Don’t call what you’re wearing an outfit,
Don’t ever say your car is broke.
Rob or the Firebird? Maybe both, but definitely, at the moment, the Firebird. Steam leaked from the front grille like a city sidewalk. Where the hell were they?
They both stared straight ahead.
“Well… I guess I’ll have a look under the hood,” Rob said aloud, almost to himself as his hand grasped the hood latch. He knew she was pissed. She had been on him for ages to get rid of the Firebird.
As if not to wake a sleeping parent, Rob eased his way out of the seat and softly shut the driver side door. It was cold, still – wherever they were. There are a lot of highways in America that you can break down on. A lot of highways with street lights and road signs and traffic. This wasn’t one of those highways. It was hard to make out the surrounding landscape in the obscene dark, but it appeared to be desert.
“Where the fuck are we?”
The loud creak of the hoodbird ascending to the starry night was exasperated by the stark silence. Rob used the flashlight on his phone to look around in the engine. All of the things he had expected to find under a hood were there and none of the things he didn’t. Truth be told, Rob didn’t know a damn thing about cars. He poked around for a few minutes trying to come up with a plan.
“Burn the ships.”
Ever since the call from John about PRIME, there was a small voice inside Rob. It was like a soft gust of wind, intermittently uttering one phrase – “Burn the ships”. A whisper, like the smell of someone burning leaves on a Sunday afternoon drive. Elusive, but familiar and somehow comforting, tip toeing on the neural pathways of long dead memories.
He closed the hood ever so softly, eyes in the distance and mind on this phrase.
The tinnitus was especially loud today. It wasn’t like in the movies and TV shows. Rob still heard everything around him. But, most people didn’t know that and Rob was a sucker for a good bit, so he sometimes used it to his advantage. He wasn’t sure how long Charlotte had been talking.
“Hello, fucking Earth to Rob.”
“Sorry, tinnitus is really bad today.”
“Well,” Charlotte questioned while gesturing toward the front of the car.
Oh, the car.
“Yeah, I think it’s the radiator,” Rob muttered.
“What are we going to do?”
As hard as Rob was trying to keep his feet on the ground, he couldn’t stop his head from traveling through space. What were they going to do? Did he still have this in him? His gut felt like a dish towel being wrung out. A cocktail of anxiety, excitement, and fear. Like a child prepping for the first day of school, he walked through all the possibilities of where to park, who to talk to, how he would set up the dressing room. On and on, like candles melting together into some unholy amalgamation and being fired up again.
“Burn the ships.”
Obviously confused by this, Charlotte leaned in with her head cocked, “W-what?” With a blink of her icy blue eyes, the simmering annoyance became genuine concern.
“We… we get a hotel room. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
“The show is tomorrow, Rob. That’s cutting it too close, babe.”
“Yeah, well, you know I always do my best work under pressure.”
The hotel room was dark, cold. She always liked to keep it sub zero when going to sleep. He didn’t mind cause she always wound up leaning into him. There was something about the feeling of her skin that settled him.
But he wasn’t settled.
Don’t tell them you’re bigger than Jesus, don’t give it away
Don’t give it away
4:42 the morning of ReVival 38. The clock’s red letters stared back at Rob. It was the only light in the room. Rob had spent literally hundreds of nights in hotel rooms unable to sleep – but this was different. It wasn’t regret gnawing at his core. Or cocaine. No, it was that voice.
Burn the ships.
Over and over. It was still somewhat distant and unclear, almost could be mistaken for the neighboring hotel room’s television being too loud.
They were still a ways out from the Greensboro Coliseum and the clock was ticking. By this point the ring would’ve been built. The coliseum, too, say in quiet anticipation, anxiously waiting the violence and sweat that would intoxicate thousands of screaming fans. In the ring all of their chants and shrieks would congeal into a steady vibration.
Burn the ships.
How fitting – the coliseum. Like the gladiators of old, giant brutes would enter the ring and throw caution to the wind trying to catch their sliver of glory. The vibrations. What were all of the fans yelling? Not what, per se, but why? Everything fell in place for Rob in that moment.
“Burn the ships.”
It escaped Rob’s lips without him even being aware. Charlotte stirred to wake, slowly leaning over to turn on the bedside lamp.
“What’s wrong,” she expressed with a deep concern. Rob was a wild man when he was using, but somehow even more so when he wasn’t. With his recent bemusing she was beginning to wonder if all of the bumps were finally cashing in.
“Nothing. I get it now. Burn the ships.”
“Ok. What the fuck does that mean?”
“Pack your shit, we’re going to the airport. Need to get on the first flight to Greensboro.”
Rob sprung from the bed like a hostage being freed from his bindings. He furiously grabbed loose items, stuffing them into his weekend bag. Charlotte knew him to be a meticulous packer. She slowly sat up in the bed, wiggling her toes on the carpet while watching Rob whirl. She’d follow him to the gates of hell.
“Ok babe, but what the hell are you talking about?”
He stopped for a moment, his back to her and both hands on the laminated wood dresser.
“This is it, Char. This is the last chance. We have to be ready to burn the ships and leave no way to retreat.”
She couldn’t control the corners of her lips being pulled in opposite directions even if she wanted to. He was back. That spark had returned and he was talking with the fervor and passion she’d fallen in love with so many years ago. All of the stuff was there: the opportunity with PRIME, the timing with Rob’s sobriety, and now that fire beginning to burn in his belly. Tonight the fans of PRIME would meet Rob Williams, “The Legend”.