I don’t want to write about Mickey.
I’m not even sure why I have to. It’s not like he was ever that important to me, or to Angst and the people involved with it. He wasn’t really even that important to the Elk. To call him “just” the drummer wouldn’t be fair to drummers: they are an important part of a rock band. But it is fair to him, because… well, that’s kind of all he was.
OK, so he was friends with Kyle. They went way back. I guess maybe I’m writing about Mickey not so much because of the effect that he had on us, but because what they had on him. They left.
They both left; all three of them, if you include Aly, who he had kind of a low-key crush on, because of course he did.
That broke him, I guess. Being left alone. And he never really recovered. I mean, not that he was doing that bad, he was just… stuck.
When they all got back, though, it was even worse. It was worse, because even though they were back, it wasn’t the same, it couldn’t be the same.
“Hey, Mickey,” Kyle said when he called.
“Oh my God? Are you back? My mom told me you were back, are you back?”
“I’m back and I’m not planning on leaving again any time soon.”
“Oh my God oh my God oh my God, this is so cool—are we getting the band back together again?”
“Well, I don’t know if I’ll…”
“No, seriously, though, it’ll be great!”
He started practicing again. He was really bad after like three, four years without touching the drum set. The drums themselves were pretty bad, too. “I don’t know what you expected,” his mom told him when he complained.
He felt like he’d let the band down.
“It’s okay,” Kyle told him. “I haven’t really played that much guitar, myself, in the meantime. Gotten a bit rusty.” But then his friend badgered him into playing for a bit, and he was lying. He still had the voice of an angel and he still had the technique of a Golden God. What the fuck, man?
When Tommy got back, he didn’t even look up Mickey. Mickey didn’t even know he was back until he ran into him at the grocery store. And when he did, Tommy gave him a blank look, like it took him a second to even realize that the person he was looking at was someone he knew, someone who knew him, intimately, from way back in the day.
Have I changed that much? thought Mickey. But no, no, he realized. He hadn’t changed at all. He was still every bit as pathetic as he had been in high school.
Never mind that Tommy had been off to war. Never mind that he was lost in thoughts of his own. Mickey wasn’t able to use explanations of Tommy’s inner life to excuse his own condition.
I need to un-fuck my life. Fuck it down, rather than up. Things’ll be better that way.
Seeing Aly again, though, was the worst.
Aly had been back in town for a while. It was just that we lived in a different enough part of town that he never saw her. Until one day when he came to his restaurant. It turned out that she’d been there before—she’d been there when he’d been there, he just hadn’t seen her from the back. But this time, he happened to come through on his way to the bathroom and he saw her with some guy.
She was there on a date.
This really upset him, and he spent his time on the john working himself all up over it. Who did she think she was, bringing him here?
Who did he think she was?
Who did he think he was?
He waved at her when he got out of the bathroom (extra careful to wash his hands real well) but she looked confused. Distracted. Distracted by the conversation she was having with this boyfriend? Or by him? Did she not recognize him, either?
It was hard for Mickey to wrap his brain around how much he had changed physically since high school, how much hairier he’d gotten in particular. And fatter. He’d always been chubby, but he was wider now and between that and the beard, it was hard for some people to find his facial features.
The boy Aly was talking to was not, of course, her boyfriend. It was her long-lost half-brother she’d recently reconnected with. But of course Mickey didn’t know that, couldn’t know that. He only knew that Aly was there, at his restaurant where he worked, with a guy and that that guy was neither of the guys he had once been in a band with, and that hurt him.
He kept wanting to go out there and talk to her, try to reconnect, but he knew he would only be interrupting and he didn’t want to interrupt. Some of his kitchen mates had to ask if he was okay and of course he wasn’t okay, but what the hell was he going to say to them? Come off like a whiner? Like a loser?
Well, why shouldn’t he? He was a loser, after all, wasn’t he?
I don’t know if it’s fair to say that was the beginning of the end for Mickey. I can’t see all of the pieces. I guess in a way Mickey was the embodiment of Angst, making up problems for himself that weren’t there. Making up problems for himself and then obsessing about them until they consumed his existence. Turning them inward, turning a lack of confidence into a void where self-worth is supposed to be, and that sucked every emotion, every feeling of goodnessinto a place where it couldn’t escape to soothe the rest of him.
“Mickey?” It was two days later his mother couldn’t find him in his room. “Mickey, are you here?” She went looking for him in the rest of the house, in the living room and kitchen. “Mickey, there’s a phone call for you. I think it’s one of your friends.”
She opened the door to the garage. “Mickey, are you—“