“And I took one last ride by your house, and saw you sitting there inside,
Thought about our love, and all those things, that seemed to make it die,
Well baby out of all them other girls, you’re still the best that I’ve ever seen,
But I just sit there idling, wondering when everything,
Got so fucked up, got so turned around,” – from “White Line Fever” by Blacklist Royals (Blacklist Royals)
Christian “Kimbo” Marshall wondered if anyone besides his band mates could tell a sort of death was near.
They had just hopped on the small but legendary stage at The Horseshoe for The Something’s Coming secret show. Fifteen years on, they were still Toronto’s favourite punk sons, whatever that meant anymore.
He strummed the guitar anchored around his thin and inked neck, and looked out at the rammed back room. Kimbo remembered being one of those kids, sweaty with anticipation at seeing a favourite band and ready to get wetter with the rest of the crowd.
From behind the drums, Ben yelled ‘ready’ and Yuriana – she preferred Yuri for short – and Max, the other members of The Something’s Coming, yelled ‘ya’. With the affirmation, Kimbo assaulted the strings with his thin pick and tore through the opening thrash of “Day Train”. While his mind should have been on those expectant faces in front of him and giving them “the best goddamned show they had ever seen”, as he was once quoted as saying, it was on the conversation he’d had with the three assholes facing his back.
“Are you fucking serious?” he yelled while he faced the living room wall of Ben’s Admiral Rd. mansion. His eyes shot to some snooty painting for fear he would lash out at anyone in his view. It wouldn’t be the first time they had physically confronted each other, but this time it was four against Kimbo and he knew his anger would only be met with solemn shakes of their heads.
“It just makes sense man. Like we’ve got other shit we want – ” Ben cut off with a shake of Yuri’s head.
Kimbo turned when Ben stopped and looked at Yuri herself.
“Chris…it’s the last tour…that’s it. No discussion, no anything. Maybe in a few years we can pick it back up, but for now, we’re done,” she said.
Her words were calm, measured, and direct. They pierced Kimbo like needle sharp daggers, imperceptible at first, yet devastating when he realized how deep they had cut.
What the fuck am I supposed to do now? he thought.
He spread his arms wide and said, “What the fuck am I supposed to do now?”
Kimbo looked at each of Ben, Yuri, Max, and then at Roger the band’s manager. Their silence did little to sway him.
“Fuck. This!” he shouted, followed by stomping out of the room.
Kimbo wondered what the point was to playing these songs. With the band set to crumble, he worried he would never again key into the inspiration that fueled their birth. Sweat dripped down his bare back. He urged himself to love the rush from the music and the heat in the room, but the wonder of what would happen if he just stopped and left was winning the night.
He looked into the crowd as they finished “Useless” and as Ben, his foot pounding the bass drum, started to count them in for its usual follower “Useless”, Kimbo pulled the guitar from his bare shoulder and placed it at the foot of the mic-stand.
“Fuck this,” he whispered into the mic before he walked off the side of the stage, out the through the back alley door, and into the humid, July night.
His paced quickened when he made it to Spadina and he started south with no set destination beyond Queen Street. There was no other conscious word for it. He knew he was fucked after storming out of Ben’s place earlier. Maybe ten years ago, when he used to read more than a book a year he would have been able to come up with a better term, but for now, he was just, fucked.
Over the past five years, the most successful in the band’s fifteen year history, Ben, Yuri and Max had started to actually formulate something resembling lives outside of being punk rock musicians. Kimbo had unconsciously decided to fuck, which was no doubt a response to the wasteland he was building in a brick-by-brick prison fashion without any notice.
For every time Ben took a more serious step with Kelly, it seemed Yuri produced another indie band’s breakout album, and Max published more material. Kimbo would only find himself in the arms of some young, beautiful, sun-kissed blonde, some doe-eyed brunette, or some emerald-eyed minx with pastel skin and scarlet hair.
Fifteen years on, the former best friends were now just band mates. They had stopped sharing the little things in each other’s lives long ago and, like all former best friends, once that threshold is crossed, where conversations consist more about the past, than the present and the future, it’s time to start looking for new people to fill the void. Unfortunately for Kimbo, the girls, or sluts as he so boorishly referred to them now, became the very void they were intended to fill. Ben and Kelly had each other and the kids and their shitty house with the shitty art work. Yuri had her producing and her relationship with Summerstar – her latest hippie conquest from San Francisco. Max had his writing and his year long relationship with Derek, to whom he had just become engaged over a bullshit brunch before he had been a part of ripping Kimbo’s heart from his chest.
What was the point of Kimbo playing the popular music he wrote from his heart, inspired by the hope for a future he now felt so far from?
I really have fuck-all.
He stood across the street from the bookstore on Queen West and stared at the sign on its awning. The breeze from the passing cars soothed his sweat covered upper-half, but did little to still the internal chaos.
That’s a pretty sad realization.
He thought about what laid further west down Queen.
The CAMH? A tad cliché laddy.
Kimbo didn’t feel like checking in, let alone, in a permanent sense, checking out a la Cobain or Elliot Smith. He knew he was too old to be part of their group anyway. What would they treat him for, sex addiction? Having been through rehab more than once for various vices and knowing what addiction entailed, Kimbo consciously used sex to come down from the Everest-esque emotional cliff he forced himself to climb before every show.
Trinity Bellwoods Park spread out behind him and it brought back decades old memories of him and Max grabbing their acoustics and joining in with the open jams the artsies used to have. Maybe there would be a jam going on or something that would spark a thought beyond checking himself into a mental centre. He glanced at his watch and thought the better of it. Bellwoods at this time was leftover hipster drunks from the afternoon and homeless rubbys looking for a quiet place to sleep.
He focused on the window and the warmth of the soft light from the bookstore caught his eye for only a second this time. What held his gaze was the young woman in the front window. Her sienna hair framed a heart-shaped face with hazel eyes, and the eyes were ogling him with concern and, it seemed, recognition.
As she looked down at what kept her busy, Kimbo looked down at himself and admitted he did appear odd wearing nothing more than red Chuck Taylor’s and dark navy jeans. He lost his shirt before heading on stage at the Horseshoe.
Flight entered Kimbo’s mind but she intrigued him, because what little bookstore would be open after midnight anyway?
With a deep breath and an overly intentional shoulder shrug, Kimbo walked across the street and through the heavy, wood-framed glass door. He didn’t notice that the store didn’t open for another ten hours.
A small bell rang his arrival and he turned to his right to greet the girl from the window. She now appeared to sit on a tall stool with a ledger book and receipts splayed out on the counter in front of her.
She glanced at the Victorian clock above the door when the bell next to it signaled the door’s close and then turned her attention to Kimbo.
“Good…morning?” she said.
“Morning,” Kimbo replied.
“Can I help you with anything?”
“The name,” Kimbo pointed a thumb to the outside wall, “is it?”
“Blood on the Racks? Yes, it most certainly is,” she said. A smile curled the edges of her lips.
“Is this your place?” Kimbo eyed the rest of the store before looking back for her reply.
“In a way,” she said and stood up. She moved her hair behind her ears and extended her hand. “I’m Maria.”
He took it and they held more than shook hands.
“I’m Kimb…I mean, Christian…I’m Christian.”
“I think I know you, or at least recognize you,” she said, their hands finally becoming their own again.
“No, don’t worry, I…shit. I mean damn.”
She sat back down on the stool.
“That’s okay, I…it happens.”
He shrugged it off.
A brief silence, then, “So are you looking for something in particular?” she said. “We don’t sell shirts.”
“Well damn,” he said. “I guess you’re of no use to me.”
She smirked and Kimbo took in his surroundings. The store was organized but there was another quality that caught him. It just seemed, honest. The floor-to-ceiling shelves were stacked but it wasn’t clean and signage-laden like a big box. It was worn wood and nooks and crannies where gems and bargains could be found. It didn’t feel real or, at least to Kimbo, it felt like someplace out of a novel itself. A place where magic happened. Kimbo noticed when he shifted his weight from one foot to the other there was a creak in the floor that followed him.
“Christian?” she said.
“Yes,” he whispered. He looked to her voice and noticed she was now standing next to him in an aisle he didn’t recall walking down.
“What are you looking for?” she said.
Kimbo focused on her and said, “Something that makes me feel alive.”