4. Always Something There to Remind Me

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Always Something There to Remind Me

I took Remo to The Brickhouse, a blues bar tucked on the edge of Providence's vacant downtown where the bouncers knew me and wouldn't bug me about not having ID. I was in there all the time. This was a kind of rough place, a different set of townies from the Cage, with regular brawls, but the music was usually good, blues in the Stevie Ray Vaughn mold which I knew Remo would like. Maybe that meant I wanted to make peace, or at least I felt a little guilty for making him sit through another hour of glam metal covers. I got a root beer in the bottle from the bartender, Remo got a shot of Scotch and paid for both. We sat down on a bench along the back wall and watched the band play for a while. It was almost like old times there except for the kind of sick feeling I had in my chest every time I thought about what I wanted to say. Maybe that's where that expression comes from, to get something off your chest. I might write a song about it later.

It was too loud to talk and Remo was starting to look impatient, so I pointed out a bouncer, a stocky, beer-bellied guy carrying an air horn. I put my hands over my ears and Remo did the same, watching me. The band finished their set, saying their thank-you-goodnights and then exiting. The crowd, mostly muscley-looking older guys (this was not a collegey kind of place) clapped and cheered for an encore. The bouncer was shouting something we couldn't make out. The guys pressed the stage. Then the bouncer let loose with the air horn, driving the crowd back. His mouth moved with unheard words while he blasted them. The stubborn men shouted for a while more and then the group broke up, shuffling back to the bar for another drink or heading out the door.

"What was that all about?" Remo said when we took our hands down.

"City says the band has to be off the stage by one-thirty on the dot even though the bar can stay open until two."

"Is it always like that in here?" He had a bemused look on his face.

"Pretty much." I took a pull on the root beer and looked around. The Brickhouse wasn't any more like our old home town place than the Cage was, I guess. Maddie'd never had to chase the crowd out with a horn, that's for sure. "So. Where were we..."

"I think you were getting ready to tear me a new asshole for leaving you behind in Jersey four years ago."

Put like that, the anger stuck in my craw. "Oh yeah," I said. "That's right."

"I mean, come on, Daron, you were fifteen. What, was I going to kidnap you or something so you could come with us? The deal was done. Proverbial fame beckoned. So we went. If there'd been some way to take you along..."

"I know." Of course he was right, but that didn't ease the itchy old feeling of abandonment. "But you never..." I tried to say it without choking. "I didn't understand why you had to move to LA. Once you were gone, there was no... Safe Haven for me, anymore." I couldn't help but use the title of a song I'd played with them, those years ago.

Remo looked pained-it was a cheap shot, but I had known that would get him. "Jeezus, kiddo..."

"Don't call me that," I said, too sharply. "I know you did what you had to. I wasn't expecting to... I mean, I knew that playing with you guys on Wednesday nights and weekends wasn't like I was, like, integral or anything."

"You shut your mouth," he said, but in a kind way. "If you'd been any older, if you'd..." He shook his head and sipped his scotch. "What did you think you were, our mascot or something?" He was chuckling. "Oh sure, when you were like twelve, it was cute, getting you up there. But." He took a deep breath. Sitting side by side like we were it was hard to look directly at each other. "You got wronged, all right? Can we leave it at that?"

"Why, is there more to the story than that?"

He jumped a little in his seat, like I'd pricked him with a pin. "I'm just not into assigning blame or whatever. What's my responsibility, I apologize for it." He sipped his scotch while his eyes roamed over the thinning crowd. "I didn't come here to talk about all that old stuff, anyway. I gotta know, what the hell are you doing in Rhode Island? And..." He stopped but I knew he wanted to say: and playing in a cheesy metal cover band looking like a five-dollar whore. "Digger said something about you going to school but..."

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