Chapter 12 I’m With The Band
The next morning they all awoke one by one at the early hour of dawn. They all rubbed their twinging necks and backs and gave each other shit for being so stupid for sleeping sitting up on the couches, especially these couches which they found in a scrap heap, and had hints of scabies when they first got them and cleaned them.
They recovered from their twinges with whiskey and a hearty breakfast, as well as a hash pipe session that Seth was so kind to initiate. Jack asked what the plans were and Conner responded, “Well, we have practice today at five to eight. Before and after that we’re free, but before practice I’m gonna take a nap.”
“You know what we should do today,” said Hal, “role a fat joint, and I mean cigar sized, and we go to the forrest, drink some beers and have some fun.”
After about forty five minutes of rolling joints, packing food, and arguing for shotgun, they shipped off in what was an hour long drive into where Jack had no idea, it was some transcendent place in the Cascades. The more they went on these nameless freeways and roads that went deeper and deeper into the trees and fields the more Jack was getting lost in the awe of the sights before him. With every turn, with every mile came more and more beautiful blue sky lines dotted with puffs of white and the ground was just a bloom with the most vibrant greens, browns, and reds. The almost neon technicolor wildflowers sprung from the hills and dotted the green horizon. Jack had never seen anything so beautiful, so worthy of awe, in his entire life.
They eventually reached some huge park that Jack had never heard of, it was a popular local spot. After they parked the group carried their blankets, food, and drugs deep into the forest on some painful yet pristine path. Eventually settling on a spot deep in the woods far away from everyone, right next to a small lake surrounded by a grove of trees like a white picket fence, protecting our friends from the harms of the outside world.
They began their day. Joints were lit and the boys talked, some vented about their girl troubles, Hal went on tangents about the need for music and art in society, while Conner strummed a small acoustic guitar, and Jack just got high and listened. He was paying attention to what his new friends were saying and taking all of their words and perspectives truly to heart. However, he wasn’t in the conversation; he was not even looking at them when they passed him the joint. He was still lost in the awe that was before him; the shimmer of the lake, and the shine of the sun with its sweet reflection on the clouds in the sky, along with the circle and the bounty of the trees before him. Jack couldn’t help losing himself in it for some reason.
Jack was amazed and lost in the beauty before him. It wasn’t until Hal said something that he was shaken out of his nature coma.
“JACK!” yelped Hal with a smile. “You good over there bro? You haven’t said anything for a while.”
“I’m fine,” Jack replied. “Just, you know…” Jack was too stoned to think of an eloquent response.
“Just lost in the forest, huh?” Hal completed with a smile and without hesitation.
Jack nodded, “Yeah. I don’t know why, it’s just so..”
“I know why!” Hal interjected again. “It’s because its’ the brain kicking in your natural instincts. Our brains are so caught up in the artificial world we feel we need to survive we ignore the states of emotions we get just by coming out of the artificial. Just by coming out here you’re just getting a taste of what prehistoric man saw and experienced. You’re getting a taste of what the Natives saw before we stole their land and you’re feeling what the first pioneers must have felt when they saw the world beyond what they were used to. Now anyone could say these aren’t natural instincts, these are romantic fairy tales, that being awe struck isn’t a natural instinct but just psychological romanticism.
“But they are wrong. All our emotions, are somehow in-tuned to some animal instinct we have. Our awe of nature is our instinct of reflection on the self and the world. It’s through this reflection that we are able to see who and what we really are and can be the more wiser for it.
“It was the awe and beauty that ancient man felt that inspired him to create song and paint on walls, which are the things that make life worth living. Now some say that still isn’t natural and we don’t need those things, but again they are wrong. If it wasn’t for our songs and our art and these outlets, these entertainments, then we would be just like every other animal. That’s what makes humans so cool, we not only have animal instincts but our instincts also become both analytical and psychological while still standing in the romantic.” Hal paused for a minute and tried to remember what he was originally talking about. His speech returned to its normal speed when he said, “So I know why you felt awe struck.”
Jack didn’t say much in response. he just smiled nodded, he said that it made sense, and passed Hal the joint.
The hours passed, Jack and the others had become incredibly stoned, they were blotchy and red from the sun, and were out of food. As the sun slipped away and the sky began slipping to its tri-colored beautiful warning sign of the night, they shipped off and returned home.
Once back, Seth gathered his things and left to go back to his place. He said his goodbyes to Conner, Hal, Jason, and Jack and promised to be back for practice the next day. Jason left soon after.
Once Seth and Jason were gone, Conner got a big box of Pizza Bagels and heated them up while Hal put on a movie. Conner then passed out beers and they sat and passed the hours of the night once again.
“When’s your guys gig?” asked Jack when he remembered.
“In two more days, at 10:30 at some house party.” said Conner. “It should be pretty awesome. Tons of beer, tons of girls, you know just a fun time and a hopefully good show.”
“It will be good,” said Hal with his usual enthusiasm. “We got lasers and bubbles!”
The days passed in the manner that Jack had become accustomed, in a smoke filled haze. After hours and hours of pot smoking and cartoon watching, the day of the gig came. They all left for the party, and Jack acted as sort of a roadie. He helped them set up and enjoyed the benefits of telling the passers by at the party he was with the band.
The crowd grew and built in mass. Soon the house was full to burst with people like a 19th century ship on the Atlantic filled with East European immigrants. Jack was front and center when the show began, first with a cover of the Red Hot Chili peppers’ “Can’t Stop.” It was the minute the intro peaked with the guitar solo that she walked in.
Jack was frozen stiff. Jack had never seen anyone so beautiful, so original, and so soft of an air. Thanks to a stroke of luck, her eyes caught his, and both looked away with a smile, and both drifted closer and closer to each other as the band played their set. Eventually they met, and Jack extended his hand.
“What’s your name?” he yelled over the deafening guitars and drums.
“Kate.” She said with that sweet auburn smile that hypnotized Jack.
“I’m Jack,” he responded, searching for the next thing to say.
“You have a very strong grip.” Kate said to him. Both couldn’t help but giggle at how awkward and dorky the other felt.
The night carried on with the most minimal and awkward of back and forths between the two, but one thing was desperately obvious. The two were already falling in love with each other.
Jack didn’t want to believe it, but he did. He didn’t know what it was, but there was something about this girl. The more time he spent next to Kate, dancing with her, talking with her, the more he couldn’t bare the idea of being apart from her. He wished the music wouldn’t stop and that this party would never end. Jack had never felt like this before in his life. The warmth of her body as he held her close sent a sensational tingle up his spine. He didn’t want her to leave, he did not want to let her go.
Soon the gig ended, and the party slowly dispersed, but they still held each other close and still talked. On the surface it seemed like idle chit chat. Yet Conner and Hal could see in Jack’s eyes that he was falling for Kate, and decided to help him seal the deal.
“Hey Jack,” said Hal, “I see you met our friend Kate.”
“I did. She was telling me she’s learning to be a nurse.” Jack replied.
“And I was about to ask Jack about his tattoo,” added Kate, much to Jack’s despair.
Kate saw the frozen look of despair on Jack’s face and she knew that it was her last comment that made it happen. But it confused her to no end.
“What’s wrong?” She asked.
“I didn’t want to tell you so soon. The barcode is a prison tattoo. They’re my numbers from when I was in Leavenworth.” Jack, for the first time, felt pure unadulterated shame when he had to say that, the only thing Jack was ashamed of before this was trying to tell his dad he loved him when he was five, and his dad laughed and beat him and called him a faggot.
Jack couldn’t even look her in the eye when he said it. Hal was so uncomfortable he just slipped away. But Kate only smiled, she lifted Jack’s chin up with her fingers, and led his face toward hers.
They kissed, and for the first time in his whole life, Jack let his guard down, and he let the warmth of the woman he loved into his life.