This is my entry for the Age of Edward contest. I was judge Mina Rivera's pick, so I thank her from the bottom of my heart. I also came in third in the banner contest, which is awesome because I never made one before and I had no idea what I was doing.
A couple of thank you's, of course…. To Fluffy Liz who helped me with my Brit-speak, giving me a few tips on slang and what a 70's British Edward would say (and not say). So thanks Liz! I appreciate your help very much!
A big thank you goes to LayAtHomeMom, the best pre-reader on the planet. Her words of encouragement and sharp eye always make me feel safe.
And of course, my beta Carrie ZM whom I love so much – thank you for holding my hand and letting me freak out.
THE KING OF BOWERY AND BLEECKER
Leaning back on my towel, I tried to avoid the splashing from my little sister and her friends running through the sprinkler, their Kool-Aid stained tongues poking out at me with each pass of their pre-pubescent bodies as they jumped and yelled on the front lawn. The ground was soggy, the grass flat and limp, and I couldn't find any spot that wasn't damp, the wetness seeping into the cloth beneath me.
I moved again, staring daggers behind my sunglasses and shooting Angela the finger.
"I'm gonna tell!" she yelled, her bathing suit hitching up one butt cheek that she picked out without a care in the world.
"Go ahead and I'll punch your lights out." An empty threat, one that wasn't taken seriously at all.
"I'll tell mom you were letting Jake Black feel your boobies in his car last night instead of coming inside when you were 'sposed to!"
With that, I was off the towel chasing Angela around the sprinkler, her shrieks more energetic than scared. Soon enough, I ended up hopping through the water with her, laughing as my toes squished the earth and sunk into the mud puddle that was a permanent fixture on our front lawn that summer.
The summer that would become famous, legendary. But not where I lived, not in New Jersey where nothing ever happened beyond bragging about how many times you'd seen Star Wars, waiting for the new issue of Seventeen to arrive in your mailbox, or gossiping about Becky Taylor going all the way with her boyfriend in his maroon Monte Carlo. The one with the bucket seats.
It was the summer of my eighteenth birthday, that restless age when you're declared an adult but still treated like a child until you leave for college. The summer of making out in cars and smoking cigarettes with your girlfriends.
It was also the summer that I met him.
Jessica arrived around dinner time as she usually did, her parents having split up the winter before which left her alone more than my mother liked. Jess' mother was off 'finding herself' with a guy she met at the grocery store while her father tried to hold onto his failing business. It was all blamed on inflation and recession, two words my father said repeatedly, putting worries in my head I didn't quite understand. Jess would sit quiet when he talked about money that summer, knowing full well that 'the blasted economy' was a big reason her mother hightailed it to California. I'd nudge her leg with mine under the dinner table, causing a small smile to cross her lips as she chewed. She'd nudge me back and relax, eating my mother's Shake'N Bake and making fun of Angela along with me.
After too many french fries and a whole bottle of Coke, we retreated to my room to look at magazines and listen to my records. Friday was date night, but Saturday nights usually consisted of us watching Mary Tyler Moore repeats and eating raw cookie dough, something Jessica had come to depend on - a stability she hadn't felt in months.
The same stability that made me restless. Her gum snapping irked me, relentlessly clawing into my brain, causing the pent-up frustration and boredom I'd been feeling since we graduated to bubble to the surface. I sighed and threw the mag onto the pile between us.
"What the hell?" She jerked as the slick papers skidded across the floor and bumped into her, causing her own magazine to buckle and crease.
"Jess, I want to do something."
"Well, why didn't you just say so?" She rose up, one elbow digging into my yellow shag carpet while she pulled the gum out of her mouth in a long string, just to gobble it up again. The arm on the record player lifted and started over, my Fleetwood Mac album beginning to skip from so much use. The music surrounded us as she waited for me to speak.
"I want to go somewhere."
"Baskin Robbins?" Her face lit up, the idea of butter pecan already making her tongue lick her lips in anticipation. How simple a pleasure, how very Jessica to be excited about the mundane.
I hesitated, not wanting to disappoint her and unsure how to tell her what my big plans were. Plans sure to make her skittish and shake her head in defiance. "No, I want to go out out." Her eyes narrowed, her suspicions making them squint as she took in the pointed look I was shooting her.
"Where?" she asked nervously, knowing my head was always too full of grand schemes and the itch to be something different.
"I want to go to New York."
Sitting up, her eyes widened as she glared. "City? Are you kidding? Bella, you can't be serious!"
"We'll get mugged! Someone will drug us, or-"
"We won't get mugged," I interrupted her rant with a roll of my eyes.
"-someone will rape us," she whispered that terrible word, so sure that if she didn't say it out loud it didn't really exist.
"No one is going to rape us. Jesus, Jessica. We can't keep living our lives hoping Mary and Lou give in to their feelings and make out. Besides, Rollerama has seen enough of us this summer."
Her gum sat between her cheek and teeth, on the verge of falling out on the floor as she gaped at me. Shocked blue eyes shifted to smugness. "Your parents would never let us."
I shrugged at her supposed flaw in my plan. "How would they know? We say we're going to Rollerama, then to the Seville Diner for patty melts after. We're both eighteen." When she didn't look convinced, I started to whine. "I just want to go in and see it. Don't you want to see it? Don't you want to know what all the fuss is about?"
"Fuss? Fuss!" she was practically shouting. "A blackout and riots and hookers?" Her agitated body shifted into a near-kneeling position, her face contorting into a grotesque mask of horror. "And dear lord! The Son of Sam is out there! You're crazy, Bella Swan. Certifiable."
"He's only killed in Queens," I replied, less sure. The madman that was terrorizing the city was all over the paper again this week; another couple shot while parking in their car. Still, I was determined; there was only one thing left to do, so I played my card. "Please, Jess. You're my best friend. Who was the one that got that creep Mike to stop calling you? And who was the one that ripped the centerfold of Shaun Cassidy out of Tiger Beat for you?" Big guns, now. "And who is the one that's been there for you all spring and summer?" It was a low blow, I knew, but I also knew I didn't want to go into the city alone.
Like I knew it would, her eyes started to tear up, her soul too sensitive to even handle Hallmark commercials. Friendship was the one thing Jessica didn't take lightly, having lost what she considered her best friend when her mother skipped town. "Dammit, Bella."
And just like that, albeit with a touch of guilt, I knew I'd won.
Across the river from my boring life, there was a monster. A breathing, living thing that pulsed and grew. The biggest blackout the country had ever seen had clouded the city in darkness and terror just a few weeks before. Riots and fires followed, fueled by angry people fed up with the chaos and filth the city had become, as the temperatures soared every day to record breaking heights of 103 and 104 degrees. The newspapers that were safely delivered to my door carried headlines that screamed across its pages, turning the Big Apple into something otherworldly. From the way it was described, you could almost feel the city and all of its inhabitants melting down as you read the black and white ink that scared the shit out of you and fascinated you all at the same time.
It was the Summer of Sam. The 'Summer of Fear' as the papers christened it. It was 1977 in New York City, a world away from me.
"We'll never get into Studio 54," Jess whined, fluffing her hair in the visor mirror of my dad's Buick. "I want to dance with John Travolta." She smiled at me, her eyebrows wiggling. I was happy to see her excited, but I had to agree. We'd never make the cut at the famous disco's line of entry. The beautiful people got in, the girls with their Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses and platform shoes. Shiny lips and gold jewelry. Jess and I were pretty average, and my taste ran more to peasant shirts and bell bottoms while hers was a mix of a Sears catalog and whatever her mother left behind.
"I have somewhere better in mind," I replied slyly, knowing all along that our destination was far from that Midtown disco and all its glamour.
"Is it safe?" she worried next to me, her hand instinctively clutching the door handle of the car as we entered the Lincoln Tunnel.
"Sure. Don't worry."
"With you, Bella, I always worry."
I grinned and looked at her; the lights from the tunnel casting a flickering, yellow glow across her doubtful face. "But you always have fun."
She only hummed in response, and soon we were exiting the tunnel and taking a right onto 42nd Street. I didn't know my way around, and Jess started worrying about that too. I'd looked at my dad's atlas stashed in the trunk and remembered the Midtown layout from trips into the city with my folks to see Broadway shows back when the city was less crime-ridden, but I really only knew the general vicinity of my destination.
Traffic caused us to stop halfway across the famous street, and Jess' face was practically squashed onto the glass as she looked at our surroundings. "Oh my god, Bella! It's a strip joint!"
I ignored her wails and took in the sights of the unseemly, neon-drenched avenue. All around us, flashing signs promised peep shows, XXX movies, and Live Girls! Rolling down the window and breathing deeply, my nose took in the humid, sweat-soaked, dirty streets.
I loved it.
It was so… alive. So teeming with action and decadence. The streets were filled, hundreds of people that were up to no good strolled the grimy blocks that Mayor Beame couldn't control. The air was charged, like everyone was waiting for something big to happen at any moment as sirens wailed and shouting prevailed over the sounds of cars honking. Loud soul music poured out of the sex shops and added to the atmosphere.
"Roll your window up! What are you? Crazy?" Jess launched herself over the console and proceeded to crank the arm of the window, successfully cutting off most of the sound. The din was loud enough out there that you could still hear a low rumbling of the excitement regardless. "Please tell me that this is NOT where we're going? I'm not getting out of this car!"
"Calm down. We're not getting out." Although I would've in a heartbeat. I pulled the car along with the others moving slowly through the lights until we were able to turn and head downtown.
The streets became less populated as we moved through their yellow brick roads, but the glory of city life was still evident. So many signs and stores, all open past nine o'clock at night. At home you were lucky if Baskin Robbins let you in if it was five minutes before closing. Jess settled a bit, and we started to come to the part of the city that didn't follow the numbered, easy to navigate grid. Street numbers turned to names, and they began turning and twisting, getting smaller and cozier as they meandered.
The energy seemed different down here, more relaxed, less frantic and violent. Pulling the car to a stop at the first spot I saw, I smiled at Jess as she looked back at me. She pulled on the braid in her hair and sighed. "Well we're alive, at least. Where are we going?"
Not sure exactly where I was, I looked around hoping that I somehow had miraculously pulled in front of my destination. "Um…"
"Great." Jess' hands slapped on her thighs in irritation while I spied someone walking up the street. Leaning over her now, I rolled her window down, feeling the city heat on my face and shouted out to a guy strolling with his head down, looking at the sidewalk.
"Excuse me; do you know where CBGB is?"
"What the hell is that?" Jess hissed in my ear, and pushed herself back in her seat when she realized the guy was approaching the car. He bent down to get eye level, staring at us through unnecessary black sunglasses he didn't remove.
"Well, hello there." A cockney British accent lilted through the window, strong but cheerful. "What are you two birds doing tonight?"
"We're trying to get to CBGB, but I'm not exactly sure where we are."
"Bella!" Jess spoke between clenched teeth towards me. "Don't tell a stranger that we don't know where we are."
I shushed her and smiled at the supposed threat. "Do you know where it is?"
"Well, it just so happens to be your lucky day, I'm headed there myself." He smiled, a slightly crooked row of white teeth showing in the dashboard light.
"Excellent!" I jumped out of the car while Jess rolled her window up, making the guy stand and back away.
"What the hell, Bella!" she huffed, and tried to grab my shirt, the door slamming behind me cutting her off.
Stepping up on the curb, I joined the stranger and smiled. "I really appreciate it. We really appreciate it."
He looked at Jess through the window and pulled a pack of smokes from his back pocket. "Are you sure, love? Doesn't look like your mate is up for it."
"Jess, get out of the car." I knocked on the window and waited, knowing she was running through all the possible dreadful scenarios in her mind.
"Fine," she mouthed, and got out, joining us on the sidewalk. "Excuse us a minute." She pulled on my arm and took me a few steps away. "What if he's the Son of Sam?" she hissed.
"He's not the Son of Sam. He's British."
"So? Ask him." She pushed on my elbow, and I turned to look at our guide, rolling my eyes.
"Are you the Son of Sam?" I yelled over to him, feeling ridiculous.
Sipping on the straw of a cup he was holding, he shook his head and swallowed. "No, I'm the son of Carlisle."
"See?" I said, turning back to Jess. "He's fine. Let's go." I walked back to him and smiled.
"Lead the way."
The stranger and I started walking and I felt Jess' hand curve around my arm. Holding tightly, she followed along as we made our way through the confusing streets. I'd have to try and remember where the car was later, I thought fleetingly, my mind quickly filled with anxious excitability. Finally, I was going to see the rock club I'd read about in Rolling Stone. The place where the Ramones and Patti Smith hung out and played music that spoke to me. Gritty, biting sounds that made me wonder why no one else understood how perfect it all was. You didn't hear that stuff on WABC where ABBA and Barry Manilow ruled the airwaves.
"Do you go there a lot?" I asked the guy taking us, his hand moving to his mouth as we walked, puffing on his cigarette. He gave me a bright, lopsided smile, one I found myself returning easily. From what I saw of his face, he was good looking. Not classically, not like I was used to with the high school quarterback and pin-ups from my teen magazines. He was different, unique, unlike anyone I'd come in contact with before. His newness added to the excitement bubbling inside me.
He exhaled; smoke streaming out of his mouth and nose in the coolest way. "Lately, yes."
"That's Jess, by the way, and I'm Bella."
"Hello, Jess and Bel-la." My name tripped off his tongue like he wanted to lengthen it, adding more fluttering to my insides than what was already there. That was all he offered, throwing his smoke down on the ground before stomping on it with his scuffed, black boot. Before I could ask what his name was, distraction took over when we stopped at a corner, the sight in front of me thrilling.
My heart started to pump in time with the music pouring out of the club, my eyes trying to take in everything at once. The worn white awning made yellow from the lights underneath held the name of the rock club in big, red lettering. There was a sizable crowd outside, a diverse group of people leaning against the building with smoke pluming out of their mouths like they had nothing better to do while some waited in line, seemingly anxious like me. There were girls dressed in outrageous clothing with men wearing as much makeup as the women, and others were dressed ratty, in ripped jeans with equally ripped t-shirts and leather jackets despite the heat. My blood rushed, a feeling of anticipation mixed with nerves and something raw I couldn't name.
It was more than I had conjured up alone in my bedroom, listening to records my sister turned and ran from. I quickly pulled the camera I always carried out of my bag and started snapping a few pictures of the scene.
A short girl with a black pageboy haircut and a big purple fur walked up, taking my attention from the mecca in front of me. "Thanks, Eddie," she said, before taking a long pull of the drink he'd handed over. "Are you finally going to take me up on my offer tonight? I'll give you a nice discount. A heat wave special. A blackout bonanza!"
"That's spot on, mate, but not tonight." He smiled at her as my eyes grew, and I could feel Jess go rigid next to me. We were apparently face-to-face with a real, live hooker.
"Too bad, maybe next time." She sauntered away to stand near the street sign, a guy in a big hat and walking stick moving next to her, protectively.
"Is she…" I started, but didn't know the polite way to ask if someone was a prostitute. Jess had no problem, though.
"A hooker?" she practically shouted, and Eddie laughed.
"That's just Sweet Alice, she's harmless. Has a sugar addiction I really shouldn't contribute to." In the glow being thrown from the lights outside the club, I could now see his strange hair color - a rusty red tipped in black that flew around his head like a tornado. "Well, I'll leave you girls to it. Have a good time. Don't take anything from anyone you don't know." He grinned and walked to a guy standing by the open door, slapping him five as they exchanged a few words before he disappeared inside the club.
Looking at the stylish people surrounding us, I suddenly wished I'd dressed differently. We stuck out like a sore thumb, clutching our patchwork hobo bags and looking like Seventeen magazine on a plate. Not to be deterred, I sucked it up and dragged Jess to the back of the line. It moved swiftly, we paid our four bucks, and soon I was placing one foot across the threshold. A tingling sensation ran up my leg; something I must've been imagining even though it felt so real. It was like I was crossing an invisible line that was sure to alter me long after the night was over.
It was almost as muggy inside as out. My eyes adjusted to the dim light as I walked, confused, through what appeared to be a small office. Two desks lay to my right, but I moved further in, following the people in front of me through a curtain that hung from a door frame. Pushing it aside to reveal the club, I could see it was packed. Bodies were everywhere, pressed up against each other talking and laughing, some moving to the music the band on stage was pumping out. After some maneuvering, we managed to worm our way to the bar on the right and I ordered two beers. Jess made a face when I handed the bottle to her, sniffing the liquid inside. "Beer?"
"We're legal now. Drink up." I took a huge swallow of my own, my nose crinkling at the warm, bitter taste. Ignoring Jess and her gagging, I looked around, my eyes wide and my heart skipping. The smoke-filled air made everything hazy and dreamlike, the lights from the stage at the end of the narrow room shone down, silhouetting those closest to it. The crowd was surging, moving as one to the rock music blaring over our heads. The cool people sat at small tables up on a platform to my left surrounded by smoke and trying to perfect the art of looking bored. I discretely took a few snaps before moving on; sure I'd need proof when I developed them that I'd actually been here.
I felt Jess knock against me and looked to see her trying to cover her ears while holding the warm beer. "Enjoy it, Jess!" I shouted, but she either couldn't hear me or ignored me. Her loss.
Mixing with the throng, perspiration made my hair stick to my neck before it moved down, rolling under the neckline of my shirt. Its clingy dampness only made my adrenaline pump further. "I want to get closer!" I pulled her with me, beer sloshing out of the bottle she held by her head and landing on my hand. Following along, we successfully elbowed our way up. The stage hit just at our knees, and I was in heaven enjoying a song from a band called Thundertrain, moving back and forth with everyone else. They played one more before they finished their set, and people started moving away from the stage. Jess began to retreat with them, but I held onto her. "Uh-uh. We're staying right here for the next band!"
I didn't think we'd be so lucky to have the Talking Heads or Television in front of us, but I didn't care. The small stage remained lit as the band moved their equipment around quickly, while I took mental images I knew I'd carry with me forever. Signs of all colors and sizes were haphazardly glued to the walls, advertisements and pictures I couldn't quite decipher, while large posters of people from what looked like the 1800s were splashed behind the amplifiers.
I was startled out of my enchantment when suddenly two guys started thrashing their guitars in tandem, the loud echo off-putting and jarring. It was a wall of noise, mismatched notes and keening screams until the drums kicked in, their beat thumping and pounding in my chest. It was so much uproar I thought my heart was going to burst.
I'd never heard anything like it and was instantly enthralled by the anger. I was anxiously awaiting the reveal of who the singer of the trio was when off from the side, a guy in an ill-fitting green tuxedo jacket with black lapels but no shirt jumped up to the mic.
My very own tour guide stood right in front of me, my eyes huge as I took him all in. His rust red hair was shaped into odd, spiky points around his head that looked like they would pierce skin if you touched them. The sunglasses were still in place, his jeans were cuffed and dirty, and the same boots I'd noticed outside adorned his feet. The spotlights illuminated the hieroglyphics and crass words written in white paint I now saw on his footwear, as one was perched on an amp right at chest level to me.
"We are The Sovereign Rotters!" he screamed over the roar behind him, "And I am your king!" He began singing along with the music after that exclamation, a feat I couldn't quite comprehend being able to keep up with. It was hard to decipher through the yelling what he was singing about, but it didn't matter. The crowd around us yelled back, and it was clear that these guys were well-known and loved, here in this den of chaos.
I stood open-mouthed as the man I now knew as Eddie contorted his body in ways that seemed inhuman as he sang. That one foot stayed propped up in front of him while his back leg braced his stance as he leaned backwards until he quickly lunged, tipping the mic stand down into the crowd as girls grabbed at his jacket only to pull up again and twirl in a random circle, crashing into his bandmates without stopping. He growled, screamed, sang and spoke, everyone falling under his spell and soaking up every bit of it.
I'd never seen anyone behave in a way that would make your mother cover her eyes and your father shake his head. The lyrics I could make out were about the Queen, anarchy, bollocks and brine. The establishment was punished, the coppers scolded and society shamed.
I looked at Jess to see if she was witnessing what felt like history with me, if she was feeling the exact moment our small world changed. To see if she could pinpoint the precise molecule in our bodies that gave over its last iota of free will to this Antichrist in front of us. All I saw was her shutting her eyes and ears, grimacing. She didn't know what was in front of her.
She didn't get it, at all.
This was life-changing, what was happening not two feet from us.
I finally got my wits about me a few songs in and grabbed my camera when he tore his sunglasses off and hurled them out into the crowd to girly shrieks that sounded behind me like bridesmaids at a wedding. His bright, green eyes found me and he kept them locked with mine as I stood in front of him with what I'm sure was a dumb expression of astonishment on my face. My breathing intensified along with his stare, as he didn't turn away when he took his jacket off next, exposing his lean frame and white skin that glowed under the lights from sweat and the beer he sloppily chugged between songs. I felt exposed, sure he was seeing every jolt of electricity that ran through me as I stood witness to his conquer.
He finally broke the moment, continuing to twist and yell up on stage until the last song ended, an angry growl of "Fuck you! We're The Sovereign Rotters! Bugger off!" was yelled before dropping the mic stand and jumping off the side of the stage. I was pinned in place, speechless, watching the spot between the stacks of amps he disappeared through while the remaining members played their last mélange of furious, staccato notes before they, too, dropped their equipment and left the platform.
It was the best thing I'd ever witnessed.
"Oh my god, that was the worst thing I've ever heard!" Jess yelled, not realizing her voice was too loud from the beating her ears took.
"Are you kidding me? That was amazing!" My eyes trailed over the stage again, hoping to get another glimpse of Eddie.
"My parents fighting sounded better than that." Jess placed her half-full bottle on the edge of the stage. "Can we go now?"
My neck craned back to where the band went. "Not yet."
Jess groaned, "Can we at least go outside to get some air?"
"You go ahead; I'm going to see if they come out."
"I'm not going out there alone!"
"You'll be fine. Go talk to Sweet Alice." I moved away from her cries, feeling only a little guilty. She'd be okay, everyone seemed friendly. Making my way to the spot where it looked like a hallway leading backstage would be, I stood to the side, trying to look casual. A few guys with long hair and ripped jeans moved past me and got onstage, picking up what The Sovereign Rotters had left behind. Roadies, I guessed, which meant the band would be leaving soon. Maybe there was a back door and they'd already left?
Undeterred, I inched my way along the dark hallway, squeezing past people and hoping no one told me I wasn't allowed. Passing one small room, I saw the band that had been on before The Sovereign Rotters, and a quick perusal told me Eddie was not in there with them. There were a few other rooms laid out ahead of me, so I crept along, trying to see faces in the darkness. Hearing British voices, I poked my head around the next doorless room.
A sickly, yellow glow stuck to walls that only held spackling and the black paint of sporadic graffiti. I was bumped from behind as someone walked past me, causing me to be outed from my hiding spot. There in front of me was the drummer and guitarist from Eddie's band, drinking out of a bottle they passed between them. The air was foggy with smoke and steamy with body heat, the stench of pot heavy, but the excitement of being behind the scenes at the famous rock club only made it all seem that much more glamorous to me. Jess could have her fancy disco, to me - this was where the action was.
"Did you enjoy the show, Bel-la?" The timber of his voice and distinct accent were unmistakable, and a shiver ran through my body that he remembered me. Turning my head, I saw him in the corner lounging on a ratty blue loveseat, sucking on a beer bottle.
"It was amazing," I stuttered like a child, unable to use my words to eloquently explain exactly what I felt. I'm not sure there had been words created yet to do that job, and I felt silly, fumbling in this room full of musicians.
"What was that? Couldn't quite hear ya," he said and crooked his finger, beckoning me to join him under the single bulb that shone overhead, his red hair burning while shadows fell across his face. Like a slow fog rolling over earth, I wafted on air to him, my feet getting close enough to his to step on. He looked up at me and smiled, his slightly uneven row of teeth showing.
"I said it was amazing. Better than amazing," I rambled, still unable to form an articulate thought. He opened his mouth to say something, but instead, Eddie's hand came out to grab mine, and he pulled, causing me to stumble and land on top of him. I tried to adjust myself so I wasn't splayed out over him like a spaz until I abruptly felt his tongue flat against my face, travelling from my jaw, over my cheek, and up into my hairline in a wet, languid lick. It was the most startling, oddest thing that ever happened to me, and my blood surged like a volcano about to erupt.
Staring at him, mouth open in shock, my head swam as his face held a shit-eating grin. His absurdity was strange to me, but his obvious joy in being peculiar was undeniably infectious. Grinning dumbly back at him, I waited anxiously as he opened his mouth about to speak, but before he could three girls with heavily made up faces poured into the room, gushing.
"Eddie, that was fucking atomic!" A girl with black and blonde hair sat on the arm of our couch and she touched him, her hand draping over his shoulder while her t-shirt that said 'Bite Me, Whip Me, Fuck Me' pressed up against his side. She looked me over, from my dewy face to my white Dr. Scholl's.
"You think so, love? Brilliant." He nodded his head at her and turned back to me. "Have you met Bel-la, here? It's her first time at this shithole."
Mortified, I stole a look at the girl latched onto Eddie like a scab only to see a hard glare directed my way. Under her scrutiny, my Jersey clothes felt very, very amateur. "Don't you have some homework to do, pumpkin?" The other two girls laughed and I could feel my face heat.
"Come on, Lauren, don't be such a git." Eddie shrugged Lauren's hand off him and leaned away from her, closer to me. His spiky hair, still slightly damp with sweat from his time on stage, rubbed against my cheek where his tongue had been. I knew it was silly, but the action singled me out, made me feel special in front of these groupies. "Bel-la here is my new friend."
Lauren's face turned ugly as she sucked her cheeks in, obviously indignant. "Okay, Eddie. When you're done with the babysitter you know where to find me." She got up, but not before she gave his stomach a rub over the ripped shirt he'd put on, her blood red talons trailing as long as possible.
"You know where she'll be? Out back, giving the guitarist a gobble." He smirked down at me without a look towards the retreating trio. "For the record, I have fond memories of my babysitter."
"I'm eighteen!" I blurted out, the drying wetness from his tongue and sweat still making my brain numb.
"Are you now? Well that's a very good thing, isn't it? Where are you from, Bel-la?"
"New Jersey. You're from London?"
He took a swig and furrowed his brow. "Psssh, not the posh part; I'm from the East End."
I really had no knowledge of where he was talking about so I just nodded and made a mental note to look it up in the encyclopedia set my father kept at home. His profile changed under my gaze as our conversation ceased, his eyes narrowing and lips pressing tightly as a darkness fell over our corner of the room.
"I've never heard anything like your music before," I offered, concerned he'd gotten bored with my very unspectacular self as his focus remained on the floor and his body tensed and shifted next to mine.
His eyes remained pinned away from me, but his mouth turned up into a smirk. "I bet you fancy a little Peter Frampton, or what's that brother-sister team? The Carpenters." Shaking whatever thoughts had darkened his mood, he turned, his attention back on me now full force, and I felt the static between us once again.
His shifting demeanor was sudden and edgy, my stomach flipping at how quickly he could make me breathless from his intensity. I wasn't under his influence enough however to not be insulted. "No, actually." I raised my chin up. "I like the Ramones and Talking Heads. I have better taste than that." At his increasingly amused grin, I hastened to add, "I liked The Sovereign Rotters."
His eyes came back to life a bit more and his lips turned into a taunting smile, whatever gloom had fallen over him gone completely. "Well that right there means you have terrible, terrible taste, Bel-la."
I stuck my chin out. "What do you like? A little Elton John?" At that he tipped his spiky head back and laughed out loud. A few people near us leaned in to see what had amused him, and I was intrigued that the power he held seemed to be widespread and wasn't affecting me alone.
"I'm not a fucking nancy boy. I bet you've never heard of the Sex Pistols?"
Shaking my head, Eddie moved which made him press up against me again. I could feel the warmth from his body right through the thin cotton of my blouse, and it electrified me. Jake had certainly never made me feel this way, and I'd only known this guy for maybe an hour. With his body attached to mine, he looked at me, his face close enough I could feel his breath fanning across my skin. It was abruptly hotter in there than it had been only a moment ago, and through wet lips he spoke, making my insides tumble. "You'd like them." He looked at my lips and I knew that if he leaned in, I'd get the kiss of my life. "I'll have to send you their first record when it comes out in October."
"That would be great," I said, my voice husky with anticipation.
Moving even closer, his lips touched mine, a faint whisper of skin on skin. "Bel-la?" he said against them, his accent low and throaty, "Can I steal a kiss, you think?"
Even with his hangers-on surrounding us, we were alone in this dank, back room as I nodded against his lips, unable to speak as I held my breath. Keeping my eyes open, he stared back at me for a moment before closing them and tilting his head to the side as his hand came and wrapped around my cheek.
"Bella! What in God's name are you doing?" The shrill question ringing around the room in Jessica's voice was like a cold shower, causing Eddie to lean back and the mood to be ruined. I could've killed her.
"Jess, I thought you were outside." My teeth clenched in aggravation.
"I was, but there's only so long a girl can stand around with a hooker before she takes a customer." She crossed her arms in the doorway and stared pointedly at me, and then at Eddie.
"Oh, Sweet Alice got a bloke? Bully for her," he said and I felt the loss immediately when his hand slithered away from me.
Jess talked right over him. "Can we go home now, Bella? I think we really need to go home." Her mouth pressed into a thin line as one foot tapped impatiently against the uneven black floor.
"I'm not ready!" Protesting, I stared right back at her as she pulled her bag close against her, protectively.
"Yes, Jess. Bel-la here isn't ready. And I'm not ready to let you two lovely girls leave just yet." Eddie stuck a cigarette in his mouth and lit it, my camera coming up to capture the flame as it illuminated his face. He took a long drag, blowing it up and over our heads. "You're a photographer, hmm?"
"Amateur. I toy with it." I shrugged.
"I bet you're great." My cheeks heated from his compliment, his eyes still looking at lips left untouched.
Eddie looked at Jess and smiled. "The party's just begun, sweetheart! Right, Emmett?"
The drummer moved out of the shadows and sidled up next to Jess, putting a bare, sweaty arm around her. The smile he gave her showed a gap where one of his front teeth should be, and Jess recoiled from his proximity. "Right-O, Eddie. C'mon, love. Have a little drink, yeah?" Emmett held up the bottle in his hand and waved it in front of him. "Take a picture of us with your little camera there. I think I've met my future wife!"
Laughter roared as Emmett strutted for my lens, bringing Jess closer to his armpit and making her gag. Eddie jostled me and got up, moving to the other side of Jess and goofing off for the camera. She reluctantly smiled, her vanity overcoming her disgust. I took a few before the other two members of the band demanded to be captured, so I snapped a series of them in various arrangements against the graffiti-stained drywall of the seedy room.
Eddie pulled his shirt off over his head, cigarette surviving the move, and picked up a marker from the blemished wood table in the corner. As the next band started to play out on the stage behind the dressing room, Eddie pulled the marker over his skin, scrawling a huge, messy 'A' on his chest he then circled in thick black. Changing my film quickly, I took pictures of his bandmates writing on him, drawing crude pictures and symbols, words and indecipherable markings. Against the gray wall behind him, Eddie looked down at the artwork covering his torso and squinted at the smoke that lilted out of his mouth. He posed for me, buckling his lanky body in different ways, mugging for the camera as I captured it all, hoping the dismal lighting would add to the gritty mood. I quickly took a few of the people surrounding him, the ones watching his every move, as captivated by this strange creature as I was.
"Enough of that." He grinned with the cigarette clenched between his teeth and grabbed my camera, handing it to Jess and ordering her to take our picture as he pulled me under his arm. I clutched him around the waist as he thrust his hand out, giving the lens the finger.
"Real nice." Jess rolled her eyes, but took the picture anyway. Him wanting to be photographed with me was exciting, and I beamed as his elbow circled my neck, the crook holding me tight while his arm hung out in front of us holding his cigarette. It made me feel superior over the others in the room, a sense that I rightfully belonged under the attention he paid me. I knew I'd be in the makeshift darkroom in the garage until the sun came up, developing it so I could hold onto that feeling forever.
The room got more crowded as the night went on, beer and bottles being passed around freely. People came in and out, greeting Eddie and his bandmates before finding somewhere to sit in the small space or moving on to the next conversation. Drugs were passed freely, and despite the wrongness I knew I should feel, it only added to the decadence. Eddie had claimed a spot back on the sagging couch where he made me join him, with two groupies squished in as well, so I was once again pressed right up against him as he talked and laughed, smoked and drank, spit and snarled.
He was still shirtless when he introduced me to a petite woman that came near us, and she grabbed the marker to draw on him. Her raven black hair and flame red blush was striking, and as I looked her up and down, my eyes grew wide as I realized I was in the presence of one of my idols, Joan Jett of The Runaways. She said hello at Eddie's introduction, and it was all I could do to say hello back without sounding a fool.
They exchanged compliments about their music as I sat, mind blown, taking the bottle he offered and sipping, the burning slosh of bourbon making my eyes water as I followed Joan around the room as she walked on. Even Jess, who was sitting on the arm of the couch as far from the attention of Emmett as she could get, seemed somewhat impressed. I had played her my Runaways' record, and it was one of the only she didn't hate.
My thoughts were dyslexic, my mind intoxicated with my surroundings. The complete rightness I felt from being in that particular place at that exact moment was potent, but mostly that came from being there with him. He took over the whole room, holding court like the king he proclaimed himself to be with everyone wanting to know what he had to say, laughing at his jokes, or joining in when his conversation turned heated and about the class system in Britain, something he seemed passionately angry about. Curses flew out of his mouth, some I knew and some British slang that sounded worse than anything America had come up with.
A few times he turned into himself, pulling away from those that surrounded him and staring at nothing in the room, only to be dragged back once something got his interest. I was fascinated watching him; my eyes couldn't look away, much like everyone else around us. He was magnetic and strange, and I knew I was quickly and stupidly falling for him, this hellion-god and devil-man, cobwebbed in the silky strands of his rebellious charisma.
As if he could read my mind, Eddie leaned his forehead against mine, breathing in the life that I gave him freely. "Bel-la," he said, low and just for me.
"Yes?" I asked, hoping he was about to ask for that interrupted kiss.
Green eyes locked with mine, and I could feel my breathing stutter and struggle under his piercing gaze. "I have to go to the loo. Let me up." Not expecting those to be his next words, I sat there foggy as he pushed himself up off the couch. He swayed a bit but turned and held his hand out to me. "Come along, little bird."
With no hesitancy, I got up, Jess protesting loudly behind me about leaving her with these 'foreigners'. As soon as I joined Eddie, Emmett swooped in, grabbed a shrieking Jess and pulled her onto his lap. "I'll look after this one, mate. She'll be nice and safe with me." His gapped grin was endearing, and I noticed the small smile that escaped her even as she groaned.
Eddie pulled me quickly with him through the murky, crowded hallway towards the restrooms, nodding his head at people lining the walls shouting their praise. Flinging the men's room door open, he yelled at a guy using the urinal who quickly vacated. Before I could get the surprised 'O' my mouth had made to form a word, Eddie pushed me up against the tattered wall, lined with posters and more graffiti and pressed his crooked smile against my open mouth.
His hands came up against my throat, pushing my head back so he could deepen the kiss, his tongue moving against mine as the moan that escaped me melted into the muddled soundtrack coming from the stage. I returned the kiss with more enthusiasm than I'd ever had for anything, willing myself to store this moment in my memory and the feeling in my whole being. The music pounded through my ears in time with my blood, voices through the door mixing with the beating that filled my entire chest.
I was dizzy, drunk with a life that did not seem my own.
The departure of his lips made me whimper. "Sweet little girl," he sang, his voice surprisingly melodic and soft after the screaming chants he performed earlier. "I wanna be your boyfriend." His smile teased, knowing I'd get the Ramones reference.
What little air I had in my lungs escaped me, the intense heat that I'd been carrying around in my system all night finally exploded into shards that rattled my bones as they flew through my veins. I knew he didn't mean it, he couldn't possibly, but to hear it from his lips I knew it was something I'd hold against every guy that followed after.
"Leave now, go to your safe little bed and wake up thinking it's all been a dream," he whispered hotly against my mouth as I shook my head in protest. His tongue swiped against my bottom lip and mine urgently chased. "You're too good for the likes of me, Bel-la from New Jersey."
My eyes raked over his face, the blackness seeping in again even with his body so close and us so alone. "It's too late for that," I admitted as he held me tighter, his fingers digging into my back despite his warning.
My hand trailed down his arm, fingers finding puckered, dry skin that led to faint brown marks on the inside of his elbow. My tongue grew thick in my mouth. I knew what I was looking at, we saw a movie about it in health class, and I traced the line lightly as sadness overtook me.
His gaze followed mine, a tortured sigh escaping his mouth as he shifted his arm from my touch. "Nothing for you to worry about." He kissed me quickly, drowning out my worries before pulling away again. He started to hum lightly, the back of his hand smoothing over the hair that fell over my breast.
Before he could continue the serenade, a pounding on the door made him lose the grin and he snarled. "Bugger off! Can't a bloke have a proper snog with his girl?" His closed fist rose to beat angrily against the door in answer. "Guess we'd better vacate before some arse comes in and pukes on our shoes."
His colorful vocabulary only added fuel to the fire of the situation I'd found myself in, sweaty and turned on against the wall of a dingy men's room. Taking a chance, I braced my foot up against the shabby bathroom door to stop the impending invasion and grabbed him around his shoulders, kissing him with an intensity that matched the surrealism of the evening.
He gave it back to me tenfold, ignoring the yelling and the pushing against my foot as we made out in the semi-darkness of the urinal. His body pressed hard against me, his lean frame sinewy and damp against my hands that were freely moving across the marker ink on his chest that was starting to run, making rivers like black mascara the day after a bender.
"Ball-sy Bel-la," he grunted, pushing his knee between my splayed legs. "I think I quite like that. I should write it down. Good title for a song." The pounding got worse, and the intruder pushed on the door making my leg buckle as it flew open. Emmett stood there, all gap-toothed grin and thumbs hooked into his red suspenders.
"I was about to piss myself, you wanker!" Moving to the open urinal, Eddie yelled at Emmett to wait at least until he'd led me out. Emmett muttered some obscenity back, but Eddie was already leading me out the door.
"Fucking caveman. Mum should've stopped after me." Shaking his head, he guided us through the crowd, pushing his elbows side to side to make the people lining the hallway move.
"Emmett's your brother?" I yelled as I trailed him, the noise from the band on stage siphoned through the narrow space, making it loud and discordant.
"Unfortunately. He's stupid, but he's harmless. I think he fancies your friend." I snorted, to which Eddie gave me a knowing grin. Feeling guilty for having left her, I was relieved to see her talking with two girls sporting bright yellow hair when we got back, seemingly enjoying herself and actually batting her eyes a bit at Emmett when he returned after us and squeezed in next to her.
"Eddie, let's get out of here," Eric the guitarist yelled across the room, and my heart sank. "I'm bloody starving!" he wailed amongst people nodding in agreement.
But everyone in the room seemed to be waiting on what their king decided. "Yeah, yeah. Let's go to Odessa's." His arm gripped my shoulders tight against him, pulling me into his warm body. "Fancy going for a nosh?"
Thrilled that he wanted to continue our evening, I nodded quickly. Glancing at Jess hoping she'd be on board, I saw that Emmett was already ushering her through the room. "You never heard of pierogi?" Jess's eyes were looking up at him coyly as she shook her head. I almost laughed out loud at how quickly she had come around to his attention as she didn't even turn her eyes from his as she walked past me and out into the hallway.
Shuffling through the crowd, we made our way past the partiers, falling behind Emmett, Jess, and the rest of Eddie's crew as we stumbled out into the oppressive heat that still prevailed despite the early hour of the morning. The sticky humidity didn't stop me from staying by his side, plastered under his arm protectively as he joked and yelled with his friends.
Walking down Bowery as part of a crowd that seemed to grow bigger the more steps we took made me feel high, stoned out of my mind on the coolness of the scene, and the magnitude of being with Eddie.
We lagged behind as we turned the corner onto East First, Eddie's mouth finding mine between curses and catcalls. I felt myself literally spinning as he pulled me into a dark alley and put his finger up to his lips. "Quiet now." He looked over my head and I turned, watching as our friends continued on oblivious to the fact we were no longer with them. "Come on." He grabbed my hand and started to run, my steps falling gleefully beside him. I had the sense of flying, caught up in secrecy and playfulness as we flew down the street lit only by the dirty glow of back entrance lights. I heard the band still on stage, muffled through a gray metal door as we passed the back door of CBGB where Eddie then pulled me over to a fire escape. He jumped, pulling down the ladder and looking at me with fiery, mischievous eyes.
There was no uncertainty in me as I stepped on his offered knee and scrambled up the rickety iron. Waiting for him on the first landing, he moved past me and started to climb, looking down at me every few steps until he disappeared from view when we reached the fourth story. Slightly out of breath from the climb and the dreaminess of the evening, I stepped over a low brick wall when I reached the top and looked for Eddie.
He was across the roof, perched there on the short wall that surrounded the entire span. His arms were outstretched like he'd just climbed Mount Everest, his body silhouetted against the lights of the city, and I nearly stumbled in place at his majesty.
He was a king up there, ruling all those that walked beneath him.
A gravelly growl of a sound crossed to me, startling me from my awe, and my heart stopped as I pictured him toppling over, mouth open and angry yelling at the night. Rushing to his side, I grabbed his hand to pull him down, but only managed to get pulled up, my feet teetering four stories above the intersection of Bowery and Bleecker. He held me tight, his eyes dancing in the glow from stoplights and neon as he looked out over the city. The Empire State Building was majestic behind him from my angle, shining brightly despite the protests of wasted energy that followed the blackout. The streets below moved with people and cars, taxis and buses. The heat rose from beneath us, making the air feel wavy and trance-like as the sound of honking and laughter crawled up and surrounded us.
I laughed with him as he cackled maniacally, caught up in the rush of danger while the demons that existed within him turned him sullen and somber a moment later as our howling began to cease.
"I never wanted to be anything but a musician, you know," he said suddenly, breaking the quiet that had fallen between us as we stood on the edge of the world. I looked at him and stayed silent, willing him to give me more. "Mum takes in sewing and my dad's been out of work for years. He drinks himself silly at the pub and blames everyone else for his problems. She deserves better than a drunk for a husband, a house that's falling apart around her feet, and a junkie for a son. And Emmett, well he's got a girl back home knocked up and the only skill he has besides this is thieving. Can't raise a baby from the Scrubs." He looked out over the street he didn't realize he presided over. "They're all counting on me to lift them up from their shitty lives, but I'm no better. If I fail them, there's nothing else and I've let everyone down."
My blood pounded in my ears to hear him speak such absurdities. "You don't need to save the world…" my voice trailed off, my throat suddenly closing.
I kept that silently in my mouth, thoughts falling to the marks on his arm. I looked down at my feet, toes pointed and hovering over air. "You're not going to need anything else. Don't you feel it? Don't you feel it every time you sing? Every time the crowd yells back at you?" My fingers moved and threaded through his own that had been clutching mine tight in his grasp. Looking at his face, his imperfect smirk and soulful eyes seemed to be leaking a vulnerability that made me sway; I took my other hand and slowly brought it to his cheek. "I've never seen anything quite like you, and I know I'll never be the same because I met you."
He leaned his face into my palm and closed his eyes. "That's too much responsibility." The resigned sigh scared me, and I stepped down, pulling him after me.
"Just tonight then. Change me just for tonight." He kissed me then, before pulling away and chuckling, the terrors that crept over him dissipating with his twisted smile as quickly as they had come. He reached into his green jacket and pulled out two cans of Budweiser, before taking the jacket off and laying it on the pitch of the black, asphalt roof.
We sat, making ourselves comfortable on the makeshift blanket. "I like you, Bel-la," he said as he thickened his accent over my name.
"I like you too."
He played with the unopened can near his knee. "We're leaving tomorrow. On to Hollywood then back to London." My throat closed, and I tipped my head to look down. He nudged me with his shoulder, making me rock. "I could call you…"
"Don't." Shaking my head, I turned to smile at him. "Don't make promises. Just don't forget me. Take my number, but I won't expect anything. Okay?"
"I will." I didn't know if he meant he would call or if he was saying he'd be expecting something from this fleeting rendezvous, but I didn't ask as he leaned in, pressing his forehead against mine as he whispered, "You're the one that's going to be somebody someday. You remember me." Closing my eyes, I nodded and smiled blindly, not stopping when I felt his mouth on mine. He opened up for me, and I him, on that hot roof that felt as mighty as the clouds.
I pulled him down with me as I leaned back on his green tuxedo jacket with the lapels and felt him lay his weight on me. Despite the heat of the evening, I welcomed the closeness, holding on for dear life as he kissed and licked me, fearing that if I let go he'd fly above me into the heavens, gone from me as I toppled to earth.
With no doubt in me at all, I let him undress me and touch me, let him show me what it was like to be worshiped by someone larger than little Bella Swan from New Jersey. The sounds of the city fell away as he stroked me, hot bursts of light under my skin while nerves flared and sparked all over my body at his curious fingers on my exposed flesh. He moved hard above me, my head cradled in rough hands as he kissed me violently, while I arched into him, breathless and needy, trying to hold onto every feeling I wanted to burn and etch forever on my soul.
My eyes didn't leave his as he entered me, his hands holding on like he was afraid of drifting away as well. We were silent moans and breathy gasps as his hardness filled me completely with each pump of his hips into mine. I clung to him, clawed his back and impaled my hands on his spiked head as we fucked with passion, not a thought to anyone existing apart from the two of us on that roof. With one curse against my mouth he bucked then stilled, our lips and tongues the only part of us not gleefully numb as they continued to move, unwilling to part even after our bodies were spent.
Eventually he pulled himself from me, lying close to my side on the bunched jacket that cradled my body, his mouth leaving trails of his teeth and lips on my bare shoulder. I laughed as he bit me, my squeals echoing against brick and mortar. Swatting him away, I heard the sound of a lighter, then a can opening, and we lay there, sharing a cigarette and warm beer under the watchful New York sky.
Despite its ongoing popularity, CBGB is closing its doors after three, history-making decades. The years of parties and rock 'n' roll living haven't been kind to the club. Decaying floors, grungy walls covered in layers of graffiti over inches of paper glued over more graffiti, bathrooms that barely work, and every corner of every backstage room covered in eons of hedonism have all taken their toll.
But damn, despite all its grime and deterioration, it still kicks my heart into overdrive like nowhere else. All of the years and hundreds of nights I've spent in rock clubs and venues around the world pales in comparison to my time here. It can still make my blood race with the possibility of where the night could take me. The euphoria of being a part of it all, that feeling of being on the cusp of something is still there.
Even though it's a sad night amid the fond memories, it's one I wouldn't have missed for the world as I smile at the old friends coming to pay their respects to the closing icon. We're all here; the musicians and roadies, the groupies and hangers-on, the bartenders and everyone that worked within these famous walls that made it what it was. Here to celebrate one last time. Jess is here too, the housewife in her re-living the 'Mom was cool once' night she recounts to her husband and children until they groan from the weariness of repetition.
Saying hello, kissing cheeks, hugging those I see often and those I haven't in a while, I make chit-chat before giving an excuse to move on so I can get lost in my memories. Walking through the notorious space that had become my second home over the years and the stepping point of my career, I can't deny my footsteps are leaden as I say goodbye to this place.
The sweat, saliva, and the blood of every musician and every fan that gave their life and signed over their soul to music hangs heavy in the air. I take in the pictures hanging around proudly on display, honoring the people that made the place what it was. Joey Ramone, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and countless others caught in photographs lining the walls commemorating the club's heyday. Stars on the verge of something they didn't know was coming.
I laugh to myself as I take them in. Some of these nights captured I remember vividly, others not so well. From my first visit to every visit after, the club held its magic over my head and I came back to soak it in repeatedly, camera always in hand. My photographs have gotten me in the pages of Rolling Stone, Spin, The New York Times and several books. Lou Reed, the Dead Boys, Blondie… I'd photographed them all in the seedy underworld that was the lower Manhattan music scene of the late 70s, my subjects morphing with the times to tell the story of the always charismatic members of the bands that had become my passion through 80s new wave, 90s grunge, and all those that made an imprint on the ears of the people.
So many great musicians stood on this stage and sang under these lights. The ghosts of them all still fill the room, bigger and louder than life.
I pause in front of one framed photo in particular, one of the several I'd donated to tonight's event. It's a famous picture, one that's been reprinted hundreds of times, one that always accompanies the story of the punk king that sang too loud, cursed too much, and left a huge footprint on the face of the British music scene, rivaling and soaring above his beloved Sex Pistols. But despite the photos fame, it'll always be solely mine.
The subject in the photo is jarring at first look. Angry and gritty, caught in the eerie light that hangs above him casting yellow shadows across pale skin covered in black ink. The smirk I see when I close my eyes is firmly in place, smoke billowing and resting around his spiky head as his stomach caves in and his body folds in on itself in an uncomfortable looking angle.
He's the ghost that rises above them all.
Standing behind the crowd that's forming, I observe as they talk and point at it, at the notoriety of it and their memories of it being their first exposure to the king, the first picture they ever saw of the famous musician. Next to it is another, a picture of a doe-eyed girl and the same rock God giving them all the finger. They love it, take pictures of their friends in front of it, and I can't help but smile and think about what he'd say about that.
I'd followed his career of course, after that night that changed me forever. I clipped out every article as his band, after their brief stint in America, rose to fame in London and then all over the world.
I watched with rapture as he insulted the Queen on national TV and made himself an icon. A hero of the working class and the misunderstood youth. The yobbos and the hooligans.
I worried along with his fans as he succumbed to a heroin overdose in a Belgium hotel, alone and surrounded by the debris of a life that suffered the darkness I saw in glimpses during those unreal hours.
And when he died of a second overdose a month later, a part of me died with him that I never got back. I live with him every day, in my work and in my heart.
Musicians talk about him still, the veterans and the up and comers, about how Eddie Cullen influenced them and their sound. It hurts when the talk turns to where would he be now and what he could have created, but I get it, how you can't not talk about him, how you can't not include him in music discussions.
He's remembered every year on the date he left this world like Jim Morrison before him and Kurt Cobain after. His face graces t-shirts to this day, never before heard tracks continue to circulate and he squints at you from calendars, posters, and tell-all books. To everyone else, he's bigger in death than he was in life.
He is still their king, after all.
But to me, he is a starry-eyed humid night, a heated wisp of a dream that lingers long after one phone call from California and all the others that never came.
He is a dingy bar and a tar roof; he is black marker and the euphoria of standing on a ledge with your toes too close. He is a moment seared inside an eighteen-year-old girl that shaped every moment that came after.
He may remain their king, but he will always be the boy that stood with me on the edge of the world.