I'm back in high school. That's bad enough. Worse, there's an orchestra concert.
I have to play in it. I don't want to. It's not that I don't know the music—I don't—it's that I don't want to face these people. My fellow musicians. They're the worst, the ones I really don't ever want to remember. Not because they bullied me or made my life miserable. Because they were my friends. Because they actually knew me. And that's terrifying.
I don't recognize the hall we're playing in, but it doesn't matter. It's not the high school auditorium. Maybe it's the rehearsal space in the Neighborhood Music School, somehow enlarged and distorted to hold more people.
None of my drums are set up. In a panic, I miss my cue. My friend Steve whispers at me, urging me to play. I can feel the heat of Mrs. Lauro's glare without looking up. I am frustrated, ashamed.
I decide it's probably best not to play, since I don't know what I'm doing. I slip off the back of the stage and head to the bathroom. Not that I need to go. It just offers solace. Solitude. Quiet.
Except Jeanette is inside, making elaborate mix drinks in a blender. That's weird. I haven't seen her in years. What is she doing here? In the men's bathroom?
Hey, Nette. How's it going?
But that's all I ask her. We make small talk, maybe, as she makes me a drink. Probably a health code violation. If this were a bar. It's not. I chug it down. Sweet release. I'm getting drunk now!
I slip out of the bathroom, not getting caught up in the rapidly escalating party atmosphere that's developing inside. I think maybe someone showed up with an iPod, or a DJ came with a disco ball. It was getting out of hand, in any case.
I can feel the eyes of my friends on me. I've let them down. I've embarrassed them. And now I'm drunk, making my behavior even more inexplicable. I'm sure I'll get a dressing down, later. I don't care. I don't seek out their faces. My cheeks burn. I step outside.
My parents are there. With my aunt? Don't know what she's doing there. But they don't seem too concerned with me screwing up. Maybe I forget to tell them. My dad can't stop talking about some professional act that's playing after us. Or actually, they might be playing at the bar next door. There's a bar next door? I thought that place was a music store.
And then my parents—and aunt—decide that they'd rather see the professionals than see me play. That's fine. I understand. I'm still a little hurt, even though I have no idea what I'm doing. They tell me to meet them there afterwards.
Yeah, right. I doubt it. I'm going to die or wake up before that happens.
Anyway, I can't believe how cavalier they were about missing my concert. But then again, I didn't know any of the music, my tympani weren't tuned, and I think I might have made a ruckus in one of the practice rooms with a crash cymbal, and ruined something. Mrs. Lauro is definitely going to ask to talk to me afterwards. She's angry.
And then, walking in, I catch Libby's eye. I didn't want to. I've been avoiding her this entire time.
She's so upset. And hurt. And betrayed. I can see it. She doesn't understand a) why I'm screwing up, b) why I was getting drunk with Nette in the bathroom, or c) why I was steadfastly ignoring her, and treating her like garbage.
I don't see how any of that is really my problem, though. I absolutely don't care. In fact, I burn with embarrassment and bitterness and hatred. And disappointment. Mainly because my tympani were out of tune, and I didn't know the songs, and my parents were ass holes and walked out on me. Everything else though? Complete apathy.
Is this real? Am I going to be stuck in this nightmare forever? Back in high school?
I wake up. And I'm back on the trail, pounding the crap out of my knees, starving. Something smells inexplicably of urine. I can't place it. My (new) backpack is ripped. My feet feel like they've been dipped in molten glass. And for some reason I've decided to hike twenty miles again, again, to the Wintturi Shelter. The glorious pain of it all.
I'm awake. I'm alive. Thank God.