I am completely obsolete. It comes and goes, and really, probably doesn’t mean anything. I did this to myself. Doubt and shame are real mind killers, and it was hard to make them shut up once they got on a roll. What the fuck was I thinking when I got myself into this? To be honest I wasn’t even that bad; the real problem was that he was that good. I have become the least valuable member of this group. I’m worse than a weak link – I’m a liability. Looking back, it’s silly really. I can get caught up in that swirling, intoxicating rush of self-involvement. The jealousy, rage, remorse, contempt, depression, it all comes flooding into my brain, blurring my vision down to little white pinpoints that hang in front of me like stars. For moments at a time, it feels like my mind dumps out of the back of my head, and I can just look at myself standing there dumbly. From here I feel kind of serenely removed, somehow apart from the stress and tragedy of it all.
We were singing some song I didn’t know yet, but he did. He always does. I knew from day one when he came in for auditions and was all nonchalant; he didn’t even have a piece prepared. Holy crap, look at this guy. He had to duck to get his lanky frame and bushy, orange mass of hair under the doorway. No way will this guy fit in with us. He stands out too much to blend. He just picked up some sheet music we had sprawled out on the massive coffee table we always used for picking new songs. And he sang it perfectly on the spot, which is what really pissed me off. Ridiculous. There’s no way we can turn down someone with a voice like that. And that was that. He came out of nowhere, and suddenly became the centerpiece of our collection.
Anyway I didn’t think too much of it, and it didn’t really hit me until the first rehearsal a week later, so here we were all singing this song I didn’t know yet, and I looked around and all I could see was that obnoxious twinkle in everybody’s eyes. Shit, look at them staring at him. What am I doing here? Are they taking this seriously? The way they watched him made me think of some sort of fucked up nativity scene in which baby Jesus is played by a seven-foot tall carrot top. It took one rehearsal and this looming, unassailable jerk-off managed to make me feel completely exposed. It felt like being one of those shitty plastic chandeliers that hang in Applebees and TGIF’s, the kind that only manage to shine brightly enough to keep you from shoving food up your nose, but not enough to let you see the waitress’s hair weaving in and out of your nacho cheese. Here was this son of a bitch, shining brightly, his voice making sweet love to the ears of my friends, and they just lapped it up greedily. It wasn’t supposed to be about the music. It was the experience I craved, the process of creating and exploring a social dynamic that revolved around the intimate exercise of bearing your soul out of your throat.
These assholes were in love with the guy. I wondered if any of them remembered what it was like to sing a song, and get it horribly wrong on the first time. How we’d howl awfully over those first glorious notes, and throw our heads back, cackling like idiots. Now it was all business. I can’t believe this is happening. I wanted to strangle him. Strangle that big, wretched adam’s apple until it burst, spilling his rich, powerful voice into the open where I could stamp on it until it wasn’t so pretty anymore and didn’t put that insipid glint in their eyes.
That night, I thought it over some more, and decided that I was being stupid. He was a nice guy, he made everyone laugh, and damn was he a good bass. So what if he’s several orders of magnitude better than me or anyone else in the group? I should be so lucky to work with someone of his caliber. Everybody else gets it, and that’s what puts the big dopey grins on their faces. But it was a shaky resolution. It was the kind of resolution that was doomed to fall through at the first sign of duress. I could see it hanging there like a generic brand paper towel in a commercial. And I could imagine it being held taught there by my desire to do what was best for the group. No, it wouldn’t hold up for a second against the torrential waves of my hate.
What could I do? I’d made a dedication, and it wasn’t the kind of thing I could just back out of. But of course I knew what I’d do. I’d choke my frustration instead of his big dumb neck, and I’d go to bed scowling at the ceiling, have a dream about robots making love to my grandmother’s kitchen curtains, wake up with a sour taste in my mouth, and somewhere between then and breakfast, I’d find some reason or another to keep smiling at people.