We've been practicing for about an hour when the door opens with a bang. Standing in the threshold, as if wondering whether he actually wants to come in, is Piano, a mocking little half-smile dangling from his lips. When he deigns to enter he's stumbling, still suffering the excesses of the previous night.
Once he finally gets to it, as usual, it takes fifteen minutes of him working his genius on the piano for the rest of us to catch up and figure out what tune he wants us to carry.
Next song, and Drums and Guitar share a look and both start playing the same tune. Perfectly synchronized while the rest of us scramble to catch up and Piano ignores them to do his own thing. It's always like that between them, never quite figured out how they did it.
As they sing they all try to stay away from their microphones, afraid we'll realize they don't quite know the lyrics, and as usual it falls to me to carry out the singing.
I still maintain it was unfair to make me the singer, since both Guitar and Piano had better voices than I could ever hope to have, but they can't be arsed to remember the lyrics and I usually have them memorized in minutes.
It had been funny to watch them scrambling to cover up, that one time I lost my voice –long story, don't ask. Just know that it involved Vegas, a stripper and a dare.
Guitar had to give up playing and take over the mic, his voice powerful but stumbling over the same words he's heard me sing a million times. After that he brought me milk and increasingly far-fetched home remedies until I got my voice back, almost a week after my trip.
If I ever so much as cough now they drag me to bed and cover me in blankets, and ply me with sweet drinks and orange juice.
Barney –that'd be piano- offers me shots, too, on the logic that alcohol will kill just about anything.
How unexpected, Guitar has actually taken over the mic –oh, of course, there is a girl in the practice room I've never seen before and there he goes, looks into her eyes and starts with a bloody trite love song.
It's one of his moves, just like flipping his bangs out of his eyes, or the long look he throws from the other side of the room, eyes half-lidded and charged with lust and mystery. Every other week there's a lucky girl –sometimes even a groupie, though God knows those are rare- getting a song while Guitar pins her with soulful eyes from the stage.
It's the only time he takes the mic from me, and I usually just stand there like an idiot, waiting for the song to be over. Guitar, Drums and Piano could easily switch instruments for a song, and Bass never gets pulled from his, but when I'm not singing I've no-where else to go. I can't even play it cool –you know, step down, grab a beer, and kick back and watch- because for starters, I don't drink beer, and well, yeah, I don't do cool all that well either.
And I'm back on with a song, slow and thank heavens Piano is feeling charitable and he backs me up in the singing, cause there's no way I can reach those lows on my own.
Yeah, we are a little, pathetic, dysfunctional family, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Because if they weren't such assholes, I wouldn't even be part of the band, I wouldn't be needed, I wouldn't even get to be the kid that fetches water for the actual artists. Stars, cause that's what they'd be if they were just a little bit less busy being fucked up and messing with each other.
Today we are working quite amicably, and that scares the crap out of me, because when they play like this, helping each other, everybody pitching in, I can see how good they are –could be- and how much they just don't need me.
And deep down I know there's a day coming where they'll grow up and be all they can be and see that I'm extra, that my journey with them must come to an end and that I must be shed like an old skin, and they'll sit with me and very gently explain that they really appreciate all I've done for them and for the group, but that they have to let me go now.
And that will be even worse, because I won't even get to be bitter, because I fucking knew it was coming before I even signed up to join.