SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA | 1969
With Bear’s meaty presence gone from the scene, the massive empty space seemed to close in on the pair left alone for the first time since they left the airport.
“So … ” Rosenda began before being cut off by a recalcitrant Bentley.
“Look,” the fallen star looked down at his bare feet, “I’ve been a right twit, and I’m sorry. For everything.”
“No, it’s all right,” Rosenda sought to diffuse whatever heartfelt confession was coming her way. If pressed, she actually preferred her rock stars to be unrepentant messes. If Bentley was going to start blubbering on about how he grew up playing in bombsites and the like, she may have to pitch him into the lagoon herself. Everybody had their own bombsites to navigate, and it was by living vicariously through free spirits like Bentley that made them feel as if there just may be a way out.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“PCP? I think that’s probably a good idea,” Rosenda offered.
Bentley chuckled in spite of being in some sort of obvious torment. “No, not PCP, although, come to think of it, that has just made the list. I mean this, all of this. The whole business of fame and art and bullshit.” Bentley sat down on an overturned five-gallon bucket and stared at his hands.
“Come on, Devon,” Rosenda sought to snap the man out of his funk before she had to slap him. “You’ve got it made. So many people would kill to be in your position. Albert King is opening for you tomorrow night. Albert fucking King!”
“My position? Do you have any idea what my position costs a person? Did you know I had a wife and a kid?” Bentley asked.
Rosenda was shocked, knowing—and even somewhat admiring—Bentley’s roguish rap sheet. “No, I … ,” she began.
“No, you wouldn’t,” Bentley explained. “A beautiful little daughter. It doesn’t fit the profile does it? The thing is, I bought the hype and became this Devon Bentley asshole. The wife packed up their stuff and left one night when I was out doing God knows what. And that was that.”
“I’m sure that she still cares … ”
“No. That was that,” Bentley rued. “I’ve been told by her South London gangster brothers that if I so much as phone, I’m a dead man, and I tend to believe them. Sometimes I wish I was a dead man.”
“Come on, Devon!” Rosenda exploded. “Get your act together man. So your old lady ran off with your kid, do you think that’s the worst story you could hear within a block’s radius of this building? What about in this city? Jesus. You have a gift that helps people forget all the shitty things that have happened to them. Maybe just three minutes at a time, maybe for a few hours; but man, that’s magic. Can’t you see that?”
“How can I help others forget when I can’t even help myself?” Bentley answered her indignation with a primal wail. “I didn’t sign up to be their fucking psychiatrist. I really didn’t sign up to be anybody’s priest. Why do you think I stumble around this shitty planet high out of my mind? I can’t bear being left to my own thoughts. Do you know what that’s like?”
“No,” Rosenda conceded,starting to feel a little empathy toward the man she had primarily seen as a cartoon rock star. “I don’t.”
“Then God bless you,” Bentley offered, more than a little jealousy creeping into his voice. “I hope you never learn.”