Friday, 15 November 2019

Zero - a fragment

I wish I’d never fallen in love with Zero. The name means nothing to me now. It meant everything to me then but I should have taken heed. What’s in a name? Nothing and everything. But I was finding my way. Fresh out of college; away from the halls of residence and the refectories. Away from the privileged kids who didn’t receive grants because their daddies earned too much. No more tutorials and dissertations. No more lectures and seminars. No more set texts, I could read whatever I wanted to. And see, Zero, was kinda famous. He was a shit hot guitarist in a local band who always believed they were on the cusp of something big but they never were. They were never even on the cusp of something little, really, just locally famous. And I got a kick out of watching Zero, with his sunburst finish Les Paul, strutting across the various stages of all the dives and bars he and the band played in, strumming the blues and everyone watching like they couldn’t get enough. And I couldn’t get enough. 

Sunburst Finish by David Rain
Courtesy Flickr
Zero was smart but he was a bad ass at heart. His moral compass was questionable sometimes and he used people and cast them aside when he was done. I knew that after knowing him for a very short while. Not a criminal exactly but I remember the day he was in court for possession of amphetamine and I was scared, I mean really scared, that he was going to prison. He didn’t. He just turned up smiling with those goddamn cute little dimples he had that melted me whenever I saw him smile. One thing, though, my whole life I don’t think I ever talked with anyone the way I talked with Zero. We could sit up all night, just talking. Now I can’t hardly remember what we said but I do know that we both listened to  each other and I think he was one of the few people who really listened to me. He told me once that I was a real person, not like the others. and that made me feel real good. So I told him everything and he listened.

He liked to read. So did I. He liked to write. So did I. He kept a journal. So did I. He liked cats. So did I. And music? Well, we shared so much music. Music to dance to, music to sing to, music to fuck to, music to think to, music to listen to even. I can credit Zero with influencing my musical taste even now and some of my favourite books are those that he recommended, no, insist, I read. He just knew what I'd like instinctively.

But I think that being a local hero went to his head. It kinda goes with the territory that women of all ages were interested. Rock chicks. I was smart enough for him but not  pretty enough nor dangerous enough. I mean I smoked a little dope now and again but I  wasn’t into the whole speed thing which he loved. I liked that I wasn’t because it told me that I wasn’t just some infatuated groupie hanging on his every word. But plenty of women were. And he liked that.  

I tried to play it cool. I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t care but I figured the best way to lose him was to act all hurt and affronted. So I didn’t. He told me I was a star, a constellation!  I felt pleased. But star reminded me of the asterisks he put in his journal to show every time he screwed. I might be a a fucking constellation, but a constellation in a major galaxy it seemed. Then he wanted to borrow money. I guess it wasn’t much in the grand scheme of things but it was a lot as far as I was concerned. He wanted to cut a solo disc without the band. He had the songs. He had the musicians. And he had the backing singers. He just needed the backing. Yeah, I should have said no, but I didn’t. I gave him  the money. And you might be thinking that he never paid me back. But he did. With interest, But he wouldn’t let me sit in on the recording session. I was devastated. All my  encouragement and support for his music, and putting up the money, then this? And I  knew then that there was a fundamental change. Actually there were three fundamental changes; they were vocalists, all younger than me, all prettier than me. The oldest story in the book, huh?

So that was that. It dwindled as things do. And considering how much we talked when things were good it was ironic how little we spoke when things were bad. One of the last things he ever said to me was that I annoyed him and I got on his nerves. Ouch! Yet I don't think it was anything I did or said, it was that he no longer had a use for me. For him things had run their course. He was ready to move on. I could say I was heartbroken. And I was, but if I’m honest I knew deep down that it wasn’t a forever thing. He was never a forever person, it wasn’t his nature. I knew that. Maybe I wasn’t either. But it did affect my perception of relationships that has persisted to this day. Nothing is forever.

You might be wondering if he ever made it in the rock business? Was the record he cut a success? No, it wasn’t. But ironically one of the backing singers went on to become world famous. I won’t say her name because it wouldn’t be right. I went to see her perform once, she had a damn fine voice. And I felt kinda sorry for Zero that he didn’t make it because he was a damn fine guitarist. 

However I did meet up with him again many years later. He put a letter through my mum’s door. By then I had my own house and was fairly established professionally. He wasn’t to know that of course. In the letter he apologised for having hurt me which touched me because he showed no awareness of that at the time. The tone of the letter suggested something of a farewell. Alarm bells went off in my head because I knew his mother had committed suicide. And I didn't know if he had become fragile. I always felt  there was the potential. So I wrote straight back with my address and phone number. He called. Straight back. We talked on the phone  Hesitantly to begin with. But it didn't take long to realise he was the same old Zero. We agreed to meet for a drink. Actually we didn’t meet. He picked me up. In a beat up old Ford. Guess he wanted to see the house, how well I’d done for myself maybe.I was curious to see what time had done to him. It was dark in the car and I couldn't see him clearly. I didn't want to stare either. We didn't say much but it was like the hundreds of times we'd sat just like this in a car on the way to somewhere or maybe we were going nowhere. 

We went to the closest pub to my house. He parked up and we walked silently to the entrance. We sat across the table from each other. I got a clear look at him then. Age. I'd forgotten how much older he was than me. The difference didn't seem to matter when we were both younger. He admitted to needing spectacles some of the time. It was almost an apology!  Although he’d lost all his shock of unruly, curly blond hair the dimples were still there. As the alcohol dissolved and melted our time skins we fell almost into our old style of chatter, which felt good, and continued until the last orders bell sounded. There was an unspoken reluctance within both of us as we slowly made our way to the exit. He dropped me back at the house. There was no attempt at affection, not even a peck but I was okay with that. He drove off and out of my life. I never saw him again. And truthfully? I remember wondering what I had ever seen in him!  Zero. The name means Nothing to me. Should never have fallen in love.

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