CHAPTER FIVE - BARGAINING
Kevin stormed into his house with a gnarled expression and slammed the door behind him. He was raged filled. He struggled to whip off his jacket while he strained to see through the darkness that surrounded him.
He wasn't thinking clearly, this was madness. He'd just gotten home from the hospital and his tears still stained his cheeks, anger still clutched his throat and the hate for himself boiled within.
Swearing loudly he finally ripped his jacket off and let it fall to the floor. He stood there momentarily, panting, glaring down angrily at his jacket which he could barely see.
"FUCK!" he screamed, kicking his jacket into the air.
The door behind him swung open and a hand reached in and switched on the light. Kevin looked angrily over his shoulder to see who it was.
AJ let himself in and closed the door.
"Get outta here AJ," Kevin warned. "Don't even bother to shove your keys in your pocket 'cause you're leaving right now," he instructed, walking into his living room.
He didn't want to see him or anyone else right now, but he heard AJ's footsteps behind him. "Kevin, you can't push me away, what's up? What's wrong with you man?" AJ asked benevolently.
Kevin stopped halfway across his living room and turned around to him. Though dark, the light by the door reflected his face in some detail. He rammed a finger into his chest stopping him in his tracks and warned him again to get away.
"No, I can't leave you like this Kevin," AJ rejected, grabbing hold of his arm.
"Look AJ, I told you to fuck off!" he yelled, shoving him away.
But it didn't stop AJ's persistence.
"I swear, if you don't get away from me…" he threatened, hands balling up into angry fists. "Are you gonna hit me?" AJ asked. "If it'll make you feel any better, do it."
He dropped his hands to his side and glared innocently at Kevin. Kevin glared at him for a while, tempted to do just that, but he hurt so bad inside he really didn't want to pursue with his violent rage.
"Just get away from me," he mumbled, unballing his fists.
AJ could sense breaking in his voice, he couldn't see the tears that were continuously rolling off his cheeks, but he sensed them.
They were facing each other now, and the sadness that radiated off
Kevin's body was heavy and still in the regional atmosphere. Without thought, AJ walked up to him and hugged him tightly.
"Get off of me!" Kevin yelled, surprised, struggling to get him off. "Just let go…leave me alone," he cried.
Kevin tried to push him off but his grasp was tight and he was just too upset to further struggle.
"Don't fight it Kev," AJ whispered, "You need this more than I do."
Finally, he gave up the struggle and hugged him back, crying bitterly with him in the dark. "I feel like a fuckin' murderer," he admitted tearfully, trembling.
But it wasn't him, it was AJ doing the trembling, for he too was crying with him. That's all he needed, someone with understanding, to cry with him.
"It ain't your fault man…" he replied, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. "He's gonna die regardless of what we do…"
But Kevin couldn't stop himself from feeling guilty. In a way, it was a slight act of selfishness. He acted as though he was the only one in the world who cared about Brian, but tonight AJ was proving him wrong. They had grown so incredibly tight over the years that losing Brian was like losing a brother.
The impact he had on the group was more than they'd ever imagined, Kevin had ever imagined, but tonight he was realising it now more than ever. It hurt like hell. The facts. Estimates. Opinions. But when it was finally broken down Brian had a month and a half to go. Ever since last month when the world was aware of Brian's limited life, he'd been the rave of MTV news. Crying fans and reporters caked Kevin's door every day, banging on it to get in and talk to Brian. It got so bad that cops and bodyguards were starting to hurt the press and fans.
Despite it all, Brian hadn't made ONE TV appearance. Nor did he agree about interviews, press conferences, or any such rubbish. Now that he was getting closer and closer to his deadline, he was getting weak and tired, and was almost always depressed.
The other day when fans and reporters were out on his front lawn, he pulled back the curtain to stare into the face of a little girl pressed up against the window crying, supporting a sign that read, "Remember me Brian? I visited you in the hospital. I can't believe you're dying. I love you."
Instantly he crumpled to the floor crying, hating himself for having to die.
But by far, the most morbid and horrifying experience of his life was having to go to the funeral home, and at stare his undertaker, his pallbearer, right in the eye and think, "this is the man that is going to bury me when I die."
Always, one of the guys was with him, usually Kevin, and it killed Brian to see how sad he was. His first day of going to the funeral home, all the guys were with him.
He tried to act hard, he tried to hold it in, he was in front of press and fans. He couldn't fight it any more, regardless of where he went there was always a camera in his face.
He strolled from Howie's car, fighting tears, hurrying to get inside the funeral home so he could cry in peace, and not in front of a million people. But he got up to the steps and crashed to the bottom step in a heap, hugging his knees and crying bitterly.
Nick came to his aid beckoning him to rise, but he fussed like a little baby, "No, I can't do it. I don't want to go, I'm not dying."
Frankly, Brian was sick of lying to himself. He was going to die regardless of if he wanted it or not, purposely or intended, one way or another he was going to die. At one point in his life, everyone's life, you were going to cease to exist. And there is nothing you can do about it.
Again tonight, the guys were attempting to drive Brian over to the funeral home to do things right. He didn't even make it inside last time, and the trip had to be postponed. It was a horrible mess.
Previously, Kevin, a little annoyed to be constantly bombarded with cameras and questions, shoved a camera out of Brian's face within his rage.
He ended up breaking the camera lens. Charges were pressed but Johnny fought it in court and won. He figured they deserved it. They had no right to be hovering over Brian with a camera when he lay on the bottom steps of the funeral home crying while the others were trying to suppress his cries. Kevin was only acting with concern.
But Kevin felt damn good about breaking that camera. This time though, the press and Johnny Wright had made an agreement not to bother them. It was hard enough already for him to go to the funeral home, far less having people witness his hardship. It's not like he was John Paul III.
In the backseat of Kevin's truck, Nick, AJ and Brian sat smushed together while Howie and Kevin sat freely up in the front seats. The truck was filled with tension. All that could be heard was the rolling of the truck wheels along the uninhabited highway. An emotional mist set so still and heavy, that Howie rolled down his window to let some fresh air in-he did this with a stoical expression.
Brian rested his elbow on the incision along the window, and blankly stared out into a field. The weather wasn't at its best, grey clouds hovered ahead-warnings for a storm. And the atmosphere was damp. Somehow the weather was a perfect example of how Brian felt inside.
He sighed, drawing attention to himself. Simultaneously, Nick and AJ looked at him to see what was wrong, but he didn't flinch.
Nick actually looked past him at the quickly blackening clouds and frowned. Perhaps he should lighten the mood a bit.
"Hey Brian," Nick started.
Only moving his lips, he replied, "What?"
"What do you call a dead cow?"
Dead. Wrong choice of word play. Brian felt his throat tighten up but he rasped again, "What?"
"Beef," Nick cracked.
He begun to laugh at his own joke, him alone, hoping to at least get Brian to crack a smile. Nick nudged AJ with his elbow as a suggestion to laugh. He did, but only at the stupidity of the senseless joke.
A heavy rain suddenly begun to down pour on the truck and Kevin flipped on his wipers knocking off puddles of water from his windshield. Instantly Howie rolled up the window and for a moment they sat in silence, listening to the rain hit the chrome roof like hail, and Nick still laughing at his joke.
Kevin adjusted his rear view mirror to glare displeasureably at Nick.Brian didn't crack a smile, instead his face suddenly tightened up and he sucked in his bottom lip as if compelling tears. He said nothing as Nick nudged him to try and force him to smile.
"Hey Nick," Kevin called in a warning voice.
Nick looked up and saw the angry eyebrows on Kevin's forehead through the mirror reflection. "Why don't you just leave him alone?"
Howie sucked his teeth. "Yeah man, shut the fuck up," he warned, peeping between the passenger and driver seat to look at him.
Howie turned back around and crossed his arms over his chest. "I was only-" AJ lifted his hand to signal that he should stop speaking.
The remainder of the ride was in silence. Everyone suddenly became angry with Nick, especially Kevin. That's how it was, to Kevin, anyone and everyone else was just a bother, and they only made things worse by trying to liven the situation. Just let him be.
Kevin's truck tires crunched over the pebble-paved parking lot of the funeral home where sprouts of dew covered grass emerged from dirt patches along the pebbles. It was vacant this afternoon-just as Johnny had promised, so Kevin parked as close to the entrance as possible.
Suddenly, all four doors swung open and the boys made a wild dash for the entrance, hands covering their heads as a shield from the rain. Nick jumped the steps three at a time and held open the heavy wooden doors with much difficulty for the rest of them, who eagerly ran inside.
Brian stepped in last and stamped out his shoes on the faded welcome mat. He followed his gaze up and his eyes blurred struggling to adjust to the dark lighting in the room. A morose feeling crept up their spines, it was rather cold inside and to think, you were in a place with dead bodies. To silently reassure one another, they formed a tight huddle.
"Hello?" Kevin called questionably, scanning the darkness; feeling a bit intimidated by an exotic residence himself.
Nick was standing so close behind him that he could feel the heat of his breath blowing onto the back of his neck.
"Ease up man," he warned, gently pushing him away before calling again, "Hello!"
"Halo, stranger!" an abrade voice returned.
Dim lights flickered on and a stout old man with a warm smile stood with his thick askew hands over the light switch. The light, dim though it was, seemed to seep into every crooked corner and nook, demolishing every shadow and revealing a truly beautiful place. Seemed to be built a long while back, grey stone were the walls and red carpet trimmed with yellow lead into just about every visible room.
Curiously, AJ looked up and squinted at the chandelier, which hung from the skilfully painted ceiling of angels and gods and such, which stretched to the pinnacle. Looked like a Michaelangelo piece.
"Can I help you gentlemen?" he asked, in an overwhelming rusty tone, which was surppressed by his smiling brown eyes surrounded by folds of wrinkles.
Kevin smiled to relieve if any hostility and said, "Yeah, we had an appointment earlier…but we never made it inside…"
The old man's smile faded quickly and replied, "Oh, you must be the boys who caused all that riot outside my funeral home a while back."
Shamed to admit, they nodded in response. Just as quickly as his smile had left it returned and coughed into his fist, the cough of a true smoker, and he gestured for them to follow him into another room.
Brian trudged close behind them but stopped to read a proverb or some sort posted upon one of the stone walls. It read,
You live again,
you live forever,
here you are young,
once more forever.
-Ancient Egyptian embalming ceremony
"In pace requiscat."
"Orright, spread 'em," a tall wiry man said to Brian, extending a few feet of yellow measuring tape. Reluctantly, Brian spread out his arms from his side and stood still as the man measured the width of his arms.
Why did he have to spread his arms? It's not like he'd get rigor mortis in that position and get stuck that way. They were in another room now, rather dark and mouldy smelling, like wet dirt, and he stood in the midst of it getting measured.
Inside he was trembling like a leaf as he glanced around the room at different empty caskets along the walls. He was finally getting fitted for his coffin, and it scared the hell of him. It felt as though two hands were wrapped tightly around his neck, choking him. His nose was burning, but still he remained, as he felt the guy slap his arms back to his side and begun measuring his height.
He spread the yellow tape and hooked it at the end of his foot, then stretched it up above his head and paused, taking measurements.
How insane was this? Being personally fitted for your coffin, in a funeral home? He wasn't dead yet, he didn't belong there.
When the man was done, Brian sat down Indian style on the floor and buried his face in his hands, sighing deeply. At least the worst was over.
The barely five minute operation it seemed, for Brian, it was an eternity. This he had put off for so long…had felt like a heavy burden lifted off his chest. The situation of his condition and limited life, Brian thought, tied into everything in chronological order. The next step was for him to die.
His life span was so short, he didn't even bother to go out and live his life up, he didn't want to go out that way, it was pointless. Three months was no time at all and everything was so rushed it was like a blur. It seemed as though they were compelling him to die. Everyday he found himself begging, pleading, and praying to God to spare his life but he believed in destiny and he had to eventually force himself to accept it.
Reluctantly his chest begun to heave on and off his body, compelling his forever tears to remain.
Kevin, noticing his behavior slid off his couch and approached him, stooping down balancing on his heels and placed an incessantly loving hand on his shoulder. As if a reflex, he slapped it off. Kevin raised his brows in surprise and watched as Brian picked himself up and bolted from the room.
Kevin reached out and grabbed his shirt but he wriggled from his grasp and ran out. Kevin stood to follow him but Nick was already up.
"Don't bother," he said, exiting after him.
Nick noted him running almost blindly, struggling to retrace the route in which they had come like a fed up mouse in a maze. Blinded by anger, blinded by tears, he eventually found the exit door and, knees weak threw himself at it and stumbled out the other side into the rain.
Supporting himself on the railing he hurriedly stumbled down the slippery steps bawling with shame. To the bottom step, he practically threw himself down face first into the flooded gravel, water splashing up around him
Beaten, his fingers raked the dirt and his tears fused with the heavy rain that pounded his body like puissant hands.
A heavy hand dropped down onto his back, grabbed a handful of shirt and pulled him to his feet.
"Brian, are you okay?!" Nick asked, worry written all over his face.
Again repellent, he broke free and bolted for the truck. He grasped the door handle and tugged, but it was locked. Feeling once again beaten, he threw himself onto the hood of the car and cried.
Nick approached him cautiously, pulling the matted blonde hair from his face. His clothes stuck to his body like spandex, making them feel heavier than they were, but mind he did not. Placing a loving arm around his back, he laid his right ear on Brian's trembling back and remained still, comforting him like a child.
Nick's eyes soon begun to burn him and he cried silently and helplessly. Why did he come out there, why? To see his best friend suffer and stand by and watch him? What could he do, he could never return or replace the life he was to lose. The life he so hurtfully held in his arms.
"Remember when…remember when I was younger?" Nick asked rhetorically, stuttering through his tear-filled gasps.
He was quiet for a brief moment, as if recollecting. "…And, and the guys used to pick on me?"
Brian chose not to respond instead he tolerantly remained in his arms, Nick's words barely having an effect.
Nick continued, "You took care of me Brian. And now it's my turn…it's my turn to take care of you."
For the moment after he said that, Nick prevailed in his position, figuring Brian would look up but he didn't budge. Eventually Nick stepped back, looked at him for a minute, as if waiting to see if he'd let up, but as the rain, he didn't. He frowned slightly, letting the corners of his mouth fall downward and turned around returning back inside.