Chapter 10

I focused all my attention on stage time to steer clear of the psychotic horse - that had become my mind -from charging into the burning stable. Brad had distanced himself all but completely from me, and the result of his desertion was too much reality for me to deal with.

Life at Cobra was prevailing – my gigs continued to attract people. And my new insight into derelict life at the expense of Cobra’s regulars was enough of a distraction.

The dark sense of reality that I was exposed to there was certainly not for the faint of heart. I didn’t realize it then, but being exposed to this consistent dumping of negativity was adding to my growing sense of misery.

The result of my loitering amongst the locals, lead to an alarming amount of confessions from them - they harbored many skeletons. My inability to turn people away opened me up to some disturbing stories.

There was one girl, Stella that I will never forget. Her mother died giving birth to her - talk about guilt. And her father molested her until she ran away at the age of twelve.

While living on the streets, she was forced to become a prostitute to survive. The unfortunate girl was beaten so badly by her pimp once that she fell into a coma for a week. At the age of seventeen, she went to rehab for a heroin addiction. When released, she set out to become a full-time rock groupie, following local heavy metal bands on the road.

I discovered quickly that people were really fucked up in New York City. And I was naïve in thinking that I was the only one whose father was a cold-hearted, perverted drunk; that I was the only one who had a verbally abusive, evil step-mother, and a family member off themselves.

Misery begets misery, apparently.

Three months after my initial performance at Cobra, and I was inexplicably still rocking out. Of course, nothing good lasts forever. Why should it, right? Well it didn’t for me.

Because of the attention that I was receiving, Victor turned paranoid about my barely-legal status getting blown. He feared the bar could be shut down. He said that I had to come back when I was eighteen.

“That’s a year away!” I exclaimed to him. “What the hell am I gonna do in the meantime?”

"Not my problem." Victor shrugged. "It sucks, I know - you were good for business.”

I was back at square one - singing in the subway and on street corners. Brad was too wrapped-up in the world of his drug-addict girlfriend to care that I was going backwards. He was drinking, popping pills, and partying a lot. I barely saw him for weeks at a time. His escapades would land him at Andrea’s apartment for the night, or God knows where.

I confronted him on his managerial obligations, and he claimed that it was under control. Then I wouldn’t see him again for days. I started to worry. Rent was due, and I was alone more often than not. The last time I saw Brad, we had a huge blowout about his drug problem.

“You don’t know what you’re talkin' about, Sim,” he said in his defense. “You’re just a kid.”

I knew it was the drugs talking. Brad never talked down to me.

“Brad, you’re letting that Andrea low-life ruin any chance that we have at making it in the business. Get off her twot, already!”

He turned to me with bloodshot eyes. “There goes Simmy, living in her dream world again. Face the facts. We are NEVER gonna be famous. Look around - this is it!” He became increasingly belligerent, and the sarcasm I couldn’t stomach.

“Maybe for you – you, junky loser. Not for me!” My legs rushed me out of the apartment. I slammed the door behind me.

Rage flared my nostrils. His words cut like a dull knife. I fought back tears, denying him the satisfaction.

I can’t live like this. This difficult realization wasn’t easy to come to grips with.

I walked aimlessly on the streets of New York, thinking of the appropriate action to take. I was angry and disappointed with Brad. And I didn’t want to go back.

Maybe coming to New York was a mistake.

Later that afternoon I coaxed my pigheadedness to steer for the apartment. My mind was set. I needed to tell Brad of my decision to move out. Unlocking the front door I entered the living-room; it was in complete disarray. Brad’s soiled clothes, along with dirty dishes were scattered everywhere. Empty beer bottles filled every flat surface.

“Brad?” I called out.

Not looking forward to the fight that was going to be the result of this split, I stepped cautiously forward. I froze.

Brad was lying  on an odd angle on the floor behind the coffee-table. I dove quickly to his side, screaming his name.

He laid motionless, pale, devoid of life, looking up at me with a lifeless stare locked for eternity. His matted long hair still glistened with sweat - a sign that he had died recently.

My breath had become staggered and difficult. I felt an anxiety-attack coming. My pulse quickened rapidly, causing my heart to punch at my ribcage, ready to burst through. The air flowing to my brain had become restricted from my short hallow breaths. The room was closing in around me.

This had to be a nightmare. How could it be real? Not again. Please not again.

Brad was my family - the only friend that I had.

I stood over him frightened, hoping that it was just a joke.

The milky foam that dripped from his agape mouth told me differently, however.

Sobbing wildly, I kept shouting his name. There was no response - his eyes didn’t flicker. I screamed hoarse. Still no response.

I shook his shoulders and slapped his face . . . nothing.

Desperately looking around the small unkempt apartment, I found the culprit. Pills of every shape and color were scattered on the plywood coffee-table abutting an empty bottle of Jack Daniels. Brad OD’d on me.

A web of betrayal, anger and fear pervaded me. I no longer had a sense of who I was.

“You stupid fuck,” I spat, rising. “How could you do this?” Kicking an empty beer bottle across the room, I winced when it crashed against the refrigerator.

What happened to us? My mind managed to ask amidst the chaos. The one person who cared about my future, and was willing to go to the ends of the earth for me, neglected to care for himself.

With shaking hands and a heaving chest, I knelt beside Brad again and convulsed into sobs.

Could this really be happening? Was he actually dead? We’d been through so much together, had such dreams and aspirations. But he gave up so quickly.

My hands rested on his arm. It was cold.

“Brad,” was all I could bring myself to utter.

His beauty knew no bounds - gifted with a huge heart, and an uncanny ability for compassion. I would no longer have that in my life.

My insides were lacerated beyond healing. How could I let that party lifestyle destroy him? Maybe he wasn’t as strong as he led me to believe. I thought Brad was a warrior in this world of endless conflict. Maybe I was just a kid? Apparently that glimmer of hope that I thought I grasped in Brad, was merely a trick of light. The proverbial desire for good to prevail in a shitty world really didn’t exist.

My life is shit. Brad is dead…the world is dead.

I looked back at his empty face, and that’s when shock took over. My eyes locked on his, and everything around me faded to a blur. Images of my childhood turmoil flashed before me, reminding me of the similar shocking discovery of my mother.

I made a fruitless attempt at pulling myself together. Getting up from Brad’s lifeless body, I walked to the door. Tears streaked my face. I felt frozen where my nerve stricken legs stood.

Would I be able to leave Brad’s body, abandoned, discarded like waste?

My mind wouldn’t slow down even a fraction of a second for me to think clearly. My hands were shaking convulsively. Managing several deep inhales I struggled to control my breathing. Numb with grief and scared of my life beyond that door, I reflexively shot to my corner of the one-room apartment, grabbed my denim bag, and filled the oversized compartment with whatever was in eyeshot: A shirt, jeans, my journal, toothbrush, toothpaste, and my headset. I then found myself by the door. Balancing against the knob, I turned one last time to look at Brad before I walked out.

Discombobulated, I rushed for the payphone outside our apartment to call 911. I muttered indecipherable words in the hallway, falling down the last few steps, landing hard on my side.

Laying there helpless, I cursed God’s name. My thoughts were suicidal at best.

Stumbling to get up, I clutched my left leg from the raw pain. Struggling to the phone-booth, I leaned against the glass and contemplated the hardest decision I would ever make - leaving the apartment for good. I was a minor and the police would definitely send me back home. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Brad’s unclaimed body, but the thought of enduring my stepmother’s wrath again wasn’t a question for logic.

I’m running for it.

I made the call to the police then took off. Half-jogging down the street, my heart ached.

I have no one now that Brad is gone. What am I gonna do? I have no place to go.

Trying desperately to reframe from crying to avoid bringing attention to myself, I escaped the street. The cops would arrive any minute. I turned down an alley and hid beside a dumpster. The ambulance and police sirens were blaring down the street. An uncontrollable urge to see what was unfolding consumed me. I covered my ears and wished for it to end. After what felt like an eternity they finally left.

Beside the foul dumpster in the dismal alleyway, I cried until it was physically impossible to continue. My head was down in my lap as my body convulsed with grief. I was exhausted. I took on a fetal position and fell into a restless sleep.

My dreams were filled with faces of people I knew, laughing at me, mocking my pathetic existence. I was running down a darkened tunnel while being chased by my tormentors.

Halting abruptly, I looked to the angry image of Brad standing before me.

“How could you leave me like that, Simmy? I loved you. You betrayed me . . . you betrayed us all! You should never have been born.”

“No Brad, you don’t mean that.” I sobbed. “I’m sorry.”

All around me livid faces glared with hatred, loathing my existence. They started to chant, “Die, die, die . . .”

I screamed, forcing myself to awaken. I didn’t know where I was at first. It turned dark from nightfall and damp from an earlier rain.

Standing with a stiff leg, all I could do was keep moving. Guilt weighed heavy on my heart and despair on my soul. For weeks I slept on park benches and ate from garbage cans. I don’t know why I kept going but I did.

Living has never been my strong point. I was never any good at it.

There was a moment when I considered the possibility that Brad’s death might have been a suicide. If he did kill himself, was it my fault? I loved Brad more than anyone. If he took his life because of me, how could I forgive myself?

I lay on a bench one late afternoon looking up at the ancient sky, when a line from my favorite poem offered a chilling parity to my life.

The sky is a mirror,

Casting a reflection of the world -

Images of trickery and dreams blocked by an unseen force -

Conjuring mortal lives destined to partake in a theatrical disaster

Plagued by abuse, and death,

Whilst securing a cold cynical stare

Into my hopes and my dreams

Ripped apart by my darkened fate

Hopeless my heart

Broken my soul

The parallels between my circumstances and this morose poem were frightening.

Was this to be my fate? Broken? Forgotten?

Never did I imagine that life could be so thoroughly cruel.

Living on the streets had become vile. I had to constantly evade the vigorous attempts of pimps trying to recruit me, elude junkies scheming to rob me, and hide from homeless men sniffing around for a little action.

It was spring, but the nights were cold. I did grab a jacket out of instinct when I left the apartment, but it wasn’t always enough. I would sleep in public bathrooms on really cold nights.

One night, after a three week homeless stretch, under the watchful eyes of the laughing stars with no remorse or mercy, I fell into a deep depression. Death seemed like the only way out.

I felt so guilty about everything. I was sick of it all. I was being punished - chastised for leaving Brad, I knew it, doomed to follow a dreadful path to a certain lonely death.

Those agonizing weeks I roamed the cracked sidewalks of the ambiguous city during the day. My stomach ached constantly from hunger, and my eyes glazed from sleepless nights. Methods of suicide became an obsession. Hara-kiri was my favorite. I deserved a medieval means for death.

While rummaging through a restaurant dumpster one morning, I was hit full-throttle by my sordid reality. I couldn’t believe the runaway ne’er-do-well that I had become. Sitting amongst rotten leftovers I began to cry. I had reached the lowest point of my existence, locked in a vacancy.

Picking up a broken bottle, I brought it to my wrist. My hand shook as I applied pressure. I hated my life and couldn’t bear to suffer another day. But I couldn’t do it. Was it fear that stopped me? Or, was it my prudent alternate-self resisting? I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted God, or whatever it was that mapped out our fates to give me a fucking break.

I hesitated while small scratches from the sharp edge of the glass started to form on the pulsating veins beneath my wrist. And then, the altruistic component of my being stopped me. Maybe I was anchored by my guilt, or cowardliness.

Whatever it was, I threw the glass and climbed out of the trash. Standing physically numb, I cogitated. Ironically, what stopped me from committing this unforgivable sin was the memory of finding my dead mother. The dumpster struck a chord. My personal anger and shame steeping forever after stopped me from following in her footsteps.

I remember how it destroyed me when I became more aware of what exactly she did and why. When I recognized it as a selfish act, I promised to never be like her. This was an accord that I made with myself early on in my life.

The vivid memory of her death consumed me once out of the dumpster. I was only nine when it happened, but you don’t ever forget something like that. As I got older the details of what I saw became increasingly understood.

The horror of the act was frozen on her face. It was obvious Victoria was struggling with her decision. She lay in the crimson filled tub, one arm lolled off the side with its wrist turned up, exposing a deep laceration. The other arm floated by her side in the red water. My mother was fully dressed, submerged in the bath.

I forced my eyes closed and cupped my hands over my ears to block the screams that retched from my nine year-old mouth so many years ago. I still struggle with the truth. Could it have been just a dream? Did I even have a mother? Did my imagination create this fictional memory as an explanation of my motherless existence?

“Ugh,” I yelled in agony as I crumbled to the pavement in the ally. “I don’t want to see it anymore.” The memory was more than I could stand.

I quickly rose then ran to where the crowds were. I needed this welcomed buffer. I was on the brink of a psychotic episode.

Walking on Broadway and then down 52nd, my legs eventually gave out from exhaustion. I propped myself against a building.

Irony would have it to be the office of Atlantic Records - one of the record companies Brad had presented my demo to and heard nothing from. What a cruel satirical moment. It was yet another jab from the powers that be, mocking me.

A voice rang out during this despondent lull. A male voice called my name sounding vaguely familiar.

I was too tired to care though.

Maybe it’s God calling down to me, finally - asking if I’m ready to throw in the towel, and be rid of this wretched existence.

“Yari, is that you?” The source of the voice stood before me. “Holy shit, what the hell happened to you?”

I looked up, struggling to focus on his face, feeling fatigue taking me into the next level of consciousness.

“Hey, it’s me, Frank.” Comforting hands supported my frame, as I came closer to investigate.

It was Frank - the makeshift studio guy.

I was elated to see his familiar puck-marked face and receding hairline.

Adrenalin immediately spurt forth a last bit of energy within by frailness. I straightened myself to speak, willing myself to awaken. It was as if I were looking at Jesus Christ himself. Frank certainly was no saint, even far from being a man of religious virtues. But he was like my savior at that moment.

“F-Frank,” my voice faltered. Then I started to cry. “Brad is dead, and I’m homeless.”

That was all I needed to say.

He took me to his apartment and fed me. I told him of all my misfortune in New York. Frank said little. He just listened. After a couple hours of reliving my nightmare, he told me to sleep.

Frank was strategic in getting me back on my feet when I didn’t have a pot to piss in. He arranged for me to live with his spinster sister in Brooklyn. I got a job at a grocery mart to help Phyllis out.

It was a boring existence. But I was alive.

I fell in a bucket of shit and come out smelling like roses this time.

I read a lot, wrote songs. I chose not to go back to school because of the uncertainly of wanting to stay in New York. There were just too many bad memories to keep me there.

Several months into this influx Frank came to me with a business proposal.

“Music is my life, and I know it’s yours.” His approach was all business. “If you still want to break into the industry as much as I do, then I seriously think that we need to move to Hollywood.” His eyes bore into me with serious intensity. The thick New York accent poured over his words. “It’s only in California where we stand a chance. I’ll be your manager. You’ve got what it takes. All you need to do is show them. I’m not irresponsible like Brad unfortunately was. I have money saved, and connections there. It’ll be tough in the beginning, but I think it can be done.”

He put a lot of thought into the plan, and clearly he was desperate for an excuse to give California another go. Frank didn’t have a wife or kids to hold him back. I wanted to go, but it was Frank’s occasional impeding dominance with the dash of machismo that caused my hesitation. He had the arrogant business ethics that I feared would conflict with my, more or less, aggressive tendencies.

In a nut shell, conflict seemed eminent. But all things considered, what choice did I have. Either I went to California to face our impending creative differences, or I stayed in New York and watched myself slowly amount to nothing.

It was September of ‘87, and I opted for the former.

Frank Pescotti and I loaded up his brand-new Camaro with limited possessions, and started off for our cross-country trek to California - chasing after the American dream of becoming a rock star.