The Meeting – Nick
When Kevin approached us, to tell us he wanted to come back, I gotta be honest. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Part of me was thrilled. The man was this father that my own bastard of one never really tried to be unless money was involved. But at the same time, I felt abandoned when he left us the last time. It was like he was giving up on everything. Music, fame, the group… and me. I felt like it was my fault. I was the one destroying our reputation because of everything that Paris was spreading about me. I was too caught up in my own shit to even care if anyone else was unhappy. All I knew was that I was.
So when he left, I blamed myself. I wasn’t in a good place. I made stupid choices. Like that reality show. That was a huge freaking mistake if I ever made one. Sent myself even further in the gutter. I wanted to escape, to get distant. I delved further into alcohol, into drugs. I mean why did it matter, I figured. Kevin wasn’t in the group anymore. He didn’t care. So I figured if the one person I always counted on caring up and left, why should I bother giving a damn?
Thoughts like that can kill you.
It almost killed me.
When I got word about my heart condition, it freaked me out. I realized I had to get my life together. But first off, I was angry. Angry enough to punch the wall near my bookshelf out of frustration. That was when a book fell, one I mostly ignored. Kevin had given it to me back in 2004, at the height of my mixed up bullshit. And all I did was stick it on a shelf. I probably would’ve tossed it had I not been afraid of Kevin asking about it one day. But that day seeing it fall caused me to take a better look at it. Anyone who’s seen any recent interviews of me lately knows the book I’m talking about.
Why Some Positive Thinkers Get Powerful Results by Norman Vincent Peale.
He knew I needed it. How? Well, Kevin always had a knack for knowing things like that. I stopped trying to figure out how. I’m pretty sure he even knew it would take me a few years to bother trying to read it. But once I did, it opened my eyes. It changed me. Suddenly, I was able to get my life turned around. I ditched everything I used as an escape. I stopped trying to change my family and just accepted it for what it was. I fell in love when I met Lauren. Without Kevin in the group, I found myself growing. He did leave a gap that we couldn’t quite fill when we did Unbreakable. When we started promoting This Is Us, I started stepping up, doing what he did.
It was weird, but part of me got satisfaction from it. That since he left, I’d replace him. Petty, sure. But that’s how I started doing it. After awhile, it came naturally. I was the one making a lot of calls to producers, writers, people who would never give us a shot normally, like T-Pain. Maybe the end result on the album wasn’t what I thought it would be, but hell, I worked my ass off to help get us some new contacts. We burned a lot of bridges when Jive cut us off at the legs by not letting us use a lot of songs for Never Gone. This was more about looking ahead.
Now he wanted to come back. Part of me was bitter. How could I not be?
I knew my thoughts sounded childish, but he shouldn’t have left if only to come back. We’ve been working our asses off since he left. We’re the ones who had to deal with the media fall out of him leaving. We’re the ones who continued to put up with all the political bullshit of the music business. He escaped before we got completely blackballed by radio. At least when he was still around radio stations were happy to play “Incomplete”. After he left we would submit songs we released as singles for radio play and we flat out got told no and laughed at. We’d get great interviews with radio stations and then only be told after that they weren’t planning on ever playing our music again. He wasn’t the one who had to stand up to Jive and finally find a way to break away the way we had. Though I’m sure he laughed when they folded just like we did. That’s karma baby.
He got back in when we finally had something of ours was on the radio again. Sure it took a huge media gimmick with NKOTB to pull it off, but we pulled it off. Our promo single, “Don’t Turn Out The Lights”, for the tour was getting decent play for a group that was blackballed only the year before. When I first heard it on the radio I was almost as excited as I was when I heard “We’ve Got It Going On” getting played for the first time. I was that excited.
I wanted him back; I’d missed having him around. And I didn’t want him back. He didn’t work to get out of the mess we landed in after we came back from our hiatus. Instead, he’d left. Part of me didn’t want him to enjoy the spoils of our hard won war. I didn’t know how I wanted it.
It wasn’t like I could say no though, could I?
Hell, I had no idea if I even wanted to say no.
All of this was running through my head as I drove down the roads of LA. I’d just gotten back from my series of solo shows and promotional appearances in Germany. The tour would be starting soon but we had some time before. Mainly because they wanted to make sure I had all the steps down, I had to learn them through video while I was overseas. Not that I minded the extra work, I was doing what I loved.
I heard my phone ring and I pressed a button along my steering wheel so it would come through the speakers. I miss the days when it was legal to drive and talk on the phone at the same time without having to make it come through your damn radio. Then again, I almost got into an accident doing that. But it wasn’t the phone’s fault, more the fact I’d been drunk off my ass at the time. Another time, another me.
“Nick where are you?” Wow. We haven’t even met officially yet about Kevin being back and I was already getting the Nick you’re late call. Okay, so maybe I overslept. What? I’d been busy as hell lately!
Today was supposed to be a meeting at Kevin’s, now that he was coming back; we needed to work out a lot of shit. Especially since we weren’t going to have much time over the next couple months. I was tired thinking about it. Not the best day to run late, sure. And to be honest part of me wanted Kevin to see I’d grown up, I’d changed. I wasn’t that nineteen-year-old fuck up that I used to be. I wasn’t someone to watch over. I was an equal. I loved Kevin to death, but I’ve always felt he was superior, that he knew that too.
“Are you listening to me?” Shit. Well, at least I haven’t forgotten how to tune him out.
“I’m on my way. I just ran a little late.”
“You mean you slept in late.”
Sometimes it was annoying as hell, how well he knew me.
“I’m almost there.” Hey, I could’ve prided myself on not whining, the old me would have.
About ten – okay, okay, twenty minutes later I was parked in front of Kevin’s place and heading up to knock on the front door. Before I could, Kevin stepped out and was waiting there for me. Great, just what I needed right? I rolled my eyes instinctively, and I immediately was rewarded with the dirty brow. It’s that look Kevin gives when he thinks we’re being too much. His eyes narrow and I swear to God those gigantic things he calls eyebrows grow even bigger. It’s scary.
“Look, I’m sorry I’m late.” I wasn’t really, but I didn’t want him to think I was the same Nick from before.
“It’s not that little man.” I wanted to smile. After all these years, I swear he still sees that scrawny, puny twelve-year-old I was when we first met. I had a serious case of hero-worship then, when it came to Kevin. And all I did was drive the guy insane – not that it wasn’t a short drive there or anything.
“What’s up then?”
He leaned back up against the door after closing it behind him. “I wanted to make sure you’re still okay with this.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Just a feeling I get. I’d understand if you weren’t.”
I stayed quiet. How was I supposed to respond to that? Was I good to tell him how I felt? Or was it better to just keep my mouth shut and get over it? I didn’t know what to do. It almost felt like I was thrown back into time, back into the beginning. But, I wasn’t. Things had changed, I changed. It wasn’t how it used to be.
“Hey, talk to me bro. I used to be able to get you to tell me everything.”
I smirked. “That or you already knew and were waiting for me to admit it.”
He laughed. “You weren’t hard to figure out. You still aren’t, but you’ve grown up. I’m proud of you, the way you got your life together, the way you’re able to handle yourself now. I’ve seen the interviews you did for the last album. At first I couldn’t believe this was the same guy who said he resigned in Florida.”
“Am I ever going to live that down?” Even though I found myself joking, his words meant a lot. He had noticed. I think I had the feeling you get when you finally do something to make your parents proud. I wouldn’t know, but I guess it’d be the same.
“No, though I liked your phase escape goat too.”
I rolled my eyes.
“How many times do you do that in a day?”
“Not much until you came back old man!”
“You’re old too now; you’re in your thirties, which if I remember right, is ancient in your world.”
“Thirty-one is the new twenty –one, and you turn forty in a few months. Talk about ancient!”
We both started laughing, reliving an old argument we both remembered well. I’d been calling Kevin old since I was twelve. I watched him, because I knew he wasn’t going to let the subject actually drop. He knew my tricks and I knew it wouldn’t work. I guess I went for it out of old habits.
“Honestly, are you okay with this? You guys accomplished a lot after I left. I can see why you’d be upset about it. Like having me come back is cheapening it for you.”
I let myself think about it. I mean really think about it. Did I really want to have it just be the four of us taking the world on? The way it had been in the last four or so years?
I shook my head and smiled. “Dude, of course I’m alright with it. Since when are you the one all unsure and shit? I thought that was my role in this crazy ass band.”
“Things have changed man; I don’t think any of us have roles anymore.”
He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and the two of us headed inside where we knew AJ, Brian, and Howie would be waiting for us. I knew how I felt about it now. I was glad to have Kevin back. Everything felt different; I didn’t know my place now in the group. The fact I didn’t know freaked me out a bit. Like how I felt during Unbreakable. I had no idea how I would handle it.
The only think that helped, was the fact I knew that Kevin felt the same way.
At last, we seemed to be equals.
Or so I hoped.