At first, band practices were awkward. The guys didn’t act like they used to. They barely talked to me. I could tell they didn’t want me there. But little by little things started getting back to normal. We were joking around and jamming out to our music, just like we used to. It was as if they slowly realised that I wasn’t any different. It didn’t matter what I was wearing under my pants. By the end of the week, it was even the butt of some good-spirited jokes. I even found myself joking about them. It was just good to be back with the guys.
Friday came faster than I thought it would. I was excited to see Tori. I missed her so much and I couldn’t wait to see her again. Just the thought of her put a smile across my face. There was no one like her. Her extraordinary beauty was unmatched by her personality. She was the nicest girl I have ever met and she was always so bubbly and just happy to be alive. And above all that, she wanted to be with me. Her so-called “teen baby” side kind of confused me, but at the same time, it intrigued me in a weird sort of way. I didn’t necessarily attract me, but it added another spice to her and made her seem more real to me rather than just a dreamy figure, made up in my own imagination.
As I turned onto the road where Sam lived, I started getting nervous. We had decided to drive separately as usual. None of us had a big enough car to hold all of the equipment, let alone the band. As I started to unload the amps out of my trunk, I began to realise that this was my first real public appearance since the Battle of the Bands. What if the audience didn’t want me to be there, playing. Knowing I couldn’t think like that, I tried my best to shake it off and moved the rest of the equipment inside and helped set up in the basement.
The clock hit 10:00. Almost everyone was at the party, getting their night of drinking and socializing started. The house was packed, but there was no sign of Tori or Kelly. I was starting to get worried that Kelly had misinformed me or that their plan to get Tori out of the house had failed. I was wandering around the house, looking for her, when Alex came out of nowhere and grabbed my arm.
“There you are! C’mon, Steve, we were supposed to start playing a few minutes ago.”
“Sorry, I was just looking for Tori. Can we wait a few more minutes?”
“No, we can’t. People are already getting impatient and the last thing we want is an angry group of drunk people for an audience. Don’t worry about Tori. I’m sure she’ll turn up.”
“Okay, let’s go.” I said gloomily. I was looking forward to seeing Tori.
“Drop that attitude, man.” Alex said, trying to pump me up. “It’s time to rock! This is what you were born for!”
I followed Alex through the crowd of people down into the basement and met up with the rest of the band. After a quick chat making sure everyone knew the setlist, we took the stage, which was really just a small corner in the basement set aside for us.
As I put my guitar on and took my spot, I could notice people staring at me. Some were pointing at me and making comments to the person next to them. I knew what they were thinking and saying. It was at that moment that I had intense motivation to prove to them that it didn’t matter. Saying that I couldn’t be a metal guitarist because I had to wear diapers was as crazy as saying that Stephen Hawking couldn’t be a genius because he was confined to a wheelchair.
Joe struck four quarter notes on a crash cymbal and we were off. Guitars were blaring, drums were driving, and Alex was singing as intense as he could. This was what we were all about and we were starting off with one of our faster songs, trying to get the crowd into it as soon as possible. Metal is almost impossible to play to a dead audience. At first, everyone just stood there, watching. A few people were bobbing their heads to the beat, but nobody was moving. A bunch of people were still staring at me skeptically, although I couldn’t tell if it was just because they were still taking in our music or not. Then we hit the breakdown. There’s something about moving from a quick tempo with a running feel to a brutal breakdown that leaves a satisfying feeling that nothing else in the world can match. This song was the perfect example, and just as we transitioned into the new tempo, filled with sixteenth note groupings and triplets that I saw it: the first push.
A cup of beer went flying and the pusher was bumped back. The person behind them joined in. Soon, more than ten people were moshing. To someone who is knew to metal, they may think that moshing is just violent fighting, but it is nothing like that. Moshing is a mutual battle, a sort of dancing. Nobody tries to actually hurt others; if anyone falls, everyone stops, picks him up, and makes sure he is okay before continuing in the onslaught. To a guitarist, there is no sight more beautiful than a good mosh pit, and it only made me play better.
As the set continued, the crowd got more and more engaged. It was an amazing feeling. Every song sent everyone into motion, whether it was moshing, jumping up and down, headbanging, or just punching their fists in the air. The atmosphere was electric and everyone was having a good time.
Eventually, we got to our one ballad. It was a love song I had written about Tori moths ago. It was about how much I wished she would feel the same way about me as I did her and how I would do anything for her. It was eerie how true the lyrics struck at this point in time. One line even stated how any “defect” she had was perfection in my eyes. I had never given the song any thought since I started going out with her, and the fact that I still hadn’t seen her started to bring me down emotionally again. I felt my excited stage presence shrink away to a stiff figure. I was being drained and I could start to hear the emotion being drained from my playing. I wasn’t missing a note, but it didn’t have any life anymore.
I was starting to panic inwardly. My mind told me to pick up the mood, but my emotions kept sinking. Then, right as the guitar solo was about start, I looked to the staircase to see Tori come down, looking as gorgeous as ever. It was almost as if she had a spotlight on her, giving her a heavenly glow. We locked eyes just as the solo started and I never looked down. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about what I was playing. I just let my fingers take over as I gazed happily into the eyes of the only person that ever made me feel whole. The solo lasted until the end of the song with just background singing by Alex. I broke out of my trance after we hit the last note as the basement erupted with cheering. I had no way of knowing if I even played the right notes the entire time, but I just had a feeling by the reaction of the crowd and my band mates that it was the best solo I had ever played.
The rest of the set went as great as the ballad and we even played our first encore ever. I was left with a feeling of acceptance as everyone cheered us on. Nobody was giving me any weird looks. I felt ecstatic, but I just wanted to talk to Tori. As soon as we finished our encore, I put my guitar in its case and fought my way through the crowd to Tori and embraced her. I was overpowered by a sense of relief and happiness. Without thinking, we locked lips and started kissing right there in front of everyone. My surroundings faded into distance and everything seemed to go silent. All that mattered at the moment was the angel in my arms. I wish we could’ve kissed forever, but all good things must come to an end and our lips broke apart slowly, allowing me to open my eyes to the most beautiful girl in the world.
“I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show up at all.” I admitted, shouting over the noise of the party.
“I wouldn’t have missed seeing you for the world.” Tori responded, smiling. “I just had a few complications sneaking out, but I’ll tell you about that later. C’mon, let’s go have a good time.”
Tori and I spent a good hour wandering through the party, catching up with friends and classmates. The atmosphere was great. Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. I was as happy as you could be. I just played an awesome gig with my band and now I was spending time with the girl of my dreams. I thought that nothing could put a damper on my night until I was approached by Tyler. I never really talked to him, but he hung out with Tori and Kelly’s group quite a bit. He was holding onto a bottle of vodka and was obviously intoxicated.
“Heeeey Tori, hey Steeeve!” He said, slurring his words. The stench of alcohol emitting from his mouth like a tidal wave. “Do y-you guys, want a, er, want a drrrrink?”
“No thanks, Tyler.” I said while Tori shook her head. “I don’t drink.”
“Oooooh, I ssseee.” Tyler said with a smirk. “The wittle b-baby don’t like grown-up drinks!”
“Very funny,” I said, managing to chuckle. I half-expected something like this to happen that night. “I just don’t find it very responsible of me to do it before I’m legally of age. Besides, I’m driving.”
“Suuuuure. Yur fancy pantsy words don’t fooool me, budsy. Ya know… I’m sssure
dat we can fin’ a b-baby bottle to put da booze in so Tori here can feed her wittle baby!”
“Leave him alone, Tyler!” Tori interjected, aggravated by his comments. “He said, ‘no,’ so you can leave us be and get wasted somewhere else!”
“Awww that’s cute!” Tyler responded, “It m-must be degradin’ to need yur mommy ter stick up fer ya, eh Steve? Why don’tchya be a man an’ have some vodka? It won’ hurtchya!”
Tyler looked at me with a look that told me that there wasn’t much brain activity in his head. I usually don’t even listen to douche-bags like him, especially when they’re drunk, but I felt attacked. It was as if he was calling me out for an inability to be big enough of a man for Tori. I couldn’t take it; I felt an urge to prove myself. Without further thought, I ripped the bottle of vodka out of Tyler’s hands and started to unscrew the cap.
“Stephen, don’t,” Tori pleaded, “You don’t have to do this! You’re going to end up doing something stupid!”
“I’ll be fine, I have it under control.” I said, determined to show that I wasn’t a wuss. I then put the bottle to my lips and shot my head back, letting the clear liquid pour into my mouth. I instantly regretted it. I had never tried vodka before and quickly found out that I did not like the taste. Trying to hold onto my pride, I gulped the mouthful down and looked at Tyler with the toughest expression I could make. The liquid burned all the way down my throat and I felt an urge to throw it all up, but I made sure that it stayed down.
“Now, theeere ya go, brah!” Tyler exclaimed with a smile. “Someone get this dude a beeer!”
It wasn’t until then that I noticed that everyone in our general vicinity had been watching us and were now cheering. Suddenly, I found a can of beer being placed in my hand. Without thinking, I opened the can and started to drink it. I was starting to feel the effects of the vodka and it felt surprisingly good. I looked up to see Tori gazing at me with an expression of disbelief. It sent a pang of self-disappointment to my gut, but I tried my best to discard the feeling. I had just stood up for myself amongst my peers. I figured Tori just couldn’t understand it because she wasn’t a guy and that she’d get over it eventually. Yet, the feeling still remained and all that I could do was take another sip of beer.
Another hour or so had passed and I was the life of the party. Beer after beer, shot after shot, drinking game after drinking game, I was doing it all. If someone challenged me, I accepted it. I had never felt that way before; it was as if I was invincible. I was having so much fun, I had practically forgotten about Tori. That was until I was suddenly jerked away from the counter I had been leaning against and found myself being led by the arm into the first floor bathroom by her.
“Hey, what’s the deal?” I asked, confused.
“The deal, mister,” Tori started with the same tone she used while talking to Tyler earlier, “Is that you are drunk and can’t even tell that your diaper’s about to leak. I could smell your piss from ten feet away. You should be thankful I brought a change in my purse for you.”
“Oh,” I said, having trouble thinking of anything else to say. “Thanks. I’ll quick change.”
“No you won’t,” Tori said, laughing cynically. “I don’t think you could do that very well right now and I only brought one diaper. We can’t afford you screwing up the tapes.”
“Well, you can’t change me, Tori. I’d be too embarrassed!”
“Don’t get me started about embarrassment,” Tori snapped, “You’ve embarrassed me more than I thought was possible tonight. You’re lucky I don’t change you with the door open! Now just be quiet and listen to me.”
The tone of her voice scared me. Tori had never talked to me like that before. Once again, I was overcome by guilt. Too scared to speak, I just allowed Tori to unbutton my pants and change me in silence. Even though I was drunk, I could tell that it was awkward. It wasn’t so much the fact that my girlfriend was changing my diaper and wiping my privates than the fact that I had disappointed her and was in a near-helpless physical stated. However, amongst the guilt and awkwardness, I was actually enjoying the process. Despite her mood, her touch was still gentle and loving. After she placed the last tape and helped put my pants back on, she led me to the door. She was about to open the door when I stopped her.
“Wait, Tori.” I said. Tori took her hand off the doorknob and slowly turned to face me with a look of discontent. “Look, I’m really sorry.” I apologized. Tori just looked at me for a few seconds.
“I forgive you,” Tori said with a sigh.
“I know I drank too much and that I’ve been ignoring you. I… I feel really bad.”
“I know you do, Stephen, but it really upsets me. The entire week, I was looking forward to seeing you and spending time with you. You’re really special; you’re not like other guys. That’s why I like you. But tonight, I can’t find Stephen. All that I see is another stupid boy, trying to impress the other stupid guys.”
“This won’t happen again. I promise. After tonight, you’ll only see sober Stephen. I love you, Tori.” I said. I then approached Tori and tried to kiss her, but instead of finding her lips, I got her hand pushing my head away from her.
“Never tell me that when you’re drunk.” She spat bitterly. “You don’t mean it.” Tori then opened the door only to unveil the chaos that was occurring in the rest of the house. Through the frantically-moving crowd, I could see several police officers entering the house.
“Shit.” Tori said in a half-whisper. “What do we do now? If the cops find me, my dad will find out, and then I’m screwed.”
“Then we won’t get caught. C’mon, we’ll climb out the window.”
We moved to the window and quickly opened it. I climbed out first and helped Tori out. We then ran across the backyard into a patch of bushes. I knew that we couldn’t hide there long, so I took Tori by the hand and led her to my car, which was parked down the road.
“Woah, woah, woah.” Tori said as she saw where I was taking her. “You are not driving. You’re drunk!”
“Oh, I’m fine. Besides, we can’t stay here forever.”
“Then let me drive”
“Oooh no, you are not driving. Nobody drives my car except me.”
“Stephen, snap out of it. You cannot drive in that state!”
“Yes I can. Now get in before the cops see us.”
“I’m not getting into that car if you’re driving.”
“Tori, I will not say it again,” I shouted angerly. “Get in the fucking car!” Tori looked at me with a face of terror, as if she was looking at a monster that was about to tear her apart. Her eyes started to water and I could tell that she didn’t recognize the mess of a person that was yelling at her. I stopped for a second and just stared at her. I started to realize the disaster that I was starting to create and was trying to think of a way to fix the situation. However, my thoughts were cut short, interrupted by an unfamiliar voice. Unfortunately, Tori wasn’t the only person’s attention that I got.
“Hey! You two! Stop right there! This is the police!”
As soon as we heard the officer’s shout from the front door, Tori and I both opened our respective doors and hopped in. I shoved my keeps into the ignition, started the engine, and floored it. I drove as fast as possible while retaining control of the car, making full use of the supercharger under the hood. I blew stop sign after stop sign, skidding around corners, until I reached the highway. Tori gripped onto her seat and begged me to slow down, but I just ignored her. I thought for sure that the cops were going to be on my tail any second and the thought that a speeding vehicle would stand out to any other squad car never crossed my mind.
I swerved around the few cars that were on the highway so late at night. I wasn’t paying attention to my speedometer very well, but I knew that I was going over 90 miles per hour. I was starting to have trouble controlling the car and the road started moving back and forth as I tried to keep a straight path without losing too much speed. I was focusing so hard on the lines that I didn’t notice the left-curve in the road until it was too late.
I stomped on the brakes and jerked my wheel to the left, causing the car to skid sideways to the right, passenger side first. The car launched off the inclined bank of the road and towards the forest. Everything went into slow motion as we soared through the air. All I can remember is the terrified scream coming from Tori as we drew closer and closer to the forest and finally smashed into a tree.
I awoke to the smell of smoke and the growing sound of sirens. My head pounded as my eyes cleared up. I could see my now-deflated airbag drooping out of the steering wheel onto my lap. My neck issued a sharp pain as I slowly looked to my right to see if Tori was okay.
The image I saw still burns in my mind every night. Tori’s body was so bloody and mangled that I wouldn’t have recognized her if I didn’t remember her getting in the car with me. The tree had hit the car in the passenger side door, causing the car to wrap around the tree. The whole right side of the car had crushed her into the gut-wrenching state she was in. Trembling, I reached out and started shaking her left arm.
“Tori! Tori! Wake up! Can you hear me?” I said shakily, tears building up in my eyes. She didn’t answer. "TORI! WAKE UP! PLEASE WAKE UP! OH GOD, THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING! I’M SO SORRY! PLEASE WAKE UP! YOU CAN’T BE DEAD! I LOVE YOU, TORI! PLEASE! TORI! TORI!
I broke down into tears, sobbing uncontrollably. She never answered me. She was dead.