A girl says, When Julian would scream until his throat bled I’d think how I knew our love would endure forever. When I’d watch him shave his chest in some motel before the show I’d feel less sure. When the band would play “Righteous Soul Slave” for second encore I’d know that they would never be famous. They were too good. The audience didn’t understand the complicated, holy thing that was happening. It—the audience—only wanted a wall of noise to throw itself against, an ocean to dive into and drown a while. Whatever. Julian’s the poet, I’m just his. Some of the weak ones fell, bleeding, got trampled or were pulled upright by some pit angel; glaze-eyed, disorientated, stalk-stumbling off. I’d stand off-stage on Julian’s side and watch the show. Except of course on the nights—these were not rare—when the stage was just a taped-off section of floor. Those nights I stood in back with Darren the manager i.e. the merch guy i.e. the bass player’s cousin, and watched the crowd heave. Each crowd was different and the same. Sweaty teenagers swipe half-drunk warmbeers from ledges, chug with pride, to puke later in the parking lot with same. Julian was the singer and lead guitar. He was pasty and gorgeous, haunted and haunting, recalcitrant nova, all the right things, blah. But our lives were perfect, weren’t they? Rattling motion and cigarette ash. Where were we, anyway? A rest stop in some desert, bald mountains like a great fence hemming us in. The van choked out blue smoke if we pushed past sixty, but we knew we had to be in the next place by this time the next day, whatever day that was, I mean was going to be. The stakes never changed, just the fill-in-the-blank after WELCOME TO SCENIC, another sign we were already in Heaven, anyway Limbo—some place where verb tense doesn’t matter. Whatever. Details were anyone else’s job. My only job was Julian. After all, where would he be without me? Me without him? I shouted to the drummer that I was a quarter short for the snack machine. He looked past me, at the thing itself, fished one from his pocket and flipped it my way, then turned away to light his cigarette. I of course missed the catch and it landed flat in the clay, no skitter. I picked it up and saw that it was shiny, new, one of those state ones. A bird—hawk, maybe? Fuck it, it was going straight into the coin slot so I could eat. But right before I slipped it in I decided two things: first that the state on the coin was the place where we were, so Idaho. Second that the coin was a tea leaf, state motto therefore a secret message. I don’t know dick about Latin but some things are just obvious and sometimes I think that’s what God is: the obvious, resplendent and intractable and dumb. I left the other Twix in the wrapper for later, got back in the van and told Julian that in the next town he could have a groupie, if I could film it.
- Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, which is just out from Harper Perennial. He is also a contributor to HTMLGiant. His personal website is http://www.justindtaylor.net/