“What the fuck was that?” Jon said, wanting to shout but knowing he wouldn’t stop if he did. “’Never felt like a part of the band’?”
“Nice to hear from you, Jon,” Steve said wryly.
“Yeah,” Jon said. “I’ll tell you why you never felt like part of the band.”
“I’m sure you will,” Steve sighed.
“When you try to have total control of something, you end up outside of it,” Jon said. “You lose perspective of it, and you alienate the other folks supposedly working with you.”
“I really pissed you off, didn’t I,” Steve said. “I sort of expected this from Neal, but not you.”
“We always left the door open for you,” Jon said. “Goddamnit, you were always welcome, we always tried to be there for you. Be your family. If it didn’t happen, it’s ‘cause you vanished on us. Did it ever occur to you that we fuckin’ loved you, that it tore us up when you didn’t accept it?”
Steve was silent.
“I don’t blame you for it,” Jon said. “Because I don’t think you knew how to accept it. But you could’ve...” He paused. “You might’ve at least acknowledged it.”
He waited. But the singer was silent.
“I love you,” Jon said. “I don’t necessary like you much, or the way you behave. But I’ll always love you. Nothing you could do will kill that, even if that’s what you want. The door will always be open.”
Steve didn’t answer.
“Loving you means not letting you get away with shit,” Jon said. “You made us choose between you and Journey.”
“You made me choose between my health and Journey,” Steve said softly, and it was underscored with tension. There was a wealth of resentment there, and Jon nodded to himself in response to it, but not in agreement with it.
“Nobody wanted you hurt,” Jon said. “So we left it alone and left it alone and left you alone, and goddamnit nothing moved, Stephen! You wouldn’t come right out and say, ‘here’s what I’m gonna do’ or involve us in anything. We sat on our hands for almost two years before we decided to move on.”
“Before you decided,” Steve said. “This is all old news, Jon. If you have enough unfinished business to call and yell at me over something I said, it’s because you’re doubting the decision you made. I said what I feel. Live with it.”
“You never said it to us,” Jon said, trying to hold on to his temper.
“You weren’t listening,” Steve countered in the same tone. “I was screaming it for years, and you just didn’t choose to hear it.”
There was a long moment of silence on the line.
Then Jon said, “You were never built for it. Fame. The band thing. Any relationship, period.”
“Aw, Jonathan,” Steve began before Jon finished the sentence. “Like I said, hashing old news. Come on. What’s really going on, here?”
“You blindsided us,” Jon said. “You always did, so I don’t
know why I’m surprised this time. But you fuckin’ discounted more than twenty
years of...goddamnit, you’re the one who set yourself apart.”
“Are you gonna tell me, now, that you’re not glad I did?” Steve said. “How much worse would this all be, if I hadn’t? You want the same thing that’s going on over at the Styx camp, you want mayhem? We’re not good at it.”
Jon sighed heavily.
“You feel better, now?” Steve said. “I knew I shouldn’t’ve said it. It’s done.”
“You had editing rights,” Jon said, “and you didn’t remove the remark. So you set us up, and everybody knows it.”
“So what?” Steve said. “Who cares? If I set you up, that makes me look like an idiot, doesn’t it?”
“I think you got what you wanted,” Jon said. “I think you couldn’t wait to see the final tape and watch the looks on our faces. You wanted to see if it hurt, if we’d believe it.”
“You damn near swallowed your tongue,” Steve said, his tone mildly conciliatory. “Neal’s reaction had to be completely edited out, there wasn’t a single word of it that was suitable for family viewing.”
Jon listened to the tone, offset by words that should have been smug. There was nothing there that spoke of setup. He couldn’t quite believe it. “He’s not done, either,” Jon said. “I think you better keep your door locked and stay inside for awhile. We signed a gag order. We didn’t sign a restraining order.”
“The whole thing was a joke,” Jon said. “And you know it. And you loved it. One day, the real stuff is gonna come out, and nothing you can do about it.”
“Then I guess we’ll wait and see,” Steve said…
* * *