Hall of Fame


When I was in first grade, I got suspended for antisocial behaviour.

Emily Aspenella told me my hair looked like fairy floss, so I tipped yellow poster paint over her head. I can still remember the way her eyes flashed with astonishment and fury as the yellow dripped down her checkered sundress. Like I’d done something she had never considered I was capable of.

“Sometimes… it feels like Billie Joe just likes to cause chaos.”

That was what the principal said when he called up my Mom. I was six years old.

I think about that as I throw open the double doors at the side of the stage, hard enough that they bang against the wall and shake in their hinges. I think about it, as the shrill screams of the crowd in the auditorium blend into the dull roar of anger and incredulity that greets me in the backstage hall. I think about it when my manager steps out in front of me, his eyes glittering with furious disbelief. Just like Emily Aspenella, he hadn’t seen this coming.

He reaches out to grab my arm but I shake him loose, spitting a venomous tirade that I’m only half aware of in his direction. I can feel my blood undulating in my veins, simmering beneath hot skin and about to boil over, and it makes my ears rush so that I can only catch fractured snapshots of the frenzy of noise that’s swarming around me.

A guy wearing headphones and a mouthpiece tries to intercept me and I tell him to fuck off. It comes out easily, like a welcome exhalation, and I blink the lights from my eyes as my fingers tighten around the neck of my guitar. I look down and see the strip lights reflecting along the polished wooden frets, all the way to an end that is broken and splintered and no longer a guitar at all. I sway a little on my feet as a hand lands heavily on my shoulder, hard enough to knock the air from my lungs.

“What the-“

“Get the door, he’s coming through!”

My collar pulls against my neck and I attempt to writhe free, throwing an elbow backwards into the chest of the person behind me. There’s a pounding in my ears and a growl leaving my throat as the hand lets go of my shoulder to twist my arm behind my back, then push me forwards.

“Enough! Fucking enough, man. Walk.”

I surrender, turning my head towards Tre’s voice. His blue eyes are hard as he pushes us forward and the firm set of his jaw makes it clear there’s no use in arguing with him. As he manhandles me down the hallway with one hand, he uses the other to shove an opportunistic photographer, roughly, back against the wall. I hear my manager’s voice cut through the disorder.

“No photographs, no comments. Back up please! This way…”

I crane my neck to look for Mike and the colours blur as my eyes sweep the hall. I find him following a few steps behind me. His expression is unreadable; his eyes on his steadily marching black boots. I open my mouth to get his attention but I’ve barely began to speak before Tre’s hand is tightening around my arm again.

“Don’t talk, walk. Don’t fucking talk.”

His clipped instruction brings another bubble of anger up from my stomach, like searing bile.

Fuck you, Tre… don’t you fuckin’ silence me, you asshole, I-“

“-You’ve said your piece, Bro. It’s time to stop. It’s time to fucking stop.

The world swings around me as we turn down another hallway and then she’s standing there, holding open the door with our names posted on the front of it, and I bristle for another fight before I realise that isn’t anger in her eyes. She looks afraid. Watery, wide-eyed afraid.


I allow Tre to barrel me through the dressing room door, which slams behind Mike as he follows in after us. The light is too bright in here and it seems to be coming from everywhere, from the fluorescent strips in the ceiling, from the glowing bulbs around the mirrors, from the muted television mounted on the far wall. Someone pushes me onto the couch and I drop what’s left of my guitar and cover my eyes with my hands. My face feels hot and damp.

I feel a pair of hands come to rest on my knees and I slide my fingers away from my eyes to see Adrienne bent low in front of me. I’ve only seen that expression on her face once or twice in my life before but I know it, right away. She thinks I’m losing my God damn mind.

“Billie… it’s okay.”

I wish she’d chosen to open with something else because, actually, it wasn’t okay. It was not fucking okay at all. What it actually was, was completely fucked up and if she was going to spend one more second looking at me like I was the problem, then it was even more fucked up than I thought.

I think about Emily Aspenella again. I think about yellow paint. I think about chaos. After that, I think about Gilman Street, for no reason at all. I think about midnight shows and mosh pits and the smell of teenage sweat in the air. I think about great acid trips and about heavy metal. I think about fucking my girlfriend in the bathroom stall. I think about Billie Joe Must Die in red ink on peeling plaster. I stop thinking about that and, instead, I think about my promotion schedule and about my arena tour. I think about a hundred and fifteen dollars a ticket. I think about the New Music Express. I think about being a trending topic on Twitter and about the iTunes download chart. I think about Nicki Minaj and then I think about the Beatles. That makes me think about my father. I think about thirty years. I think about one fucking minute.

When I pick up the neck of my guitar and sling it at the mirror, they hadn’t seen that coming. I don’t like the way Adrienne screams when the glass shatters, though, and I don’t like the silence that follows it either. Silent enough that I can hear the tiny silver shards of glass skipping across the tiled floor in the moment before they come to rest, and Mike starts yelling at me.

I don’t hear what he says. I just keep my eyes on the floor. It’s coming up towards me now and those little pieces of glass are getting closer and closer until I can’t make them out anymore. The floor hits me on the head and I close my eyes.

The world fades to black.

I feel the simmering in my veins slow. I wait to see what happens next.