He threw up his hands. “I don’t know what the fuck you’re going to do!”
I stared at him again, utterly bewildered. “What are you talking about?!”
“You haven’t told me anything about what you’re planning to do.”
“I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW YOU GUYS WERE SPLITTING UP FOR TWO MONTHS!” I yelled.
“We’re not ‘splitting up,’ we’re just taking a vacation – ”
“Whatever! You haven’t invited me to stick around, you haven’t – ”
“Because I assumed you WOULD! JESUS!”
That caught me a little off-guard. “Well… you didn’t say that – ”
“Can we NOT do this right now?” Derek fumed. “Can we NOT do this right before the last concert of the fucking tour?”
I balled up my fists. It was just like him to act all shady and then bring up something to make me look unreasonable. “You’re so – so selfish!”
“WHO’S selfish? I have to go onstage in a couple of hours, and you want to fuck with my head about this now? Remind me again who’s selfish.”
“FINE,” I seethed. “As long as we talk about it later – ”
“I don’t see how we WON’T, since all we ever talk about anymore is how I fucking piss you off.”
That was it. I stormed off and yelled over my shoulder, “Maybe if you didn’t eye-fuck everything in a skirt!”
“Maybe if you didn’t IMAGINE me eye-fucking everything in a skirt!” he yelled back.
By that point I was in the elevator, punching the button for the floor where he and I had been staying.
He never followed.
I didn’t see him again until the band left for the final show.
The last concert was just as good as the one the previous night. Maybe even better.
The only difference was in the energy.
It was edgier. Darker. Derek in particular was more aggressive, more combative. Bigger’s heavier, more metal-tinged songs turned downright brutal. Even the love songs had a bitterness to them.
It was all in reaction to me and our fight earlier.
I know, I know. You’re probably saying, Way to make it all about you, Kaitlyn. But I have some evidence to back it up.
Exhibit A: Derek didn’t sing “Girl, Please Stay” at all.
That was a mainstay of their shows, and a fan favorite. Especially a female fan favorite.
But apparently he told the others he wasn’t doing it tonight, because it disappeared from the set list.
And in light of our fight earlier, the fact that he didn’t sing it made me feel like shit.
Exhibit B: the covers they played. Each one seemed like a subtle jab, a passive-aggressive blow.
“No Apologies” by Nirvana.
“She Fuckin’ Hates Me” by Puddle of Mud.
“Give You Hell” by the All-American Rejects.
“One” by U2.
“Savior” by Rise Against. (You have to go listen to all the lyrics to get the message on that one, but at the time when Derek sang it, it felt about as subtle as a hammer to the head.)
Okay, admittedly, there were others that didn’t fit my theory. Like ‘Song 2’ by Blur (more commonly known by the chorus, ‘Woo Hoo!’). Or ‘Seven Nation Army’ by the White Stripes. Or ‘Revolution’ by the Beatles.
But there was one more cover that totally cements my case.
Exhibit C: “99 Problems” by Jay-Z.
It was the only rap song they had ever performed during their tour.
It was also a last-minute addition to the set list. As in, off-the-cuff, no warning at all.
After they finished up one of their own songs, Derek suddenly started talking to the audience.
“This next one, we haven’t actually played live in years… not since we first started out together in Athens…”
The audience started howling.
Killian, Ryan, and Riley all frowned and looked at each other in confusion.
“But you know what?” Derek continued to the audience. “I wanna sing it… ‘cause I’m feelin’ it tonight.”
Then he turned around to the band and channeled Jesse Pinkman from ‘Breaking Bad’:
“‘99 Problems’ – bitch.”
He’d said it into the microphone, too, so the entire arena could hear him.
They went absolutely wild.
Then he hit the first line, which is just Jay-Z rapping – no instrumental backing.
The audience lost their minds.
Exhibit D: the rest of the band knew exactly what was going on.
Except for Mike the backup guitarist. He obviously hadn’t practiced this one, and was completely bewildered by the last-minute addition. But then again, good as he was, I didn’t count him as part of ‘the band.’
The real band – Killian, Ryan, and Riley – all instinctively looked over at me on the side of the stage as soon as Derek announced the song.
Killian seemed worried.
Ryan looked angry.
Riley just shrugged, and slammed into the drums as hard as she could, laying down a pounding beat behind Derek.
If you listen to the song, there’s not a whole lot besides the lyrics, the beats, and the percussion. There’s some heavy, angry guitar chords, and that’s about it.
I’m not saying it’s an easy song, or a simple song. I’m just saying you don’t need an orchestra backing you.
As long as Riley was onboard, Derek was 80% of the way home. And she was; she absolutely killed it, delivering the most awesome drum set of the night, complete with thumping bass, driving snares, crashing cymbals – and even a little cowbell.
As much as I was pissed at her for playing along, I had to admit, she was a genius.
Killian looked like a little boy caught in a fight between his parents. Derek turned around and gestured to him angrily, like Play, motherfucker!
Killian looked at me.
I made a face and shrugged like, It’s okay, he’s just being an ass-hat, go ahead.
Killian still looked conflicted.
Derek was getting angrier, and started stalking towards him as he rapped.
I gestured with my hand – Go ahead.
Killian finally started a fourth of the way into the song.
The first few chords were tentative and weak – probably the worst thing I’d ever heard him play, including that weird, atonal stuff when he was stoned back in Joshua Tree. But as he watched me, and I didn’t seem to be annoyed with him, Killian finally lost the worried look on his face and started performing the song as it was meant to be played: angry, raunchy, and rough.
Ryan, on the other hand, pointedly took off his bass guitar and laid it down carefully on the stage – just like a piece of art.
Then he stood there and just stared angrily at Derek.
Derek swaggered over to him, gesticulating like your stereotypical pissed-off rapper. His body language matched the lyrics perfectly.
In reply, Ryan help up one fist and gave Derek the finger.
It did not go unnoticed by the audience.
They screamed in approval. The only thing they loved more than Derek was Derek getting his ass handed to him.
Derek flipped Ryan off in return, and the crowd shrieked some more.
Then Derek turned back to the audience and continued with the performance.
Ryan looked over at me with a disgusted expression on his face. Like, What a dick.
I smiled tightly and mouthed, Thank you.
He returned a grim smile and nodded.
In reality, the bass wasn’t that important to the song. I’m not even sure if Jay-Z’s recording uses a bass guitar. It certainly wasn’t missed much in the live performance that night in the MGM Grand.
But its absence meant the world to me.
Apparently Derek had 99 problems, but thought ‘the bitch’ wasn’t one.
I decided on something by the end of the song:
She was most definitely about to become one.
That was the plan, anyway.
Didn’t quite work out the way I’d envisioned.
Instead, I seemed caught in a time warp and sent back to the first night I’d seen the band, when I was a wallflower at a dance with the most popular kids in town.
Derek more or less ignored me the entire time. He just hobnobbed with his celebrities, palled around with rock and rap royalty, and signed a lot of bare boobs.
Ryan came up to me almost immediately, though.
“You alright?” he asked, a concerned look on his face.
“Yeah. Thanks for what you did,” I said, truly grateful.
He shook his head and glared out at his best friend clowning amongst the beautiful people. “He can be the biggest fucking asshole in the world when he puts his mind to it.”
I reared back slightly in mock surprise. “WHOA – you used more profanity in that one sentence than in the last five weeks combined! You ARE angry!”
“Damn right I am.” Then he grinned. “Good thing my sisters weren’t around to hear that.”
“Or your mother. She might have washed your mouth out with soap.”
“No, my sisters are worse. Even if my mom weren’t here, my sisters would have totally ratted on me.”
I remembered the way Mara and Casey had tattled on Ryan four years ago, the night I ate dinner at his family’s house.
“That’s what little sisters are for. But I don’t think they would rat you out.”
“You don’t know my sisters.”
“No, but I know they wouldn’t want to endanger getting cut off from cool selfies with a rock star.”
He laughed. “That’s true. I guess I finally have a bargaining chip.”