by Elina

Fast forward. Past birthdays, parties, a wedding or two, awards ceremonies, endless recording sessions, whole years of performances, interviews, kidding around, press conferences.

And here we are now. Gone our separate ways, no state big enough to hold more than one of us. Joey got Florida, since heíd lived there the longest. Justin has New York. He thrives on its rhythms, the beat that flows just underneath the surface. Lance went home to Mississippi, determined to build the next Branson in his own backyard. JC embraced California, and it embraced him back, giving him all the love and feel-good denial he had been missing for so long. And me?

Iím here in my apartment in Pittsburgh, listening to the industrial engines all around me. I know I could have a nicer place, sure. But Ma still needs the house I bought for her, and Iím still making payments on it, so I give her most of my checks. She sacrificed so many things she wanted for so long so I could have what I needed, itís only right I do something for her. Besides, this place isnít so bad. I can reach the TV from the bed to change the channel, and Iíve got lots of warm blankets. Ma gave me those ... theyíre the best. And I donít have to worry about messing stuff up if I get too drunk.

I donít like to get too drunk. Getting dizzy and shit ... that stuff sucks. I just like to keep a nice warm glow going. You can do that real cheap. And the glow helps me remember the nice parts while it blurs the rest. The girls ... they loved us, man. They went crazy for us. It was nuts, all those screaming teenagers who didnít even know what a rimjob was, but would lick your ass if you told them to. Sometimes their moms werenít too bad, either, and they usually knew their way around a dressing room. But the girls got pissed if we did that too much, so we mostly stuck to the crying, slobbery blowjobs.

JC never slobbered. He had a great mouth, Iím telling you, a great mouth. He had this trick ... nah, I canít describe it, but it felt amazing. I always felt kinda guilty, though, because he only came to see me when he was pissed off at Lance. Lance was a good guy. I shouldnít have helped JC dick him over. But that mouth, man. I could never say no to him.

God, they were together so long. They fooled around and shit when Lance first joined the band, but they never really did anything Ďtil we made it big. I guess they figured they could get away with more once everyone loved us. Because then we had better protection, and the fans were so hooked on us they ignored anything they didnít want to see. They were even together when Lance decided he wanted to get married to a woman. I can tell you, I got so much head during that time ... but JC still hung on for Lance. I heard they fucked the night before the wedding, and Lance had to hide the bruises from his bride. She was a sweet girl, Marie. She took it really well when he came out to her. Didnít sue, or anything. Lance felt really bad when she killed herself. She was a sweet girl. Pretty smile.

Took those boys a while to hook back up. JC even took up with Joey for a while because he was pissed off at me. I donít know why, I told him I thought his mom knew he was gay. They were together at Justinís wedding, all touchy-feely and hidey-hidey. That thing lasted about a whole New York minute, though, once JC found out that Joey had herpes. Hah. How could he not see that one coming? And now pure, pristine JC has herpes, too, and so does whoever heís sleeping with out in California.

Joey took it pretty hard, though, which surprised all of us. We had him pegged as a playboy so long it never occurred to us he only played the field because he couldnít find someone who could deal with him for longer than one night. One time when he got drunk with me he told me thatís why he thought he and JC would make it, because JC knew him so well, know what he was like. He was pretty disappointed when it didnít work out like that.

I tried, I tried to tell him Iíd give it a shot. He was my best friend, I figured I had as good a chance as anyone at sticking it out. His answer is one of those things I like to keep blurred.

He and I donít talk much anymore. I mean, Lance calls every once in a while and invites me down, and Justin stops by if he has time while heís on tour, and JC usually calls to sing Christmas carols at me, but me and Joey ... we donít talk. Not like Iím mad at him or anything, itís just ... hard to know what to say to him these days. And Iím not exactly tops on his list of people to get in touch with, you know? Heís got lots of stuff going on down in Florida.

Lance said they were worried about me last time he called me up. I told him thatís really nice, but Iím fine. Itís not like Iím some hermit, hiding from the world. I watch TV, I know whatís going on. Iíve got a phone, anyone can call me. Joey can call me. I talk to the guys in my neighborhood when I go down to the corner for more wine. Iím doing okay. Iím fine.

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