A band member grieves for a lost brother.
Daniel’s gaze shifts toward the window of his apartment, and his eyes take in the ambience of the city. Illuminated streetlights, flashing billboards, car horns blaring; and he feels disconnected from it all. To him, the only thing that makes its presence clear is the sick feeling in his gut; one he hasn’t felt relief from in months.
He turns back to his television and continues to flip through the channels. Everything he expects to be on appears. Corner Gas and its mediocre sense of humour, Pat Robertson and his insane preaching, reality shows on MTV that make him want to kill the cast members. He continues browsing the channels, almost unconsciously. Suddenly, he sits upright on his couch and turns backwards to CBC, his attention unwillingly captured by the night’s top story.
“A police investigation into the burning of an apartment building last August has revealed that the inferno may have been a case of arson,” says the reporter. “Toronto city police have put forth this statement after a months-long investigation into the cause of the fire that burned down Danforth West Apartments…”
Daniel’s head aches at hearing this. He buries his face in his hands, trying to forget, but the memories always rush back to him. Pain, anguish, misery were all he had felt of late, nothing he did could get rid of them, only quell them temporarily, if that.
He turns his thoughts instead to a more pleasant memory, from two years ago. Bringing forth everything his senses remembered from that night, he reconstructs the memory, losing himself in it.
The lights beamed down, the crowd roared with excitement, the guitars blared from their amplifiers. Daniel lost himself in the music as his feet rapidly tapped away at the bass drum pedals, his hands moving from snare to tom in quick succession.
Several feet in front of him, Tom, their vocalist, growled in a demonic manner. Adrian and Gus, the guitarists, played the riffs of the song with such ease they made it look like child’s play. Most present in the memory however, was the low tone of the bass, rhythmically following the rest of the music, played by Matt. He was one of the most dynamic bassists Daniel had ever seen, able to play along with the rhythm of the drums or the guitar, and switch seamlessly between the two at exactly the right moment.
Daniel increased his pace as the song approached the breakdown. Gus’ and Adrian’s wrists moved with blurring speed, as if their strings would catch fire at any moment from the friction. The breakdown came to full speed, and Daniel smashed his drums as fast as was needed to keep the pace. Matt bobbed his head in perfect timing with the song, walking to the back towards the drum kit. Daniel watched him approach, and couldn’t help grinning in amusement. Matt firmly planted his foot on the left bass drum and continued the breakdown, his fingers plucking his bass strings at what seemed like inhuman speed, still thrashing his head and whipping his hair in sync with the rhythm. The breakdown slowed, and Adrian broke out into a solo. Matt walked back to the front of the stage to stand beside Gus, having moved on to the next riff, while Tom let out an elongated, high-pitched shriek unlike any sound Daniel might have thought a human being could produce. The feeling of being up there always gave him an adrenaline rush, always managed to make him forget entirely about any stress or anguish he was experiencing in his life.
Daniel’s thoughts are interrupted by a ringing telephone. He stands up from his couch, walks to the kitchen and picks up the receiver.
“Yeah,” he says.
“Dan,” says the voice of Adrian. “The guys and I are meeting up at the bar. You coming?”
“Depends on what the subject of the conversation is,” says Daniel. Adrian sighs.
“Look, I know you don’t like talking about Matt,” he says. “But we need to resolve this. We all felt it when we lost him, but we need to figure out if we can go on without him.”
“I know. Believe me, I don’t like this hiatus anymore than you do.”
“Be there as soon as you can,” says Adrian, and Daniel hangs up the phone. He retrieves his jacket from the closet, checking his pockets for his car keys. He leaves his apartment and takes the elevator to the ground floor.
As he walks out into the parking lot, he immerses himself in the cool night air. He locates his car, starts the engine, and drives off toward the bar he and the rest of the band visited often.
After a few minutes of navigating the busy streets, Daniel locates the bar. He parks outside and walks in, noticing a sharp change of atmosphere, from the damp air outside to the dry, warm air inside. He quickly notices Tom, Adrian, and Gus sitting at a corner booth, and sits down to join them.
“Glad you made it,” says Tom.
“The sooner we get this resolved, the better,” Daniel responds.
“Well, we might as well get right to it,” says Gus, taking a gulp from his beer. “What do you guys think?” Silence ensues for a few moments.
“We can’t replace Matt,” says Adrian in a sombre tone. “I don’t care how talented the next guy is, he won’t be able to take Matt’s place.”
“We know,” says Tom, his voice equaling in melancholy. “Matt can’t be replaced, but we still have to decide if we go on as a band. I think he’d want us to.”
“We don’t know that,” says Adrian.
“And we don’t know that he’d be offended at someone else playing bass for us,” says Gus. “But I don’t think he would be. Nothing could offend Matt.”
The three chuckle to themselves. Daniel, however, can’t help but let his thoughts wander, back to the day that now seemed so long ago.
“Speed it up, will ya?!”Adrian urged him.
“I’m going as fast as I can!” said Daniel. The smoke could be seen from several city blocks away. Daniel drove as fast as he could get away with toward Danforth West Apartments. They parked across the street, as the lot had been blocked off by emergency personnel.
The blaze engulfed nearly the entire building, burning bright against the night sky. Daniel and Adrian rushed out of the car as soon as it was parked, their eyes fixed on the inferno.
They ran recklessly across the street, up to the border the emergency response had set up. One of the firefighters noticed them and walked over.
“Gentlemen, please, stay back,” he said.
“Our friend is in there!”Adrian exclaimed.
“We’ll do what we can to get him out, but please, let us handle this.” The firefighter walked back to the midst of the commotion. Daniel and Adrian could only watch as the inferno continued to consume the building. They stood there, waiting impatiently for hours, until their eyes drifted toward a stretcher being wheeled to an ambulance by paramedics. To his horror, Daniel could see Matt’s blackened face and a dry, straw-like nest that used to be his hair.
“No…” he whispered to himself. He felt his joints stiffen as he nearly collapsed onto the ground. Sitting on the curb, he buried his face in his hands as his body shook violently and his heart felt like it was overcome by a putrid sickness. Adrian sat down beside him, tears flowing from his eyes.
“Daniel,” says Adrian, his voice seeming distant. Daniel shakes his head and returns his mind to the conversation. Looking at the clock, he realizes twenty minutes have passed.
“Sorry,” he says. “Let my mind wander again.”
“What do you think?” asks Adrian. Daniel sits in silence for a moment.
“I want to go visit him,” he says. Sombre looks appear on the other men’s faces.
“We should,” says Tom, standing up from the table. The rest follow suit, and soon enough, they find themselves driving towards a cemetery.
When they arrive, the night air feels colder than it had been before, the sky darker, the shadows more twisted, as if Mother Nature sensed their sorrow and wished to create a fitting atmosphere. Retrieving a flash light from the glove box, Tom leads the way amongst the tomb stones, until they find the one they search for. The four men gather around it in a semi-circle, staring at the engravings in the stone.
Try as he might, Daniel cannot stop the tears from flowing.
“Goodbye, Matthew,” he says. “We loved you as a brother, and as such, will mourn your passing with heavy hearts, though we will always remember you for your life, your laughter, your talent, and your spirit.”
The four hang their heads in mourning, allowing an unknown length of time to pass. After what feels like an eternity, Adrian lifts up his head.
“So….” he begins. “Do we go on?” Once again, silence ensues. After a long pause, Daniel finally forms the words.
“Yes,” he says. “It’s what he would have wanted.”
“Agreed,” Tom and Gus say simultaneously.
“Guess we’ll have to start searching, then,” says Adrian.
“I know a guy,” says Gus. “He’s no Matt, but I think you guys’ll like him.”
“We’ll see,” says Daniel. Incredibly, the weight on his heart feels slightly eased as he looks around at his closes friends, men he had known long enough and was close enough to that he could consider them brothers. Together, they leave the cemetery, ready to move on with their lives and continue their musical endeavours.