Chapter 8: ...If i'm gone when you wake up...

A crumpled piece of paper hit me in the face when I awoke. "Wake up, fucker."

I sat up and picked up the paper. It was the final copy of my eulogy. "Why did you crumple this, asshole?"

"Fuck off, we have to get ready, what are we going to play today?"

"I don't know - Why don't you decide?"

"Because, I don't care how much I fucking hate you - he's still our brother and it's still our fucking band and we're still going to work this out and be a group!"

Isaac and I had obviously never had too many fights, and to me it felt like the end of the world to have Isaac say he hated me. We were acting as if overnight we had created two different worlds that could never be crossed - and perhaps we had. I turned away from him.

"Shut up," I said, "You don't even care."

"I do too," He sighed, "You're just... you're just - not making this easy."

"Is it supposed to be easy?"

"Well it would be a whole lot easier if I didn't have to listen to you moaning every night!"

"Sorry I'm such a baby - my brother fucking died last week!" I shouted defensively.

"Fuck you!" He said, I heard tears in his voice, I was upsetting him. "He's my brother too, I loved him too! I just..."

I turned around to look at him, and he turned away, walking to the bathroom. I heard him wailing over the shower and through the door. All the tears he didn't cry when he was playing his guitar, all of the tears he didn't cry when he needed to. All of the tears he swallowed at the wake. I figured he would be sane once he came out of the shower and felt better, and we could talk about today. I picked up my eulogy and reread it, worried about my speech, wondering if my words would even mean anything - to anyone.

I walked down the hallway and washed my face in the other bathroom, and began to get myself ready for the morning, absently reciting lines to my speech. Isaac stepped out of our bathroom in sweats and a t-shirt.

"Are you feeling better?" I said.


"Alright, now we can talk like civil people."

He rolled his eyes, and I had to smile, "So... what are we playing today?"

"I... I thought about it in the shower - remember that song we wrote... about..."

"...About the man whose best friend is dying?"

"Yeah, how do you feel about that one?"

I paused, "I... Yeah, it's fitting... Want to go rehearse for a bit?"

He nodded, "We ought to, we have to leave in a few hours."

I swallowed; it had been a while since I had sung. I prayed that our "Mini-concert" would be something I could do - emotionally. We turned, as if on cue, and walked down to our rehearsal room - which resided in the basement. The floors were carpeted, and there were surprisingly good acoustics for the basement of one's house. Perhaps that's because we built it that way. I think I'd take a gander on that.

I stood in front of my keys. They seemed so foreign; I had never gone so long without running my fingers over the ivory. I sat down in front of the black baby grand and played a few scales, getting myself reacquainted with my best friend that I missed so much. There were so many emotions and thoughts hidden in these keys. All of the silly songs - just a bunch of strategically placed buttons - that created music. What was it worth? Why couldn't I stop living it, breathing it, feeling it? Why did I miss playing my minors, my majors, my arpeggios, my blues, my chords, so much?

Isaac on the other hand, had been obsessively playing his guitar. When I stopped, I watched him tape up his blistered fingers before he started warming up his guitar. Playing his sorrows away, playing his blisters away, playing his heartache away. He started singing that sad song again. The one we had worked on... the one we were going to play today. He kept singing it the past few days, and I hadn't even exercised my vocal chords.

Then, I stared at the empty drum set. I turned my face toward my keys again and began to practice and tinkle around, but I kept expecting the drums to start playing. Perrididdles, rock beats, rolls - something, anything. The something that used to fill the space. I found myself unconsciously looking up and around at the drum set, then Isaac plucking at his guitar. I never realized I did that so much until there was no one to look at.

I stopped and pulled back looking at Ike, "You ready to start?"

"Sure, hold on... let's warm up our voices first, actually..."

"Yeah..." I said, playing an F on the keys, then starting some voice warm ups. "Ah-ahhh." Etcetera.

Rehearsal went as usual, and the song that we had worked so long on in the studio was easy to pull together and make performable for the afternoon, but there was a void that neither of us could ignore, and we tried to. We tried to stop hearing the drums in our heads, but it was there, and by the end of it, I stood up and played the drum part myself. I couldn't bear to not hear that part again. I couldn't bear not to hear the drums. I couldn't bear looking at an empty drum set, and empty drum seat and know that that seat was filled the last time we rehearsed.

By the time we walked upstairs I had to pull on my suit, and run over my eulogy in my head one more time before we walked out the door, and I felt my heart drop to my stomach on the car ride there. Wearing our nicest blacks. Wearing our saddest faces. Knowing that this was going to be our last goodbye.

I patted my pocket and felt the square box - filled with my consolation. I hadn't smoked today, and I hadn't smoked yesterday, and I was aching for one so bad right now that it hurt, that I was getting delirious. My hands were shaking and tears were coming from my eyes. When we arrived at the church where the services were to be held, I realized, we were on time - actually - early - for the first time in our lives. I didn't really pay attention to what was going on, all the hustle and bustle and relatives showing up. I just slinked around the back of the church and had a smoke - I needed it. Before I spoke I needed it. Before I sang I needed it. Before I could face those people, I needed it. I hadn't taken my Valium that morning, and I knew that I was going to crumble, as the realization hit me for the last time.

I had been walking around, feeling rather numb, all day. Feeling like my heart was literally broken - but not quite facing up to it. As I rounded the corner and saw the casket being carried into the church, I had to turn back.

Once I was sure it was past - I tapped Isaac on the shoulder.

"Do you have your bottle of pills with you?"

"Yes, why?"

"I.. I forgot to take mine... and ... please, Ike, I need them, I can't face a crowd without it."

He sighed and reluctantly handed me the bottle, and watched me dump a few pills in my hand, clap it to my mouth, swallow. He didn't point out that I had taken twice the dosage I was supposed to, but he didn't know that I had been regularly taking four or five times more. I crossed my arms self consciously as I watched people gathering about and start piling into the church. I didn't want to go in yet.

Isaac stood by my side, surveying the crowd - Our relatives, our close friends and the church choir. The priest was most likely already inside, sitting in his little room, praying - or whatever godly thing they're supposed to be doing in there. He was probably just jerking off, on the date of my brother's funeral.

It was about five minutes before mass was supposed to start when I decided to walk in, holding Isaac's hand as I walked down the isle. I felt very young, grabbing my older brother's hand for support.

We sat in the front pew, I felt a million eyes at my back. I heard sniffles, and soft sobs throughout the church. I didn't try to look back, seeing my sisters beside me crying like they were was enough. My mother sat beside my father, who sat beside Isaac, who sat beside me. I could hear her crying softly when the opening hymn was over with, and as the priest began to speak I felt and overwhelming sensation of helplessness envelop me. I curled my body, the only way that felt right. The only way to ease the pain.

There were various people chosen to speak for him. It all seemed to blend together, and mesh. Like it wasn't even real, like it wasn't happening. Like what the things these people were saying... Like they were anecdotes of someone else's death. It wasn't happening to me, it couldn't be. But it was, and my soul was emptying and hollow. Echoing inside. Repeat-eat-eat.

It was now my time. Time to stand up. Time to speak, time to be brave. I wiped away a few stray tears and swallowed my fear, as I knew all eyes were on me now - this is what everyone's been waiting for. I stepped up to the podium with my ruffled sheet of paper in hand. I looked up into the crowd of people that sat before me, awaiting my words. Awaiting some sort of wisdom, or some heroic story, or a spellbinding, movie-like speech. Because I was Taylor, and I managed to achieve things such as these.

"Well..." I started, "I wrote this... and rewrote this... like, twenty-three times." A small laugh. "What am I supposed to say? I was asked to speak, and for the past few days - I've been trying to sum it all up - trying to complete a description of Zac. And it took me a while to figure out... you can't do that. I can't describe him... I can't shape him into some beautiful metaphor that will be the title of a novel someday, or a catch phrase in some movie...
There's more to Zac than being a title... and a catchphrase. And all I got out of it was a load of dribble and sentences that didn't even make sense."

I took a deep breath, "It's been a rough past few days... I... I never really thought something such as this would come about - you know, Zac was always this constant force in my life. He was there...
Every day.
Every night.
Zac was like breathing - he was my brother - my colleague - my friend ... a best friend, at that. Something that always existed, and, I had never in my life contemplated it disappearing.
But it did . And as if my air supply got cut short all of a sudden, I choked.

"They ... They always say that you don't understand what thing's like these are like until you've lived through them. They always say silly things, don't they? Whoever 'They' is.
All these 'They's' and 'What's' and 'Who's'
What does it matter in the end?
Whose going to hear you?
I watched my brother die on a bed right before my eyes, and the 'they's' and the 'what's' were making up little facts of life."

I started to stagger and I turned my face to the casket in the center isle. I saw a few people stand up and head to the doorway of the church, I heard them sobbing. I turned my face away and stared down at the page for a very long time before I continued, "There's always going to be a space.
I think Zac was the best space-filler anyone could ever know. He was big... and boisterous, and in-your-face.
When you were sad, he was right there picking you up and throwing you into the nearest body of water and laughing at you until you were forced to feel better.
When you were lonely, he made you feel wanted.
When you were angry, he'd offer something waiting to be destroyed.
He always had a joke, he always had something fitting to say, he always had a heart that could fill up a room."

I turned my face away from the crowd to wipe some tears out of my eyes, my voice was beginning to get clouded up, "I guess... I guess he'll be in our hearts, with his jokes, and in spirit.

"He always cared... so...

I paused and tried to contain my tears. When I felt the sobs had settled, for the time being I began, once again, "I remember when Zac was born. Well... I barely remember it, I was only three, but I remember when my Mom, Dad, Isaac, and I came home with him those first few weeks. I faintly remember being held up high over the crib to say hello.
That's my earliest memory of Zac. It's barely even in my grasp anymore.

"I guess everything kind of escalated from there. Zac always had a strong heart. Stronger than I ever had. He loved everything, from dandelions to worms to mice." I smiled at the memory, "Every day... there was another peanut butter jar with something disgusting he dug up in the backyard. Of course, though, Ike and I - being the pleasant older brothers we were - always dumped it out, or let whatever he had in there for the day free. He got so mad at us, every night and he would sit with his jar on the porch and cry.
Then... the next day it would, without fail, have something new in it for us to dump in the evening.

"He was so intrigued by life." My eyes wandered over the crowd, I felt myself fading into warm summer nights and long discussions about life. I wasn't even reading my pages anymore. "Zac was a people watcher. I think it really helped him, though, it helped him realize how people worked outside of our bubble. And that underneath all the personality facades he presented to the world, he was just like them.
"After work, in L.A., we would always go for a walk on the beach... just the three of us - Isaac, Zac and I - and every time we went, there was always this woman laying alone on her blanket watching the sun set over the ocean. Zac called her 'the woman of dusk.'
We didn't speak to her for a long time - but every day for MONTHS without fail she would be there. Then one day it was raining, and we didn't go on our regular walk - but Zac said he wanted to - so he went, alone.

"He came home four hours later, and we inquired why he had been so long, and he said,
'the woman of dusk lay in the rain today.'
That was the only thing he told us about what had happened that night. The next day she wasn't there, and the day after that, and the day after that. Zac stopped going on our walks and I found him one day crying.
I just thought he was stressed out, or worried, so I didn't think too much of it - I walked in and comforted him, asked him what was up... and what he said right then are words I think I'll never forget.

"He told me that he had seen her on the beach and talked to her - she told him she was waiting for the high tide to wash her away. He told her not to, and she ignored him. For the first time, he said, he saw her stand up and move - she dove into the water and swam away until she was out of sight. He sat on the beach for hours wondering where she had gone and if she was coming back, then he read in the newspaper two days later that a woman had drowned, and it was the woman of dusk.

"And he continued on - I... I can hear him saying it now, he said, 'Life is just one stupid coincidence after another, eh? I can't say I hate it, because, my advice to the world would be to open your eyes and see that maybe a coincidence isn't just coincidence afterall. Maybe it's just how it was meant to be.'

"That memory sticks in my head like glue. I'm not quite sure why that particular one is so apparant to me these days, it's very eerie. I can remember exactly how I felt right then, I can remember exactly how the woman of dusk looked. I can remember how he looked, how heartbroken he was over this woman's suicide. And when I woke up the next morning I took a walk down to the beach and I saw a potted flower sitting on her space on the beach.
I never found out for sure who put them there, but my instincts told me immediately that it was him. He was giving life back. Everything that surrounded Zac turned to flowers and spring, and he liked it that way." I trailed off, my mind began to focus on the crowd. Had I been talking? The memories seemed to taunt me more and more, all starting to come at once and my hands were quivering. Tears began to stream down my cheeks and I had to swallow and close my eyes before I could go on.

"His star has faded." My voice was weak, and trembling, "But ours have not."

I looked at my family in the front row, "If only he could have told you himself how much he loved you," I choked and quivered as I spoke, "Jess, Mack, Ave, and Zoë ... I know we weren't always around to be big brothers. I know that there's a sense of detachment between you and us - but if there's anything Zac didn't get a chance to say - it's that he loves you... and I've heard him say it himself that you guys are the light for us when we are lost. Growing up with us was never easy, I know that - but you always stood by us. I appreciate that, he appreciated it.

"Mom, Dad. I love you with a heart come undone. We all do. With all of our hearts we thank you for your love, your music, and for giving us your lives. I have never met a stronger woman than you, Mom.

"Ike. My brother, my collegue." I shuddered, "We're all that's left - right? Us two. I think you know as much as I do how much Zac loved you... how much he loved us." Tears were sliding down my cheeks, and forming little puddles and spots on the podium. I couldn't even finish what I had meant to say to Isaac, the pain was too much. "Our... Drummer..." I started, "After all of this time..." I couldn't think of a better way to end the sentence, or a more eloquent way to put it. My heart tore in two when I finally managed to get the words out, "...He's...gone."

I stared into the crowd, all of them seemed to be caught. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before I went on, staring in the direction of Zac's girlfriend, "And to Alexis - I never thought I'd see true love unfold before my eyes. But it did. You were Zac's little star - he caught you and he loved you so much. He would've taken a bullet for you, you know." I said, my eyes falling on her solemn face, "He would have taken anything for you."

"He always ordered his eggs sunny side up.
He always liked the way his hair looked golden after a trip to LA
He always looked out for me... even when I didn't want him to, even when I felt like I didn't need it. He always kept me grounded, very possibly being the force that saved my life, once upon a time."

I pulled back and felt sobs catching my throat, "I can hear him saying it now," The next line came out choked up, and almost inaudible, "'Taylor, you're okay' he'd tell me... He'd tell me 'Taylor, it's okay' ... he'd tell me until I felt better."

I began to sob and stepped away until I could keep my tears. I leaned to the microphone and said, "I'm afraid, I don't know how to go on." I sputtered, "But I will... Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday I will find my way back on track... and if I've learned anything from this shooting star, it's that life is beautiful, and you only get one chance to see that... to embrace it.

"Thank you."

I held the podium for support as I was applauded. I was shivering with tears, and emotionally drained. And on my way down the steps to my seat I collapsed.

Things were spinning and dizzy for a few seconds, but about a minute later two people were helping me walk back to my seat. All eyes were on me until I sat down, wrapping my arms around Isaac, the first person I saw. He turned his face to me and I could see that he had been crying, I felt sorry.

"That was beautiful," He whispered, and I pulled back from him to a sitting position. I turned my face to the floor, and I didn't pay attention for the rest of mass.

Someone wrapped their arms around me and helped me walk on my weak knees after mass was over. We stepped in the limousine, which followed the hearse to where our reception and "Mini-concert" was going to be. When we arrived I saw fans outside my window, and behind us a trail of cars coming from the funeral. I didn't want to face any of them, anymore, I didn't know if I could sing, anymore. I didn't know if I could even stand long enough.

We parked in the back and my family and I stepped out of the limo, a few people rushed over - other people from the family that had been at the funeral.

"Are you okay? Do you think you'll be able to walk?"

I walked around in a circle, and nodded, "I'll be fine, don't worry about me."

Their concerned looks penetrated me, and stuck in my mind as I walked with Isaac into our "backstage" area.

"I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this Isaac."

He sighed softly, placing his acoustic guitar on the table, I had just noticed he had it slung over his shoulder. "I don't know if I can either." He admitted.

"I guess..." I sat down in a chair, "We might as well try, I mean... I mean... this is for Zac, he wouldn't want us to quit."

Ike nodded, "I feel so useless."

"I feel helpless."

"I feel stupid."


Hesitant silence.

"Let's warm up." Someone suggested, I couldn't remember whether it was Ike or I. I poked a key on the piano, noting that it was out of tune.


Somehow we were on the stage, overlooking a rather large crowd. The press with their awful clicking cameras. The fans who were standing up against the stage - I could tell that they weren't sure whether to cry or smile. My family, our friends. My Dad with his camera. All of this centered around us and Zac's casket in the center of the stage, between Isaac and I.

I felt weak when I saw it, and I felt consolation in the fact that Isaac probably wasn't feeling any better. We stepped up to the microphone in the center.

I took a deep breath, and somewhere from deep inside of me a voice I never realized I had emerged as I began to sing,
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch... like me."

Isaac took the next line, I wondered if I had sounded as overwhelmingly heartbroken as he, "I once was lost, but now am found."

Then together, "Was blind, but now I see."

I stepped back from the mic, closing my eyes, frowning. Two-part harmony felt so shallow. We didn't intend on continuing, but the last note lingered in the air long after we sang it; the crowd was silent.

Isaac took the lead, "This... This is hard." He was stumbling, he didn't know what to say. I gave him a look of encouragement, and he continued on, "We... We've been around the world and back, multiple times. We've done some incredible things, some things that are even - to me - still unfathomable. But nothing... nothing has been harder than this."

"We never expected this," I said into the microphone, "We never thought we'd be singing at our brother's funeral. And... we're not quite sure... what to say.

"We could have had this big pre-rehearsed speech, but I don't think it's time to say words."

"We wrote this song - a bit ago - and recently finished recording it... Today we decided to perform it. I can't quite decide if it's fitting enough, or significant - but in light of events such as these - sometimes I feel as if nothing is significant, anymore." Isaac said.

I walked away to my keys and as Isaac was setting up I said, "We'd like to thank you all, from the bottoms of our hearts for coming today. It means a lot to know that there are so many people willing to give their support and love." Ike strapped on his guitar and plucked a few chords out.

"Alright, Let's go."

The song went by like nothing, my heart beating in my head louder than I could even hear my own words. I didn't know if I was playing correctly, and I hardly could tell if I was singing in tune, or at all. All I knew is that I kept turning back to look at Isaac, and then turning back to look at Zac and seeing that casket there. I heard an applause and I became aware that the song had ended. I glanced over at Ike and he was mouthing something to me.


"With you in your Dreams." He said.

I didn't know if I wanted to play that song, we had written, so long ago for a grandmother we loved so much. A song meant for three-part harmony, with a drum part driving it. I nodded, anyway.

"This last song," Ike said, as if we were at a show, "Is a song you will all know, written for our grandmother, years ago..."

"With you in your dreams," I mumbled, not sure if anyone really heard me. I started to play the chords I knew like the back of my hand.

If I'm gone when you wake up, please don't cry
If I'm gone when you wake up, it's not goodbye
Don't look back at this time as a time of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
Because I'll be with you in your dreams.

I hadn't played this song in a long time, months... maybe a year. But it was striking a chord in me that it never had before. It made me want to say, Fuck you, God. Fuck you for taking him from me. Fuck you for ruining my life. What kind of God does such wretched things to his people, anyway?

The song ground itself into me, grating at my nerves, grating at my sanity. How hollow it sounded. Without the third voice, without the drum set. The loud thumping of my heart was all I could hear for the remainder of the song, until I approached the last line of the song.

"Cause I'll be with you in your dreams." I hummed. I felt as if my heart were ripped out of my chest once I was through. I felt absolutely hollow.

But the immediate applause had captured my attention, and I stared into the crowd of about a couple hundred people. Tears were on my cheeks when I leaned down and touched hands with them. I saw Annissa standing right by the stage, and I leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, she whispered in my ear, "You had your eyes closed."

"Thank you, Thank you," Ike kept saying before we walked off stage, "Thank you."

The first person I saw when I stepped down was my Dad and his camera, which was on, still.

"Did we sound okay?" I asked, worriedly.

"Yeah, you sounded great," He said, "Very good, you're too hard on yourself."

"I thought it sounded hollow," I mumbled.

He shook his head, "Taylor, you guys sounded awesome, believe me."

I turned my face away and disappeared into the crowd.

Goodbye. I thought when we were driving away from the burial grounds, later that day. My hands were pressed against the window of our limousine staring out at the marble gravestone as it slipped further and further out of sight.

Goodbye to you.