The Only Truth I Know
They say you can never go home again. It’s not meant to be taken literally, though I’m sure Nick might think so. Once you leave something, once you move on, you can’t go back to the way things were. Things change, and what you leave behind moves on as well. I knew that, five and a half years ago, when I’d made a decision to leave everything I’d worked for behind once and for all. I knew that when I told the fellas, my younger brothers and the four closest friends in my life.
I knew it every time they invited me on as a “special appearance” to sing “I Want It That Way” or “Shape of My Heart”. It was always one song only, a treat for the fans. I wasn’t a Backstreet Boy anymore; I was simply a former member who moved on with the occasional chance to relive the madness. It wasn’t a choice I made lightly, I’d labored over it. The only life, the only truth I ever knew was being a Backstreet Boy. But I’d known then that I needed an out, a break longer than the one we’d had after Black and Blue. I needed a family without the insanity that came with fame. I needed to try acting, my first, original dream.
So I left, to be fair to them.
At first they’d been hurt but slowly they’d come to understand. Our bond never wavered, and it did my heart good to watch them grow while I was gone. Especially Nick. No longer was he the lost and self destructive man I once used to argue so much with. My baby brother, the youngest of us all, had grown up to be a man I couldn’t be prouder of if I tried. Even though I’d been just a kid myself I’d done my best to raise him over the years in the group, to be what Bob Carter never had been and never could be. It warmed my heart seeing him step up to be the man he is now. So settled and happy, doing his best at everything he does, to leave his mark on the world.
The beach party plan had been his idea. A random phone call came in the middle of the day while I was sitting at my piano, jotting down some notes for a song idea. I’d been tossing around the thought of a solo record for awhile. After five years, I simply missed music. Something was missing in it though – a spark that had always been there in the years I’d been a Backstreet Boy. In frustration, I’d started playing “Chopsticks” just for the hell of it. The want was there, the muse, the drive…so what was missing?
Then the phone rang and Nick sprung the idea on me. A new treat for the fans going on their Backstreet Boys Cruise, me showing up. It sounded crazy, but you know, maybe I missed having the crazy in my life. Everything was calm for me these days. I needed some crazy. I remembered the screams when I stepped up on the stage back at the NKOTBSB show, the hype, the insanity. Suddenly, I missed for the first time, the life I’d given up for new dreams to pursue.
It was the truth, when I stopped to think about it. I missed it now, all of it.
But it wasn’t fair to ask to come back, no matter how many times AJ said the door was always open. I gave it up, and I can’t just take it back. But it bugged me, and when I met up with the fellas to talk about the beach party and simply to hang out, Brian noticed. Something in my expression I suppose. That’s when the talks began, talks about the future.
They welcomed me back with open arms.
But would the fans accept it? Would I be able to fit in alright? I’d known these four men for twenty years now; they were family in the ways that mattered. But things changed when I left. Two albums and a collaboration tour had come and gone. Howie stepped up more, Nick wasn’t just a goofy kid anymore (most of the time), and AJ wasn’t as crazy, though Brian was still Brian. Could I even fit in anymore?
I’ll say this, when we sang a bit of “Safest Place To Hide” together that day in the Bahamas a cappella…I had no more questions. It was magic, in a way I hadn’t felt in years. I found myself shaking my head at how silly I was for being doubtful. Everything felt right. It was like I never left. You could feel it in the air, that this was different than my little appearances in the past. This was a homecoming. This was the beginning of something new with the magic of before.
They say you can never go home again.
Clearly that person had never been a Backstreet Boy.