foster home died. It killed him to see his best friend like that, so hopeless and shattered. Why the fuck didn’t he do anything before he reached that point?

He felt useless.

Søren tightened his arms around him, trying to convey his feelings through the warmth of his body. Alex had been alone for many years, but he wasn’t anymore, not since the day they had met. He had to know.

“I don’t want to be like this... I can’t be like her—” He took a step backwards, staring at the floor. “Using people as she pleases... I... I wanted to think she had changed... I needed her to look at me like a real mother should look at her child... I needed her—” He paused, sniffing, swallowing loudly as he rubbed a hand over his face again. Coming to that realization and admitting all that out loud must have been tormenting. “But once again she lied, all she wanted was my money... Fuck! Am I really that hard to love?”

“She’s the wrong one here, dude...”

“Please... don’t let me end up like that,” Alex begged. “I don’t want to be that despicable and horrible kind of person.”

“You’re nothing like her.” Søren reassured him, putting his hands on his shoulders, giving him a light squeeze as he looked him in the eye. “And you’re not alone, you hear me?”

Clenching his jaw, Alex nodded. “Thank you.”

After taking a shower, the bass player walked out of the bathroom drying his short hair with a towel, clean clothes on. He still looked exhausted, and the fever was probably still high, but he had a different aura around him, his gaze softer.

“What’s that?” he asked as he approached his friend.

“Tea. It’ll help you calm down.”

“It’s alright, dude. You can go home, I’ll be fine. It’s already been two days since I haven’t taken anything,” he protested.

“The first couple of weeks are the worst,” Søren reminded him.

“I know, I know...” Alex rolled his eyes, grabbing the mug from the night table as he sat on the bed with Søren.

“That’s why you’re coming to my house for the next few days.”

“The fuck? Are you my dad now?” Alex scrunched his nose, then drank from his tea.

“No, but I could be if you want me to.” The singer wiggled his eyebrows, giving him his stupidest grin to lighten the mood.

“Hell, no!” The bassist snorted. “You’re gonna stay tonight?”

“Yup.” Søren nodded. “Told you I’m not leaving you alone now. You have anything that can be dangerous?”

“I threw it all yesterday,” Alex told him, clenching his jaw again. “But you can check if I left anything.”

He hated being controlled but understood that had to be done. After all the lies, the sneaking around, and messing with drugs, if he really wanted to start a new life, he would have to go through that, trust the people he was relying on.

“We’ll do it tomorrow. It’s late,” Søren said as he got up. “And we should go to see a doctor so he can give you a prescription for something and follow your detox process.” Alex frowned. “You know it can be risky if you do a rapid withdrawal without supervision, dude.”

“Fine.” He huffed.

He didn’t want to bug Alex too much, pressure was really annoying when you were at that point. It felt as if everyone was pointing at you for your behavior, acting wary and being judgmental, as if you were the worst. But that was far from reality. Søren would never judge him; he hated that shit, but he was truly worried and would keep an eye on him the best he could. He wasn’t letting him fall in that vicious cycle of despair and self-pity again.

“What are you doing?” Alex asked as Søren laid on the couch beside the window.

“Getting ready to sleep?”

“Dude, go to the guest room, your back’s gonna hurt like a bitch tomorrow, and it’s not like you won’t hear me if I get up.”

“I just want to make sure you’re alright, control your fever and that shit.”

“Jesus! What have you done with my friend?” Alex laughed. “You’re such a pussy!”

“Shut up!” Søren threw a cushion to his face as he dropped the others on the floor.

“It’s true! That woman’s turned you into a softie!”

“Doubt it.”

“She likes it rough, huh?”

“Not talking about that with you.”

“Oh, wow! She’s that important! Are you falling for her, Wolfie?” Alex teased, knowing they only kept to that kind of intimate information when they cared about a relationship—not that they shared every little detail of their sex adventures, but comments on the best tits, asses, weird kinks or how good, or bad, the throat culture was, had been made.

His friends knew he liked her company, that they talked a lot, that he was more than satisfied with their physical relation—more for his dumbass permanent expression than because he had said anything—but for sure, he wasn’t going to talk extensively about it with that bunch of idiots. He didn’t want them picturing her charming his snake every time they met her.

“Shut up or I’m smothering you with the pillow,” Søren threatened his friend, laughing.

“Fine, fine...” Alex sighed. “I like her though,” he added. “She’s not as needy as others, doesn’t seem like the crazy as fuck cunt type either. She’s fun and it’s good that she’s not appalled by our gross conversations.” He laughed. “And you seem more... relaxed since she’s been around.”

“Who’s the cheesy bitch now?” Søren arched an eyebrow.

He was right, but he didn’t want to go there. It had been too long since he had sailed the sea of romantic feelings and felt lost with that shit. Love was total mayhem for him. He hated the sense of insecurity and vulnerability he felt when he wasn’t in control of his emotions. He knew it wasn’t just sex between them, and he liked the place they were at, digging further was unnecessary—for now.

“I’m just saying,” Alex chuckled. “Night, man,” the bass player mumbled as he yawned.

“Night,” Søren replied, pulling the thermal blanket over his body, a sigh of relief leaving his lips as he closed his eyes.


February 23st, 2017
Oslo, Norway

It had been a long day and with Alex at home everything had been a bit tense. It wasn’t that he wasn’t cooperating, he was, but it was hard. Cold turkey was such a disgusting process.

They had been playing, working on more new material. Music was what had helped Søren the most back in the day, it kept him focused and numbed his demons, but his friend was super frustrated because he couldn’t even do a proper bass tap. And not like he could blame him, he knew how that was. Not being able to play the guitar for weeks because of the shaking hands scared the shit out of Søren when he was in rehab.

“Fuck!” Alex dropped his bass on the floor. “I need to smoke,” he groaned.

“Sure.” Søren nodded. “It’s late anyway, we’ll continue tomorrow.”

Huffing, the bass player left the music room and went to the glass enclosed porch.

“Open the”—the bell rang interrupting him—“window.” Søren sighed, walking towards the entrance.

“Hey...” Astrid greeted, avoiding eye contact with him as he opened the door.

“Hi.” He moved aside to let her in.

“I brought the meds you told me to get.”

“Thanks.”

“How’s he doing?”

“He just went batshit because he can’t play,” Søren scoffed. “I get it, you know? But he’s not listening.”

“Let me try.” Astrid gave him a faint smile. They were still weird around each other, none of them had mentioned their fight, but this wasn’t about them. It was about Alex and helping him get to the next stage of detox.

“Good luck.” He snorted, walking up to his room. He needed to take a shower, or at least not be in the same room with Alex at that moment or he would end up stabbing him.

When he was undressing, his phone vibrated in the sink.

Leah: Hey you

He was tired but couldn’t hold the smile that curled his lips up.

Søren: Hey

Leah: How r u?

Søren: I’m debating between taking a shower and committing murder

Leah: Is it that bad?

Søren: Not really
He’s just been a pain in my ass today

Leah: Sorry to hear that
Is there anything I can do?

Søren: Nah... It’s fine. We’ll get over it. It’s just hard...

Leah: I guess...

Søren: How r u anyway?

Leah: I’m good

Søren: I saw you’re working on something new?

Leah: Oh, yeah! The Morin Khuur!

Søren: When were you planning to tell me?

She had posted the picture of the Mongolian horsehead fiddle in her stories. It was a traditional bowed stringed instrument. The sound of it was sonorous, undulating, and penetrative but not perfectly neat. It was really tribal—he loved it.

Leah: I just got it this morning
It’s so amazing. I’ve never had one of these in my hands.
And such a challenge. The horse head is destroyed, gonna have to carve it

Søren: You better do a good job, honor their culture

Leah: What do you mean?

Søren: You know they say a Mongolian without a horse is like a bird without wings?

Leah: Omg! I love that

Søren: Hehe
Anyway... I gotta go. Talk to you tomorrow?

Leah: Yeah, sure. Just text me whenever
And if you need to talk...

Søren: Thank you.
Night, Leah.

Leah: Night


February 27st, 2017
Oslo, Norway

“It’s so good to hear your voice.” Søren sighed as he let himself fall on the couch, ear tingling when Leah softly laughed.

“How’s everything going?”

“It’s getting better... I mean, he’s still having insomnia and is a nervous wreck, but at least the fever is completely gone and he’s not having hallucinations anymore.”

“That’s good.” He could sense her smile at the other end of the call.

“Yeah...” He chuckled. “I was more worried about his withdrawal symptoms than a possible relapse, to be honest, but it’s been quite mild.”

“What do you mean?”

“The last time it was way worse, and in my case... I even had convulsions a couple of times. But I guess the amount of chemicals inside of our bodies were also higher.”

Why the fuck are you even telling her about yourself?

“I’m sorry you went through that... It must have been scary...” She trailed off. “Do you... Do you ever think about using again?”

“Yeah. Sometimes,” he blurted. Shit. “It’s not like I actually need it anymore, but sometimes when I’m too overwhelmed the urge to do it hits me... It’s not something I really want, it’s more like my brain craves that feeling? I don’t know how to explain.”

“I think I understand what you mean...”

“But don’t worry, I’ve had my share of all that shit. When I think about how I dragged Alex into this, about all the months I couldn’t go to see my mother because they didn’t allow me out of the rehab center whenever I wanted, about all the shit I did and the people I hurt because I couldn’t get out of my own head... It still stings like a bitch, and the voices in the back of my head are annoying as fuck, but at least I can control it all now.”

Stop blabbering. She doesn’t need to know the awful human being you are.

“I’m proud of you...”

“Hm?” He arched a brow.

“When you’re struggling, you’re simply paralized... And even if what you’re doing is damaging you, sometimes... you just can’t let go because the comfort of numbness and pain is better than the unknown,” she said—her words sinking deep. “You fall and you do wrong to people that don’t deserve it... But after all that you raised again and fought to become a better version of yourself. Isn’t that what really matters?”

“I want it to be Friday already,” he said out loud. That she didn’t care about him being a selfish prick in the past warmed him and made him want to get lost in her.

“Me too...” She breathed out.

“Me too...”

“Søren!” Alex called, walking towards him from the porch. “I’ve just talked with the Irish ass and they’re—Sorry, didn’t know you were talking. Is it Leah?”

“Yeah.” Søren nodded.

“Say hi for me.”

“You heard?” he asked her as he sat up on the couch.

“Yeah.” Leah chuckled. “Hi!”

“She says hi,” he told Alex, making him grin.

“Anyway, I was gonna tell you that Ian and Jørn are on their way here.”

“Give me a second,” he asked Leah. “What for?”

“Who the fuck knows? They said they were free and felt like hanging out.”

“Ugh! Fine...”

“Gonna order a pizza,” Alex said as he walked towards the kitchen.

“Whatever...” Søren rolled his eyes. “Seems like we have a plan.” He chuckled.

“Well, it sounds like fun, and I bet you two can use a bit of that.”

“True.”

“Night, Søren .”

“Thanks. Night, Babe.”

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