Last Roman chapter for a while. Part Seven feels like a good stopping point (And I’m getting the Fantasy writing bug again). One and Two and Three and Four and Five and Six are here. I’ve come to appreciate the feel of ‘going back to the basics’ Contemporary fiction brings.
Roman, Part 7
So, here I am, standing around with my new girlfriend, her gay band-mate, and the woman who convinced me to love rock. The bass guitar’s strap weighs heavy on my shoulder as we wait for Gregor to finish setting up his drums.
Jamie elbows me, offering a warm smile. She twirls a microphone by its chord, looking a little too much like a threatening flail. “You got this right?”
I nod, aiming my attention at the bass. It probably costs more than I’ve seen in a year of income especially since I know who it belonged to: Margit’s ex-husband. She’s still wearing a ring, though.
I have more interest in the guitar in her hands, a gift from a visiting American rocker. This very guitar ended up tearing her band and marriage apart. Margit fiddles with the strings, running her slim fingers across the neck, she must have left it sitting for some time.
I lick my lips, praying my voice doesn’t crack. “We don’t have to. If it’ll bring up bad blood.”
“Nah,” Margit said. “It’d be a shame to pull it out just to look at it. You know how to use that thing? Or are you gonna just stare all day?”
Jamie elbowed me again.
“I know how it works but—” I glance down at the bass, her bass. Nerves. I knew every chord there was to bass guitar. I can’t play on the fly, I have no soul for making music. I can only imitate.
The obnoxious bass line for a Haberdash song pops in my head and I play. I nail it better than the real thing (mostly because I’m mostly sober and not doped up, their regular bassist couldn’t say the same). Margit walks towards me, clamps a hand around the bass’ neck to stop me.
“You suck,” Margit says.
I gape at her. I make no move to argue.
Jamie shrugs. “Sounded all right to me.”
“Cause you’re a no talent hack. This guy is terrible.”
“Roman. His name is Roman.”
“Well Roman is only proving Negroes can’t play worth a shit.” Margit sharpens her eyes at me.
Did she really? Something inside me snaps. “I can play just fine. Name one problem in what I just played.”
“You got everything, right.” Margit moved her hand. “That’s what you got wrong.”
Still doesn’t make your racist bullshit fly. I clench my jaw. I knew this going into this warehouse. Margit inspired me to listen to Rock, but I knew how insufferable she was. She ripped apart her band and her marriage the same way.
“Seriously Margi?” Jamie scowled at her band-mate. “You’re saying he’s too good? And what’s with the Negro shit? Not cool.”
“Jamie, chill,” Gregor said. “Margi’s just a bitch. She does the same damn thing with me. She’s just trying to get him to play angry.”
Play angry? I glance down at the Bass, considering its old owner. Johann never did strike me as angry, but he played fucked up all the time. Did he find something in drugs and booze that took the machine out of him?
I tried again, this time focusing on Margi dismissing me as a hack. It pisses me off, but she was right. I have no soul.
My divided attention makes me flub four notes. I glance up at Margit on the second repeat, waiting for her to dig into me. She never does.
“OK, Roman,” Margit says, the way you’d say to damned puppy. She holds up a hand to stop me playing. “That sucked less. We’re going to play Bloody Heart, try suck less enough to keep me from walking over and slapping you, OK?”
Bloody Heart. Like I could mess that song up. The Bass line repeats the same rift through the whole damn song. I’m more in charge of the heartbeat than Gregor. I nod, but I give her a load of stink eye. She smiles back and tears into the opening notes.
Let me tell you something about Bloody Heart. It starts with a bitching guitar solo leads into a gunshot drum break and the heartbeat starts. It keeps up until it slows to a sputtering halt. Margit nails the solo, rusty as she has to be and makes my jaw drop. I see it in her face and her body. Her whole self plays the song. As it should be.
I almost miss my cue. Almost.
Gregor wails on his drums into that gunshot signal and I play. Not just because I want to impress Margit or I want to impress Jamie. I want to impress myself. The realization comes on the third heartbeat. Fuck Margit. I’m doing this.
Two minutes in I come up with a great idea. I slow the ‘heart beat’ on cue then speed it up again, putting the pressure on Margit, giving her only a measure to adjust. She raises a brow, smirks and lays into the solo. Gregor struggles to keep up, the drum section following the solo gets flubbed a few times and I get a dirty look from him.
Fuck Gregor too. I slow the heartbeat, not because I feel sorry for our drummer, but because I enjoy watching Margit adjust. Beads of sweat from on her brow and roll down her cheeks. Jamie’s scream (A part of the song. Nothing went wrong.) is a punctuation to my mood. The four of us synch up for the next section of the song.
Jamie bumps her hips against mine, not enough to cause me to lose my groove, but it lets me catch a glimpse of her in her element. She’s beautiful always, but damn. Now she really makes my blood boil.
I’m doing it right. This is the dream. I’m not just enjoying the music, I’m living it.
Right on cue, the heartbeat stops. Speaker feedback highlights the flatline beep. The song is over.
Jamie tackles my arm, laughing. “And you said you can’t play? That was bitchin’.”
Any idiot can play the bass line for Bloody Heart.
“Any idiot can play the bass line for Bloody Heart,” Margit said, fiddling with her guitar.
My irritation bubbles up.
“–But it takes a genius to fuck it up and make it better.” Margit smirked at him. “Ok, Mr. Manager. I approve of you. For now. Find us a lead guitarist.”
I understood then why Margit didn’t want to play lead anymore. She wanted to start shit, in only a way she could. I accepted Jamie’s hug and she surprises me with a kiss.
“No one wants to see that,” Gregor said, jokingly. “Take it to the back room.”
Jamie flipped off Gregor. “Then we will.”
And we did.