Soundtrack to Life – Good Luck and Best Wishes, Aki-Bee

‘eeeeeyyyyy! Welcome to the first installment of Soundtrack to Life on the brand new BP site. Most of you are familiar with the run down, but I see a few new faces in the crowd, so allow me to explain. We all have songs that remind us of important times in our lives, whether the song was playing at the time or the lyrics hold a specific meaning. What would our lives be without a soundtrack? I encourage the readers to send in their stories about a song and what it reminds them of. By the time this is posted, John should have put up the entire archive of my work, so you can take a look at what I’m looking for. You get full credit for the story, unless you wish to remain anonymous. Anyways, let’s kick things off with a story about one of our own.

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Good Luck and Best Wishes, Aki-Bee
“The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out”/”Screws Fall Out” by Less Than Jake

Along the course of our lives, we meet a plethora of different people. Most, we never get the chance to know. Others we know will become tight allies. Still others, bitter enemies. This story is about one of those people who you never thought would make a huge difference in your life, but they did.

Starting early on in life, you tend to look for those on the playground who have similar interests and allign yourself with them. For me, it was videogames. Though this deemed me a nerd, I found my allies in the 2nd grade. Scott, Nick and Jason were the primary three. We all did the same things; videogames, Hot Wheels, and Cub Scouts. At seperate times, I was in the same den as each of them. We’d invite eachother over on weekend nights, do all those fun things we did when we were kids and sleep over on the occassion. In 3rd grade, Nick left, went south to Kentucky. Over the years, I’ve lost touch with him, but from the sounds of it we’ve both walked very different paths.

Our favorite past time, amidst our entire circle of friends was night games, particularly capture the flag. This was always played at either Scott or Jason’s house. Scott’s yard was rather uneven, the backyard was a high hill which sloped all the way to the ditch at the end of the front yard. So more often than not, we played at Jason’s. Scott had an older sister that stayed out of our business. Jason, however, had a little sister, who was always interested in whatever it was we were doing. This was Aki (I’d say her real name, but I think she’d stab me for that). She quickly became the tag-along annoying kid sister I’d never met.

Normally, I had no problem when she got involved, as I am an agreeable guy and just like to avoid arguments (you know, the typical “You can’t come with.”/”Why not?” argument oft held between siblings). Occasionally, the games would get a little rough and she’d have to run inside, but we’d include her anyways, even if it was against her mother’s wishes, on a school night. Usually in these games, she’d team up with Scott. Scott was the athlete and looker of our group, so it’s no surprise she stuck to him at all times. And they’re favorite target: Me. I was probably the most out of shape guy there, aside from when we brought Musse in. So, Scott would sho me up and mock me, and Aki would do the same. That kinda thing get’s on a fella’s nerves. But what did I care? She was a kid, she didn’t know any better.

Then, I believe it was the summer of ’98. Our first game of the year and there she was again. Let the taunting commence. But it didn’t. She didn’t take a shot at me the whole night, despite being on different teams. She and I actually talked peaceably when we did talk. It was as if she’d become a completely different person over the span of a few months. Our group didn’t treat her as a burden anymore, but rather invited her out on a few ventures. Whatever it happened to be, whether it was capture the flag or another board game night, she was usually with us. I’d never seen her as a potential friend, expecting her to go live her own life, but all that was changing.

After Scott’s accident in the early days of ’99, our group became much more tightly knit, doing all that we could together. Jason and his family had moved to a new place, not too far from Regner park. And so lays the scene for one of the most memorable nights in my life. July 4th, 1999. I was bored, had nothing better to do, so I decided to see what was happening locally. I knew the fireworks were gonna be held at Regner that night, and I figured I might find a few people I knew there. Sure enough, there was Jason and Aki with their family and Adam’s family, all there on the shore. So, I sat with them for the show. From where we sat, the fireworks couldn’t have been launched 50 yards away. It was a nice pleasant show. And then, one shell exploded too close to the ground.
“That’s not supposed to happen.” I thought.
The sparks from the blast ignited many of the remaining shells, and everyone could only watch in horror as the finale blew up on the ground. As this happened, we pulled back to the water, about as far as we could go. It was just unreal. Then we heard Aki, crying and screaming. Apparently, one of the cinders hit her in the back. We aren’t sure to this day if it actually happened, she isn’t even sure. There was no burn mark and no sign of an ember. As her mom calmed her down, we collected our group and walked to Jason’s. When I got there, I was glad to see she’d calmed down. She joined us in a game of Risk that night, it came down to me and her, and not to boast, but I won. Throughout the game, somehow it became a joke about stabbing me. Aki runs upstairs and comes back down with her hands behind her back.
“What do you have?”
“Noooothing.”
“What are you hiding?”
“Nooooothing.”
She then chased me around the basement with several butcher’s knives. I had to disarm her several times that night. It’s been a running gag (no pun intended) ever since. Things changed between us from here on out.

2000 was the big year for our clique. We graduated highschool, Jason had introduced me to the punk lifestyle, and we had a big roadtrip planned for the summer. More and more, Aki had become a part of the clique. As we looked at it, we noticed something about the family history. Jason’s older sister, Bean, was held under strict rules, she wound up rebelling and leaving. Jason was also held under these rules, he was already rebelling and about to leave. With Aki, it was just a matter of time. So, we decided to liberate her. Occasionally we’d talk her mom into letting her come with us, and other times, we’d sneak her out. It was convenient, because even with a full car, we could find somewhere to fit her. She is small after all. Often times, we’d fit her in the leg space for the passenger side seat. We’d take her to Webb’s, out on grocery runs, and just any other place that we’d frequent. She was very thankful to be getting out of the house for once.

One February night, in 2001, I got a call.
“Joe?”
“Yeah?”
“This is Sam.”
“Oh hey, what’s going on?”
“Look um, I know you’re a responsible guy, and well…. Something happened to Aki while under my care.”
“What happened?”
“I…. I don’t know. I think there’s something wrong with her head.”
“Did she hit her head or something?”
“I dunno. Could you take a look at it please?”
“Well, I’m not exactly a doctor and I dunno if you should really be drawing attention to this place, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“Okay, thanks. We’ll be right over.”
So, I got my boots on and went outside. I paced at the top of the driveway, worrying, wondering what could have possibly happened. I was expecting Sammy to be carrying Aki out of the car, helping her to stand. Sam pulls up and I meet them half-way down the driveway. Aki is walking fine, she has a hoodie on with the hood up.
“Alright, what happened?” At this point I was worried, not that I wasn’t already, but I was losing my cool. Aki takes her hood off to reveal…….. blonde/orange hair. It was a joke, all at my expense. Her hair used to be a very dark brown. They’d bleached her hair and wanted to see how flustered they could make me. Mission accomplished girls. I joined them later as they dyed her hair to the now infamous Aki Blue. I went home, and I wished her luck with her mom, cuz I knew her mom wouldn’t like it.

In October of ’00, Aki joined us at the Haunted House, teaming up with her new friend Lara. They terrorized the elevator while I stalked the hallways. They were working the Legacy room once while I was walking through the E tunnel, banging on the wall to scare our guests.
thump
thump
thump
thump
“Hey! Who turned out the light?!”
“Uh oh!” and I flee the scene of the crime.

2001 I took on a job at Hardees with Tia and Aki. They were the ones who coerced me to apply there. It was during this time that she gained the name Aki, after people saw a resemblance between her and Dr. Aki Ross on the movie “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”. She went to the Warped Tour that year and suffered a concussion in the Less Than Jake pit. This is where she picked up another trait from the movie, furthering the use of her name Aki. She would faint every now and then. People, namely me, would rush to her and ask if she was alright. Her response always was and still is “I’m fine.” This became rather frustrating during work when she’d sporadically pass out. Still, though I was concerned, I find it humorous now.

She joined us again at the 2001 haunted house, often times working with me in the kitchen. Usually though, she hid in the hallways or above the stairwell. When her mom came in we had fun with her. Everyone in the house singled her out.

Up until this point, we’d shared moments like these, but we still didn’t know each other all that well. The following spring, I was out cruising the town. I was just leaving Blockbuster as Aki and Gage came in. I opted to stick around and if nothing else walk with them for a while. We wandered around the store, talked, eyed up a few movies but wound up leaving. We walked toward Aki’s house and Gage went his own way, so I decided to walk Aki home. It had been raining on and off so she welcomed me to stay so the rain could pass. We were gonna go out elsewhere, but she wasn’t feeling well. So, we wound up sitting at her place from about midnght to 4:30 in the morning, just talking. We learned a lot about each other that night, and since then, it’s been as though we’d known eachother for years. Well, it kinda has really, since I’ve known her since she was yay-tall. Dunno if that analogy really works with her, since she isn’t much yay-taller. Man, two short jokes already. I’m gonna die.

There are so many more stories, but I wager you haven’t the patience to read them all. So, I’ll just touch on them briefly.
-Many nights at the Haunted House, working the same room.
-Tuesday night coffee nights at Webb’s.
-Promising redemption against the man who raped her.
-Her calming me down when things were going to shit in my house.
-Her roadtrip to Oklahoma.
-Being there for her through the fireworks on the 4th of July this year.
-Her graduation party.

It’s all been quite odd. Back when I first met her, I’d never imagined we’d even be friends. I’d just kind of thought, an afterthought really, that she’d have her friends, I’d have mine, and we’d live our own seperate lives. In the past three years we’ve shared so many things that had you told me I’d be doing them with her back when she was the annoying little girl who loved to tease me, I’d say you were insane. Whew, that’s a mouthful. But it’s odd how the threads of fate intertwine. She’s gone from one of my good friend’s kid sister, to my most trusted friend. As the years went on we’d seen each other through many trials and tribulations, in fact we still do now. We’ve both lived our hard lives, and thankfully, we’ve been here for eachother.

It came as little surprise to me that she graduated from highschool a whole year early. She’d been telling me that that was the plan all along, get out as soon as posible. She hit up many places in town for a job and eventually landed one at a local restaurant as a waitress. It didn’t last and was soon in the search again. We don’t have the greatest job market in West Bend, so when you need one, they’re hard to find. We couldn’t find anything, and that’s when she approached me with her plan. She would move down to Milwaukee to get her life started. The thought bothered me at first. She was my last remaining tie in this city. Who would I have when she left? But that all gave way to how proud I was of her. Not many people can say that they graduated at 17 and willingly left their home and comfort to get their life started. I’m not the kind of guy to throw a party, but I figured she deserved a party in her honor if she was leaving, and I had the accomidations to do so.

The shopping list consisted of watermelon, Doritios, Milller Genuine Draft, Smirnoff Ice, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. We spent the majority of the night out by a roaring bonfire, chatting and drinking. It was a small gathering, but a gathering none the less. It was supposed to be her final night in town, so it was a nice sendoff. Just before she left, I insisted on playing a song for her. I could have sang it, but that would have been too sappy. The song:

“The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out”/”Screws Fall Out”
by Less Than Jake

You told me that your 20 years have gone by much to fast
And you’ve been hopin’ this year will be better than the last
You said you’ve been wagin’ a war against the loneliest of nights
With the strongest drinks and longest lines
Well it’s not that big a surprise
That you’re feelin’ more dead than alive
You’ve feelin’ more dead than alive

So I’ll let you know
If you need, somewhere to go
I’ll be listening when you call
And I’ll be there if you fall off
If you need someone to believe in you
I’ll let you know I will.

You said the whole in your head has gotten bigger than the hole that’s in your chest
And you’re stuck between the past and present tense.
You say you’ve been wagin’ a war against so many years of lies
With stronger drinks and longer lines
Well it’s not that big a surprise
That you’re feelin’ more dead than alive
You’re feelin’ more dead than alive

So I’ll let you know
If you need, somewhere to go
I’ll be listening when you call
And I’ll be there if you fall off
If you need someone to believe in you
I’ll let you know I will.
I’ll let you know I will.
I’ll let you know I will.

But sometimes…….
Ya gotta let it go!!!

So this pen is starting to become
A pipe bomb and these songs
Have turned to anthems again
To everything that’s changed and to everything that’s gone away
Here are my condolences tot he future I never met
It’s gone and never coming back, it’s not coming back
So don’t hold on to your past, you gotta let it go

‘Cause friends leave as time fades away
The people and the places along the way
Without a doubt
Screws fall in and screws they fall out

Tomorrow’s gone up in smoke
And I wonder when I’m alone
Where’d my convictions go
So to everyone that’s gone away
Or fades away or stays the same
Here are my apologies to the person that I used to be
Before I burned down every bridge and every inch
Of everything I used to know, I gotta let it go

Friends leave as time fades away
The people and the places along the way
So don’t hold on to your past
No, it’s never coming back, you gotta let it go

I just wanted to send her off with the message that I’d always be there no matter what, and she shouldn’t worry herself needlessly with the past she’s leaving behind. She said it meant the world to her.

Since that time, I’ve been out there to visit her a few times. She’s doing well, has a job at Claire’s, living at her dad’s, but still gets out every night whether it be for coffee or whatnot. The reason I’ve been down there lately, well, she’s breaking me out of this town. Within a few short week, I’ll be joining her in Milwaukee. That’s right, we’re gonna be roommates. We’re looking at a place later today, and hopefully we can seal the deal shortly thereafter.

Did I do this column to stoke her ego or win favor with her? No. I did it simply because she’s an amazing human being and has changed my life for the better. We all have friends such as these I hope. I just wanted you to see her through my eyes. If she were to die before I do, I’d no longer fear death. Be there a heaven, and she couldn’t get in on her merit alone, she’d sweet talk her way in, trust me. Then one by one, as her loved ones joined her, she’d sneak us all in.

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