Anastasia Borgia. You might have heard of her. If you’re really into metal, at least. She was the secondary lead singer (or “female vocalist”) of Acid Monsoon back when they first started, until she broke up with Caspar June—consider yourself officially foreshadowed.
After that, she went off and started her own band, SchadowFreud. It was basically just a knock-off of the Monsoon, but they lasted long enough that they were able to be Jasper’s first feal concert when he was a freshman and Aly was a senior and my first real concert when I was a freshman and Jasper was a senior.
Aly went because Kyle was actually performing. The Elk (Elk Chords? Elk Strings? whatever they were calling themselves that week) had beat out several other bands, including the fledgling Angst (Spoilers, I guess?) to open for SchadowFreud at this thing.
It was kind of the crowning achievement of Kyle’s high school career, if you think about it. But did he care? Please. He was too cool to care. Tommy cared. Mickey cared, like, a lot. Mickey had the biggest crush on Anastasia ever since Monsoon—the kind of crush that fat nerds get on powerful but damaged female celebrities?
But Kyle didn’t have stars in his eyes. The arrangement was that the amateur opener got to hang backstage with the “real” band and while Anastasia’s indulgence and old-school condescension was perfect for Mickey, Kyle expected something more real.
No. Not “expected”. Not from Anastasia. He knew better than that. But it was what he wanted. It was always what he wanted: authenticy; authentic emotion and empathy and worthiness.
I think that was the real reason why he stopped making music. Tommy was just there for the chicks. You know that, right? Maple there had been something else at some point—some greater ambition, at least. But no. Now—well, it wasn’t even chicks, plural. Or maybe it was, I don’t know. But one chick in particular stood up: my sister. He knew he’d knocked her up. He knew that part wasn’t an issue anymore, but still. It haunted him. The thought of something so monumental, and belonging to him, at least in part. The thought that it could conceivably… well, that was it, wasn’t it?
Was that love? Was it love that tied Tommy to Aly, any more than it tied Aly to Kyle? Who’s to say? But one thing it did do was spoil Tommy for any other chick who got to nail him at a concert.
That time the Elk opened for SchadowFreud, that was when Angst got to go, too. Declan told himself it was ‘cause it was the honorable thing to do when you’d lost that kind of competition.
“Dude,” Jasper interjected, “it’s a concert. You know? It’s SchadowFreud. We don’t need excuses. We want to go.”
Declan wasn’t sure he did want to go, though, just them.
It was basically right after Raven and Blake had started dating, and he felt like a failure, between that and the competition.
The lights? The noise? Sorry—“music”. It should have been wonderful. It was wonderful, just tainted. They’d met up outside. Jasper had come with Aly, but Tommy had brought Blake and Raven as well as his little brother, so Declan was forced to bear witness to the two recent love-birds flirting in the back, pretending they weren’t holding hands, and it was just a blessing Declan wasn’t driving yet so he couldn’t accidentally lock eyes with Raven in the rear-view and know for sure whether or not she knew what she was doing to him.
I stayed home for that concert. I remember thinking I should be jealous, my siblings get to go out together and here I am I have to stay here, sulking, in my middle school purgatory.
But what did I have to be jealous about? I’d already experienced the main highlights of this night, how Aly would finally give up on Kyle and find some biker in his late twenties, how Tommy would get two different girls to (not completely) satisfy him behidnd the port-o-potty, how Mickey would take just the right combination of drugs to end up in his underwear on top of the roof of the stage by the end of the night, staring up at the sky and talking about angels on floating inslands; and then of course Kyle’s diartribe against Anastasia when they met, which was not entirely lacking in poetry. I also experienced Raven and Blake sneaking off to second base for the first time; how Declan didn’t see it, but figured it must have been going on and got caught up in a conversation about life, the universe and everything (the topic, not the Book, though that did come up) with a girl he wasn’t attracted to who lived the other side of the state or something and who he figured he’d probably never see again after tonight and therefore, strangely, did not want to kiss.
What did I have to be jealous about?
Well, by then I’d already gotten some glimpses of what my own first concert would look like. I gotta say, it looks a lot different from the other side, pieces falling together. This time we’d come full circle. Angst, with a slightly different roster, was the band opening for SchadowFreud, who were more successful now. They didn’t get the same back-stage access to Anastasia, but Pan, the new drummer, did have a run-in with her in the parking lot. She was not doing well. I remember even seeing her on-stage, being disappointed.
I never liked live music. I never really saw the point. You can’t actually hear the lyrics, the singing is usually off, especially towards the end because the singer is tired. And you can’t even really hang out with your friends if you can’t talk to each other. But I guess maybe that’s part of the appeal? Isn’t it? Words can get in the way. If your friendship is strong, maybe you don’t really need them. Maybe you can just… I don’t know.
I didn’t have those kinds of friends by the time I went to my first concert. Not anymore. Lucy was off gallivanting, trying her best to become one of those girls Tommy used to sleep with—Jasper was on his way to doing the same thing, to being that guy. Or at least he had been. Isabella came, too. I don’t know why. She was wearing too much of the wrong kind of make-up and stood out like a stubbed toe on a stage at the ballet. To me, at least. Maybe she looked goth, maybe that was what other people thought. No, not Goth, she wasn’t… maybe emo? That was a thing. But no, not in that dress. I don’t know. She didn’t look like herself. “What are you even doing here?” I asked her.
Instead of answering, she gave me a Look, then walked away, and I got a brief vision of her doing some kind of shady deal. Great. So now she was either a drug lord or a spy. I reminded myself that I so didn’t care.
But then there was Trevor, wasn’t there? Now he was excited, poor thing, not knowing how much he was made fun of for betraying enthusiasm. Low key, though, of course—you didn’t want to be too avid when mocking someone else’s gusto, I mean, really!
Trevor was there for the celebrity. “I got to see SchadowFreud in concert!” he told strangers for months. He waited in line for an Anastasia signature and got it on his underwear. Not his ass, of course, that would wash off—no, his actual tighty-whities.
But it wasn’t Trevor I was there with. Trevor wasn’t technically there with anyone. But I was.
Angus George had been sitting near me. I’d seen myself at this concert, so I knew it was coming, but hadn’t wanted to go it alone. “You wanna go out sometime?” he asked me, and then brought up the thing.
They weren’t exactly the first words he’d said to me, but they might as well have been. They felt like it. “Sure,” I told him, feeling all the wrong emotions. It wasn’t until later that I thought to say “Oh, right, so my brother’s in a band that’s playing there, so yea, I was gonna go anyway.” I believe this is what they call playing it cool, which is level 1 of playing hard-to-get. I didn’t get past level 1 much, not if I was trying.
So I was there with him, kind of, holding one elbow with my other hand, classic lack-of-confidence stance. We tried dancing, but he wasn’t much of a dancer. Then there was a mosh-pit. It started off as, you know, a spontaneous thing: an actual fight. Actually, kind of an actual fight over me. Someone looking at me funny. Someone who looked…
No, maybe that was later, a vision of a different moshpit. I don’t know. At one of these things, I saw someone out of the corner of my eye that I swore looked like Kayla, but it was a guy in the middle of a moshpit. Even so, I could’ve sworn she—he?—stoppedand looked at me, recognition in the eyes, just long enough to get pummeled.
I had my first kiss that night. Nothing fancy. Tongue, but only shallow. I thought it was nice. I went for a while, enjoying it before it all went to shit.
Afterwards, I went and got a coke at the bar. “You know,” said a familiar voice behind me, “in Western Europe, you could’ve gotten a real drink.
I turned and looked at him. It was Kyle. “I’m fourteen,” I reminded him.
“You’d be surprised,” he countered.
It was weird seeing him again outside of school after so long, like walking in on your parents naked.
“Having fun?” he asked.
“Yeah, lots,” I lied.
“Your brother’s getting pretty good,” he told me.
I knew that part, although I didn’t entirely agree, so I gave a little half-hearted smile.
Probably deciding he shouldn’t be talking to me anyway, he picked up his drink, raised it briefly in my direction in a gesture of respect and left.
I rolled my eyes. If I smoked, I’d’ve lit a cigarette here. As it was, I just sipped my coke, sat back, rocked back and forth and wondered how many times a person could lose and then find yourself.