Three teenage kids stuck in the suburbs of New Jersey in the 1970s combined to become a punk band. Instead of it being a summer diversion, they suddenly become famous. Stu, Jimi, and Jane discover drugs, rock-n-roll, and sex--with each other. But the combination of gossip, fame, and drugs is more than a new threesome can handle.
Years later, Stu is in trouble and the three come together to support him. They rediscover each other and their need for each other, but the damage they inflicted on each other may already be too much to overcome. Can their circle of three be more than sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll?
* * * * *
I stared at the information I’d scribbled on the notepad. Harkness Pavilion. ICU. Possible heart attack.
Jane. I underlined her name; then I reached over the body in the bed again.
“What’s wrong?” She pushed her dark hair out of her face and stared up at me. Her sleepy face tightened with concern. “There’s a problem?”
“Yeah. Sorry...” I didn’t like doing one-night stands nowadays. I’d been with this woman for three months, thinking this time I could make it work. But right then I knew we weren’t going anywhere.
I couldn’t remember her name.
“Sorry. It’s an emergency. I have to go.”
Jane was the one I needed, but I had just enough sense not to call her in front of...of...
“I’ll talk later, Terri. If I’m not back by morning, just let yourself out. Sorry.”Sorry. Sorry.
I pulled on my briefs and began to wrestle myself into my shirt, trying to remember where my shoes were. I’d lived here for almost nine months now, and suddenly I couldn’t remember where anything was. Or why I was here.
I wished I was home. With Jane.
She’d never believe me if I told her, though. We’d had nine months...no, we’d had years for me to show her differently.
But she’d understand about Stu. She had always understood everything about Stu and me. That’s why we’d stayed together for so long. That’s why we were apart now.
* * * * *
“Fuckin’ great, man.” Stu giggled as we walked back from the train station. “It was fuckin’ great. All of it.”
I shivered in my black T-shirt, freezing from the dawn’s cold and from exhaustion. It was late...or early. Really early. I was so tired my eyes were crossing. But Stu was right. It had been great. I’d never seen anything like it, and the music was just the start.
Stu giggled again and wobbled a little. I grabbed him before he fell off the sidewalk. The smell of weed was strong on him, along with sweat and spilled beer. It smelled like CBGB. It smelled like freedom.
“It sure fucking was.” I kept my arms around him, and we staggered along together.
“We could do that, man.”
“Be the Ramones. Nah. Be bigger than the Ramones, the Heartbreakers, and the Dictators all put together.”
I stared at him. Even when buzzed at three a.m., I knew that sounded nuts.“You need to sleep it off, Stu.”
“No. We could be like them. I can play bass, whatever we need. And you can play.”
He was half-right. Stu could play. After just a few weeks around him, I knew he was more serious about the guitar than anything else in his life. But saying I could play was -- well, he was high.
“Not like you, I don’t.”
“Yeah, but you could. You’d do lead. And vocals.”
“Sing? Jesus, Stu!”
“You look right. So pretty. “ He squinted over at me. “You’d look good mussed up a little for an album cover.”
The last singing I’d ever done was for school chorus before my voice broke. “The album cover would work only because no one would have to hear me there. And we’d need a drummer. And someone to write our material -- oh yeah, and time to do all this. Finals are coming up for the quarter.”
“We’ll practice. Work our asses off. Then we can get the hell out of this place and screw finals.” Stu looked at me. “I have to get out of here, Jimi H. My aunt and uncle are driving me crazy. I’m driving them crazy. Ir-irreconcilable differences. We all wonder a hundred times a day how my mom got us living together.”
I looked at the quiet streets and the old Victorian homes surrounding us. Bergen County wasn’t big enough to hold Stu. I wasn’t sure New York City was big enough.“We’re graduating in a few more months, man. You can leave then.”
He shook his head. I understood. Months of waiting wasn’t his style.
Stu’s stoned eyes looked enormous as they stared into mine. It was almost like he was seeing into me. “What about you, man? You need to get away even more than I do.”
It could be CBGB every night. The music, the people. The just plain crazy energy of the Lower East Side and Bleeker Street. Every night, all night. It wasn’t quiet there at three a.m. It was never quiet.
I glanced at Stu. I’d be hanging out with him. He was his own personal CBGB, complete with loud music and crazy energy. It was like being plugged into electricity when all you’d had before was candlelight. How did you go back to your old ways of living after experiencing that?
His muscles bunched under my arm, and I felt his body heat as he lurched closer. With his touch, another shot of power surged through me. He was crazy. His plans were too much to hope for. But even the faintest hope it would happen was too good to completely turn down.
“I can’t sing. But if you remember this conversation when you wake up, Stu, we can talk then.”
* * * * *
It was still ridiculously early in the morning. Jane sounded awake and remarkably calm, considering. Something settled down inside me at just the sound of her voice.
There had been times I’d hated that unshakable confidence of hers. But this wasn’t one of those times.
“I need your help. Well, Stu does.”
“What’s he done now?” Jane’s voice sharpened, just a moment, then calmed again by the next question. “What’s happened to him?”
“I’m not sure yet. He’s in surgery, and I’m at the hospital waiting to hear. It doesn’t sound good, though. His heart -- it stopped. Twice.”
“Oh God.” I heard her breath hiss in. “If I show up, how much of a circus will there be outside?”
“Everything is out there but the elephants. We have monkeys, tigers, and a brass band in the lobby.” I was steady enough to feel almost amused. We both knew how much I hated that crap.
Jane was our planner -- she always figured out what our moves should be before anyone else. I’d been stunned when I saw the paparazzi at the entrance. I’d forgotten what it was like since I wasn’t newsworthy anymore. I was the boring one, the one who had always been the background. The one who went to law school, for God’s sake. But Stu had always been news and always would be. After all, he still lived up to our old rep. And people had been waiting to hear about his miserable death for years.
Meanwhile, Jane hadn’t forgotten anything about what it was like. Of course. It was reassuring to know she could still think circles around everyone else, even at 4 a.m.
“Did one of the tigers get a bite out of you when you arrived?”
“Nah. I bribed someone in the hospital to put on my sunglasses, walk past them, and say no comment. After they ran after him, I headed for the elevators. One or two of them figured it out, but it was too late.”
“That was very devious.”
“It’s kind of depressing to realize they’d mistake just any balding guy with sunglasses for me. Damn them. The guy had a pot belly and a backward baseball hat.”
“I’ll miss the shades, though.” I tapped my empty sunglass case nervously. Whenever I had the chance, I’d always used them for protection from the cameras.
“I’ll find a side door to get in. Let me make a few calls first to arrange everything. Thank God the kids are still sleeping.”
“Don’t take too long.” The banter had lifted my black mood only so much.
“Hang tight until I get there.”
Like I was going to go back out anytime soon. The press was waiting.“I’m still in the waiting room near surgery. They’ve barred reporters here.” At least until they figured out how to worm their way in. “Jane?”
“I’m his emergency contact. Do you suppose that means something?”
There was a long pause. “Seeing as it’s Stu, I don’t know.”
“Yeah. Me either.” If he hadn’t changed anything, that made Jane and me his next of kin...or the closest thing Stu had to next of kin.
“But, Jim, if he left the funeral arrangements up to me, he better be good and dead when I get there, because I will kill him.”
I hung up the pay phone and realized I was smiling.
Copyright © Treva Harte