My talk with Misa occupies about 87% of my thoughts; it’s very hard to concentrate on the conversation he and Lais is having during a quick lunch before we head back to the stadium. I assume, that is the reason why I don’t feel that nervous about meeting my exes again. I don’t even dare to think of what will happen to us: will we go separate ways forever or could we make up?
Once we’re finished, we get into another car and another twenty minutes later, I’m standing in front of the huge building. Being on tour so much, holding hundreds of concerts in hundreds of stadiums, each looks kind of the same. But now that I look at this one, I associate it with feelings and life events of mine; it looks more familiar, more unique than the others.
‘Are you okay, Kei?’ Misa steps next to me, putting his arm around my shoulder.
‘Yeah.’ I nod quickly and take a step forward with him.
We’re on the corridor where the changing rooms and equipment rooms open from. It’s full of people running both ways, in and out of rooms, talking, arguing. Usually I find this chaos exciting and the familiar feeling starts building up in me, but this time it’s mixed with anxiety. I’ve never had crowd fear or anything like this, but right now I clearly feel afraid of stepping on the stage.
Misa is talking with Jay – I have no idea when did she join us –, and Lais is looking around, fascination in his features. To my gaze, he explains.
‘I’ve never been to the backstage on a concert. There are so many people here!’
‘For some reason, I feel like this is all new to me too.’
As we talk and observe our surroundings, we hear a hassle forming just behind us.
‘I truly am sorry, Misa, but in less than a day, we couldn’t manage to find Keiji his own private room!’
‘How do you expect them to change and rest in the same room, sometimes for longer periods? Don’t you have a heart?’
‘They aren’t children, can’t they act like adults and live up to their mistakes?’
’Why do you ask something you already know the answer to? They are like children, that has always been the problem with musicians, hasn’t it?′
‘What is the problem?’ I ask them, but I have a pretty good idea already.
‘I asked Jay to get you your own changing room so you wouldn’t have to spend time with them off stage, but she couldn’t do that.’
‘I already said, in such short time and with limited resources, it is impossible!’
‘It’s okay. I’ll just be on the corridor.’
‘You can’t do that, you have to actually change clothes and everything.’ Jay explains.
‘I can change on the corridor.’
‘Don’t complicate the situation, Kei. Just go in there and don’t look at them.’ She starts pushing me into a room and seeing my panic, Lais steps forward.
‘I’ll go in with you. I’ll shield you from them and we’ll talk and everything, okay?’ He looks at Jay, seeking permission to go in with me.
‘Sure, if that’s what it takes to convince him.’
‘All right. Kei, if you’re ready, we should go.’
I look at Misa who nods, then Lais’ extended hand towards me, and take it.
In the end, Jay went in first, I followed her with Lais and even Misa fell in line behind me. Everyone in the room turned to us, some staring, some stealing little glances. I feel burning hot, and I’m not sure I’m not red up to my ears.
‘Kei!’ Hoshi forces his way through to me and quickly hugs me then looks around. ‘Body guards?’
‘From my point of view, it is.’ He starts laughing and hearing his carefree voice eases my tension. I lean closer and whisper in his ear.
‘Hoshi, I’m afraid.’ He looks at me with knitted eyebrows, then half-embracing me starts walking further into the room.
I want to shrink very tiny and if possible, disappear, but the bassist takes me to a slightly separated area.
‘Sit.’ He commands. ‘Naturally, I have no idea how you must feel. What could be worse is that Kane and Iau are finally talking now, and you’re even more left out. I am so very sorry for what happened; it breaks my heart.’ To his genuine expression of his feelings, my own heart cracks a little. ‘But you love music and you love playing your guitar. I know how much fun we always have during gigs, despite all the shit that always happens. So if everything else is in ruins, just dance on them and have fun for tonight. If necessary, I’ll stick to you on stage, I’ll tell Montaro to do the same, and you already have that blond accompany you, and I’m sure Misa will be waiting for you on the sidelines. You are surrounded by friends, so don’t be selfish and accept what we can offer.’
Ever since Hoshi joined the band, we became very good friends, we did a lot of crazy stuff together, we got in trouble and we had fun. The world is not only about lovers or ex-lovers; though that’s still a problem to be solved, I can’t forget about the other people that are important to me.
I smile and nod, and hug Hoshi while whispering thank you to him.
We don’t have time to sit around much, I can feel the tension in the air, and Iau’s and Kane’s occasional stolen glances on me, but we have to get ready to start the show. Everyone busies themselves with preparations, me too, I change into my stage clothes and start tuning my guitar.
Usually the backstage right before a concert would be livelier and louder, but now everyone just sticks to their own business. It’s kind of sad, but inevitable.
Once we’re ready, we just occupy ourselves with little things; meanwhile Misa and Lais are standing next to me without saying a word.
It’s so uncomfortable, we used to talk so much, make jokes, get in the right mood to play our first song, a badass rock tune.
Before I have time to overthink the situation, Jay yells into the room that we have to get moving. I stay behind and leave the room last with Misa and Lais.
‘Look alive, guys!’ Jay is running around, trying to boost the mood with no significant success. ‘The audience will go home, requesting a refund.’
‘Calm down, Jay, we’ll be fine.’ This is the first time I hear Iau’s voice since I left them at the hotel yesterday. ‘We’re professionals, right?’ Kane nods and they really seem like they’ll be okay.
I’ve known Iau and Kane for many years, when one day they stood before me, looking awkward as hell, obviously trying to tell me something. I couldn’t imagine at first what it could be; are they telling me they hate me, are they kicking me out of the band? After a few minutes of struggling with their words, Iau told me, both of them like me. They started dating during our days together, so their confession struck me a bit, leaving me speechless for a few good seconds before I told them, I like them too. Then Kane started explaining that they don’t mean friendship and I assured them, neither do I. To that, I saw a mixture of feelings on their faces: shock, relief, confusion, happiness. I was just happy they came forward, because I thought I was stupid for liking them. From that day on, the three of us started dating. It was funny at first, none of us had dated more than one person at the same time before. Iau seemed to finally relax, now that he could give more love away; I was getting used to the new setup and enjoy it; however, Kane started being moodier than before, often hurting himself half-intentionally during gigs. At first we let him be, we assumed he has some thoughts he has to deal with, but in a few months we began asking him about it which only made him angrier. It took us another half year to get him to tell us what’s eating him. We worked on it together, but he never stopped hating himself because of our relationship. Of course he loved us, but his conscience tormented him for that.
We take our positions on the stage in the darkness, and when the reflectors flicker on, we start the first song.
My hands refuse to move smoothly and already in the first minute I miss an accord. Fuck, I have to relax or I’ll make more mistakes like this and the audience will throw tomatoes and eggs at me.
In an instant, Hoshi appears next to me and half leans on me while playing his own part. He’s smiling and dancing a little, sending a wink at my worried face. Knowing him so close to me, I ease up a bit and bring myself to look around. The crowd is cheering; they don’t seem to notice that anything is wrong with us. Montaro is his usual self and Iau and Kane is just a little less enthusiastic than always. I see Lais taking photos around the stage and Misa is standing at the side. Everyone is working hard, I must do my best to entertain and maybe even enjoy the concert.
The next song is one of the most popular among fans, but every bit of a reminder for me of the times we wrote it and had so much fun doing so.
The bittersweet mood I’m in is also something I’ve never experienced; looks like I’m constantly discovering new sides of myself, new emotions I didn’t know I had.
I focus on the music, the sounds themselves and this way time seems to fly fast. A song I have vocals in proves a little difficult, because I barely can speak, feeling my throat dry and my voice cracks a few times.
When a love ballad comes, I’m in shock to hear Iau singing; he pours all his feelings into it, and my tears start pouring. It’s a song the three of us wrote together, about each other. I put extra effort into my guitar play to reflect Iau’s singing. It’s the part when Kane goes to his piano and continues the song there, and from him too, I can feel the passion as he hits the keys.
I barely live through the next few songs before the first bigger break we have, and I instantly collapse into Misa’s arms as I leave the stage.
‘You’re doing great!’ He pats my back and strokes it supportively.
‘I can’t do it, I’m already out of energy.’ I pant heavily.
‘Drink some juice, sit and relax.’ Misa murmurs into my ear but I almost don’t hear him, blood drumming in my ears.
Lais is standing around and they accompany me back to the break room. With shaky hands I light a cigarette and the gloomy atmosphere almost chokes me.
Usually we’d start bickering right about now, telling each other what we should do differently, lecturing the other on things they know the most about. It’s silly, but unexpectedly constructive in shaping our gigs and music. Now everyone is just staring in front of them, not saying a word.
I unconsciously look around and see Kane holding his wrist; it’s obvious that he’s in pain, and I’d like to go to him, ask him if he’s alright, tell him not to overwork himself, but I restrain myself. I can’ just do that out of the blue. I look at Hoshi and he just nods, nudging me and looking at Kane. Is he saying I should go and do as I’d like to? But what if he pushes me away? What if he yells at me to leave him alone? It wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary, but this time it’d have a different meaning, or so I feel. I look at the bassist again and now he vehemently nods, like he can’t stand to see my hesitation.
I take a small step towards Kane but he doesn’t notice. I slowly approach him and he only looks up at me when I’m almost next to him. His look is questioning but not rejecting, so I kneel beside him and hold his wrist in my hands, just hold it because I can’t speak suddenly, although I’d have much to say, again. He lets me though, and peers into my face, trying to read my thoughts. I take a deep breath and with a small voice, I ask him.
‘Does it hurt?’ Kane stiffens slightly but nods. ‘Take better care of yourself, don’t overdo it.’
I can feel all eyes on us, which is very uncomfortable but I manage to finish my sentence, then let go of his hand and return to my seat. I try to avoid looking at anyone, but I glance at Kane for a split second and what I see in his eyes overwhelms me: longing, painful longing. I almost bolt up and run back to him, but I sit on my hands and endure my heartache.
Misa has to pat me on my shoulder for me to notice that it’s time to head back to stage. But no matter where I’m looking, I can only see Kane’s face, looking at me with that sad expression.
Kei’s action surprised me. I think it surprised everyone in the room. I always expect the guitarist to break down and have a panic attack, but I guess that’s just because I’m used to my own boyfriend. I know I’m an outsider, brought in for the sole purpose of helping him, but now that I’ve spent some time with the whole band, I’m starting to get the dynamics of them. I still don’t know the members as individuals, but I think Kei shouldn’t worry so much, he still has his friends and his exes don’t seem like they want him out of their lives.
I wish it would be this easy for me and Kae too… He hasn’t phoned me once since I left on this tour and if I hadn’t call him today, we don’t even speak. He doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that he has to be void of me for a few weeks. I’m more than disappointed. I miss him like hell, I want to be with him, I miss his harsh personality and his all-knowing facial expression he always wears. I wish he could be here with me.
I follow the others to the stage and take a place where I’m least in the way but can take good pictures from. As I promised, I’m always keeping an eye on Keiji, which results in most photos being taken of him. Misa seems satisfied with the job I’m doing, so I keep it up and enjoy the music while working. It’s a nice change of environment from what I’m used to: staged, motionless models and various shooting places. Maybe I should broaden my line of work and not limit myself to art. I’ll try to explore my opportunities after this assignment.
Kane’s drum solo starts the next part of the gig. He seems lost in his thoughts, which is understandable after what Kei did in the backstage. What surprises me is that he seems to take Kei’s words to his heart, because he’s not killing himself while playing. Normally, his solo is where he gets all his frustration out, often by hurting himself on his drums. But now, he’s crazy, as he always is, but not so self-destructive.
I’m just staring at him from the sidelines, glancing back at Kei, curious if he sees what I’m seeing too. It looks like he does, because his eyes are wide, locked on the drummer, even his lips are slightly parted.
What does this mean? Did they make things right between them? What should I do? Should I talk to Kei too? But after I was the one to say “just go”, how could I face him? Argh, this is so stupid! I need to see how he reacts to me.
As soon as we go on stage with a new song, while singing, I approach Kei, like I normally would, just walking around the stage, standing next to him. He takes a half step away, but that’s just a first reaction, then he stays where he is. I go closer and sing to him, like I’d do before, and he freezes, save for his hands that are playing his guitar. Maybe I’m too forceful, but I can always say I was pretending, so the audience doesn’t grow suspicious why I ignore one of our guitarists. I turn from him and I can practically feel the relief from behind me. It’s a little annoying, so I turn back, but this time his reaction isn’t that negative, he even plays along a little. Maybe he was just surprised or I really was too forceful. I look at Kane and he’s eager to see what’s happening, waiting for an outcome that may never happen.
I slowly leave Kei, going elsewhere, to Hoshi, and the air around us now seems less stressed, pressure easing a few degrees. The relief that’s present on the stage now is different from the one from Kei a few minutes ago. I wouldn’t say everyone is carefree now – except for the bassist, but that’s a constancy –, but it’s better than in the forenoon. I can only hope the progress won’t stop at this stage.