Saturday night. The dark dingy back room of a pub. Four guys on stage, mostly guys off the stage. Vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Black jeans and ripped t-shirts. The crowd heaving, drunk and sweaty, hoping for a fight. All it would take to incite the throw of a beer or a punch is for someone to yell something, to stand too close to someone else. And that volatility, that momentary chaos, that whiff of violence would embolden the four guys on stage, making them feel like what they do up there is important.
That’s how it goes in my head anyway.
I am not at the show, though all week on my way to work I have walked past posters promoting it. Harsh lines of black Texta jeering at me from the A4 photocopies taped up along the William Jolly bridge.
I would not see that band play if you paid me.
But I know the band.
I knew the singer first. We worked in adjoining departments in a deserted department store, he stationed at the confectionery counter and me in kitchenware.
This was during his hat phase. Specifically the black pork pie hat, when he was still trying to assemble the line-up for his first band. He sent me drafts of song lyrics a few times, all imitative of his idol Steve Albini and all too overt to be shocking.
We worked a lot of the same shifts and did a lot of standing around together, eating expired Godiva chocolate and talking about film and music. He recommended music to me constantly; classic stuff, stuff by his friends’ bands and a surprising number of love songs. It was obvious he liked me and for a while I thought I might like him too, until he tried to force things one night at a party. It was never spoken about. He was drunk and later seemed not to remember what he’d done. I had just finished high school and didn’t yet know how I was allowed to feel about something like that.
Technically, I knew the guitarist before the singer. This was during his pre-music phase, when he was just a kid in the year above me at primary school. Our mums were on the fundraising committee together. I remember we went to his house once to pick up hand-me-down baby clothes for my little sister. He was running around the backyard, a golden haired show-off. We went to different high schools but I saw him every so often at the video store near my house, where he worked part time.
I did not truly know the guitarist until we were in a relationship. After I turned eighteen, I began bumping into him at nightclubs. I was not particularly interested in him, but it felt like I should want a boyfriend. And it was exhilarating how much he wanted me to be his girlfriend.
My acquiescence coincided with a transfer at the department store to womenswear. I saw the singer on the escalators a few weeks later and he said, “The guy you’re dating sounds like a total dickhead.”
The guitarist said the same of the singer when I introduced them later, in the Valley one Saturday night. Neither were wrong. It just took me the better part of four years to realise.
I knew the bassist primarily through his friendship with the guitarist, though also briefly as a personal trainer. This was during his gym phase, when he was still winning powerlifting competitions. The personal training was arranged by the guitarist after he decided I should lose some weight. It ceased when the guitarist became jealous of the time we were spending together in the gym, lycra-clad and often squatting. He didn’t like the weight loss either, accusing me of bettering myself in readiness to leave him.
I wish it had been true.
I do not know the drummer. The drummer must not know his bandmates. Must not know what they are each excusing, denying and ignoring, to keep the band together.
The band with posters taped up along the William Jolly bridge.
I will never go to their shows, will never listen to their music.
It makes no difference to me whether anyone else does.
I just want to be left alone. To stop hearing rumours about myself. To stop receiving messages from them and those in their circle. To never again be cornered, as I was by the guitarist at a bar last year while my friend packed up after a solo set.
I never want to hear from any of them again, unless it is to deliver an apology.
That I might listen to.
Eleanor Spencer lives in Brisbane. She studied Creative Writing at The University of Queensland and works at a trade union.