A Daria fanfic by E. A. Smith
The sky was already turning pink in the east as Mystik Spiral stumbled out the back door - the musician's door - of the club, instruments in hand, their feet barely leaving the ground as they trudged forward. Trent and Jessie carried their guitars, while Max hauled his drumkit behind them on a cart, which looked to be the only thing holding him upright. Nick was walking beside him, bass in hand, while the two discussed their mutual performances that night in voices low from fatigue but no less vitriolic. Trent did his best not to notice, not to think about what they were saying, or what it meant. The Tank was waiting for them; Trent hauled open the back door and they tossed in their guitars, then helped Max break down and store the drums. No words were exchanged save what were necessary. When they were finished, Jessie and Max headed inside the van, but Nick stopped Trent before he could make it to the driver's seat.
"Listen, man," he started in a no-nonsense tone, "I've enjoyed being part of the band and all, but I don't know how much longer I can stand to play with a drummer who couldn't keep a steady rhythm with a pacemaker."
"Hey, dude," Trent replied; he'd known this conversation was coming for some time now, and he'd been dreading it. "It's just Max, man. He does okay. He works for our sound."
"He sucks!" Nick replied. "He's holding us back. How are we supposed to get any decent gigs if our drummer can't hold us all together? And I really need some good-paying jobs soon. I've got a daughter to support, y'know. She's starting kindergarten and I can't even afford to pay for her school supplies. If we don't start making some real money soon, the kind we talked about making when we first started out, then I'm going to have to find something better."
Trent winced. He knew that ultimatum; ironically enough, Max had given him a similar one not too long before. He didn't have a kid, but he had bills, and couldn't take much more of Nick's nagging either. Trent wondered if Max could hear them through the Tank's metal walls.
"We're making progress," Trent told him. "Look at us; we're over a hundred miles from Lawndale right now. Word about the Spiral is getting out. It won't be too long before some record exec hears about us and wants to sign the next big thing."
"Next big thing?" Nick said incredulously. "We don't sound like N'Sync or Creed. I don't think any record company is going to want us. Trent, I think I'll be leaving the band soon. I'll stay until we've played all the dates we have lined up right now, and if I can, I'll stick around until you can find a new bassist, but after that I'm gone. I just can't live on your dreams anymore." Nick turned, walked around the side of the van, and got in. Trent hopped into the driver's seat.
Inside, Jessie and Max were already dozing in the back, Jessie against the wall, Max leaning on his bass drum. Nick took a quick seat, as far away from Max as he could get, and quickly drifted off. Trent was virtually alone as he cranked up the ancient van and, with a belch of black smoke behind them, set off along the vacant highway into the rising sun.
He turned on the radio, but all he could find were country stations, which he loathed, and oldies stations, which he loathed but a little less. Since he hated driving in complete silence, he left the tuner on the oldies station, volume just high enough so that he could notice the sound, but could ignore what he was actually hearing. The mumbled sounds blended well with the dawn-lit, barren landscape passing by the windows.
Trent had known for a long time that this day was coming; Nick and Max had never gotten along, and things had just gotten worse as time had progressed but the band had not. The big dreams they had had as kids putting together their first real band, listening to Nirvana and thinking that they too could make it to that level, had never materialized. They had never progressed beyond playing local clubs, and though he had told Nick that this gig meant the start of something big for them, he knew it wasn't true. It had just been an act of desperation on the part of the bar's owner when his regular band had cancelled at the last minute and the Spiral was the only band who could make it. Which in itself was pathetic. Now Nick was leaving, and probably Max as well, soon enough. Then it would just be Jessie and him, and Trent didn't know what they would do then.
Janey's going off to college soon, too. She thinks she needs it to be an artist. But that's not for me, man. I've got to be free to follow my own muse. But how free was he, when he couldn't get to where he wanted to go? What if he really did end up playing covers in some sad bar band for the rest of his life? Daria, the smartest person he had ever known, had once told him that it took guts to pursue a dream, and that at least for right now he was doing exactly what he wanted to do. But that's not how I want to end up. I won't be doing exactly what I want to do then. Trent couldn't see any life, any future, ahead of him without music, but music didn't seem to be giving him the life and the future that he wanted. How am I supposed to say something to the world if the world isn't listening?
Perfect three-part harmonies suddenly emanated from the speakers, a sound head and shoulders better than they sappy Fabian song they had been playing a moment before. Trent soaked it in, both the music and the lyrics.
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans
Is that what I am, a nowhere man? Trent thought as the chiming guitars entered and took the song to a new level, blending beautifully with John, Paul, and George's voices. What if I really am in a nowhere land, making nowhere plans? Is that where I'm going to end up? He looked back at the three guys sleeping behind him, their faces in repose, emptied of the worries that troubled him. They didn't look lost; at least, no more than normal. But then, Nick was moving on, and probably so was Max, and Jessie didn't really have a destination to begin with. He wasn't making his plans for them, but he wasn't sure any more if his plans were any good for himself. So maybe his plans really were for nobody.
Doesn't have a point of view
Knows not where he's going to
Isn't he a bit like you and me?
Yep, a bit like me. I'm like this road. I keep on driving and driving down it, but it doesn't look any different. I know where I'm going on this road, but where will I go after that? Janey had already suggested he move with her to Boston, start up a band there. But he wouldn't be any better there, and while the Spiral was the big cheese in Lawndale, because there really wasn't hardly anyone else, he'd be nothing in Boston. Maybe I should go anyway. For Janey. She needs me. But he knew he was just fooling himself there. She didn't need him anymore, hadn't needed him for years. That couldn't be his road any longer.
You don't know what you're missing
Nowhere man, the world is at your command.
Maybe that was it. The world was at his command. All he had to do was take it. He could join the wandering Lanes, visit faraway spots where he could reinvent his music, come back the sage traveler and impart his wisdom in song. As the guitar solo crescendoed, his mood followed suit; he knew what he would do. He would shake the dust of this little town off his feet and see the world, leave all these little people, all the ones with the lack of vision, behind. He could see himself sitting on mountaintops, discussing deep thoughts with Buddhist monks, or on the road with gypsies, learning their wild songs. What kept him here anymore?
Just sees what he wants to see
Nowhere man, can you see me at all?
Except that the whole reason he wasn't a wandering Lane is because that lifestyle didn't appeal to him at all. He liked his comforts, sleeping whenever he wanted in his nice warm bed, and then out playing music at all hours of the night, maybe slipping in a joint here and there. He had enjoyed that life, and even if things were changing, he didn't want the life his family had chosen. As the lyrics repeated and then faded out, Trent found himself right back where he had started; the life he had known for so long was ending, but he wasn't sure what there was to replace it.
The sun was above the horizon now, and though it was still pretty red, Trent squinted when he had to look directly at it. It obscured his view, confused his eyes; he could see the road right ahead of him, but no further. The Tank rattled on, his hands steady at the helm, towards Lawndale and the next morning, and the mornings after that.
Legal Blather: Daria and all associated characters are the property of MTV. "Nowhere Man" was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and is copywrited1965, Northern Songs Inc. The story is my own.