Stairway to Heaven


Stairway to Heaven

Shiny shiny life. Even your guitar strings sparkle in the stage-lights if you turn your Stratocaster ever so slightly. Ethereal happiness—it’s this.

The cheering fans drown out your starting riff so maybe they don’t notice your fingers sliding off the neck.

Your fingers are lousy tonight. At one interval you stretch them like you have a cramp. Flex. The pick falls to the ground and you seem to focus on it there, hone in on it, and carry on. Maybe you didn’t shoot up enough before coming on.

A break—imagined?–you hurry to the dressing room and plunge the needle in your arm. This is a grace feeling. Soporific. Usually this doesn’t happen. But it feels good. Soporific. Gliding, you’re gliding to sleep, rising on that stairway.

Voices. So many voices. Are they welcoming you? Where? It feels like an earthquake. Your body is shaking. You reach out to stop the vibration so you can float on this cloud of sleep. So nice, you’re sure a smile dances on your lips. Sleep. Do you?

Glaring light. Vomit. Noise. Headache. Confusion.

Your hand is gripped. Daddy?

Fear threads through your body. A nightmare seizes you, but you can’t rouse yourself. If you dream your death, do you die?

You think you are fighting, but your body doesn’t move.

A big hand touches your hair. Daddy?

Is she okay? The voice shakes. Is she going to make it? Fear.

She’s one of the lucky ones.

Lucky one. Hop scotch. Four square. Simon says. Tag, you’re it.

We don’t need no education. Daddy.

Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Guitar gods. Angel voices. Queen. Celestial crowns. Take a piece of my heart now, baby. Light my fire. Nothing compares… you.

A big hand on your cheek. Cooling to your scorched body. Your stomach churns.

More vomiting. Bright light. Glaring whiteness. Is this dying?

Your sinuses throb, tightness between your eyes, a vise grip. Desert dehydration. You squint into the light, the merest movement of your face causes lightning, pounding, sledgehammer pain. The glaring light hurts. You’ve puked into plastic. A nurse wipes your face, your lips with a cool wet towel.

You recognize Ramon. It’s his big hand on you. He’s been crying. His eyes are red and his cheeks are wet. He tries on a smile, but it fails and falls from his lips.

You can make no sense of this.

“You died. I tried to bring you back, but you were dead,” Ramon says, so much emotion thickening his voice.

“A phoenix man, a fucking phoenix,” says Nick and he’s laughing.

You’re unfocused, unsure, but his laughing–doesn’t feel right.

Another wave of nausea, more vomiting.

Nick raises an “outta here” hand and leaves. He can’t handle visceral. Ramon stays. He takes the washcloth, wets it under the faucet and then wipes your face gently and you’re so grateful.

“I feel bad. So very bad.” You feel that your lips have moved, but the voice sounds so far away….doesn’t anyone stay in one place, anymore?

Vague memories, images, flashbacks. You don’t know what’s real, if any of it is real. This is real. You can believe that reality feels just this bad.

The gig. “We just finished a set.” You’re certain. You think you are.

“We cancelled the rest. No worries.”

Ramon sits on the bed and puts his arm around your shoulders, like the big brother he’s always been, better than your blood brothers, so far away. “I called your folks. When they release you, we’re taking you to rehab.”

And you said no, no, no.



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