Running Up That Hill – Day 22

So now it’s one more night
Of feeling like a real curmudgeon
I’m bludgeoning six seven years in a row
I haven’t a clue where my life is now going 

-Novillero ‘Morally Deficient Business’

I woke up early the next morning. Kris was still asleep, and I was sort of thankful for that. I think I just needed some time alone to go over what had happened in my head and collect my thoughts.

Brian and I hadn’t said much on our way back to the hotel. We’d uttered a few comments about how different AJ was, and how rehab definitely seemed to be working out for him. After a quick dinner with Kris and Leighanne, we’d retreated to our own hotel rooms and hadn’t said anything since.

A quiet evening with my wife was exactly what I had needed after the stress of the last two days. I’d slept easier that night than I had in quite some time.

After a quick shower, I let Kris sleep in a little longer and ventured out of the hotel room. There was a nice little restaurant in the hotel we were staying at, so I went to sit and have a quiet cup of coffee before getting ready to make the trip back to LA.

I sipped on my cappuccino and read the paper for a few minutes before I was interrupted. It figured that something like this would happen now.

“Um… Kevin?” I looked up from my newspaper and saw a short girl standing in front of me. She looked to be about fifteen or sixteen and was exactly the type of person that usually approached us. At least she wasn’t screaming or with a group of friends. She looked really shy.

“Hello,” I smiled, not really feeling it but turning on my ‘fan-face’ anyway.

Her eyes widened and she gasped a little. “I just wanted to come over and see if it was really you…” she fidgeted with her bag a little. “What are you doing in Arizona?”

There was no way I was going to tell her what I was actually doing here. We’d done a good job of keeping the location of AJ’s rehab facility a secret. “I’m just here visiting some family,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, looking slightly disappointed. I was sure she was hoping that all of us were here in the hotel somewhere. At least my lie about visiting family would still hold up if ended up running into Brian. “I’m visiting family here too, we’re from Chicago. Um… I was supposed to go see your show last week…” she trailed off.

I felt bad for her. Lately I hadn’t really cared what the fans thought, but during all of this I forgot that they were being affected and inconvenienced by it too. We had known AJ had been having problems for a long time before it all came to a head, but for our fans it probably just came right out of left field. There was no way any of them could have known anything was wrong.

“Don’t worry,” I said, trying to reassure her. “We’ve postponed the dates. You’ll still get to see the show.”

“Oh, I know,” she said quickly, shaking her head. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just didn’t know that AJ was going through so much. I hope he gets better.”

I smiled a little bit. We really did have the best fans in the world. Sometimes it was easy to forget that amidst all the screaming. “He’s getting help, he’ll be okay,” I said, choosing my words carefully so I didn’t reveal too much.

She looked relieved. “That’s good… uh, if you talk to him, can you just tell him that his fans are really worried about him and support him?”

I was sure AJ already knew that, judging by the amount of fan mail he’d received, but it was still nice to hear it. “I will.”

“Thanks,” she said, looking back towards where I figured her family was standing. “It was really nice to meet you, I’ll see you when you come to Chicago.”

I nodded. “Nice to meet you too, thanks for all of your support.”

~~~

I woke up the next morning before Nick did. So far, my trip down to Florida had been uneventful. Nick’s friend hadn’t come back yet, and Nick just spent all of his time hanging around his house getting stoned.

Not that I didn’t see this as an issue, but it was far less of a problem than I had envisioned. I could tell Nick was upset about not having gone to visit AJ, and that was probably why he’d been moping around. It could have been worse.

Speaking of AJ, it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard from either Kevin or Brian on how that visit had went. I assumed it hadn’t gone badly – if it had you can bet I would have known about it right away.

As I made my way down to Nick’s kitchen in search of something to eat, I dialed Kevin’s number on my phone. He answered it almost immediately.

“Hello?”

“Hey Kev, how’s Arizona?” I asked, cradling the phone between my shoulder and ear as I dug through Nick’s cupboards for that coffee he’d made the day before.

“It’s fine, I’m just sitting in the hotel restaurant having some coffee before we get ready to leave.” He paused for a minute before continuing, knowing that I hadn’t called to hear about his early morning routine. “AJ seems like he’s doing a lot better.”

“That’s great,” I said, feeling somewhat relieved. “How long did you guys visit with him for?”

“Just an hour or so. He looked a lot healthier and it seems like he’s beginning to understand that he has an addiction. He apologized to us for a lot of stuff and we were able to get a lot of things off our chests. It was really nice to see.”

“I wish I could have been there,” I said sincerely. Of course I’d made the decision to not go visit AJ in favour of visiting Nick, but it would have been nice to see AJ in person again. I’d have liked to see for myself the progress he’d made.

“You could have been,” Kevin said.

“We went over this.”

He sighed. “I know. How is the kid doing anyway?”

I looked behind me to make sure Nick wasn’t around. I was pretty sure he was still sleeping. “He’s fine. I mean, I guess he’s not really fine. He’s going through a lot. I think he feels pretty guilty about not going to visit AJ, he’s just been hanging around his house, and he’s been high more often than not. One of his drinking buddies was here when I got here, but he hasn’t been back since.”

“Did you give it to him for not going to visit AJ?”

“I talked to him, he didn’t really want to talk about it.”

“I’m sure he didn’t,” Kevin scoffed. “Let me guess, he acted like it was no big deal, like he was completely fine and didn’t want to hear a word you were saying.”

Kevin wasn’t completely right, but he wasn’t completely off the mark either. “Sort of. I could tell he felt bad. I think he’s really been toning it down since I’ve been here.”

“You can’t watch over him all the time, Howie.” Kevin cautioned. “What do you think he’s going to do once you leave him to his own devices again? How long are you planning to stay in Florida anyway?”

I didn’t really know the answers to either of those questions. I certainly didn’t want to stay with Nick until the break was over, I missed Leigh and wanted to spend some time with her before the day we went back out on the road. That was creeping up pretty fast now that I thought about it.

“I don’t know, I’m going to try to get him to come back to LA with me before we have to go to Vancouver in,” I thought for a moment, “eight days? Wow.”

“Yeah… I think that’s a good plan. Just look out for him, okay? The last thing we need right now is a repeat.”

I sighed. “Kevin, you know he’ll be fine once we get back on the road. I’m sure he will be.”

“I hope so,” Kevin replied. “I’ve got to get going so we can get back to LA. Talk to you soon.”

“Bye Kev, have a safe flight.”

~~~

Whenever Howie’s on the phone he becomes pretty unaware of what’s going on around him. Like how I had woken up, and how I was now sitting on my stairs listening to him to talk about me! I’m not a quiet guy – especially when I first get up in the morning. Howie was just too busy to pay attention I guess.

“Sort of, I could tell he felt bad. I think he’s really been toning it down since I’ve been here.”

Toning it down? Howie, how would you know if I’ve been toning anything down since you’ve been here? You weren’t here before you got here!

He must have been talking to Kevin. Kevin always liked to talk about how much of a screw-up I was.

“I don’t know, I’m going to try and get him to come back to LA with me before we have to go to Vancouver in… eight days? Wow.”

I knew it had all been a big scheme to get me to come back to LA so they could babysit me! Howie probably was in on it with Kevin from the start. Oh Howie, I never would have expected this from you.

He was kinda right though. I couldn’t believe we were going back on tour in eight days. Was our break almost over already? AJ was finally going to be out of rehab? It seemed like forever ago that he went there. Was he going to come back and be all different?

I could already hear Kevin’s voice in my head saying I would have known that if I went to visit him. Shut up, Kevin!

“Kevin, you know he’ll be fine once we get back on the road. I’m sure he will be.”

See? I knew he was talking to Kevin. Sometimes, you can just tell when someone’s talking to Kevin. They become more of a douchebag. And yeah, I will be fine once we get back out on the road! I’m fine now!

“Bye Kev, have a safe flight.”

Good riddance, Kevin! I waited a couple minutes before going to greet Howie in my kitchen. I could hear him rustling around. Sure Howie, make yourself at home after you totally dissed me on the phone with my arch nemesis!

“Morning, Howie,” I said, trying not to sound pissed off as I sat down at my table.

If I did sound pissed off, he didn’t notice. I’m a pretty good actor, I guess! “Morning, Nick. I made coffee.”

Okay, that was pretty nice of him. I do like coffee, I guess. “Thanks,” I said, pouring myself some.

“So, what are you up to today?”

What was I up to any day, Howie? What kind of a question was that? “I dunno, probably I’ll go out to the bar with Chris or something… since we’re going back on tour soon.” See I can be stealth too, dropping a little hint that I’d heard him on the phone!

He ignored my hint. It was too stealth I guess, even for him. “On a Monday night?”

“Yeah, there’s always somewhere that’s open, and there’s always girls. It’s the summer, isn’t it? People partying it up every night.” See Howie, I wasn’t acting crazy. I was just acting like a drunk college kid. Which is what most twenty one year olds do so…yeah!

He shrugged. “I guess you’re right.”

Hell yeah I was right! I would show him that Chris and I could have a good time and that he didn’t have to worry about me. And then he would tell Kevin not to worry about me, and by the time we were back on tour, no one would be worrying about Nick anymore! “You could come with us, if you want.”

He nodded. “Sure, I’ll come with you guys.”

Kick ass. Howie was always fun to party with.

~~~

I tilted my seat back once we were in flight and looked forward to a few hours of rest on our long plane ride back to LA. Leighanne and I were going to be spending the night in the city with Kevin and Kristin, and then we’d be heading back to Atlanta to enjoy the rest of the break at home before we resumed our tour.

“Hey, Leigh, do you mind if I sit with Brian for a few minutes?”

So much for that nap.

“Hey Kev,” I said, sitting up and turning to face him. You could always tell when Kevin had something he needed to get off his chest.

“You shouldn’t have implied anything was going on with Nick when we were visiting AJ,” he said seriously. Kevin always been good at being blunt, but I was a little taken aback. He wasn’t usually this blunt with me.

“Sorry,” I said quickly, not wanting to upset him any more than he obviously already was. “I hadn’t meant it like that.”

He sighed, and I could tell he was probably still stressed out about the visit with AJ. Even though it was over, Kevin was like that. He would worry about things over and over even once they were, well… over.

“You still shouldn’t have said it. It wasn’t going to help anything, and the last thing AJ needs is to worry that we’re falling apart because of this break.”

I narrowed my eyes. If we were falling apart, it wasn’t because of this break. And if Nick was having problems… well, Nick had always been like this. If Nick couldn’t handle the break, that certainly wasn’t any fault of ours of AJ’s. It was because he was always too stubborn and stuck in his own little world where he always got his way. He’d always been like that, and while it was endearing when he was a child, now that he was growing up it was just childish.

“Okay, it was probably wrong of me to be so passive-aggressive about it, but Kevin, I wasn’t exactly wrong. We don’t know if Nick’s proud of AJ or what. We don’t know anything about what’s going on with him. So how could we have told AJ that we were all proud of him when we don’t for sure know that Nick is?”

Kevin sighed again and he didn’t look impressed. I really didn’t think my comments had annoyed him that much, but like I said, Kevin goes over things again and again in his mind until they drive him insane for no reason. It usually doesn’t affect me that much because I’m usually not the person he’s over analyzing.

“You really think that Nick might not be proud of AJ? Or that he doesn’t care?”

“I told you, I don’t know what to think,” I shrugged. Kevin getting unnecessarily upset wasn’t helping the situation. “He certainly didn’t care enough to come out here with us.”

Kevin considered what I said for a couple seconds. He looked really pensive. “You honestly think so little of him? That he wouldn’t care at all?”

I rolled my eyes. He was starting to annoy me now. “Weren’t you the one fighting with Nick on the phone a few days ago?” I reminded him carefully. “You’re the one who keeps lecturing him because he’s acting like an entitled brat.”

“That’s because I know he can do better. I know this is his way of dealing with things and I know that he will eventually grow up and that sometimes he needs a little tough love.”

“You’re not his parent Kevin. He’s not a little kid any more, he’s an adult who has to be held responsible for his actions. Stop making excuses for him. Why don’t you save your judgement of him until we actually see him again?”

Kevin shook his head sadly. “Why don’t you save yours?” he said before he got up and went back to his own seat.

I leaned back in my seat again. I couldn’t wait to get home to Atlanta and have a break from all of this.

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