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Period of Decay

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‘What the hell was that?’ Blixa lashes out at me as soon as the dressing room door closes behind us. ‘What the hell are you doing?’
‘Well, I thought…’ I begin.
‘Sorry, I’m not a mind-reader’, hisses Blixa and turns away.

He starts pacing around the room, frighteningly scrawny and dishevelled. Three steps one way, three steps back. I get ripples in my eyes from all that flutter and start staring at the nose of my converse.

Blixa’s got a reason to be peeved. Of course, I diverted the audience’s attention from his precious persona. From his well-calibrated, theatrical anguish. From his carefully applied make-up. From his long legs wrapped in black leather.

Once, the light man even pointed a searchlight on me, when I was sitting on the steps at the edge of the stage, perplexedly gasping for air and trying to realise where I was. At that moment Blixa was out of the spotlight. And the one thing he really does not forgive is disregard.

Suddenly he stops short and stares with a glare of an addict right at my face. That is what I feel at first. Blixa is anxiously looking not at me, but into the space behind my head. I realise that I am obstructing the mirror in front of him — but I don’t move. Blixa bites his lips, smudging the light coffee coloured lipstick, but doesn’t say a word.

In a way, all what has happened was his fault. It seems like nothing works on him anymore. But I got so blown away, that at one point I decided I was finished, that I perceived the meaning of the world and was dying.

It was his idea — to try whatever our new roadie brought for us before the gig. Constant impatience. I wonder, is there a half-life to this shit? Or is that in physics? Wearing-off time, then… We still have a half of the set to go.

I stick all five into my tangled hair. Damn, feels like it’s rolling over me again. In consternation I feel my heart starts pounding frantically. And I always say something out of place, but it’s just keeps coming out.

‘You forgot…’ I point at his rolled up left sleeve. Once he pulled off the belt, he was helping me, and then he probably got distracted and spent the whole half-set walking around like that.

Blixa swears and grabs his elbow crease.

‘I don’t think anybody noticed…’ I try somehow to save the situation.
‘«Noticed!» Who wanted to has already noticed’, he spastically tries to do up the button on the creased cuff.
I shrug.

‘Damn, damn, damn…’ noticeably growing upset, he starts pacing around the room again. The mood is now ruined completely.

‘Leave it’, I suggest. It doesn’t matter, there were like a half-dozen cameras on stage shooting out there. His unique style had become a part of history.

‘Oh no’, his eyes sparkle furiously, ‘Help’.

Blixa stretches out his arm and holds it up while I obediently button up the cuff around his wrist.

The door opens slightly.

‘It’s time’, someone sticks his head in the doorway.
‘I know!’ roars Blixa. Before we leave the room, he turns to me and says with some kind of sadness, ‘And no more ad-libs, alright?’

Walking past me, he sweetly smiles to the mirror behind my back.

***

During the second half of the set I tried to behave quietly. As quietly as possible when you’re bashing on metal sheets. And play as precisely as I could. The audience these days rustles angrily when I improvise with the rhythm or when Alex extends his solos. Everything has to sound just like on the record. How don’t they realise that Yü-Gung is completely impossible to play live?

Rage was rolling over me in waves of heat. I hated them scum who’d listen to us and then go home easily. Our very first, real fans had died of overdose long time ago.

Finally, Alex played the final chord, and Blixa with a smile said his usual ‘Good night to you all’. The crowd bellowed. I lift my eyes off the bassfeder and realise in fright that there were no one there at the mic stand, where Blixa was standing just a moment ago. And our guys, finished playing, were waving back to the contented crowd. Poor lads were trying to imagine that even a tiny bit of that love and worship was for them.

So he left. He is going to get in a car now and leave forever to another continent, leave me forevermore. What is more, the possibility of him crossing the ocean in his car cause me no doubt. Do I need to say that I was completely paranoid?

I have to catch up with him. He told me a while back that he got tired of playing for two bands. And I have no doubt that he won’t choose us. Now I understand why he was so nervous. Today is the day. The last time we played together.

I turned around and left the stage. Everything was a blur in my eyes. I stumbled on a piece of armature and cursed, nearly falling. Someone was persistently showing a clean white singlet into my hands. What a country! On stage you can do whatever you want, but once you’re off, please dress properly, like a regular person, and don’t embarrass everybody with your naked torso. It wasn’t like that before. They were… afraid of us or something. One day we will end up playing in three-piece suits.

The hum behind my back still hasn’t ceased. I pulled the singlet on, burning with righteous anger.

The last time when Blixa pissed me off with his vagaries I just beat him up. That was about… five years ago, no, even longer than that. About the time when he started playing guitar in that other band of his. And told us about it so self-assuredly.

From the very start I felt like something powerful and relentless was taking him away from us… taking him away from me. And that something appeared to be an opiate freak from some Australian punk-band. I’d been trying to figure out why he was better. When it came to playing, neither we nor they didn’t know how to. Clearly, it wasn’t about music.

Back then I was ready to kill him. First, I think, I hit him in the face. I can’t really remember that day, I was too drunk. But I do remember the feeling of a proper punch, and the fear in the eyes of that damn rag-doll.

I was amazed at how easily he stopped defending himself and just let me do to him… whatever I wanted. That drove me even madder. And then he left, leaving blood stains all over the bathroom. We didn’t see each other for quite a while.

Later on, when we started talking to each other again, I asked him, like, how are you? Thank you, great. Pissed blood for two weeks after that, but all in all fine, he said, with an unusually good diction. Then I realised that he put new teeth in. Full mouth of straight teeth. And the three broken ribs, as he explains to everybody who still wanted to hear the story, were an accident during our experiment with percussion techniques.

But still I couldn’t shake the feeling that this damn Aussie wasn’t the most important thing in his life. There was someone else, even closer, more intimate. Maybe his first lover. But not Wolfgang with whom, by the way, we became friends based on solidarity. I didn’t even try to ask Blixa himself, knew he wouldn’t tell the truth, and from his lenient smile I wanted to die, prior to that beating to death a half of Berlin.

I doubt that throughout the years he learned how to scramble. He could become very successful in sophistry, in abstruse lyrics writing. Latin, Old High German, damn it. Words, words, words and nothing behind them. Everybody likes it, and I don’t. It wasn’t the words that I fell in love with him for.

Then I leaned on the wall and nearly started howling from despair. I almost could physically feel his body. His bony shoulders, sharp shoulder blades and narrow back with protruding vertebrae.

I punched the wall, right through a dry bubble of oil paint.

In vain. I remembered everything.

The muscles trembling from strain, thin pitted skin quickly flourishing with bruises, golden fluff along the spine.

I kept punching through and through, skinning my knuckles.

The face in a half-turn, warped by pain. The eyes, black with dilated pupils.

Enough.

The bitten lips, smiling. Intermittent breathing.

No, enough.

The smell of his sweat, bitter from all that chemical shit he’d been poisoning himself with.

Enough!

I slid down to the floor, powerless. The shards of dry paint penetrated my skin, but I didn’t care. I was turning my hand in front of my eyes, examining it in half-darkness — wide and rough — and then I suddenly remembered the pain from his bites.

I’d put my hand over his mouth, usually closer to the end, when his moans were turning into a muffled inhuman scream. He’d try to escape and bite my fingers. Not for real, of course. He couldn’t do it for real, even if he tried. His teeth were crumbling from scurvy and completely done by meth.

And I never really believed he was in such pain. So I wouldn’t hold out much. Therefore, I was not particularly cautious. I recon he was just staging a little play. Some of those modulations he would apply on stage later on, making me blush. So it was like a rehearsal.

He liked looking at himself — at us — in the mirror. With an appraising, absolutely cold stare. Amidst all the screaming. I even once suggested to just tape it all. So we could play it on the backdrop. Like Velvet Underground or someone. But he, of course, only made a scornful face. But definitely noted the idea.

Once, we were lying together, still in the view of that damn mirror, he was staring at our reflection, and then caressed his cheek. So gently… He thought I wouldn’t notice. I did. I’d like to do that, too, but somehow dithered. I even felt something like jealousy.

Another time I found him looking at himself in full height. He stood there, holding himself with his long arms, nearly locking the fingers on the back. His whole figure looked even skinnier and stranger because of that. It seemed like somebody else was holding him. Blixa contemplated himself. He loved his body.

His body… The body he’d give to me in all his generosity. Although not only to me. But to no one and never completely. Wrapped in black leather, turned into a symbol, that I still don’t understand.

We’ve all aged. Andrew’s large forehead of a catholic saint is turning into baldness. I myself feel that I’ve put on weight and became coarse. Sure, so many years working like at a factory. But Blixa is still youthfully thin. And I don’t think he’d learned an uppercut or a left jab.

And it’s unlikely that he’ll start screaming either. He’s too proud to call for help. And those loggerheads are going to sign autographs out there for quite a while.

To feel his warmth again, his shiver, his resistance, his submission. After that conversation today… To hear his voice breaking from pain and joy, saying my name… My name, I’d like to see him try saying somebody else’s!

Like long time ago, in a tiny Berlin apartment he whispered to me in a near-morning fever, ‘Hold me, please. Hold me closer. You know, it’s dangerous outside…’

I remembered all the awkward, gentle words he said to me. Long ago, in our first spring in Berlin, when he tied me to himself, so cruelly and unnecessarily. I wiped the tears with my fist and kept walking along.

The corridor narrowed and widened spastically, the walls painted in grey would stick to one shoulder then another. I cursed people who construct this kind of buildings, but kept walking. This is doomsday. And no hell will tear us apart.

***

After maybe five minutes I get through the twenty-meter corridor and reach the ajar door of the dressing room.
Blixa is standing in front of the mirror, a bit sideways to the door. He doesn’t notice me.

He’s examining his reflection. Closely, even lovingly looking to at himself. He tilts his head and straightens a strand of hair. Then he slightly opens his mouth and touches the glass with his lips.

Kissing himself.

His reflection, after a moment’s hesitation, reciprocates.
Shy at first, but then more and more greedily, staining the glass on the other side with lipstick.

Blixa grins. With one hand he strokes the frame, unbuttoning his shirt with the other.
I stand frozen from horror and incomprehension.

Blixa run his hand along the neck and slides the shirt off his bony shoulder.

And then I realise that there is nothing for me to do around here.