A hundred miles an hour doesn’t seem fast enough when the race is with your own mind. I would call the night beautiful, the black sky blanketed in a million twinkling stars; but I only see it blur past me as I speed down the highway. I could call myself happy, but the drugs don’t work anymore. Maybe that’s why I did it, I think. Because the roaring crowds and the flashing lights weren’t doing for me what they once used to. Because I wasn’t being sincere with my music or pouring my heart out – I wasn’t using my heart at all.
I drive further into the black night, guided only by the distant stars and the headlights of my car. I can barely see what’s in front of me, but I drive. “I don’t have the passion anymore”, I say aloud, my voice drowning under blaring radio and the screaming winds. My mind recounts many such lines from the suicide note of a certain rock star as I drive on. Those are sad words, I think, but they aren’t mine. I take a right turn and a deep breath. I know I have the passion, I just don’t know where it hides.
As I step down on the brakes, the verse to Piledriver Waltz suddenly cuts off, giving way to radio static that sounds just as scrambled as my thoughts. The car screeches to a stop at an intersection as the traffic signal turns a prohibitive, angry red. I turn off the radio and push a mix CD into the slot. Its quiet whirrs are soon replaced by the sound of John Bonham drumming away in Bonzo’s Montreux. I sigh. The album was called Coda, the conclusion to Led Zeppelin’s illustrious career. I wonder if my announcement was too sudden, like Bonham’s death had been. I wonder how my PR team was handling the media since I had announced my motive to quit, mid-performance. I wonder what they were saying about the broken guitar. I think about what my manager had told me after my impulsive decision. “The fans will never recover”, he had said. I wonder if I ever would.
‘This way or no way, you know I’ll be free…’ sings Bowie, as I tap my fingers absentmindedly on the stereo. I look ahead at the fork in the road, wondering which way to go. The answer should be simple, but I can’t make up my mind. As the outro to Lazarus starts to fade, I consider taking the road on the left. I could go back. I could return to the arena and tell them it was all a joke, have people call it a publicity stunt. After the buzz dies down, I would probably return a bigger name than I had been before. I chuckle, mentally toying with the idea of it, and ignoring Tom DeLonge’s soulful cries as Adam’s Song plays. I stare ahead at the two roads and the big yellow pole of the traffic signal between them, and think about what I would really be going back to – wealth and fame that I felt dejected and disillusioned by. I remember the cold, hard loneliness that would always be there, even when I was standing at the receiving end of adoration from thousands. No, I tell myself. I am done here. I had been considering taking it, but in the glow of my headlights, the road looks sinister. I know it is, too.
I turn to look at the path to my right. I know this road, it leads to home. Yes, Home, I think. Home to the suffocation and bitter sadness that drove me the other way in the first place. “Home”, I whisper, and roll down the window. Cold wind gushes into the car, but I still feel warm and stuffy. I couldn’t return home in a million years. I glance out the open window. The light is now amber, and the stars look dim in comparison. I realise that I still have my foot firmly planted on the brakes, the engine still running. I think about all the songs I have sung and the liquid topaz eyes with strands of gold which inspired most of them but which no longer see. I breathe in and try to remember the song I played to an audience of four thousand last night. I can’t remember the name. I breathe out. I know where to go.
As the light transitions to green, I hear the first few bars of How To Disappear Completely play. I remember that Radiohead had been the first concert I ever went to. I smile. My eyes scan the two roads that lay in front of me, my mind settling on a final decision. The car lurches forward in the direction of the traffic signal as I close my eyes and step off the brakes, waiting to crash with the pole.