Rock Bottom

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Rock Bottom Page 3

by Josephine Traynor

  This is all about getting something for tonight and to get me through to tomorrow. My hungry haze has me heading for the fruit and vegetable section. Bananas, apples, anything I don’t have to cook, goes into the basket. A familiar tune starts to play over the crackly sound system, and my heart swells. The first few bars of our current number one song. Just as the vocals are about to kick in, there’s a God awful scraping sound of a record being scratched where the radio announcer drowns out the song. Any sense of pride is now gone as I listen in to what they are saying.

  “Yep – you heard it here first. Backbeat is no more.” The female announcer drops in with “More like Deadbeat” before the male takes control. “Haven’t heard that one before, fucker,” I mutter as I toss a lettuce into the basket with more force than I should. “Rumour has it, lead singer Reece Ashton has gone into rehab while the man behind the music is broken hearted that Reece didn’t return his love.” What the actual fuck! Junkie? Lover? “That’s right Brett, other rumours we have heard is Reece has found religion. Joined a missionary and is trying to redeem himself for years of polluting the world with his lyrics.” I’ve found religion all right. Jesus Christ! Who believes this garbage? “It’s like they have gone into hiding. I’ve also heard a rumour that Reece has taken Sean to the cleaners financially. What we would really like to know is where have they gone?” Me too. “So keep your eyes peeled, listeners, if you have a sighting of the rockstar, give us a call. I do think they have gone into hiding on some remote island. The media is having a field day with this one, it’s the biggest story to rock the music industry in years.”

  “Excuse me?” a small voice comes from behind. Suddenly very aware of my surroundings, I glance down to see a young girl about seven behind me. I mutter a sorry and shake my hair to have it fall over my face a bit more while I take a step closer to the display so she can get around me. “No, excuse me. Are you …” Her voice is a little louder.

  Glancing around to see who’s watching, I haven’t attracted too much attention so far given the size of this town from what I’ve seen, but my Australian English accent might give me away. Keeping my voice low when I speak. “Am I Reece? That guy they were just talking about?” I’m not a fan of liars, but I’ve had my share of shit today. I place the basket on the ground next to my feet as I crouch to be at her eye level. “Do you think I am?”

  The girl hasn’t blinked since I’ve turned around. “I did when I first saw you, but now. No. He’s much more handsome.” And she turned on her heel and left me where I squatted. Ouch. Brutal. Only been twenty-four hours of destitution and I’m not handsome anymore.

  My hand wraps around the handle of the basket, and I stand to my tallest, I set about grabbing avocado, tomato, and some onions. I rarely eat bread but pick some up anyway as I’m looking for something quick and easy. I add milk and eggs to my basket, and I should be set for tonight and tomorrow at least. I don’t even know what utensils are at the house to cook with. Trying not to think too far ahead in the future keeps me from going postal. As much as I hate being cooped up, all I want to do is get home and lock the world out.

  Chapter Three


  Make that ninety-nine thousand, eight hundred and sixty pounds to my name. Waiting for a barrage of questions to come from the old guy who served me, I was pleasantly surprised when he only asked did I get everything I needed. I’m glad he didn’t put me in the awkward position of giving answers I didn’t want to.

  These plastic bags feel like they’re slicing my fingers open. Reason number four hundred and thirty-four for punching Sean in the nose when I get my hands on him. I’m going to make him wish he was dead. My feet walk with more force as I think of Sean. The biggest question I want answered is why. He was my best friend since school. We were paired up for a music assignment. He was on drums. I could write, sing and play guitar. That saying of ‘right place - right time’ totally applies to our story. We were selected from the school assignment to play for the local radio station. We smashed that, and within days, we had producers coming to our shit hole of a town to sign us up. I would have given him the money if he needed it. If I don’t know the issue, I don’t know how to go about fixing it. The part that I can’t seem to get past is that he was leading a double life.

  The message tone on my phone dings and I hope it’s David with the address. A few minutes later, and with the assistance of Google Maps, I’m back at the terrace and unpacking the food. See. This isn’t so hard. It’s just fucking boring, even if I’m relieved to be home. Home. The only place that has felt like home was back in Australia with my mum. I’ve bought places, designed them and filled them with things that made me happy or showed my achievements. I guess I was never there long enough to make them feel lived in. They always felt like a hotel room. Comfortable, but don’t get settled here. This place feels the same even though I know in the back of my mind that I’m here for who knows how long, I’m stopping myself from getting too settled. That’s why my clothes are in a pile on the floor upstairs and haven’t been put in the cupboard, I’m hoping I get a phone call and can just throw them back in the bag and be out of here. Actually, no. Someone else can throw them in a bag, and I can get out of here. Shaking my head to clear the thoughts that someone else should be doing this, I look around the kitchen as I dump the bags with a thud. Crouching to open one bag to pull out the contents, even the food is boring. I bite into my banana and hold it in one hand while I stand and empty the bag onto the bench.

  Within a few moments, I’m cursing again but this time, out loud. I feel like I’ve been fumbling around in the dark. I mean, what grown arse man doesn’t know how to make toast? You put the bread in, click it down and out pops the deliciously cooked toast. No. It’s a fucking test of temperament. If I had a swear jar, the fucking thing would be overflowing. Too long, too dry or burnt. Not long enough, just warm bread does not make toast. I sit and watch the toaster. I’ve been through half the loaf, and each piece has been a variant of burnt. After the fourth attempt, the house stinks of smoke and breadcrumbs cover the bench top and half the kitchen floor. I give up and settle for a sandwich. But just when my confidence couldn’t get any lower, I attempt to make a cup of tea. Yep. That’s the one thing food item David had in his cupboard, tea. After pressing every button on the microwave, I give up and fill the kettle. That’s one appliance that doesn’t take too much figuring out, unlike the toaster and microwave. Again, who knew there was a fine line between awesome and used dish cleaning water. Not that I would know what dishwater tastes like, but it sure resembles it.

  With my stomach sated by the avocado and tomato sandwich, I take hold of an apple in my mouth while I use my forearm to sweep the used plates and cutlery closer to the sink. I’m not interested in staying in this kitchen for another soul defeating second. My body is exhausted, but my mind will not shut up. When I get like this, I take it out either on the music, the gym or the bedroom. I have none of those options available. When the last bag of shopping has been emptied, and I toss the apple core in the bin, I look around. There’s nothing more for me to do. I just want to put the last couple of shitty days to bed.

  Except, when I do go to bed, I can’t sleep. I toss. I turn. I try the other end of the bed. I punch the pillow a couple of times and will myself to sleep. Sleep is an elusive bitch who taunts and teases me. Closing my eyes, the thoughts run rampant. Old Lady Scotch has a silencer for that voice that won’t shut up. I end up back downstairs in the rear living room. My bare feet pad on the floorboards as I pull out my phone and try Sean’s number again.

  The number you are calling is not connected, please check the number and try again.

  “Course it’s not.” I drink for every time I dial and pretty soon the whole bottle is empty. I’m on a mission to get to the next bottle while stubbing my toe on the lounge. “Motherfucker.” I wince as I rub my now throbbing toe, but I’m pretty chuffed with myself that the contents of the tumbler stayed in the glass. “So, Reece. What do you
plan on doing with your life? Your career, gone. Your best mate, gone into thin air.” I really didn’t think I was too bad of a person. Why couldn’t he just tell me what the issue was? We were honest about everything else, songs, arrangements, how the concert turned out, which babe had the better tits. Why couldn’t he be honest with me now? I stretch for the remote control, but it goes straight to the too hard basket.

  What degree do I need to complete to work this television of yours?

  As soon as the answer comes, I regret turning it on. Every single channel, even the weather channel where it just shows the map and little smiley faced predictions, has my music playing in the background, my face is on every-bloody-channel. A collage of concert performances, interviews, videos of us walking through the airport, fans crying and holding signs. They are still banging on with their conspiracy theories. I’m allegedly in Fiji on a spiritual journey. Some Zen journey. Stopping on one channel making claims that I’ve been replaced by Baxter Colson. Baxter has talent, he’s just dumber than dog shit. It doesn’t take a genius to see that he’s pinged off his head on something as he answers questions he knows nothing about.

  “That’s why I’m a solo artist, man. I answer to no one but me. Maybe this time I’ll get a number one and not play second fiddle to Reece Ashton,” he says staring straight into the barrel of the camera. He’s about to say something else when his manager stops the interview. I’d actually considered working with him on a few songs, his reputation put a complete stop to that. Drug-using drama queens have no place in my world. Naturally, there’s been comparisons between Baxter and me, our histories are almost identical, I don’t play too much into the hype others try to create. Flicking through the channels again, I’m in my own personal hell. I’m repulsed, but I can’t look away. Every word they say scrapes a tiny piece of my soul away. I desperately want to go back to the city and set the record straight so the witch hunt can end, but I know I can’t do that. I don’t trust myself. David said let it run its course, and he hasn’t steered me wrong yet. All I can do is sit this out, as painful as that is.

  Flicking the television off, I get to my feet and walk through the house, making my way to the front living room. David has his career memorabilia covering the walls and thankfully confined to this room alone. Big names, both fronting and behind the music, adorn these walls. A wave of sadness washes over me. We were meant to be riding the high wave, except the wave turned and ran the other way leaving me stranded. My eyes move to the next framed picture. It’s us. Backbeat. Moving in closer, my breath fogs the glass. I remember the day that picture was taken, and it only feels like yesterday that we were standing there. Narrowing my eyes, and really looking at our faces. We look so young. My hair’s longer and lighter than I have it now, there’s more scruff on my face that I wear these days too. David stands between us with a huge smile on his face. It’s only then that I notice it’s only David and me smiling. Sean looks … not sure what his expression is trying to convey, but he’s sure as shit not smiling. Just after getting that photo taken, I headed to the tattoo parlour to get my arm tattoo. My mother cried when I told her about it, and she made me promise not to get any more. I have to stop my mind from going down that road that kept me awake for most of the night. I might never get answers. I could spend my next lifetime coming up with scenarios, but they wouldn’t matter because only Sean can give me answers. Pulling out my phone, I fire off another text.

  Mind if I move some of your pictures around so I don’t have to be constantly reminded of the life that is no more?

  After copping a mouthful of ‘too late’ and ‘get some sleep,' I take the fact that he rang me to tell me off as permission, so I move the pictures. Satisfied with the blank canvas surrounding me, I can’t help but see the irony. That’s exactly what I have. A blank canvas waiting for me to fill it. It’s at this point that I’m terrified that I’m not going to be able to fill it. I’ve never done this on my own. I turn and look at what I left, a guitar. Fighting the urge for fear of smashing it, I opt for the tumbler again and head for the kitchen. David used this place as a halfway house when he was divorcing his third wife.

  Stopping past the kitchen, I know I’ve eaten my way through the food I bought earlier. Clearly, when I have nothing to occupy my mind, I eat and drink. I put the last banana peel goes into the plastic bag, and the whole bag goes into the bin. Now. If I were a bin, where would I be? Fuck it. Leave it there and deal with it later. Snatching the bag of chips off the counter and shove them under my arm.

  I swirl the drink in my hand while my other hand longs for my pick to roll over my fingers. My digits move through the motions, but it’s not the same. I walk around the rest of the house and stop at the back window overlooking the back deck that stretches the length of the house. I can’t help but get caught up in thoughts about Sean again. My head keeps running with the conversations we’ve had, trying to find the indicator as to where this was starting to turn to shit.

  The torment is starting to do my head in, and I’m back in search of the silencer in liquid form but not before crying out in pain from stubbing the same toe on the same lounge. The bag of chips drops to the floor and as I hop, trying to grab my toe, my sole lands on the bag of chips. With an almighty pop, chips shoot from the open end and launch across the carpet. I sit down with a flop and rub my toe. Fuck it! I was looking forward to those chips. I pick up the packet, and of course, that’s when I realise both ends have opened and the remaining chips land on my legs, lounge and finally, the floor. I toss the packet to the ground and reach over for the scotch bottle to tip a healthy serving into the glass while making a mental list of things I can do to occupy my time.

  Draining the amber fluid from the glass in one gulp while getting to my feet, I didn’t expect the world to make an exceptionally fast rotation, and my hand shoots out to catch the arm of the chair. Dull pain shoots through my head while my stomach rolls. My tongue snags on my dry lips before I clamp my clammy hand over my mouth. My stomach groans again as I feel the blood drain from my face and feels like it’s heading to my feet. Turning abruptly causes me to stumble quickly along the hallway to the bathroom. With each step, I can feel it rising in my throat while my intestines become sensitive to the earth’s gravitational pull. I scream a silent prayer that this isn’t going to result in a double ender. The door smacks hard against the wall as I throw it open because there is no stopping this self-induced freight train from hell.

  I raise my head from the bowl, and just when I think it’s finished, my body expels more. If living the burnt toast experience wasn’t bad the first time, it’s bloody awful in reverse. Thinking about avocado and banana makes me gag again. I’ve had some shocking times where I’ve exceeded my limit, but this is the worst by far.

  One last mighty retch and I have nothing more to give. The scotch beast has been exorcised. Somehow, I summon the energy to rise to my unsteady feet. Bidding the filth away with a flush, I slowly turn around to leave the chamber quietly closing the door and dragging my sorry arse up the stairs to bed.

  Waking to blinding light streaming through the shutters, and I wonder how I got to bed. I don’t recall how I got undressed or even into bed, but I woke with a boner and a headache from hell. Both are painful. My mouth could rival kitty litter. It’s gritty, and it’s rank. My hand moves carefully and slowly over to my erection before giving my balls a scratch. This is an unpleasant situation. Moving my legs slowly to avoid any sudden movements, I flinch when a pain shoots from my toe, and I wince from the ache in both my toe and head. All three ends of my body are throbbing, and I know which one is going to get my attention. My head pounds as I slowly roll onto my side to reach over and close the shutters. My body feels hot and is coated with a light sweat, and as soon as the shutters are closed, I get instant relief. It’s not ideal to have to take matters into my own hands, but someone has to deal with this situation between my legs.

  Chapter Four


  I feel calmer when I
venture off the bed. Someone’s gonna have to deal with the sheets. I never sleep in the wet patch nor do I sleep in the crusty white patch. The hot water massages the kinks in my back as I wash the remnants of last night down the drain. ‘‘Can’t do that again,” I tell myself. Drinking on your own is a slippery slope. I’ve seen countless acquaintances from the industry go from high places to rock bottom. Sometimes that rock bottom is a casket. That was my mum’s biggest fear. She was English and fell for the Aussie charm of my father. He lured her over to the island and within the year, they had me. He was killed in a car accident when I was a baby, and I don’t remember him. Mum had the option of bringing me back to the UK, but she chose to stay to see out her years. When we hit the big time, we moved to the motherland. Her parting words as I signed the contract were “don’t do anything that will upset me.” She was a stickler for honesty and integrity, and she was terrified of me getting into drugs. In the scheme of things, I’m the angel of rock and roll. No drugs, but I have been known to dabble in alcohol and other vices, women being the other. With the variety of drugs so readily available, I have never been drawn to it. I’ve seen too many get hooked, and their careers took a sharp nosedive into the shit and couldn’t get out of it. It never appealed to me. The out of control feeling that I get from alcohol is more than enough for me. I’m a fucking legend, I don’t need drugs to enhance that. I want to be able to remember it and have all my nose cartilage. We kept a clean tour group. Everyone was screened before they’d start to work with us. I don’t judge those who do choose to take drugs, I just don’t want it near me.


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