Stepping out the back door bright fall sun hits my face causing momentary blindness. In the wash of white-gold there’s a memory of summer sunlight, a different back door. I’m following my dad out to the shed, from the kitchen radio Kurt Cobain is caterwauling something about a Heart Shaped Box. There’s a new box set coming out with “all new” songs never before released.
“I thought they released everything already?” I ask Dad, glad I can’t hear the hoarse voice anymore.
Dad shrugs. “They just tweak the quality or whatever, people will still buy it.”
My nose wrinkles. “That’s stupid.”
“People were really upset when he died. I worked with a guy; he took a personal day when he got the news.” Dad pulls the shed door open and wheels out the lawn mower.
I cross my arms. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s not like they knew him.”
The blindness clears in a second and I continue down the back steps. The weatherman said it would be high sixties today but at ten o’clock it’s still chilly for the midriff top I’m wearing. But I’ve got a concert to hit up and no way am I going to see Avenged Sevenfold without showing off the matching Deathbat and Revbat tattoos on my hips. I saw the Rev once, from the middle of a crowd at the Murat, he was hidden mostly behind his expansive kit, I never even got close enough for a wave, though I hung around in the twenty degree February air with others hoping to catch another look at the band until security shooed us away. The Rev’s skeletal face and batwings are protected with the highest grade of sunscreen made.
I got the tattoo in England in March, three months after Reverend died, I didn’t want to wait until the Study Abroad trip was over and I knew there would be resistance from my parents. I can hear it now they may be your favorite band now, but you said that about Linkin Park. The paper isn’t folded, I don’t know Snappy like I know my guy back home, I don’t want a crease to mess up the design. It’s obvious he’s not expecting a skull with batwings when I hand him the picture, I try to keep my smile from being too sarcastic. No butterflies or flowers for this chick thank you very much. He covers the surprise quickly and heads to the back to trace it out.
“So, why’d you pick this?” Snappy has an accent, not a heavy one but just enough to give the mundane words an exotic flare. Needles burn across my skin and their hum mingles with the sound of other peoples’ ink and the “rawr-rawr-scream-rawr” music playing softly from overhead speakers.
“You know the band Avenged Sevenfold?” He’s running over my hip bone and the uncomfortable burn turns to a sharp pang. He shakes his head, his eyes never leaving the lines he’s etching. “Oh, well, this their drummer. He died a couple months ago.”
“They were a local band?” Needles nick my hip again and I stare up at the tiled ceiling. My guy back home has the ceiling plastered with tattoo art. “No, they’re pretty big. They’re on Warner’s label, they’ve done a couple of international tours.”
“You get to meet them?”
“Uh, no.” Now I feel like I need to explain myself, but how do I explain to someone who hasn’t heard of the band? Because really, if you don’t know, you don’t know and there’s no explaining it. I go back to staring at the ceiling trying to find the words. “Their music means a lot to me.” which sounds so lame. I don’t have Jack London’s face tattooed anywhere and I fucking love Call of the Wild. “He died real suddenly, I was…upset.” that certainly didn’t help with the lameness, what I really want to say is devastated. The ceiling tiles are no more interesting than they were a minute ago but my mind is starting to get all drifty and woozy from the needle abuse. I’m trying to think of how the Rev would answer Snappy’s question but all I’m getting is the clip of him chasing geese through the park, screaming like the madman he was. Then there was the time he was totally sauced and threw a full glass of Guinness in his face just to make his friends laugh. I prod my wayward thoughts back to explaining myself to Snappy.
This guy doesn’t want my life story, he’s just making conversation like any good artist, but it’s going to take my life story for this to make any sense. He doesn’t care or need to know that I used to have something akin to anxiety attacks if more than five people took notice of me at once, or that until I started listening to and following Avenged Sevenfold I was terrified of meeting new people, I was unbearably awkward, suffered from crippling shyness, and avoided new environments and situations like a vampire avoids silver. I’m no extrovert by any means, but without their music, without knowing the Rev no matter how distantly, I wouldn’t be lying on this table right now in England getting a tattoo.
I can’t tell Snappy I spent the week after I got the news of his passing hardly eating, moping around my room, not speaking to anyone, occasionally bursting into tears without provocation. I can’t tell him I only recently started listening to the music again because hearing his voice in the backing vocals unraveled me. And it’s not that I “can’t” it’s that I can’t, it’s like I’ve lost my friend, my mentor, my guide to life. And I didn’t know him at all.
“It’s kind of hard to explain.” I finish the inarticulate explanation. He nods. “This is the third one this week I’ve done, not with this design, but involving this guy.”
In the car, I pop in Nightmare and the opening piano fades into heavy drums that I hammer on the steering wheel. Doors open in two hours, my sixth time seeing The Boys, third time this year, fifth time without the Rev.