The clock at the lobby said it was almost 5 o’clock in the morning, when Duff walked back into the hotel and went to his room. He would try to forget everything about this day, maybe get some good sleep before all the other Gunners woke up…
You can imagine his surprise when he saw Slash standing outside his room, as if blocking his way. And—surprise, surprise—the guitarist looked sober.
“Hey man,” Duff stammered, a little confused. “What are you doing here?”
“I think the question is… what were you doing out there?” the tanned man asked back.
“Just went out for a drive, man. Nothing important.”
Slash chuckled sarcastically. “Yeah, of course. A night drive. Nothing really important.”
For some reason, his bandmate’s laugh really got on the bassist’s nerves.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? It was just a fucking drive!”
Instead of answering, Slash gave the blonde man another knowing smile, which enraged Duff even more. He tried to punch the other man, but Slash held his fist.
“Uh-uh. No Duff. I don’t think you wanna get in a fight with me, do ya? You would lose.”
“Who says so?” Duff retorted.
“I say so. Even if you proved to be a better fighter than me, well… I have to admit I’m a bad loser, Duff. In fact, I think I’m such a bad loser I’d go and tell Axl all about your little secret…”
Duff immediately paled. No. No way. There was no way in hell Slash could possibly know…
“So, tell me,” the guitarist casually continued, “what the fuck’s inside Mr. Cobain’s mind? Does he want to fuck every single member of our band or what? And who’s the next on the list? Me?”
“How… how did you find out?” trembling lips could barely ask.
“I think you need to be more careful before you walk out a room, Mr. McKagan. You don’t know who may be watching.”
Duff tried to remember what had happened that night. After Kurt had left the room, he had walked on some steps behind him…
Forgetting he was stark naked.
“That’s right,” Slash pointed out, as if he had read the bassist’s mind. “That night, I felt sick after drinking so much, so I decided to go out my room for a breath of fresh air and some ice. Yet, when I opened my door, I nearly stumbled on some blonde figure walking out. I left my door ajar, and saw that it was Kurt. I waited to see if Axl came running after him… but what did I see? A very naked Duff, going out after the Nirvana guy. So, how can you tell me you went out for a night drive? You surely went looking for him, didn’t you? How is he, huh?”
“I… I didn’t find him…” the bassist stammered, now in too deep to deny it.
“Oh… so I guess you came back with blue balls, didn’t you? Poor Duff… but don’t worry, I’ll fix it…”
Duff was so nervous he just didn’t notice Slash coming closer to him with every sentence, until he felt his back against the wall, and felt Slash was practically rubbing his body against his.
“I must confess, Duff, I liked what I saw that night. Those chicks that write in those fucking lame teen magazines are right about something.”
The bassist tried to move away, but the closeness of Slash’s crotch against his was… well, working its magic.
“You got legs, baby. Hot legs, like Rod Stewart would say. Now I know why those chicks are fascinated with your long legs. Believe me, ever since I saw you naked, that day… I have been fantasizing about you… about this steaming body next to mine…”
Slash’s speech was cut short by the guitarist himself: in a sudden movement, he took Duff’s clothed crotch in his hand while he stood on tiptoe, in order to reach his bandmate’s mouth and engulf it in a passionate kiss. At first, the bassist was reluctant, but the feeling of the guitarist’s hand against his rising shaft eventually let lust take the best of him, and he kissed back. He had already been with a man, after all…
Without breaking the kiss, both their tongues roaming all around their mouths, Slash spun Duff around and pressed him against the room’s door, signaling he needed more, he needed what came next…
“I can’t find my key,” the bassist breathed, breaking the kiss.
“Shit. OK, let’s go to my room. It’s open.”
That said, the tanned man pushed the taller man inside and let him fall on the bed. Then, he closed the door carelessly behind him, not caring if it was locked or not. Finally, he turned on the TV.
“Let’s see if we can finish in time for the morning news,” Slash teased.
Duff, boots out already, undid the zipper in his leather pants, and Slash grabbed them and slid them down the long, sexy legs. Ha. Now he could see why the bassist had become aroused so quickly. No underwear under those tight leathers. He couldn’t resist a sexy smile, which the blonde took as his cue to take off his leather jacket and his tank top. Slash took off his T-shirt and his boots as well, but kept his jeans on.
“A million teenage chicks are going to wish they were me,” the guitarist announced.
This said, he began kissing and sucking on Duff’s toes, tickling them with his tongue. The skinny bassist shivered both with the tingling feeling and with anticipation. He even stifled a giggle.
The tanned man kept on working, now leaving the toes, and after kissing quickly the foot sole, he started going up Duff’s legs, alternating between them. He kissed his bandmate’s ankles, his knees, and started making his way slowly to his thighs, grinning when he heard Duff was nearly purring with arousal. Finally, Slash’s lips reached the bassist’s shaft, and he started teasing, going around the erect dick…
“Oh, c’mon, fucker,” Duff gasped impatiently. Slash took that as a signal for him to start working on the bassist, so he started nibbling his balls. The feeling of the guitarist’s teeth in such a hidden place drove the skinny blonde wild; his moans became louder and his cock started leaking precum.
Slash, noticing Duff was completely ready, now blew him. He wiped the head of the bassist’s dick with his tongue, whirling it around several times, and then, when he saw Duff was about to explode, he deep-throated him. The bassist didn’t last long under Slash’s expert mouthing, and he came inside the guitarist’s throat, letting out a deep moan.
The curly man smiled, but didn’t stop there. Instead, he went up Duff’s body, kissing his chest, his nipples, and finally kissing his mouth, letting the blonde take a small taste of his own fluids.
Panting wildly, the bassist then waited for what was next. Slash slid his jeans down, and revealed his cock, which looked definitely ready. Duff moved aside, as to leave him some room on the bed, for the thought things were going to be the same that they had been with Kurt. So, he was definitely caught off guard when he heard Slash say:
“What are you doing? I don’t need the bed. Duff, place your legs over my shoulders.”
The bassist, knowing what that meant, frowned.
“Oh, no Slash. There’s no way I’m doing this…”
“Oh yes, there’s a way. Believe me, hot thing, you’re gonna like it. And remember…” the tanned man’s voice became seductive, yet menacing, “I don’t like to lose.”
Duff was ready to complain again, when he felt Slash’s calloused fingers brushing against his entrance. The feeling was enough to arouse him again. It was awkward, but irresistible…
“Do you like it?” Slash smiled. “Told you so. You’re gonna like what’s next even better.”
He didn’t wait for an answer. In fact, the tanned man just took the pale legs and put them over his shoulders. His bandmate didn’t resist. Now, there it was: Duff, legs wide open in front of him, spread apart, and ready to receive him… God. Even the idea was breathtaking. Yet, he knew he would have to be careful, for Duff was an anal virgin and surely tight; so, Slash took a minute to lubricate his shaft with his own precum before pushing, slowly, yet deep into the bassist.
“Uhh… fuck… SLASH!!” the blonde yelled when the guitarist’s cock reached his prostate. It didn’t matter if he had felt uncomfortable at the beginning, for now the pleasure was almost unbearable. The curly man, pleased at his bandmate’s reaction, continued with his movements, holding the long legs over his shoulders, yet going out and burying himself over and over again into Duff, who let out screams and howls of mere pleasure. In fact, the bassist felt his own shaft, which had been emptied after the guitarist’s blowjob, arise again, and he took it into his hand, stroking it while Slash just kept on pushing into him and hitting his most sensitive spot again and again, whispering oh God Duff yeah Duff… Fucking Lord! Surely that guy knew how to please a man!
Both Gunners moaned loudly when Slash filled Duff with his cum and the bassist shot his fluids into his hand. Panting, gasping for breath, Slash pulled out from the blonde and lowered his curly head to kiss his sexy bandmate…
And, right then and there, the door opened.
Axl had walked down the hall to Slash’s room, the one farthest from his, in order to have that talk. He was ready. It didn’t matter if he woke his guitarist up: these issues just couldn’t wait.
The singer had heard the moans coming out from the room, recognized that voice as Duff’s… but he had said nothing. He had struggled not to believe it. That was why, as soon as the noise was over, he had opened the door, wishing he had been mistaken, whishing it had been just his imagination…
The two naked bodies didn’t lie.
Duff had barely spotted Axl when he felt the urge to run the fuck out of the room. Yet, for some reason, he couldn’t. Instead, he covered himself with the rumpled, dirty sheets, as if he had been a girl. Slash, on the other hand, stood there naked, looking at his former lover as if saying, Yeah, see here, what you’ve caused. Sorry Axl. I found myself a new man.
But the singer did not fly at them in a rage. He didn’t go away either. In fact, he didn’t say anything. He just stood there, staring at the couple. No emotion was in his empty eyes: nor anger, nor sadness, not even lust for the nude men in front of him. Time had stopped for all of them.
TV brought them back to life. The morning news. It seemed Duff and Slash hadn’t finished on time…
There was the presenter. With a neutral tone of voice, he said:
“Bad news for the music world. Especially for grunge and Nirvana fans.”
The three men turned towards the TV.
“Nirvana’s leader Kurt Cobain was found dead yesterday, in his Seattle home near Lake Washington. Apparent cause of death, suicide. The man who found him was installing an alarm system when he noticed the body. He declared he thought Kurt was asleep or unconscious until he noticed some blood coming out his ear. That was when he saw the shotgun. Expert forensics have stated Cobain must have died at least three days ago. A memorial will be held. Rest in peace, Kurt Cobain.”
Silence overtook the room. Overwhelming, deafening. Slash broke it first.
“Your lover’s dead,” he announced, not turning towards any of the blondes in particular. He knew the statement was true enough for both of them.
It all sounded like the end of an era.
Axl was the first to move. Slowly, almost carefully, he closed the door, leaving Duff and the guitarist inside. Then he walked into his room, took the sheet filled with crossed out oaths and promises, and looked at it for a while. Then he ripped it apart, broke it into a thousand pieces. His promise of eternal love was turned into a bunch of trash on the carpet.
Duff was next. He untangled himself from the sheets, walked to his clothes and put his leathers on. However, he didn’t have time to fully dress himself. Nausea overcame his guts, and he ran to the bathroom, burying his head on the toilet. He threw up once, twice. He felt sick, he felt sorry, but, most of all, the shock of Kurt’s death and the ruthless irony of the scene made his stomach turn.
Slash was the last. When the other two men were outside, he closed the door behind them. Now he didn’t forget to lock it.
He let himself fall down on the bed. It still smelled like Duff: a faint smell of alcohol, sweat, and, for some reason, shampoo. The guitarist was reminded, sadly, of Axl’s smell, of the long nights they shared together. Axl smelled like smoke, like fire, like something wild and animal. For some reason, tonight, that smoky smell that belonged to Axl appeared to Slash as if it had been the smoke from a familiar fireplace, from the hearth… from home. He wished he could go back, envelop himself inside that smell…
Messy curls fell on the messy sheets. Slash, face buried in his arms, was crying. For Axl, for himself, for Kurt. The grunger’s sudden death had turned all this heartbreak into something futile, stupid, something that didn’t make sense anymore… but was too big to be stopped. Slash broke into desperate sobs, knowing that, no matter how hard he tried, it was already too late.
The year was 1997. Many things have changed, Duff thought. He had called it quits with the band some weeks ago, and was now in vacation. He had decided to leave Seattle, his new hometown, to visit Axl at his mansion in Malibu. He had to talk to him.
The hot air blowing through the cab’s window drifted him off to that terrible day three years ago. It was true, many things had changed since then.
He remembered that, after the fatal announcement, the members of the sexual triangle had somehow managed to drag themselves to the studio. He had been expecting the bomb to explode at any moment, but, for some reason, Axl had acted humble and unusually tolerant. It was as if he was acknowledging his faults: he had cheated on Slash, so he deserved Slash fucking Duff. No big deal. On the contrary, Slash had been as tense as his guitar’s strings, fumbling around, looking uncomfortable with everything. He remembered his bandmates’ faces, trying to guess what was going wrong, to no avail.
Those two weeks were terrible for the bassist. Now, he felt glad to be alive. He had felt so miserable because of Kurt’s death and for Axl that he had drunk his hours away. He would arrive to the hotel in a deplorable state. And a tense Slash would be waiting for him. He had become Slash’s sex toy, and was too wasted to refuse.
Until he got really sick. An emergency visit to the hospital revealed his pancreas had swollen to the size of a football. The doctor said that unless he stopped drinking he would die of alcohol induced pancreatitis within a month. Duff had taken that as a signal for him to change. He went back to his family and the recording of the supposed album stopped.
Now sober, the bassist had tried to solve the problems between his friends. Many times he had spoken to Axl and to Slash separately, telling them they needed to try again, to stop everything they were doing before they would harm each other more…
Nothing. Nothing at all. They were both too emotionally bruised to look at the other’s wounds anymore. In fact, Slash had sometimes stated he preferred to have sex with the blonde bassist that with the man he used to love. But Duff wouldn’t take it now. He felt awkward when he saw what looked as a very pissed off Slash walk away every time they talked.
That was when it happened. Gilby was the first to leave. Not a big surprise for anybody. Matt began showing his inconformity. Not a big deal.
Then, Slash announced he was leaving.
Duff remembered that day as well. Last year. Paul Tobias, Gilby’s replacement, had suffered the new rehearsals that were meant to test him, because he listened to nothing but insults and complaints from Axl to Slash and back again, and the lead singer bossing him around. Poor kid must have thought we hated each other since the beginning, Duff thought.
When Slash announced his departure, the only guys around were Axl and Duff. The rest of the band had already left the studio. Duff had gone get a coffee, and when he came back to pick his stuff, he heard the singer’s high-pitched voice screaming a string of thousand curses and swear words he wasn’t even sure he knew. Right back at him, Slash’s voice rang out:
“It was over, Axl! It was fucking over since that day! I only stayed because of the music… but now even music’s shit! I can’t fucking do this anymore! I hate this band and I hate you!”
“IT’S GOOD YOU DO SO, SLASH!!! I FUCKING HATE YOU AS WELL!!”
This scream was joined by the sound of things breaking against walls. Duff had known Axl must have been throwing the tantrum of his life and was surely destroying all the equipment.
“See!!” Slash kept on. “Take a good look at yourself, William! Destroying fucking everything in your path! Talking to me about legal shit, such as if the name is yours or whatever… well, you can keep your fucking name and destroy it, too!! You destroy all your shit!! And that’s because you don’t think, asshole!! You think with your fucking asscrack!! And that’s what brought us down in the first place!!”
“Don’t you speak about us, Slash! DON’T YOU DARE, MOTHERFUCKER!!”
“Fuck you,” Slash ended, his voice sounding calmer. “You’re fucking bound to fall, princess. Rock n’ roll is going to eat you alive, just as lust ate you in the first place.”
Duff had moved from the door, and had seen Slash walking out. For some reason, the bassist thought he had seen the silver tracks of falling tears underneath that mess of curls, but he couldn’t be sure. He had gone in after that, and had seen Axl smashing everything he could against walls, amps, anything. His bass was already broken.
“GO AWAY!!” the singer had yelled, to nobody in particular. “I DON’T NEED YOU!! I NEVER NEEDED YOU!! I CAN MAKE IT BY MYSELF!! I’LL GET ANOTHER GUITARIST!! YOU MEAN NOTHING!! DO YOU HEAR!!!?? NOTHING TO ME!! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!”
Finally, the strawberry blonde, out of breath, had stopped his rage. He had turned around and seen his bassist, standing there, watching him silently.
Duff sighed. The memory was brutal and sad at the same time. He remembered Axl had walked over to him, looked at him as if he had been a stranger, and then… he had started crying, right there and then. Axl had cried like a little child who had lost his mom, like a mourner in a funeral, sometimes screaming, sometimes muttering Why, why, Saul, why… the singer had cried his heart out. Duff had hugged him until the sobbing and whimpering had stopped. It had taken plenty of time.
And that was when everything had gone downhill.
Axl had gotten a replacement, Robin Finck, and they set out to work. And sessions had become unbearable. The singer was irritable, intolerant, and maybe even crazy. It was as if he felt Slash’s departure had given him leave to do everything he wanted with the band. It was as if the press had always been right about the way they imagined his personality.
That was when Duff had decided to take desperate measures. He knew Axl was acting like that because of Slash’s departure. The bassist had taken his chances and had decided to phone the curly guitarist and offer something he already knew would be rejected.
“Hey, Slash,” the blonde had casually said when the receiver was lifted.
“Hey, Duff. What’s up?” Slash had answered, sounding pretty calm and even pleased.
After some small talk, the bassist had finally got around to his plan.
“Well Slash, the reason I was phoning was because I was thinking maybe we should go back to basics.”
“What you mean?” the guitarist had asked.
“Well… I was thinking about calling Izzy and Steve up… after all, they’re free… and, well, you know, having a reunion. Guns n’ Roses, the original lineup. I think it would work out pretty well and we would sort all of our problems out.”
Silence on the other end of the line. Yet, Duff had expected what came next.
“Over my dead body.”
Once again, silence. Then Slash had given a sort of apology.
“I’m not talking about the guys, you know, Duff. And I’m definitely not talking about you. I’m talking about Axl. I’d rather be dead than work with him again. A reunion will only happen when I’m dead…” Another pause. “Or over Axl’s dead body. Whatever happens first.”
“OK” Duff had concluded, and hung up after some more conversation. Very well. But Axl would surely say yes. When that happened, he would only have to call Izzy, who would surely agree, and then drag Steve’s butt out of some rehab program and tell him he could play under the condition to stay clean. With four against one, surely Slash would give in…
But he hadn’t expected Axl to answer the way he did.
“Nah, Duff. Not gonna happen. I don’t want anything to do with that fucker anymore.”
“But… but…” the bassist had stammered, totally taken by surprise. He even had dared to say: “But… you miss him, don’t you? And Izzy too, don’t you? I mean… he was your friend from Indiana…”
“Yes, Izzy was my friend, and I’d like to think he still is,” the strawberry blonde had answered, “but not Slash. In fact, I’m glad he’s gone. He was like a cancer. It had to be removed.”
The bassist couldn’t believe Axl’s words were for real.
“Please, Axl, stop it,” he had insisted. “I know you don’t mean it. I know this is just your anger speaking. And that’s no good. It was because anger spoke louder than you both that your relationship and this band began falling apart in the first place. Axl… I know you still love him…”
The singer had looked at Duff in such a way the bassist had thought he was going to hit him. But he had had to say it. Anger was destroying the band and everything…
“You can have your reunion, if you want to,” the pissed frontman finally spat. “Call Izzy, say hi to him from me. Call Steve, if he’s conscious, that is. And call that motherfucker. Go ahead and play. I have my own band.” And he had gone away, to order everyone around, to keep on bitching about everything… Duff’s plan to rejoin the lovers had failed, and there was not much to do now.
So, when Matt Sorum departed, Duff knew he wouldn’t take much as well. That was when he had decided it was his turn to leave. He had told the news to the manager and to the record company first, and, finally, he had told Axl. He didn’t expect the singer to go into a passion, as it had happened with Slash, but he had felt a little surprised when Axl didn’t seem to react.
“So you’re leaving me alone, huh,” was everything the singer had said, no particular tone in his voice.
“Well… yes…” Duff had answered, his voice suddenly becoming small.
“OK then,” was the answer, perhaps with a little pain… but Duff couldn’t be sure.
So, he had gone back to his family, to Seattle, thinking he didn’t want anything to do with Axl anymore. Well, at least in terms of music and bands. Perhaps they could talk sometime, see how things were going… but they were not going to play together again. No way. In fact, Duff had managed to remain oblivious to the magazines and TV shows that made a lot of noise about Guns n’ Roses falling apart piece by piece and to the poisonous comments that insinuated Axl was going to go down with his little game, that he would not be able to survive…
Until he got the phone call that had made him fly to Malibu.
A woman’s voice was on the other side of the line, saying his name. It sounded distinctly familiar, yet Duff hadn’t been able to recognize it.
“Who is this?” he had finally asked.
“Duff McKagan?” the voice had insisted. “It’s… it’s Courtney. Courtney Love.”
“Oh. Courtney. What a surprise. Is there anything I can help you with?” Duff had answered, distant, yet polite.
“Well… yeah, I think you can. By the way, sorry about your band.”
“Nah… don’t mention it.” God, what was it with the woman? Why was she all good all of a sudden?
“OK. Duff, the reason I called was because, well… I was going through some of my husband’s papers, and… well, I found some things he wrote about Axl and you.”
The ex-Gunner had paled and had nearly dropped the phone. Oh Lord. Oh no. Not revealing evidence, please. Nobody can know…
“I read those things Kurt wrote about you,” Courtney had gone on, “and I guess he really appreciated you bastards. Imagine that.”
“Oh… well… nice.” Duff hadn’t been able to think of anything else to say; he had been too concentrated in noticing any hint of sarcasm or knowing in Courtney’s dialogue, and, having noticed that the woman had spoken naturally and even good-naturedly, had been too busy thanking every saint in heaven to say an intelligent response. Appreciated. Anything was OK, as long as there were no hints about sex.
“So,” Hole’s former leader had continued, “that was when I decided I had been too unfair and well… a motherfucking bitch to you, actually.” A little embarrassed chuckle had come out. “And I want to apologize.” Courtney’s voice had trembled a little, before adding: “I guess Kurt would have liked this.”
“It’s OK,” Duff had answered, genuinely thankful. “Apology accepted, Courtney. We’re all good now.”
The bassist had guessed that, at the other side of the line, Kurt’s widow was mustering a smile. Then she had talked again.
“Are you still on speaking terms with Axl?”
“Well… we’re not the best of friends right now, but I guess I can still talk to him, yeah.”
“In that case, can you do me a favor, Duff?” she had asked. “Please, can you tell him what I just told you? I’d do so if I could, but… I’m sure he would hang the fuck up on me if I phoned him.”
She had a point, the bassist thought.
“Yeah. Don’t worry Courtney, I’ll tell him.”
“Thanks again Duff. See ya, then.”
Just after that call, Duff had decided he needed to talk to his ex-bandmate. In person. There were many things that needed to be discussed.
He got out of the cab and paid the driver. They had arrived to a fancy neighborhood in Malibu, and Axl’s house stood right in front of him.
The housekeeper welcomed Duff and told him that Axl was in his room. The bassist thanked her and went up the stairs to where he had been told the room was. Upon getting there, he found a closed door. He knocked gently.
“I told you,” the voice which he remembered so well came out. “I don’t want anything. Go away.”
“Axl? It’s Duff.”
“Hey. Come in. The door’s open.”
The bassist obeyed and opened the door, finding himself in a spacious room, which looked very dark in spite of the Malibu sun. It was all covered with deep crimson curtains that were closed and blocked the light from the windows. There was a TV set, a mini-bar, a bookshelf piled with papers and magazines, and, of course, a piano. And, in the center of it all, a huge and intricately decorated bed. Axl was sitting on it, dressed only in his well-known underwear and his Charles Manson T-shirt. Well, his classic bandana was still in place. He was sitting there, cross-legged, holding an empty bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand as if it had been a scepter. Another empty bottle was lying at his feet. For some reason, this vision made Duff think of a fallen king… or about that guy of the story by Poe, the crazy guy who lived in that dark house…
“Come here, Duff.” Axl saw the blonde was not moving, so he made a little space on the bed. “Sit down over here.”
The bassist obeyed his not-so-sober ex-bandmate and sat down. He was about to say Hey Axl, there’s something I wanted to tell you when the singer’s deep voice rang out:
“I thought you were my friend, Duff.”
The sentence surprised the taller man.
“But… I am your friend, Axl,” he answered.
“If you’re my friend, Duff,” the strawberry blonde retorted, taking a sip from his whiskey, “why did you leave me all alone?”
“It was necessary, Axl,” he finally said. “I had to leave you because I am your friend. You see, Axl, I tried to help you solve your mistakes. But you didn’t listen to me. So, I decided it was time for you to look for answers by yourself.” Duff looked into the other man’s green eyes and concluded: “That’s why I left.”
Another drink, and the singer spoke again:
“So, what brings you here, then? Do you want to come back?”
The question had sounded almost hopeful. In fact, Duff felt a little sorry for Axl when he said:
“No. That’s not it.”
After hearing this, the singer finished the bottle, threw it aside, and snapped:
“Well, then go away and leave me alone, then.”
Duff watched the empty whiskey bottle on the carpet. It immediately triggered memories of him lying half-dead in his hotel room after having drunk too much. Those had been the darkest days of his life. He had to warn Axl before it was too late.
“And what are you gonna do after I leave you, huh?” the bassist exclaimed. “Drink your fuckin’ life away? Huh?”
“What do you care.” Axl was walking towards his mini-bar and taking out another bottle. He frowned, seeing there was no more Jack Daniels left and settled for vodka.
“I care,” Duff insisted, “because I’m your friend. That’s why. And, as a friend, I just can’t stand to see you fucking up your life. Can’t you see? You’re destroying yourself, man!”
“None of your business.” Axl took a long drink from his newly opened bottle.
“Slash was right. You destroy everything. And that kind of behavior destroyed whatever was left of us as a band,” Duff protested, in a rage. It didn’t matter if Axl tried to kick his ass after mentioning Slash. The man had to understand.
“Oh,” the singer’s voice sounded sarcastic when it was his time to reply, “so I fucked everything up, huh. And maybe your night of passion with Slash was something completely innocent and had nothing to do with the band breaking up. Yeah, Duff. You’re such a nice little angel.”
Duff trembled. He struggled to fight back tears of guilt at the memory. Defeated, he got up from the bed, and was about to leave the room when another memory found his way into his brain.
“Very well, Axl. You win. I was no better than a slut that day. Yet, I thought you could find your way out of all that shit. Together with Slash…”
No answer. The bassist continued his speech.
“Because… you know… once, somebody who liked you a lot told me that what he liked the most about you was that you could fix things, unlike him, who only made them worse. Have you ever wondered what he would think about you if he saw you now? He wouldn’t like to see you giving up, fucking everything up.” An epiphany crossed Duff’s mind at that moment, and he didn’t hesitate to add it: “He always thought you were strong enough to battle and defeat those demons… the demons that ended up destroying him.”
Throughout the speech, Axl had grown paler with every word. When the bassist finished, the strawberry blonde leaped on to him and pinned him against a wall, more desperate than angry. Duff didn’t resist. He was glad Axl had finally reacted.
“When did he tell you that? When did you talk to him?” Axl hissed between clenched teeth, hungry for an answer. His eyes sparkled with anxiety. There was so much passion in those actions that, no matter how sincere he wanted to be, Duff knew he would have to keep the secret of that meeting with Kurt… forever.
“It was when we were recording in Minnesota,” the bassist finally answered. “I went out for a drink by myself and found Kurt at a bar. And we ended up talking… about you, mostly. And that was when he told that to me. Axl… he really appreciated you, but, most of all, and I’m sure of this… he believed in you. Not as a rockstar, but as a person.”
Axl let the taller man go and then walked towards his bed, where he sat down again. Duff followed him, pleased that he had gotten away with his lie. It was then that he noticed Axl’s eyes were filled with tears. He had touched Axl’s heart. It was time for him to leave.
“You’ve got to show him, Axl. Show him you can rise from the ashes. You’ve got to show everybody. Even me.” This said, the bassist picked up his things, walked over to the strawberry blonde, and hugged him in a sad déjà vu. “And you gotta do this by yourself.”
He walked over to the door of the room. The singer stayed on the bed, looking at him. Nostalgia filled Duff’s eyes with tears, but he struggled to fight them back.
“Goodbye, Axl, and good luck,” he said, before closing the door.
After Duff left, the singer paced up and down his room, fidgety and tense. How? How could he show everybody? The bassist had made it look so easy. Well, he was an asshole. Things weren’t as easy as they seemed. And, anyways, what was the good of working things out, if doing it wouldn’t bring Slash back to him?
No. Axl was sure of it. Slash would never come back to him…
He felt his eyes were drowning in tears again. God, he had to stop thinking about it. He turned on the TV and took another sip of vodka. The screen showed him some image of some idiotic gossip show. And, of course, when it came to the subject of music, the big question was: will Axl Rose be able to survive without his band?
Motherfuckers!!! Axl tried to turn the TV off, but the stupid remote was not working. Fucking shit! The singer tossed it away. It hit his shelf and many of the magazines came tumbling down to the floor.
He could have asked the housekeeper or any other of the people who tended him to come and pick the magazines up, but he was only looking for an excuse to turn off the TV. So, Axl got up, pressed the OFF button of his TV none too gently, and walked over to where the remote lay under a pile of paper.
When he finally found the stupid remote, he saw it had landed on an old magazine which talked about Nirvana on the cover story. The remote had wrinkled the page, but Axl straightened it out slowly, almost lovingly. It showed an old picture of the band in black and white, standing in front of what looked as a very old building: Chad Channing was still in, smiling frankly, even a little foolishly. Krist Novoselic was standing at the left, looking serious. And, in the middle of them, a kneeling Kurt looked at the camera with a beautiful, innocent, even hopeful smile.
Something stained the smiling Kurt’s cheek. A tear. Axl hadn’t been able to stop himself. However, he wiped it away, leaving a small dark smear on the paper.
“Kurt…” he whispered, “I’m sorry. I guess I’m not who you thought I was… and yet… yet… you took that chance with me… but… please, tell me what I should do… please, Kurt… Maybe I was wrong that night… but if you forgave me, then… he can, can’t he?”
Some more tears fell on Kurt’s smiling face, and Axl closed the magazine to shield it from the water. He wiped his face, placed the magazine on the shelf, turned towards the other mags, and started eyeing them, distractedly.
But it wasn’t long before the pictures started creeping up on his heart. He had bought many magazines that featured Guns n’ Roses. Another magazine, another page.. and still he could see Slash smiling next to him, or playing his guitar, or… there was an old picture of the band which caught his attention. They all looked so young and so playful… he still had a terrible haircut. Steve and Izzy looked as if they were teasing him, and Slash pretended to be falling, while Duff watched the scene. Everybody looked happy… as if those days would last forever…
He thought about those days, before they hit the big scene. They lived together, cramped in a house that was falling apart at the seams. They had problems with the house, the rooms, drinking, Steve’s drugs… and yet… yet.. they had managed to survive! He thought about how they would talk. Together. Sometimes, he would toss and turn in his bed thinking about how to solve problems he’d had with the band and how would he cope with them next morning.
Kurt had been right. He’d liked to fix things.
So, what had happened? Maybe he hadn’t tried hard enough with Slash. He’d given up, too afraid, too hopeless and too hurt after his mistake. And the only night he’d meant to try, Slash had dragged Duff to his bed. So, Axl had given up again, and resorted to drinking, complaining, bossing, destroying…
Fucking everything up.
The singer got up from the carpet. He placed the magazines on the shelf. Yet, now his way of walking seemed proud and confident. Stronger than what he had been some minutes ago.
Now he knew what to do. Show them, Duff had said. Duff wanted him to show them? Well, he would. He would show that people who had left him alone.
He sat down at his piano. He played a random note, then another. None of them made sense. Yet, Axl didn’t care. It felt good to be working, playing music once again. Even if it was as random as the notes he’d just played. Kurt would have liked to see him active, playing, though the grunger had hated his music.
He took a pencil and a pad of paper, and, in the white page which presented itself as a new hope, he wrote down the following words:
No one ever told me when I was alone. They just thought I’d know better.
He stared at them. They were good. They were really good. Now he just had to think of a tune to go along with them.
Axl smiled to himself. Maybe, if he tried real hard, he would be able to create the record he’d always been dreaming of. The record that would change the face of rock n’ roll. The record that would prove he had lived on to Kurt’s expectations. He could see it. The critics and the people at the talk shows would be the first to fall. They would be amazed at the new record. Axl Rose’s triumphant rise from the ashes.
Then would come his band. If they didn’t want to come back, fine. But they would have to acknowledge his work. Recognize him. Pat him on the back and congratulate him.
And… maybe, maybe. Just maybe…
Perhaps one day he would meet Slash again. On the street, on some music ceremony, whatever. The point was, maybe they would meet again. They would shake hands, as friends, or at least as acquaintances…
And Slash would know about the record. Maybe, he would want to tell something to Axl about it. So, they would go for a drink, and talk, as friends. They would talk about life, music, how have you been stuff…
And… maybe. Maybe…
Just maybe… one day he would wake up, and feel the scent of whiskey emanating from Slash’s skin once again. Then, he would hide his face on the soft mess of black curls. And Slash would hold him close, and they would watch the sunrise together, as they used to, in those long nights at the hotel. The promise of a new day, with new hopes. Maybe… one fine morning…
The other note, at the piano, sounded out of key. But Axl wasn’t in a hurry. If the notes didn’t come by today, they’d come by tomorrow. He was not in a rush to make his dreams come true. He’d give the record whatever time it needed, in order to mold it into the masterpiece he wanted it to be. In order to put it together, along with his broken life.
That evening, Axl Rose had nothing in the world but time.