This story is by Christin Baumgart and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
He opened his eyes with a grimace, expecting to awake in the dark but instead every light in his hotel room was blazing. He must have passed out cold. The bed was still made underneath him and his clothes, the traveling ones he was wearing yesterday, were wrinkled and stiff and he wondered for the thousandth time how it was he could sleep so uncomfortably. He pulled himself upright with a groan, avoiding his reflection in the mirror opposite, as he had started doing several years ago. It was no good for his self esteem to see those unfamiliar bulges, escaping over his always too-tight pants. He was pretty sure his wardrobe girl was just fucking with him, no way he had actually gotten this fat. She didn’t seem to respect him, this was just a paycheck to her. He missed his old wardrobe crew, back when there was a team of them, worshipping his theatrics and eager to be the one to discover his new look.
But that was years ago. The passing time had watched his music career blossom into the kind of stardom most musicians would only see in their wet dreams, crazed fans around every turn, a football team of a staff there to cater to his every whim. Well, their every whim. He always forgot about the rest of the boys in his boy-band. That’s probably why they quit and left him to wander the globe alone, getting fatter and hairier every day. Of course his PR team announced that he was going solo by choice, but everyone knew the truth. His blooming career had withered on the vine long before the band broke up, but his solo act had done nothing but lead to his dwindling staff and half empty venues of fans who had aged as poorly as he had.
They had started out so hopeful, so naïve and soft, just some sweet kids who could sing and dance a little, enough that the rest could be coached. As close as brothers, for a while it had felt like everything was perfect, and they would go on forever together living the life they’d always dreamed. But with fame and money came the underaged drinking, then the girlfriends, and the drug problems, and then the ex-girlfriends, and rehab followed by eventual rehab abandonment. And so what if all of those had been him? It’s not like any of them had been perfect. Blaine, the youngest member, had blown all that money donating to a stupid hurricane relief fund and where had it left him? Last he heard he was working some 9 to 5 job in Tucson, married, and pretty sure he and his wife only had one car each.
He remembered their last fight together, all of them turned towards him with cold, unblinking stares. Demanding apologies for…well, something. His memories of that time were fuzzy, but he was still pretty sure it wasn’t his fault. It was their fault for ganging up on him. They had never supported him the way he needed. If his behavior had been bad it was only in response to their’s…right?
As usual there was a glass next to his bed and he slammed its contents in one practiced gulp. At least Jameson tasted the same everywhere in the world. The clock read 3:21, but for the life of him he didn’t know if that was AM or PM. He wondered where he even was this time, whatever time it was. Crazy, he thought, how we are all so eager to travel and see the world, when we’ve managed to make it all beige and unidentifiable. He threw open the curtains. Still night. Must be 3 AM. Good. Lights twinkled over…a city. Some city, somewhere. The welcome packet on the hotel desk told him he was in Luxembourg. A place he knew…jack shit about. Was that Europe? He briefly lamented never paying attention to the tutor they had kept on staff for him when he was still school aged.
The bottle was half empty now as he poured himself another shot. His old buddy Jameson. He used to party and drink a technicolor rainbow of trendy cocktails all vying for a taste of his lips, but like his company in real life they had all drifted away, leaving him alone with his true friend, ole Jamie.
He longed briefly for home, but it was more of an abstract desire for home, like a dying soldier calling out to any lowercase mother. He didn’t miss the cold glass mausoleum in LA that his own mother had spent millions of his dollars on when he was only 17. In the court battle that ensued after he fired that bitch he had eventually won the house, but had only returned a handful of times. He did however miss this vague concept of home that he felt most people who weren’t him probably had. He wondered how he could miss something he had never had.
He took down another shot of Jameson, poured a little too generously that time. Then he walked around the hotel room turning off every light, preferring the soft forgiving darkness to the sharp lines of harsh reality. He closed the blinds again too, so the sun couldn’t judge him upon waking. When he passed the mirror, he avoided eye contact with himself. He unplugged the alarm clock too, one of them would wake him. There might not be a team anymore, but he still had a small staff and they were paid to get him where he needed to be. The armchair was reasonably comfortable for a hotel variety, and he relaxed into it. He briefly contemplated taking his clothes off but decided the effort wasn’t worth it and settled for unbuckling his pants and letting his stomach take a break from constantly sucking in. The bottle in his hand was getting too light for his comfort, but there was at least one more good one in there, which he knocked back with ease. He closed his eyes and let his head rest on his chest, eager to slip back into the blissful oblivion of sleep.