Category Linkin Park

Low by squashie

Hybrid Theory // High

[I haven’t given up on Everything’s Fine., I just needed a break. I needed to write something a tiny bit… darker?!? I don’t know if this is actually darker, but my headspace at the moment is darker. Anyway. I’ve been watching a crapload of Linkin Park videos over the past three months, as I’m sure many of us have, and I’ve noticed a lot of Braz stuff I didn’t pick up on before because of my weakness for Bennoda. And I fucking love Brad. So here’s a sort of drabbly Braz thing. Playing around with the second person POV, and different tenses. First few paragraphs inspired by that amazing 1996 Grey Daze performance at the Mason Jar that got uploaded earlier this month; best quality Grey Daze footage I’ve seen, and it gave me chills. I have a vague idea of where this might go if I take it forward, but I can’t promise anything at this stage. Love to all.]




You were thin, too thin, the angles of your arms and legs awkward by default and your ribs announcing themselves whenever you took off your shirt in the glaring stagelights, which you always did.

You had dark rings under your eyes, in contrast with your bone-pale skin, and the wild and living darkness within the eyes themselves was in contrast with the air of impending death, or undeath, that lingered around you.

You had dreadlocks, messy and heavy, and you tossed them and whipped them and sang with a ferocity that seemed to be burning up your body’s last reserves.

They took you into the fold because of your voice. That’s what they were looking for, and they found it. Your band had disbanded and your voice was up for grabs. You were just the package that the voice came inside, and they had to take you too, even though they didn’t know you, didn’t understand you, didn’t really see you. Not at first.

You discarded the dreads and the pleather pants. You slipped your emaciated body into clothes five times too big for you, like they were doing. You dyed your hair. You pierced your lip. You got more tattoos. You wore spikes. You painted your nails. You needed to keep the edge even if you weren’t presenting it in the way you used to. To do away with it altogether would be dishonest.

They were clean, these boys. Their brand of cool was polished and wholesome. They’d grown up pure of heart and soul and had never seen the filth you’d seen, had never been low. You noticed when your words made their skins crawl, made their eyes meet uncomfortably for a fraction of a second while you spoke, made them tilt themselves away from you.

Straight boys. Straight and narrow. You freaked them out.

You worked on changing the way you moved your body, the rhythm of it, your reactions to the music. This music was different, and that helped. You jumped, you thrashed, you threw yourself around the stage, but you took the sex out of it. That didn’t work anymore. They wouldn’t like that.

For them, sex was something that happened between them and their perfect girlfriends, something that would occasionally be wheeled out for a dirty joke, but just as quickly packed away, back into its box. For you, sex was heaven and hell, the light and the darkness. It had shaped you, broken you, redeemed you. It wasn’t separate from everything else in the way that it was for them.

They were unambiguous, but you were not.

You were still emaciated, your features too big for your face, and it was mentioned in articles — the preposterously skinny lead vocalist with the glasses and the tattoos — turning you into a caricature of yourself, but no-one ever commented on the fact that one of them was actually skinnier than you were. He hid it better, under two shirts and behind his guitar, he distracted everyone with his various beards and his headphones. But even if he hadn’t, nobody would’ve worried about him, because he was the purest of them all.

Squeaky-clean middle-class Jewish boy with an academic record worthy of framing, he was one of the two masterminds of the band. He’d been responsible for getting you signed, he’d had a hand in the writing of every song. He didn’t stand up front, but he managed things from the back. You might’ve been in the foreground of every band photo, but he was in charge of you, and sometimes you resented that.

You see him in the bathroom on the bus one day when he thinks everyone has disembarked. He’s standing in front of the mirror without his shirt on, putting bandages around his delicate, bony wrist. He sees you, and he turns.

“What do you want?”

You’re startled by his immediate aggression, but you keep your cool, roll your eyes, mumble that he should consider fucking himself, and then you say, “Hurt your wrist?”, because you care, in spite of everything.

“Yes, I’m the guitarist,” he says, his voice hard and bitter, as though you couldn’t possibly understand his pain. All you ever have to do is prance around on the stage with a mic. That’s what he thinks. Your instrument is built into you. You have it easy. You consider describing to him how it feels to scream your way through an entire set, but you don’t.

He's one of the people who bark instructions to you while you stand in the vocal booth.

“Scream it. Scream it longer. Can you scream it louder? Scream it again.”

He doesn’t fucking get it.

“Whatever,” you say.

The show goes well. Afterwards, the atmosphere is celebratory. Your success is still heady and new. You’re still pinching yourselves on a daily basis.

They want to go out for a fancy meal somewhere but you decline, and you notice that none of them seem particularly disappointed by this. You aren’t one of them. They don’t need you in order to have a good time. In fact, their good times are more secure without you there. You have the tendency to fuck things up. You drink too much. You’re volatile. You put them on edge.

And so you hang out alone in the studio in the back of the bus and you light up a joint even though you know you’ll get shat on if anyone smells it later.

You’re two Jack and Cokes deep and the weed has rubbed the sharp edges off everything when you hear someone boarding the bus. You only just have the wherewithal to think “shit”, before you’re busted.

It’s him. He stands in the doorway, glaring at you, his skinny legs protruding from a pair of cut-off jeans.

“Why didn’t you come with us?” he says.

You shrug. “Why are you back so early?”

He shrugs. “Why are you smoking in the studio? Mike’s going to fucking kill you.”

“Mike?” you say. “What about you?”

“I won’t kill you if you share,” he says.

You try not to act surprised as you hold out the smouldering joint, and he tries not to seem inexperienced as he takes a puff of it, but you see him trying not to cough, and eventually he does, covering his mouth with his pale, bony hand. Normally you would laugh, and that’s what he’s expecting you to do; his face has gone red.

But you don’t laugh.

“Try a smaller hit,” you say. “Go slower. Keep it in your mouth for a while.”

He tries again, successfully this time, and then slumps back into the couch beside you. You don’t speak, you simply pass the joint back and forth, him coughing intermittently, but soldiering on until it’s all gone, and you pop the roach into your pocket.

His eyes slide closed and you think perhaps he’s falling asleep, but then he says, “I was a dick to you earlier. I’m sorry.”

“S’cool,” you say. “Whatever.”

“No, it’s not cool,” he says. “None of this—” he casts his hand vaguely around the studio, “—none of it would’ve happened without you.”

The dregs of your Jack and Coke have gone warm, but you drain the glass anyway. “Want one?” you say to him, raising the empty glass.

“No,” he says, running his hand over his face. “I drank enough before I left. My head is spinning.”

“Did you eat?”


“Why not?”

He turns to look at you then, blinking to focus his eyes on your face.

“I wasn’t hungry,” he says, balling a fist against his hollow stomach. “And I got pissed off with them before they ordered food. I figured I’d come back and hang out with you instead.”

“What did they do to piss you off?” you ask him.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says, and he looks uncomfortable. You want to know.

“Tell me,” you say.

“I said it doesn’t matter,” he replies.

You try to identify the expression on his face. You’re better at this when you’re high, and you’re confident that part of what he’s displaying is guilt. Perhaps shame.

“They were talking shit about me, weren’t they?” you say, trying your luck.

His moment of hesitation confirms your hypothesis.

“I didn’t participate,” he says. “They’re just bitter because you’re the latecomer, but also the star. You get all the credit when you’ve put years less work into the band than the rest of us have.”

“I didn’t ask for any of that.”

“I know you didn’t. It pisses me off sometimes too, but I know it’s not your fault.”

“Well, thanks,” you say. “And I’m honoured. Big Brad Brad fobbing off a good time to grace me with his presence.”

“I knew you’d be smoking weed in the bus,” he said. “Figured it was a good opportunity to try it out.”

“That was your first smoke?”

He nods lazily and a smiles. “First successful smoke, yes.”

You reach out and touch his goatee, almost without meaning to. Whatever filter normally exists between thought and action is gone. You’ve startled yourself and you pull your hand back, hoping that somehow he’s too intoxicated already to have even noticed. But he has noticed and he’s looking at you quizzically.

“Beard envy?” he says.

“Major,” you say. “Mine’s patchy as fuck.”

The next moment, you find that his hand is on your face, feeling for stubble, running along your jawline, slender fingers tickling across your cheeks and your chin. You are frozen.

“Hmm,” he says, withdrawing his hand. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t think you should grow any sort of beard anyway. Your face is nice.”

Something has tipped. Something has changed. Not with you, though. You’ve touched and been touched in many different ways by a wide variety of friends and foes, in various degrees of inebriation. You’ve had the best and the worst of it. Nothing about this situation is out of the ordinary for you, in the grand scheme of things. But as far as you’re aware, it’s very, very out of the ordinary for him, and you feel an new imbalance in the dynamic.

You have the power of experience, and he seems to realise this. His bossy, superior attitude has shrunk away. He looks as small as he actually is. There’s nothing Big or Bad about him. He’s young and green. He’s a fresh twig.

You’ve got another joint rolled and ready, and you light it up. You had planned on smoking only the one, but then Brad smoked half of it, and he was so slow and inefficient about the whole process that a fair bit of it burnt away while he was holding it between his bony, calloused fingers, trying not to cough, and failing.

You take a deep drag and offer it to him. He looks at you, uncertain.

“I want to but… my throat is burnt out,” he says. “It fucking hurts. I’m not good at smoking.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I mean. No. OK, give it to me,” he says, putting on a brave face and taking the joint from you with comical care.

He sucks on the joint and immediately succumbs to a bout of violent coughing, his skeletal chest heaving underneath his T-shirt. You take the joint from his fingers before he drops it and burns a hole through something.

“Ugh… s… sorry,” he chokes. “Fuck, that’s annoying. I want more.”

His voice is slower and deeper than normal and his eyes are starting to look a bit glazed. He’s already pretty high from his first smoke, rubbing his hand absent-mindedly back and forth along his throat, as if that will make it feel better. He’s watching you smoke and he looks genuinely impressed, which is ridiculous and a bit embarrassing. His eyes are on your face, and you find yourself taking deeper drags than necessary, blowing the smoke out in thin streams, showing off.


This is stupid. This is so fucking stupid.

When will he stop staring?

But he doesn’t stop staring. And your head is light, the studio looks cosy and blurry at the edges, his thin arm is flush with yours, feverishly warm, and it’s nice not to be alone.

You’ve zoned out, but you zone back in and see that he’s still staring at you, and he’s biting his lip. He’s nice looking, you admit. He tries to make himself look harder with the backwards hats and the beards, but he has a soft face, a sweet face. His dark eyes are soulful and intelligent, even when they’re glazed over.

What is he thinking?

He wants to be involved, but his body is letting him down. You understand this feeling, even if your experiences of physical failure are a whole lot less wholesome than having lungs too pure for smoking.

You draw in a mouthful of fragrant smoke and hold it in your cheeks and move your face slowly towards his face until the tips of your noses are almost touching and you wait to see if he’ll react.

He blinks and blinks, but doesn’t move away, so you tilt your face and touch your lips against his, and as he opens his mouth in surprise, you exhale the smoke slowly, and he takes it in.

You imagine that he’s hollow and the cooled smoke is filling him up, rushing into his chest, down his skinny arms and legs, into his fingers and toes.

He doesn’t cough.


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