Roadie Friday

Jibbers entered the duty-free at Charles de Gaulle. His left hand carried a black duffel bag, and his right hung awkwardly by his side in a bright white cast. The duffel was filled with dirty laundry, a plastic bag of hotel soaps and shampoos, and a life-sized wooden skull wrapped in an old Anthrax hoodie. The security agent had taken the black and silver skull out of the bag to examine it. Fake diamonds the size of walnuts were glued to the eye sockets. The agent turned it over and laughed. Jibbers had bought the skull for his girlfriend, Viki from a scruffy, red-faced vendor at Hellfest — 15 Euros. It weighed practically nothing. He hadn’t spoken to her in days, and she had no idea that he was coming home four and a half weeks early. His plan was to go to the wine-bar in terminal 2 with the complimentary wifi, get drunk, and see if she could pick him up at LAX in fourteen hours. As he turned the corner, he saw someone that looked like Alejandro trying on a pair of Ray-Bans. And it was.

“Oh shit,” he said, letting the duffle fall to the floor. “Get into goddamned my arms.”

“Jibbers! You motherfucker!” Alejandro said, eyes widening.

The two men embraced — arms stretching across each other’s backs. Jibbers lifted Alejandro off the ground for a moment.

“I didn’t know you were out! Who you with?” asked Alejandro.

“Back with AoD. Just a couple weeks.”

“No shit! How are those guys?”

“Same old assholes. I actually just got shit-canned.”

The words left his mouth easily. He had been drinking for most of the last forty-eight hours.

Alejandro’s smile waned.

“Shit, dude,” he said.

“Eh. I’m over it. Apparently it’s not cool punch the window out of a tour bus anymore.”

Jibbers watched Alejandro look down to the cast on his right hand, covering up the tattoos on his knuckles. Only the word FAST remained visible on his left — a half-message to the world.

“Damn. You alright?” asked Alejandro.

“I’m over it. How long you got?”

“Two hours. You?”

“Like five. We doing this?”

Alejandro laughed.

“Sure,” he said.

“I need a spritz. I’ve been dogging it for days.”

Jibbers walked over to the colognes. His hair hung down to his shoulders in greasy strands — beard bristling with black and grey. An attendant standing nearby smiled. He started browsing the selection, picked up a Burberry tester and sprayed his neck twice and once under each arm.

“Plaid bath,” he said to the attendant.

Alejandro laughed again. The two locked arms, and walked into the terminal.

They met on tour many years ago. It was Alejandro’s first time on the road. Jibbers had been with Agony of Defeat for a year or so, and the band had just had one of their songs used in a video game — Zone of Action III: Scorched Earth. They had their first real budget. Jibbers was the lead-guitar tech on stage right, and Alejandro did rhythm and bass on stage left. During the set, Jibbers would often lob cans of beer over the band to Alejandro, who would catch and empty them in a single fluid motion — suds streaming down his dark goatee, onto his shirt. But the two never missed a guitar change, or failed to remove a water bottle or tossed shoe from the stage. They went everywhere on that record — Europe, South America, Russia, Australia, three tours of the states. It was huge in the metal world.

The follow up record didn’t create the same buzz. Money ran out. Over the next few tours, they lost their lighting tech, and monitor engineer. The remaining crew members started having to share hotel rooms. They went from two semi-trucks, to one, to a bus and trailer. But it was still fun. Between the two of them, Jibbers and Alejandro could finish most of the rider beer. The band guys would even egg them on — see how many they could drink during the set. Back then, every day was Roadie Friday — it didn’t matter if there was a show the next day or not. Jibbers and Alejandro would roll out of their bunks at load in — red-eyed and miserable — crack a Budweiser, and hit the stage.

The wine-bar was somewhere between their gates. A dark haired waiter in a maroon vest came over to their table. Jibbers ordered a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, and the waiter corrected his pronunciation — du instead of do. Jibbers lifted his middle finger and scratched the corner of his left eye.

“I fucking hate France,” he said as the waiter walked away.

Alejandro laughed, cleared his throat, and waited for Jibbers to speak.

“You’re still with Maroon 5, right?” Jibbers asked.

“Yeah. Yeah. Can’t get away.”

Alejandro looked at the table as he spoke.

“It’s a great gig, man. Terry still TM?”

They talked like that for an hour, weaving in and out of half-remembered nights — Czech hospitality girls, fist fights in Mexico City — then returning to people they knew from their small and scattered network. But after a while they grew silent. They’d run out of the familiar, and were left with only the unsaid things. This was the point that Jibbers dreaded the most.

They finished the bottle. Jibbers ordered another, shouting ‘garçon’ across the restaurant, and hamming up his french for the waiter. It was obvious that Alejandro didn’t want to drink with him anymore. He had been looking at his phone every couple of minutes, and even set his wallet out on the table. Jibbers ordered anyway. He ordered like it was 2005 in Barcelona — Alejandro’s first time overseas. They found that absinthe bar deep in the Gothic Quarter. Supposedly Keith Richards’ favorite. Jibbers was the guide and Alejandro the kid from New Jersey who didn’t even know what absinthe was. The first of their flames dissolved into the pale green fluid and Jibbers shouted “To Valhalla!” They drank up. Then they drank some more. The ancient bar began to animate with side-eyed Spaniards and maniacal laughter. Books lay untouched on cobwebbed shelves for a hundred years. He couldn’t recall the bartender’s face, just a shadow and a smile. There were girls as some point, asking them what they did. “Pirates,” said Alejandro, biting the shoulder of a dark-haired Spanish woman, who laughed and slapped him across the face with her handbag.

Together they saw the places that no one in their families would ever see, and stayed in hotels that they could never afford. None of their friends at home could ever really understand what it was like to live as they did — the pace, the madness. But now, with time, it seemed that they were left with only a husk of experience to reminisce about — nothing real or important. A part of him wondered if perhaps it had always been that way and that they never noticed beneath the moving lights and Jack Daniels. But another part of him knew exactly when things had turned.

Alejandro straightened in his chair. He looked up from the table.

“So I don’t think I’ve seen you since your kid.”

Jibbers took a long sip.

He wanted to speak. To take control, but couldn’t find the words or strength.

“Dude. I’m so sorry I didn’t make it to the funeral. We were in the middle of an Australian run. Shit was just crazy.”

“Dude. You don’t have to,” he said, trying to wave the conversation away.

Jibbers himself had been on tour when he got the call. Somewhere in Scandinavia.

Alejandro’s face contorted, as if he were preparing to pull a large and cumbersome object from his throat. He had worked himself up to this and there was no stopping him.

“It’s just…I’m so sorry, man,” he said, twisting in his chair, “I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for you guys.”

“Thanks,” was all Jibbers could say.

It occurred to him that Alejandro probably thought that he and Cynthia were still together. That he didn’t know they separated six months before Jagger had even died, saying she couldn’t take the life anymore. Or that he had only seen his son every other weekend when he was home from tour. He couldn’t have known that Jibbers hadn’t been in the same room with her since the funeral, or that he couldn’t even look at her, standing on the other side of the church, lost in grief and rage. That he had no idea where she even lived anymore, or whether she was still a bartender like she was the night Jagger had his bike out too close to the boulevard. And that it was Henry, her step-dad, who got a hold of Jibbers to tell him what had happened and that through choking sobs said that he was sorry — that he was supposed to stay out front of the house. But Alejandro had been on the road and didn’t know anything.

“Sympathy, bro,” Alejandro said, with great emphasis, placing his fist over his heart.

Jibbers looked away. If ever there was a word that he hated…

He filled each of their glasses to the brim. He raised his and drank deeply, wine filling his mouth, pooling up in the corners of his lips, before setting it down, drained.

“Dude. I can’t,” said Alejandro. “I gotta get this manifest to Terry before I board.”

Jibbers gave him a hard stare. He looked at him as if to say: You will stay with me. You will finish all this wine. And then you are off the hook.

But it didn’t land.

Alejandro got up and opened his wallet.

“Garçon,” he shouted, raising the bottle, motioning for him to bring another.

“Put that away,” said Jibbers.

“You get the next one.”

Alejandro placed five hundred Euros on the table. He lifted the glass and took a sip, setting the stem down on the corner of the bills.

“Come here,” he said, walking over to Jibbers and giving him a hug.

Jibbers wanted to push him away — tell him to fuck off — but he didn’t. They embraced for a moment and like those little pools of wine, a few tears gathered in the corners of his eyes. He opened them wide, and looked to the floor as they parted.

“I’ll ask around to see if anyone is looking for a tech. I’m sure Terry can hook it up.”

Jibbers said nothing and nodded.

“Take care of yourself, dude.”

The waiter appeared with the third bottle. He did not try to hide the look of contempt on his face.

“Merci,” Alejandro said, patting him on the shoulder.

He grabbed the handle of his roller and walked out into the terminal. Jibbers watched him as he pulled out his phone and started to call someone. He wondered if Alejandro was calling Terry, or if that was just an empty promise. Word had almost definitely gotten out about him losing his gig with AoD. He imagined the emails being sent, the conversations backstage about how much of a psycho-drunk he was — uh-hirable. A panic sprouted in his gut, rising up to his chest. Red-wine drunk in an airport bar, headed home early with no money and nothing on the calendar. Then it passed, unable to compete with the greater pains of his existence. Jibbers closed his eyes, letting his head fall to the side a little. He stayed like that for a while.

Halfway through the third bottle, he took out his phone. There, on the lock screen, was a photo of Jagger on his little blue skateboard, wearing a small-sized Megadeth t-shirt — the setting sun of Venice Beach glistening in his blond hair. That smile on his face as he was finally able to balance for a few seconds before putting his foot down on the boardwalk. Jibbers saw this image every time he opened his phone. Sometimes he would see it without the phone — late at night in the darkness of his bunk, a bottle of Jack Daniels near his head. He kept the image on his phone so that he might never forget that day. Home from tour, pocket full of money and a boy who’d run into his arms no matter how little they saw each other. It was the last great day of Jibbers’ life. And no matter what hope or distraction each new one gave, at night he always remembered that it would never be as good.

Jibbers poured the last of the third bottle into his glass. He stood up and stretched. Across the terminal hall he saw that flight 4553 to O’Hare was about to board. Three-hour layover before Los Angeles. For the first time, the reality of being home started to emerge — that California sun he couldn’t block out of the bedroom even with the heaviest blinds; the same boardwalk haunts, same takeout dinners, same bars at night. The only way he could ever tolerate it was to know that in three weeks he’d be back out on the road, lying in a bunk, driving to someplace new.

At his feet, the duffel-bag lay scrunched up beneath the table. The wine-bar had filled up. He knelt down, opened the bag, and pulled out the skull placing it on the table near the salt and pepper shakers.

“Garçon,” he shouted blindly across the restaurant.

The waiter had been standing just a few tables over, taking an order. He looked up at Jibbers and said something to the dinner guests. Walking towards him, he raised his voice, speaking in french.

Jibbers picked up the skull and held it between them.

The waiter continued shouting.

“I want you to have this,” he said, pushing the skull towards the waiter’s face.

He knocked it out of Jibber’s hands, the skull landing on the floor with a hollow clack. It spun around in a circle at the foot a neighboring table. One of the fake diamonds dislodged and skidded across the restaurant.

Two security guards walked through the entrance to the wine bar hearing the commotion. One spoke into a radio strapped to her shoulder. Jibbers smiled as they approached, the waiter shouting behind him. He didn’t understand what was being said, but he knew that it wasn’t going to end well.

Photo by Edward Eyer from Pexels


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