The Guitarist: Part Three
It was Tuesday yet again. I was just leaving my Neohome
for band practice (which has now lost its appeal for me because we still can't
find our missing member), when I noticed a familiar figure walking on the other
side of the street. It was Johnson!
"John!" I called. Perhaps he didn't hear me,
because he did not respond but continued walking instead.
"Johnson!" I cried out again, louder this time,
as I walked up to him. At that, he finally turned around. Seeing that it was
me, Johnson gave a spiteful look before walking away again. My heart hammered
hard in my chest, faster and faster. A large lump grew in my throat.
"John, we need to talk."
Grudgingly, he stopped in his path, his back
still facing me. As I trotted up to him, the shock of green hair caught my sight.
It reminded me of when Gruundo was just starting out, and the four of us decided
that we needed to stand out and be different from the other rock bands. So we
all went and dyed one another's hair in the most outrageous colours. I could
remember that we all had fun, and though we were still a relatively obscure
band at that time, at least we were happy. We were glad because we had one another's
company. And that was all we wanted.
"You have five minutes."
A distant, cruel voice sliced through my thoughts.
My eyes met with Johnson's, and for a while, I thought I saw a flicker of friendliness
in his eyes, as if he didn't really want to be so cold and unfeeling towards
me. But it was only a flicker, and then it was gone.
"Johnson, I - I have so many things…so many things
to - to tell you," Somehow I couldn't speak properly when I looked into the
glare of his eyes. So I glanced away. "Why did you leave the band? I - we -
all want to know. We are all concerned about yo-"
"What rubbish," he said, his eyes, which previously
burnt with hatred, were now brimming with tears. "Why would the elite guitarists
be concerned about someone as small a fry as me?"
"Elite guitarists?" I was confused now.
"Yeah. Didn't you all consider yourselves one
notch higher than me? I was inferior to you guys, no? And you all were superior,
experts, the cream of the crop."
"No, of course not, Johnson. We promised that
there would be no elite-ness or snobbish behaviour in the band, remember? We
never considered ourselves better than you. Where did you get that idea from,
"That's what you all say." His voice was quivering.
"And then when things go wrong you blame me. You guys think I'm never good at
anything - you think I'm the one who always messes things up, even when I really
"But that's not true!"
"Then what about the Guitar competition a month
ago? Remember how you treated me? How many times did I have to tell you all
that it was not my fault before you reluctantly believed me?"
"That was so long ago! Why, I thought you got
over it already!"
"Sure I did. But things went downhill from there.
You three were on one camp, while I was on another. I tried to blend in, to
work harmoniously, but you never took any of my suggestions. You guys dismissed
everything I said as dung, and literally threw my pride out of the window."
Now that I think of it, there actually were a
few incidents whereby we promised Johnson we would change a certain part in
a song, but in our busyness forgot to fulfil our promise. Maybe it was then
that Johnson believed he was of no contribution to the band, that everything
he said was not good enough for us.
Johnson continued. "I don't know when it started,
but you guys haven't been treating me well since a long time ago, even before
that incident. You guys have been ostracizing me for no reason. I mean, I just
felt so left out each time I'm with you - it's as good as I'm not around. I'm
obsolete compared to the three of you. You wouldn't really care even if I were
dying or starving, would yo--"
"That's the feeling you guys gave me, you know.
It's always Mupper, Henry and Mike. Where was Johnson? I was never in
the picture. All three of you omitted me in all your activities… Did you care
about me at all? Did you consider how I would feel when you signed me up for
that competition, without even asking me for my opinions? Did you listen to
me when I told you that I hadn't been feeling well at that time? Obviously you
haven't been listening, you even made me go for practices despite my illness.
You guys didn't even bother to ask about my constant coughing. All you care
about is yourself, about earning more Neopoints, never about me. Even if you
guys did bother… I can only say that you did a very bad job at it."
I didn't know what to say. I never knew that
Johnson felt this way, nor that we left him out of our friendship. Everything
seemed normal to me.
All of a sudden, guilt overwhelmed me. How could
I be so blind to my best friend's feelings, and for so long?
"I've tried so hard not to hate you guys, because
you were my best friends - my only friends in the world. I can't do without
you…but at the same time it's too demanding for me to pretend nothing's happened,
when my heart is bleeding. You don't know the loneliness of seeing your best
friends ignore you, as if you're Invisible instead of Orange. You don't know
how much you hurt me each time you turn away from me to talk to Henry or Mupper.
"I'll be glad to be best friends with you again,
but you never gave me the chance. All you did was chat up with Mupper and Henry,
and…leave me out.
"I guess the competition sort of confirmed everything.
After a while I could no longer find another reason to keep up with you guys.
Not when you don't even bother if I'm hanging out with you or not. Not when
my presence - or absence - doesn't even matter to you anymore."
Hot, angry tears rolled down my flushed cheeks.
I was angry at myself for being so ignorant. I called myself his best friend,
but never did a good job at it. It was all my fault. I stared at the ground,
crying quietly, filled with immense shame. Just then I noticed that he was leaving,
and, quickly, I grabbed his arm to stop him.
"I - I'm sorry, Johnson. We really did not mean
to leave you out. If we did cause you to think that way, it's entirely our fault.
It was not intentional, and more so we don't intend to make you out as a useless
element in our band. You're always our friend, Johnson. You always are, and
John looked at me in the eye, as if trying to
reconfirm for himself that I was telling the truth. Soon he broke down into
tears. It was as if he had been hiding his tears from us all along, letting
them all out only now. Suddenly I realised how much he had been bottling up
all these years. That carefree, worry-less Johnson I knew was slowly but surely
peeling away his outer image, so that I saw his other side - a weak, emotionally
And finally, I saw the real Johnson I never knew.
When he spoke, his voice was barely audible.
"I'm sorry as well…I guess I was too caught up
in my own thoughts, my own perception of how you guys would see me. I thought
I was always inferior as a guitarist beside Mupper and you, because you two
were always the ones composing those great songs. Things didn't get better with
the competition, because I saw how suspiciously you looked at me and I jumped
to conclusions. It really made me feel so small, so unneeded in the band."
"Of course you're not unneeded, Johnson!" I said,
wiping away my tears with the back of my paw. "You don't know how we struggled
without you. Everything we played turned out wrong. You're a guitarist yourself
- you know how important the bass is to a band. It's so essential, so crucial
- any piece of music would fail without it, you know? And you are just the same
to us, just as significant as the part that you play. We would fail without
you. No, we wouldn't even exist without you! You don't know how vital you are
to our band and mostly, to our friendship. The weeks when we didn't see you
were…how do I put it? They were unbearable. I felt so empty deep within, as
if a part of me were forcefully cut out, never to be retrieved again. Life is
just not the same without you, Johnson, your laughter, your joyfulness, your
optimism, your encouragement…everyone in the band misses you."
Johnson was visibly speechless.
"But…I can't go back now, I mean -"
"John, sure you can! Henry and Mupper can't wait
for you to come back," I assured him. Even though his expression still showed
a tinge of uncertainty, I could tell he was positively influenced by my confident
remark. I put my paw on his arm, and gripped him tight, just like how he used
to, to encourage me on in every situation. Finally, he broke into a smile -
that same smile that once and now again gave me hope when I was distressed,
that cheered up my pessimistic heart, that brightened my day without him having
to say anything at all.
Our friendship. Its return was a flow of warmth
upon my heart.