"But really-I trust them enough." She assured Lily, ignoring the shouts of "Damn right! You better trust us!" from the front seat. "You'll have to find a way to come along."
"I know." Lily sighed. "I will."
Johnny stopped in a parking space along the sidewalk, across the street from a large two-story house that had a little more yard space around it than the others.
"Jeez." Nicole snorted as they got out, running across the street. Instead of going in through the double doors, Jamie led them around to the side of the place, yanking open a door by the garden, with a few steps leading down.
A light was flicked on, revealing a large basement room. A small T.V. was stashed in one corner, the large stereo being the main focus. Two other bass guitars, and an amp much bigger than the one he kept at Johnny's place were set up in the other corner. Two large cardboard boxes filled with record albums, and a third with cassette tapes were next to the stereo. It smelled faintly of smoke, Lily assumed from others, because he knew Jamie didn't smoke himself. Posters of The Misfits, the Sex Pistols and a few others adorned the wall by the bed.
Michael was already seated on the floor, flipping through the albums and nodding in silent approval.
"I got the basement." Jamie sat down on his un-made bed, yanking off his Converse and tossing one of them on the wall, it narrowly missing a magazine clipping of Daniel Ash's face. "'Didn't want me polluting the rest of the house with my faggotry." He grimaced. "So I get this all to myself." He motioned around the room.
"I thought you were bi?" Nicole laughed.
Jamie sighed. "I am! I just…prefer guys, I think." He shrugged.
"What if we just…kept going?" Kate was laying on the rug, studying a magazine with Siousxie Sioux on the cover, making faces at the photo-Lily assumed in admiration.
"Huh?" Michael put the records away.
"Their tour." She nodded over to Johnny. "What if we just stayed on the road? We could live in hotels. Or the van." She laughed.
Lily rolled her eyes affectionately, but smiled. In a sort of make-believe way, she liked the idea. Spontaneously going wherever they wanted, meeting more people than they could on the few-weeks-long tour, being away from their parents and home lives. It sounded nice. Even if she hadn't mentioned anything to her parents yet.
July 6th, 1998
The notes of Gimme Danger drifted from Jamie's stereo and around the room, escaping out the open basement door and into the late afternoon summer air. Lily could hear Michael going on about something that hardly made sense- people, life, something- to Jamie. It seemed like nonsense, but was clearly interesting and the most important thing ever to him, at the moment. She smiled, briefly watching the two. Michael, still not his usual enthusiastic self, a little shier around Jamie, yet leaning against his shoulder. She brought her attention back to Johnny, who was trying to explain the festival plans to the rest of them. They would start off with a show in the area, a place called the Showbox. The weekend after, they would leave, Johnny's cousin Cameron being the "Designated Adult," twenty-five apparently being old enough to somehow make sure they didn't get in too much trouble.
Friday, July 9th, 1998
"I can't believe I'm letting you do this." Jamie's mother gazed at him over the kitchen island countertop. Jamie shrugged, finishing his coffee.
"I'd go anyway, you know. Need to get away from you guys." He mumbled the last part under his breath, not in the mood for a backlash of words, ignoring the sigh of annoyance from her in return.
"You're going to need to grow up and become a respectful member of society one of these days, Jamie." She was staring into the distance, her cigarette more interesting than him. He smiled, shaking his head.
"What do you know about respect?"
His mother threw back the same sarcastic grimace. "I'll tell you, when you wipe that lipstick off and take those horrid posters off of your walls. I don't even want to know what you think of those people. You can hardly call it music that they make."
They help me get through this.
Jamie kept quiet, knowing any response would be useless at this point. He discarded his mug into the sink, escaping back around the side of the house to his room, just as the familiar honk of Johnny's car sounded out front. Without a last look around, he slung his duffel bag over his shoulder, using his two hands for his bass and amp, jogging awkwardly towards the passenger side door. He waved to his stupidly large home with a gesture he felt it deserved, attention quickly focusing on the radio as they sped away.
5:00 PM, the Showbox at the Market
"I told her I was going to visit Kevin." Lily was talking fast, excited, messing with a half-empty water bottle as she sat on the wall inside of the Showbox. Not many people were there, aside from a few other local bands, and the venue workers. Her hair was haphazardly thrown into a loose ponytail, and oversized ZERO hoodie of Kate's falling off of her shoulders, the Smashing Pumpkins logo turned pink from its original silver color in the stage lights. Jamie frowned in confusion, but she went on. "He's the son of this lady my dad used to date. He was like an older brother to me, a few years back. " She added. "He moved to Oregon. I'm going to try and meet up with him, for some reason that made my mom feel better. Plus, she talked to Mikey's mom about it for ages yesterday." She looked at him in confirmation. He nodded, throwing an arm around Michael's shoulder.
"Thank your parents for having great persuasive techniques." He carefully kissed the other boy’s cheek, then, remembering he'd taken his lipstick off hours before, gave in a little more.
Lily smiled, joy still showing as a girl in an Alice In Chain t-shirt came over, happily chatting and telling her story of how and why and the fact that they were there.
Friday, July 9th, 1998
"We gotta go." Jamie looked up, seeing Cameron trying to wake up Lily. They had all ended up on the sidewalk, as the building had closed. Johnny had the keys to their van, and they scrambled inside, a mess of limbs and jackets. The entire back area was filled with equipment and their bags. Jamie pulled Michael into the back seat with Lily, Johnny and Nicole taking the other two seats, and Kate taking shotgun next to Johnny's cousin.
The car was still noise-filled as they left the area. Kate was constantly messing with the stereo controls, Lily and Michael talking about the show they'd just seen, and further trip plans. Jamie was half-turned-around in his seat, trying to communicate with the rest of the band in the cat behind them. He gave up, sitting back down just before Johnny's cousin asked if they'd all like to get pulled over. He reached into his bag, pulling out a Joy Division tape and tossing it towards the front of the van, Kate quickly taking the hint.
"My parents are gonna hate me when we get back." He mumbled, realization suddenly hitting him. "I don't think I want to go back." He ignored the protests of "We've only been through one show!" and Johnny's "You stay with me enough!" and proceeded to grab hold of Michael's arm, closing his eyes. "This trip is just going to make it worse back home. It'll be…this great experience, and I'll go home to…that." He frowned, finding himself falling asleep. "Shut it for now. We haven't even gotten past Nicole's neighborhood. You'll forget about them in a week." Mikey's words sounded muffled, with the combination of sleep taking over, and falling against the back speaker, his right ear absorbing Ian Curtis's strange voice and the music.
"We have almost eight weeks. It's okay."
Sunday, July 11th, 1998:
Redmond. Further from Seattle, near the suburbs.
Lily accepted the coffee from Kate, climbing out of her car seat to sit on the edge of the open van. They hadn’t been gone for long at all, but with the frequent stops and tapes they’d gone through, it felt like ages. The past few days had ended up blending into one another: Sitting, noise, soft quiet, radios, electrical feedback, sleep.
She inspected a bruise on her knee, recalling Jamie’s amplifier knocking against it in the van.
“Can we go in yet?” Nicole was sitting on the pavement in the parking lot, having already found herself a cigarette.
“It’s five, yeah. The place is open, but you’ll have to get rid of that. Teen center, and all.” Sam sighed, dragging a piece of his drum-kit from the other car towards the back door.
They got the rest of the equipment un-loaded, Kate trying to show her shaky van-done sketches as they escaped indoors. There was a stage against the wall the open space to their left extending back, with flier-covered poles scattered in the area, a sound-booth, and couches. It looked like a good amount of people had showed up…was this the suburban music-lovers crowd?
A few kids from other bands were waving to them, but it was, well;
“No one knows us.” Michael was grinning. Lily nodded, letting him guide them into the mass of people. Johnny was already deep in discussion with a girl with startlingly short hair and no eyebrows, sitting him down at a table.
It was supposed to be a long show, and other bands were already playing. Restless from so much time in the car, (not to mention sleeping there the first night they left the city,) they were glad for the chance to move. The speakers were much too loud, but the music was great. Lily jumped up and down until she couldn’t anymore, ignoring the shoves and accidental hits she’d received.
She headed outside for a break, followed by Jamie and Nicole. The evening air hit them with a cold force as they neared a group of other people around their age, seemingly. A girl with severely ripped jeans and a hoodie smiled. “Nice.” She appraised the three of them. “Where are you from?”
Nicole answered “Seattle”, at the same time the girl introduced herself and her friends, and the juice bottle she was holding changed hands to Nicole. The girl, Shayla, winked.
Mark, Brian, Kelley, and her all shared a place in Redmond. They panhandled, worked at the most “socially acceptable” (in her words) jobs they could find, and generally hung out and had a good time, making the most of things. They actually seemed interested in the band, and the hows and whys of “What the hell were they doing in this place?”
Uneven drips of rain started coming down, so they all rushed back inside. Sitting at the back of the room, Lily joined in with them. Yes, they would stay away for almost the entire summer. Johnny’s band didn’t exactly have a “following”, or anything like that. Sure, there were the Seattle regular show-goers. But aside from that? Just some guys. Some music. Just a band plus their other friends coming along for the ride.
Jamie looked up towards the stage, seeing someone re-announce the band that had just finished, as the room became filled with shouts.
“We’re up.” He appeared…worried. That was rare. Lily figured it made sense, though, in the way that they were among new people, other teenagers to judge them. It felt different from the Seattle scene.
As the rest of the guys made their way onstage and began to set up, Lily and the remainder of their crowd, plus Shay and her friends moved closer to the stage.
“Stay with us!”
“What?” Lily leaned closer to Shay. The guys were just finishing their set. What time was it?
“Stay. With us. Tonight?” Shay was blinking as the lights came on.
“Yeah. I mean, talk to everyone, I dunno. If you guys turn out to be creeps, I-”
“We are, definitely.” The older girl joked. “Don’t worry.”
Wednesday, July 14th, 1998
“What time is it?”
“In the morning.”
They had all ended up at Shayla’s place after all. They hadn’t slept, and Jamie was secretly hoping that no one intended to. Not here, at least. Everyone had been wonderful, however. They’d stayed up the entire time, drinking tea and coffee, talking. Kate felt weird. She was uneasy about the reminder of the trip, even though they’d just barely started. Nicole was too open-minded. Yes, there was such a thing. She’d been the friendliest to the others throughout the night, making plans and scrapping them, telling stories of things that, by the looks on Lily’s face, she’d never shared before, or had just made up on the spot. Johnny looked tired.
“What the hell are we even doing here? I don’t wanna play so many shows yet, it’s all the same so far,” Jamie had heard him admit quietly to Sam earlier on.
Michael? Michael was laying on the floor beside him, studying the posters on the ceiling. His cigarette lay abandoned on a ceramic dish by the window.
“Hey.” Jamie touched his head, something between a poke and a more affectionate gesture. “Are you okay?”
Michael shrugged. “I like it here. I’ve…the last week had been just…unreal, I guess. I don’t know. Suddenly, everyone wants to be friends. A compliment is an automatic exchange for a hug. Did we take pictures? Did your uncle take any, besides at that last show? I know we have some of other people. Lily did…all of those kids at the few shows. We’re not really going to go through with this, are we? It doesn’t feel right.”
“How so?” Jamie blinked against the incense smoke. He knew the answer. Michael laughed.
“We don’t know what we’re doing.” Johnny smiled. It was a sympathetic smile. Towards all of them. “Look. What happens when we go home, anyway? We feel detached, and wanting these people, these gigs, back again?”
“Yeah. That’d happen either way. Why shouldn’t we prolong it?” Lily was attempting to braid Kate’s short hair, while dialing her parents’ house on Shayla’s phone, the cord wrapping itself around her ankle.
“I like all of this, too.” Jamie frowned. “Too much. It’s a weird mix of exciting and scary to be onstage so many times in a row. People actually care at these gigs. I met this girl in Bellevue that I’ll never see again. But she liked our music. I mean…people do at home, that’s how we managed all of this, but…”
Lily was happy. Home seemed farther away than it actually was, and it seemed funny to her- how could she really end up back there, in a place so familiar and static, after all of this? She’d talked to her parents, of course. But the conversations had become brief, sounding reassuring to them, but her mind had been somewhere else- backstage, hugging and shoving the guys before they played, subconsciously memorizing their songs. Scribbling the phone number of someone new onto her arm, only to have it get rubbed off in the crowd. Begging Johnny’s uncle to let them stay a little later, run another block to another store. Hug strangers five more times.
“Yeah, Mom, it’s great. Their music, and the rest. I miss you, too.” And she would robotically hand the phone to, as he assured her of their safety- which was true. Kate would throw an arm around her shoulders. Look. That guy has cool pants. Those people panhandling-look at the city. Can you see your house from here? Didn’t think so. I discovered a new local band. I’m out of paint. Your hair is pretty today.
They would retreat back to the van as an automatic hangout spot, no matter which cheap local hotel they’d been booked at for the night. The hotel stays had been especially exciting. They’d have two rooms, unsure of how to best split them up according to gender, according to sexuality. It never worked. They stayed up, doing the boys’ faces up more than their own. They would venture downstairs, trying their hardest to get reactions out of the fellow guests.
Not long after their second night, there was a fault in the day. In their trip, and, as Lily had feared that day, their lives. Not a block from El Corazon, somewhere from the time Virus had left the tiny stage, Nicole had left.
Now, it would have been about a million times better if, for example, she had been all, ‘Hey, I’m heading to that gas station with Max, to get some water’, or something of that sort, but, no. Nothing like that. For an hour and a half, there was no sign of her. Not in, around, or behind the venue. Not at the overhang lookout spot nearby. Not at the van. Lily had spend those ninety minutes frantically debating whether or not to call the police, her parents, Nicole’s parents, or simply to wait.
Waiting was horrible. Waiting proved that she did turn up, after all. Back at the van. While they had been out looking. Not just Nicole, but Joey- The guy she’d ran off with. The next day was so tense between all of them that it was almost unbearable, but Lily forgave her. There was nothing else to be done about it, really. It was how Nicole was, frightening to the others as it was.
“I’d rather keep playing in our neighborhood.” Sam was curled up on the opposite couch, underneath a blanket.
That wasn’t supposed to be voiced. Everyone wanted to go home, to some extent. But they were avoiding it. And that was okay.
7 AM, July 15th
“Lily. Happy Birthday!”
Jamie turned around in the seat as they pulled into a coffee shop. They were somewhere between Redmond and Capitol Hill, things such as birthdays nearly forgotten. Lily had mentioned it, once, but seemed to mostly forget about it over the course of the last week. It was only in the back of her mind, she would tell them later. Not a main focus.
They all ordered coffees and breakfast, and a single cupcake for the center of the table, Michael attempting to light the paper holder on fire in place of a candle, before Kate took his lighter away. Everyone sang softly, at Lily’s request, as to not get the entire café involved. She was smiling, seeming slightly more quiet and calm than someone normally would be on such an occasion.
“Seventeen, yeah?” Johnny smiled.
“Yeah. I feel the same, of course.”
Michael made a sarcastic comment as he leaned against Jamie in the booth, everyone laughing.
“At least you got out in the world before then. Good job.”
“Home is going to be too harsh, isn’t it?” Lily seemed more curious than worried. “I don’t mean in the literal, ‘bad times’ sense. Just really different. I don’t know if I’m ready. She smiled a little.
“You better be, obviously going home for a reason.” Nicole sighed.
“Do I still get to stay with you when we get back?” Nicole was leaning against the back window of the van, trying to stick her fingers out of the small gap where the windows opened.
“Of course. I mean…I hope so. My parents will have to let you. It’s not like you have any other options.”
“Unless you count dropping out of school and going to live with Shay and those guys.”
Lily couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. She decided not to ask.
She curled up in her seat, looking at everyone else in the van. It had been a completely nerve-wracking time, among the obvious other things. The shows had been exciting, nearly vomit-inducing, both for the band, and the rest of them. Worrying about Nicole, spending her time spent trying to sleep going through various scenarios of coming out- or not at all. Being in nowhere-spaces of the city had been almost surreal. The important things to be thought about ranged from silly to almost vital. Tourists’ expressions showed the remarks they wanted to make about Jamie’s lipstick, wondering why teenagers were outside of a venue at one in the morning. The few days spent had all ended up blending into one another, not unlike the first set the band had played at the basement show. It had all been significant to her in a life-changing sort of way, also like that show had been.
4:00 PM, July 1998
Kate, Lily, Nicole, Michael, and Sam had all been dropped off. Cameron left the van transport to Johnny once more, after they’d been past his neighborhood.
“What?” Johnny left the van running as they sat in his apartment complex space, the radio barely recognizable. Johnny was smiling, knees bent up, arms folded over them in the driver’s seat.
“You’re not disappointed, at all?”
“Not really. I mean, the idea of a tour was great, of course, unexpected and all. We weren’t ready, it’s okay.”
Jamie cranked the window down. “I think I’ll stay at home tonight, if that’s okay.”
They sat in silence for a while, Johnny fiddling with the calluses on his fingers, Jamie’s mind both elsewhere, and in that moment.
He didn’t feel like saying it out loud.
“Hey, so, why didn’t you ever end up hitting on me?” A joke.
“’Cause I wasn’t fuckin’ interested.” Jamie smiled.
“Ouch.” Johnny backed up the van, turning around and heading towards Jamie’s place.
“You kinda saved me, yanno?”
“What, from the teenage angst plague?”
Johnny didn’t respond as they got out, Jamie going for the side door. He was one of the few that didn’t alert his parents of the early return, not really feeling the need to do so.
“You can fuck off now.” He grinned.
“Right.” Johnny leaned down for a hug, pressing a kiss to Jamie’s head. He flinched exaggeratedly, smiling as he shoved him away.
“You had a point, y’know.” Lily lay on her bed next to Nicole, her things not yet put away, having just left talking to her parents downstairs, telling them all of the appropriate details. “I didn’t know Kate that well. I only do slightly more now, but it’s okay. It feels a little odd, but…”
“One of those…things, it just worked out so well.”
“Stuck in a van for days.” She laughed.
“Backstage with someone, yeah. You kinda have to get to know them.” Lily sighed. “What happened to any of the guys you met?”
“Happened?” Nicole raised her eyebrows. “Do you think I’m a reckless idiot that can’t hold onto one person?”
“No.” Lily paused. “You’ve stayed with me just fine!” She teased, moving a piece of Nicole’s long hair from her eyes. “I think we’re obviously different. I think always live up to our stereotypes, either. You saw me at the last gig.”
“You’re capable of screaming?”
October 2nd, 1998
“What are you doing?”
The girl with the wavy blonde hair in the dark blue lipstick looked up from her stack of papers, handing them to the one in the knee-length denim skirt next to her. A boy sat with them, the faded, obviously once-dyed middle part of his hair lay flat, almost hanging into his eyes.
“Free gig.” She pointed to them. “You like punk rock?”
“Um…yeah. It’s good.”
The girl grinned. “Cool. Here. They’re called Virus, you’d better show up!”
“Right.” The freshman widened her eyes, walking away from the scene.
“I’ll take one, please.”
A shout was heard from the first girl, along with expletives as she stood up, a slightly shorter girl with brown hair to her shoulders trying to balance the other one as they laughed. Surprise for one, amusement, the other.
“What are you-“
“I want my damn flier-”
“You’re supposed to be in s-”
“Lily.” –That was her name?
They hugged, and –was that a kiss? The longer-haired girl jumped up as well, seemingly just as excited to see this stranger. They all were. Strangers. The one who had just arrived wore frayed black pants with a logo patch on the thigh, a long-sleeved jacket, and had spiked up the top layer of her hair.
“Can I have a flier?”
At the distracted nod, she picked one up.
‘VIRUS. Punk rock, Rock-Rock, etc.’
Three guys –er, was that…? –no, all guys. The one off to the right was most definitely wearing makeup.
“You want a tape?” The boy yelled.
A cassette was tossed in her direction.
“These people are wonderful. They’ll shock you into living, intending to or not.”
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