Red means stop, orange means caution, and green means go. I watched as the light in front of me went from orange to red while my car came to a halt. It was the only car on this street, so I had all the time in the world to slow down. Maybe I could have even run the red light if I wanted to. My mind was preoccupied with other things, so it was a miracle I even saw the light turn orange. It’s been about an hour since I made the greatest decision in my life, one that would change the course of my entire life. I rolled the window down and lit a cigarette. Zac didn’t want me to smoke inside his car, but he wasn’t around. Yet, I still rolled down the window in the hope the smell wouldn’t stay inside. My left hand hung outside the window, cigarette dangling between my two fingers. I thought it was a pen for a second and started tapping it against my thumb. As soon as Nirvana’s Lithium started playing on the car stereo, I turned up the volume. While I was waiting for the light to turn green, my mind started to wander off again.
An album cover of a naked baby swimming underwater in front of a dollar bill on a fishhook decorated one corner of my room. Even from a young age, we are taught to follow the money. In the other corner was a trash can, still emitting smoke from a fire that refused to go out. Earlier that night, I ripped every single one of her letters to shreds and threw them in there. It probably wasn’t the best idea, but I still struck a single match and watched them all go up in flames.
Those letters formed the perfect kindle to burn everything she had left behind, which included some of her underwear I found underneath my bed. I couldn’t help myself but take one last sniff before I threw them in there, hoping it would get rid of the other smell that was still stuck inside my nose. I burned it all, along with everything else that left me in a daze all those years we were together. That included one of Bukowski’s books, which was once my favourite author. But then she had to come along— and ruined that for me too.
The only thing I couldn’t get rid of that fast was the lingering smell of her perfume. It didn’t matter how long I kept the windows open, it still idled around in my room, as if it had made my nose its permanent residence from now on. The last remnant of her presence.
That was the moment I decided to pack my bags and leave everything behind. I needed to get rid of that last piece of her presence, and I couldn’t make that happen if I stayed here. So I packed everything important to me and threw it in my duffel bag, took my worn-out guitar case, and threw it all in the back of Zac’s car like it was all one big game of Tetris. I didn’t really have a plan in mind yet. All I knew was that I had to make it to Los Angeles. Almost like it was meant to be, I found a flyer in my trash can right before I threw in all of her letters.
Original, creative, adaptable guitarist
wanted for a grunge band based in LA
Must have own gear
No time wasters!
The contact details were below and I figured I tried my luck with them. Maybe the City of Angels was the perfect place for me to start over. There was nothing left for me here. I managed to burn every bridge that was left standing, except for one. I needed that one to get out of this stinking town. I contacted Zac, my best friend since kindergarten, and asked if I could borrow his car for a trip to LA. I still don’t get why he trusted me with his car. I had very little money left, enough to pay for gas and maybe some snacks. Zac and I managed to make a deal. I could drive his car to LA if he could spend some time with me once I got there. Zac would get a flight to LAX and drive the car back home after a few days in LA.
I turned on MTV and watched a bunch of high school teens head-bang in a gymnasium to Kurt Cobain playing his famous Fender Mustang. The perfect soundtrack to come up with some sort of plan as to how I was going to get to Los Angeles. All I could come up with was to borrow Zac’s car and make a few pit-stops along the way. That way I could make some quick cash by playing my guitar in the streets. There must be a few people out there willing to pay for my music, even if it was just enough to pay for some food or maybe even a cheap motel. I was really grateful for Zac to lend me his car, but I wasn’t looking forward to sleeping in it every night. But I would—if that is what it would take for me to get to the other side of the country. I’ll keep going until I’m just as worn out as the guitar case in the trunk of Zac’s car until I’m exhausted and drained of every single note in my body.
Pure rock & roll meant freedom to me. It was the reason why I always carried a notebook around, filled with music scores and lyric ideas. It helped me get through the darkest periods of my life, helped manage me get through high school. It even helped me find the love of my life. Or at least that’s what I thought she was—she thought differently. Either way, music meant the world to me.
My translation of this world came through music. To me, it held much more emotion than just reading words printed on paper. I provided the world with the gift of music. If it was any good or not, that was up to my audience. Some loved it, while others hated every single note of it. But I didn’t care. I played for the ones that did like it, even if it weren’t that many. All that was waiting for me in the City of Angels, but all I could do for now—was to wait for the light to turn green.