Title: Sweet Memory Will Die
Disclaimer: No harm, no foul.
Notes: My first post here. Awfully disjointed and probably hard to follow if you aren’t me. I apologize for that in advance.
Summary: Julian is a man’s man, ladies man, man about town.
Rating: PG-13 for the drunken babbling and such.
Pairing: Craig Nicholls/Julian Casablancas (very, very subtly)
[x-posted to strokeslash]
The first time Julian took a drink, he was seven years old. His parents were still together, the three of them with their exotic names and varying degrees of snobbery all cloistered in an apartment on Park Avenue. The place he’d lived from birth till Switzerland could easily have been broken into smaller sections and auctioned off as five or six full-sized lofts, which was probably a sign of things to come. His father was in the habit of having a Russian beer before dinner, a glass of tart red wine with his meal, and a tumbler of something expensive and noxious right after. Julian had mistaken his father’s vodka for water, draining it in that happy-go-lucky way that kids do before they hear the urban legends about sipping from unattended glasses.
He’d always been the heaviest drinker in his immediate circle of friends, and was rarely matched by any of the outsiders that found their way in. After three hours with a forty-ounce bottle of rye followed closely by rarely remembered wine chasers, Julian had still been able to carry on a conversation with relatively little slurring, and had more-or-less remained upright in his seat. It wasn’t until time wore on that he’d started rambling, railing and making sloppy confessions, sometime in early 2003. Maybe it had been earlier, but his perception of time was never en par with everyone else’s. In reality, he’d been told numerous times that his grip on sobriety had started to slip away earlier and earlier every night.
The irony of the situation lay with the morning after, because Julian’s hangovers were always ten times worse than anyone else’s. Early on, he’d try to limit himself, to ease the effect that would come later. In time, his prophetic visions of future migraines had only encouraged him to drink more and more as he decided to go out with a bang instead of with a whimper.
When he gets that sick, Julian arches his back, his intense pain taking on the appearance of unbridled pleasure, which had been funny in the past but now just mingled with the throbbing frustration that beat out a rhythm behind his temple. The beat matched the song that had been playing in the bar, something that Julian could dimly remember from 1989’s hit parade. His father had liked the singer because she was Hispanic. Julian had liked her because of her heavy bangs.
No one babied him when he hunched over the first grungy toilet he came to, as they all followed the unspoken rules that lay among all alcoholic comrade-in-arms. Those who became too drunk to walk properly were hauled out of the bar by their elbows and tossed into a prepaid cab, generally followed up by a phone call in the morning to make sure they hadn’t choked to death in their sleep. It wasn’t until he’d gone off the deep end that someone would accompany him home, and Julian often wondered if he should resent the fact that they’d set up shifts for watching him.
When he married Juliet, it was as hard to explain as he always said it was. In his head, he makes Juliet sound like a rebound, a last grab at monogamy so that he could reproduce and have someone to keep his head out of the toilet when the need arose. Julian had never been able to describe people exactly as they were; they were always shoved into the box that he needed them to fit, be it the screechy, grating ex-girlfriend or the understanding yet tragically hopeless ex-wife whom he could never truly love because of his raging taste for men.
In all honesty, Julian had loved Juliet with as much passion as anyone could muster for another human being. He had known her, he had been comfortable with her, and they had moved into the apartment that his father had bought him upon his acceptance into Five Towns College - a gift. This stood in direct violation to the pact he had made with Al the night before they were born in the UK, that they would always live in the same grubby apartment to avoid becoming assholes.
Somewhere between shopping for furniture with his hand in her back pocket and painting the ceilings with a roller taped to a broom handle, Julian would assume that he became an asshole. But he had Juliet, and it was still hard to explain.
They ate pizza and drank warm Heineken in the middle of a mess of newspapers, her sitting in his lap as he straddled the one chair they possessed while trying not to tip it backward, and they were both barefoot. She was wearing a blue tank top, spots of white pain from the ceiling standing out like freckles on her shoulders, and he was twisting her hair away from her neck with the hand that wasn’t on her hip. The curtains weren’t up at that point, the windows leaving the city fully exposed at their feet, and Julian wondered if love smelled like a cross between the Benjamin Moore showroom and Dominio’s, or if it was just in the way that her deodorant left chalk marks on her shirt.
On the Wednesday morning after Juliet had instigated a ‘trial separation’, Julian found himself back in a familiar pose, sitting in a little heap on the floor and rubbing at his pasty forehead with his knuckles. With every heartbeat, he clenched his fingers on the lip of the toilet, trying to remain unmoved by the sickening splash of the content of his stomach hitting the water.
A couple of weeks before, Julian had introduced his friends to a new interest, enacting the code of silence that would keep the news from reaching Juliet. It was after a concert at Irving Plaza, a concert that had consisted of him scanning the crowd for that one person he had so much riding on, occasionally pausing to sing a couple of songs.
He hadn’t been waiting so much as anticipating the arrival backstage, catching little glimpses of the door as he sat in the middle of the guys, wondering exactly how much of a mindfuck he’d just set himself up for. Nick was getting antsy, wanting coke and wanting to snag a groupie, whining loudly against Julian’s ear and calling him Jubie, a nickname designed to make him feel about five years old. Julian waited, sucking on a Jolly Rancher, reminding himself that he had cut back his drinking and that the sadness came back when the coke ebbed away.
When Julian had introduced him to the group as something other than an garage band singer, he wanted to get out of there as fast as he possibly could to avoid the incredulous look Fab was shooting him, and to escape the light probing of Niko’s eyes.
Knowing that you’re an alcoholic doesn’t prepare you for the first time you slip, though in Julian’s case any slipping was tantamount to falling off a ten-story building. He hadn’t involved himself in AA, choosing to keep himself at the MM - Moderation Management - end of the spectrum. MM could be done online, with no meetings or prayer circles to keep up with. If he overlooked the fact that the program’s founder ended up killing two people in a drunk driving accident ...well, hey, Julian didn’t drive.
Wednesday morning was a testament to how badly moderation worked - as though anyone in their right mind could trust him to set his own limits. When he’d finished vomiting, Julian’d collapsed across one of the couches in his living room, listening to Nikolai’s deathly-calm monotone from the answering machine as he delivered the ‘I’m checking to see if you died last night’ speech.
If he hadn’t remembered lying under a table at the Blind Tiger, screaming into his phone to compete with Nikolai’s rising voice, Julian would have enjoyed the little blast from the past; would have used the nostalgia to guide him through his blurry vision and his migraine headache. It would have been normal, a monologue taken from six years ago, but he could hear Elysia gurgling in the background – Ilona was probably still sleeping – and that kept him securely slumped in the present.
Nine-tenths of all their interviews make reference to how long the members of the Strokes have known each other. The rock journalists get their kicks out of making it seem that they were five men tossed together by fate, most of them before the onset of puberty. Julian had never been able to stomach reading their press, specifically for that reason. When he paid it any attention, he’d start down the path of ‘what if’ and would take his sweet time backtracking out of it.
What if he’d never met Nikolai? What if he hadn’t been shipped to where Albert was? What if Nick hadn’t been a frustrated, aloof fifteen-year-old when Julian had returned from boarding school and wound up in his study hall?
It dawned him, when he’d skimmed through a particularly terrible NME article, that it was a damn good thing they’d all been interested in music; if left to his own devices, Julian would never have been able to make the connections necessary to sustain friendships. The idea that a twist of fate could have kept them from him had never been easy to swallow.
Julian knew how abrasive he was, how angry and hateful he could be. His personality acted as an immune system, designed to keep out anyone who may be foolish enough to breach his first line of defense. Nick, Nikolai, Albert and Fabrizio were recognizable substances, but everyone else was a virus, something to be attacked and destroyed before they could get in deep enough to have an impact. (In retrospect, it’s probably why he had such a hard time dealing with women).
The drinking had been rose-colored glasses, keeping him from noticing all the sharp edges that came so close. It kept him cheerful, childlike, until the depression set in and he’d wind up draped across a couch or sprawled over the floor. His friends had never babied him, not the group that he’d been a part of since high school. Sober, it was like meeting them all for the first time, as though they were strangers who’d somehow ended up on the same tour bus going nowhere.
More than anything, Julian’s sobriety meant that there was a break in his defenses, that the wall he’d stood behind since junior high was attacked and left with gaps. This allowed new people to slip in through the cracks, to imbed themselves before he recognized the potential harm in having them there. He didn’t know how to ward them off on his own; strangely, the sensation of being boxed in by commitment didn’t come when he kept himself restricted to club soda.
Tuesday night, the Monday night before it, and the Sunday night before that had been the real blasts from the past, more so than Nikolai’s quiet lecture. The isolation, the gnawing paranoia in the pit of his stomach, unrelenting even as he went hair of the dog every morning to cure his ailments.
What was different about Wednesday morning, as opposed to his part experiences, was that once he’d finished puking and had poured himself a glass of tomato juice (the only thing that had ever worked for his hangovers), he’d wound up lying on top of someone else. Someone who rubbed his back and arms, refraining from shoving him or poking him in the face even though Julian knew it was his favorite way of showing affection. He’d whispered into his ear in what was probably a huge show of restraint, further muddling Julian’s hazy mind with that unstoppable accent.
In his post-vomiting drowsiness, Julian’s lips had gotten loose, and he’d talked far more than he’d ever intended. The screaming match with Nikolai became a charming little anecdote, another story to add to his file of drunken antics instead of what it really was.
As Nikolai always said, Julian enjoyed testing people. His kisses were hard, with teeth and blood and rough tonguing for the first few moments. It was only after the focus of his kiss had held out for a decent amount of time that he shifted over to light pecking, softer lip-on-lip contact. According to Nikolai, Julian was a born romantic at heart, but getting through the barbed wire and sarcastic jabbing was en par with cutting through a thicket of thorns to get a feel of Sleeping Beauty. Jolly Rancher flavor only after the sooty smoke aftertaste.
All talk of Julian’s failure was banished, wiped away along with the droplets of water that fell from his wet hair after he’d been persuaded to take a shower. He let it go, the lack of success – he couldn’t call it failure twice. And yeah, the avoidance thing was going to come back and bite him in the ass, yes, he could feel how close he was to going back down the road that had made him infamous. He could try to make this time different, but Julian wasn’t one for false hope.
He followed that up by praying to every fucking god he could think of that this time around, he could make it last. The AA enrolment that came on Wednesday night had been his own thing, something he'd done without mentioning it to anyone. Moderation didn't work. Binging didn't work. So that was it; all or nothing. Though the latter seemed easiest, for the first time since he'd staggered around the Park Avenue apartment as a rich, drunk seven-year-old, Julian had finally gotten a firm grasp on the what the former felt like.
Letting go was unacceptable.
ooo, i really really like this for several reasons. first, you know your julian/strokes history and that always adds authenticity to a story - you're able to make things that much more plausible as truth. secondly, you've done a super job of getting in julian's head and showing how he feels about himself at this time as well as how he's seen by his bandmates. pretty spot-on, if you ask me. thirdly, you can obviously write. and last, but not least, adding the hint of craig lingering back there somewhere in the shadows makes my little heart pitter-patter in anticipation of what's to come.
there better be more where that came from, babes!