Summing up my life over the next five years wouldn’t fill a book. It was pretty much how I’m sure my parents and everyone else expected. After I left the house that night I walked all the way to Ollie’s. After telling him the events of the night we loaded a few duffel bags and backpacks filled with Ollie’s clothes and goods into his black ’88 Ford then made our way across town to Emmett’s place. Emmett’s best friend, Zane, was stoned in a bean bag in the corner of the room when we walked in. For the second time that night I explained my family woes. Then Ollie spoke up about the plans we had made before leaving his house.
“What? Are you guys serious? You’re…you’re just gonna pack up and leave? To Dallas?!” Emmett narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms across his chest. He looked at both Ollie and me like we were fucking nuts. Emmett was silent for a minute before he turned to me and in an almost whisper said, “I’ll go. If you guys are serious about this, I’ll go. I’ve been wanting a change like this for years. Hell, I’m 25. I’ve been stuck in this shit-hole town for 8 years longer than you guys. I’m ready, but only if you guys aren’t gonna pussy out on me before we even get there.”
He uncrossed his arms and ran his fingers through his scraggly, bleached hair which had the tendency to hang directly in his eyes. I bent down to pick up his favorite Bad Religion shirt lying on the floor beside Zane. I balled the shirt up and lightly threw it at Emmett, hitting him in the chest. I stomped my foot and screamed as loud as I possibly could, “Well, PACK UP bitch, we’re moving to Dallas!!”
Zane jumped up out of the bean bag and yelled, “Dallas, get fucking ready, here we come!”
And that’s how Ollie, Emmett, Zane, and I found ourselves packed into Zane’s Explorer on the way to Dallas that very night. We didn’t have a plan and didn’t really want or need one. We found an apartment that we all shared and eventually came back for Ollie’s car. Emmett and Zane got jobs as delivery boys for Pizza Hut and Papa Johns, Ollie was a bus boy at La Bamba, and I was the luckiest of all…janitorial assistant at Grady Memorial Hospital. So basically, I wasn’t even qualified to be an actual janitor, just his assistant. But in the end, the rent got paid and there a never-ending supply of pizza and burritos. Things worked out this way for a couple years. The places we worked for didn’t stay the same but the actual job did. No one really complained because I think we all knew that we were finally living for ourselves.
I guess Zane had been saving up for something special, ‘cause he walked in one day with a Breedlove acoustic-electric guitar. His plucking away on it in all of his spare time encouraged Emmett to dig out an old drum set he had bought from a local yard-sale a few years back and set up in the living room. Zane would strum his guitar while Emmett would try to keep beat on his battered old drums.
Though they sounded terrible, the music they were trying to make made Ollie and me want to contribute. I never could believe the deal I got on the Warwick Corvette Standard 4 string bass I got from Guitar Shoppe, but there was no way I could have turned it down. I saved every penny I could for 5 months before I finally got it. Ollie tried his best to learn how to play Zane’s Breedlove and eventually my bass, but stringed instruments just weren’t his thing. In fact, he was horrible. But our fast-forming band still lacked a singer, so Ollie finally found his place.
With our role models being the Misfits, the Dead Kennedys, and Pennywise, we soon developed our own special adaptation of their music and a name for our very own band. The Usual Suspects. We were shit for a long time, but eventually we got the hang of things. Ollie’s voice sucked, but for our kind of music all he really needed to do was scream. Almost every night once we were all home, after we were good and stoned and/or tripping, we would play whatever came to mind and then re-play it over and over again until it was an actual song. If I do say so myself, we got pretty good for a while there.; so good, that our next door neighbor, who could apparently hear us through the walls every night around ten, knocked on our door one night to ask us if we would play at a party he was throwing down at the old 7 Eleven next Friday. We were all just fucking stunned. We couldn’t believe that someone actually wanted us to be the entertainment at a local party. Needless to say, we practiced in every spare moment of every day until the big day of the party arrived. We went, we played, we conquered.
After that first party we got noticed big time. We were booked every weekend from that point on and occasionally we’d play somewhere during the week. Things were really looking up for us. The Usual Suspects were a huge, local success and we totally reaped the benefits any chance we got. Where we practically had to scrounge to get a hit of acid beforehand, sheets of acid were now given to us on a regular basis; along with just about everything else we might have needed in those days. So the usage got pretty heavy for a while there. Too heavy, I suppose, seeing as how things turned out in the long run.
It was our typical Saturday night; we were booked to play at Jem’s house. He’d become a pretty close friend along the way, and we’d seen him at almost every part we’d played at. He’d always been really generous with the portions he’d deal us, so in exchange for coke (or whatever else we were in the mood for) we’d play for free some nights. We’d had more shit on us than ever before, and frankly, we didn’t know how to control ourselves. So as blurred as my memories are about most of those times, I remember everything about one particular night; the night that changed my life and claimed my independence forever.
It was 9:30 Friday night, June 12th. One week before my 22nd birthday. We were scheduled to play at Buckhead Park in just over an hour. I was sitting on the couch in the living room with a freshly snorted line up my nose. I’d already put 2 and a half beers down my throat in the past half hour and was waiting for a hit of acid to dissolve on my tongue. Ollie stuck his head through the door, shaving cream covering half of his face, and said, “Hey man, you okay to drive?” I shrugged. “Well, then you think you could take my car to get me a pack of cigarettes? I’m still fucking shaving and won't have enough time to get them before we’re supposed to play.”
I stood up and steadied myself against the arm of the couch. I held out my hand signaling for him to drop his keys into my open palm. He searched through his pockets for a second before handing over the keys and ten bucks. “Marlboro. Get yourself a pack too if you want.”
I took the money and headed down the stairs to his used gold Camry. I had to hold the railing as I slowly took one step at a time. I finally made my way to the car and got in. I immediately had to adjust the seat. Ollie was so fucking short he could barely reach the pedals. I started the engine and pulled onto Rockert drive. I would only have to make two right turns in less than a three mile distance before I was at the gas station. I looked at the clock on the dashboard. 9:45. “Damn,” I’d thought, “better hurry the fuck up.” I pushed the gas pedal harder, moving the speedometer up to 65.
I’d already begun to feel the effects of the acid I’d taken before leaving. I looked at myself in the rear-view mirror. After all these years I’d kept my hair the same blood red, opting for the bleached look a couple times and Ollie’s shade of blue only once. I looked at my eyes next. Blue circles hung under them so dark they were almost black. Then the blue-black circles started to take on an orange tint and swirl ever so slightly. That was some strong shit I took. I couldn’t help but look back into the mirror every few seconds to see what new color my face had taken on. My eyes looked like they were bulging and surrounded by yellow sacs. My nose appeared to be rippling with the breeze from the open window.
Soon I stopped looking at the road altogether. All I could focus on were the swirling colors and the good feeling coming from what seemed like the center of my brain. I was so absorbed in the momentary feeling and colors that weren’t really there that I never even noticed I was no longer alone or Rockert drive. In fact, I never even noticed that I’d swerved over into the left lane and was no longer on the right…or heard the constant sound-off of the on-coming car’s horn no more than 20 feet ahead of me. You know, I didn’t notice anything at all about 5 seconds later.
To be continued...