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The name on the envelope is 'Demi.'
I rip it open to reveal $60 in cash.
It's the perfect name, really. I am nothing if not pseudo, almost, not-quite. I am Miss Halfway, Miss Maybe, the very aptly named, Demi. Everyone knows that.
What almost no one knows is that it is short for 'Demise.' Which I am also'well, not responsible for the demise of others, but mostly myself. I am sort of a captive of my own demise. Of my own very-nearly-successes, but ultimately downfalls. What's in a name, indeed.
I pluck out the three ragged twenties and glide over to the second largest amp on the stage'Judas. He is aptly named, too: he is a follower, but sometimes he is prone to betray us at the most important moments'i.e. right before we are about to go on. This just happens to be the case right this instant, as Chris is futilely plugging and unplugging patch cords in an attempt to win Judas' approval. I cast Chris a pitying look and then yank the back off of the old thing, carefully taping two of the twenties inside. Chris swears he can hear a tone difference whenever I do this, but he's crazy. He doesn't know that I have at least $200 taped inside the Marshall.
And then, in a flurry of bruises and curse words, Stephen bursts through the door. Chris and I exchange a glance or mock-surprise and continue our work. Stephen is having none of that, though.
'Do you know,' he sputters, incredulously, 'what I have just been through to get here?' There's nothing for it but to answer. He's insatiable whenever he's on a rant.
'No, Stephen, but I have a feeling you're going to tell us.' I sigh and roll my eyes.
'Well you're damn bloody right I'm going to tell you. So I left at five just like you ordered (that is, advised) me to'' Stephen begins the spiel. I try to pay attention at first, but eventually surrender to the comforting buzz of Judas going in and out of operation. At moments like this, with Stephen triumphantly bleeding from the lip and spouting off expletives, it's hard to believe he ever belonged to me. It's hard to believe that anything, any relationship, any girl could even contain him. Least of all, a very-nearly-person like myself.
It was two years ago, in December. I had literally stumbled in off the street at the advice of Marlo, a girl with a pouty face and $600 suede boots that were never intended to weather, well, weather. The second the snow began to accumulate on the sidewalk, she jumped ship. It seemed that our grand money-saving scheme of walking the twelve blocks back to NYU was futile'instead, we buckled and headed for the nearest open door, a hovel bar on the Bowery. We ended up paying $8 just to stand still.
The band sucked, really. They were called Marxo Polo for that night, and that night only. But I was young and (as I will remind myself a thousand times over the next two years) stupid, and Stephen was so big. He took up the whole stage with his presence, snarling and 'sorry'-ing the words even when the drummer broke a stick and the bassline dragged. I couldn't take my eyes off him, or even remember how to operate my hands when he asked me for a cigarette between sets. I stayed through both'he was unstoppable. Insatiable. Stephen kept right on, and he wasn't an egomaniac, or an applause addict: he was simply playing these shitty clubs night after night, week after week with increasingly mediocre backup, because he didn't know how not to. It was in his blood.
This, I had to remind myself, was the blood that was now dripping from his lower lip, dribbling down unshaven chin and onto un-ironed, fully-ironic Nehi tee shirt. Dream, dead. Back to reality.
''and so I shoved him into the Deli door (which very nearly broke, I might add) and ran like fuck. Er, hence the, er, blood.' Stephen retrieved a striped kerchief from his low back pocket, finally noticing his wound'or perhaps just for dramatic effect. With that, he leapt to the stage and began unwrapping his guitar from a makeshift case of a suitcase and bubble-wrap, bloody kerchief tied around the fretboard.
'Eh, Demi, angel, almost forgot. Anything for me, love?' He glances my way, tearing his eyes from the guitar. Even though I've heard him call just about everyone on the planet (including inanimate objects, on particularly drunk occasions) 'love,' it still gives me a shiver when he directs it to me. Even though we're long broken up. Even though there may never have been any love. Even though I'm just the girl in his band, just the girl with the connections.
I reach into my pocket and toss him a tiny translucent bag. It shimmers as it arcs, the stage-lights catching it in midair. Poetic, almost. Stephen catches it, exhales a sigh of relief, and puts another crumpled twenty on the amp next to him.
Alright, so maybe I am responsible for some demise, after all.