“I can’t fucking believe this shit. Can you fucking believe this shit?” Jett stormed from the kitchen into the living room, grimacing as he waved his phone over his head. Goldie sat quietly a few feet away, looking up as Jett entered the room and tucking his phone away. He was good like that, a good listener, not fucking around on his phone like what Jett had to say wasn’t interesting.
Possibly because what Jett had to say was always interesting. Or Jett liked to think so, anyway.
And this was massive. “Fucking Johnny Rotten is just driving the Sex Pistols the last little bit into the ground. Again. Like he hasn’t sold out so far that there’s literally no selling out left to do. I mean, do you remember when they came out with Sex Pistols credit cards ? Like…” Jett adopted an English accent on the fly—not half-bad, considering the amount of time he’d spent in the UK—and paced the room, hands weaving in agitation, nearly smacking a vase. “Oi, do you want to spend the rest of your life indebted to The Man? Sure you do! Let’s do it together, with dapper new Sex Pistols credit cards! Do you want anarchy? Say it with your Sex Pistols credit card! That’ll show ’em!”
He groaned, long and low and utterly disgusted, and then looked to the heavens (or their admittedly pretty swank ceiling) as if for guidance from above. “Now, as if that were not enough, there are Sex Pistols Converse. Not like my good old fashioned All Stars with graffiti lovingly hand-drawn on the canvas, no . These are licensed. These are official merch. For only eighty-plus dollars a pop, you too can own official Sex Pistols themed sneakers! Good goddamn, what is the world coming to?”
Jett’s volume rose as he hit his stride, stomping around the living room like a caged predator, raking one hand through his long black hair. “Can you believe this shit? How broke is Johnny Rotten that he does this shit? Can he not just fucking live in a nice little slummy hellhole and eat Ramen like any other self-respecting punk until his career picks back up? What is this shit? Did he ever even believe in the principles of the punk movement at all?”
Growling, Jett turned to face Goldie, bringing up his fists in frustration, like he might punch thin air in lieu of punching John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon. “Y’know the worst fucking part? The really scummy, low, reeking toejammy part of it all? Fucking kids these days, they’re gonna get their parents to buy them those fucking sneakers, and they’re gonna feel like rebels. They’re gonna feel punk. And god help ’em, they don’t know the first thing. They’re fucking babes in the woods, lambs to the corporate slaughter. Gone are the days of paying two bucks for a used pair of sneaks from the thrift shop and going at ’em with a dollar store Sharpie. Who needs creativity? Who needs artistic self-expression? What is wrong with the world?”
Wait. Was Goldie crying? Jett blinked and dropped to a crouch in front of Goldie, looking up at him in confusion. Sure, it was a fucking horrible situation, a real shitsucking piece of news that just further solidified all Jett’s fears about where the planet was headed, but it wasn’t worth crying over, and Goldie’s interest in the Sex Pistols had always been somewhat more temperate than Jett’s.
“You… aren’t crying about the sorry state of punk idols, are you, baby?” Jett frowned and reached up to brush his knuckles gently across Goldie’s damp cheek.
Goldie blinked a few times, sniffed, then brought his hand to his face and touched the tears like he was surprised that they were happening. His lips parted like they were trying to twist into words, but whatever had him so upset had apparently robbed him of his ability to make sound.
He silently patted the spot next to him on the luxurious white couch. Tears streaked down his face, and his shoulders tensed as he let out a soft sob. “Bowie.”
“What about Bowie?” Jett joined Goldie on the couch and slipped his arm around his husband, wiping away Goldie’s tears with his thumb. “Did someone pan his new album? Was somebody wrong on the Internet again?”
Jett wasn’t sure if Goldie would weep over people giving Bowie bad reviews, but given how much Goldie identified with—worshipped and adored—David Bowie, he wouldn’t be surprised either.
Blackstar had been on in rotation around the house for the past couple of days. Goldie even worked out to it, which Jett wasn’t even sure should be possible, but Goldie was, because of course he was. Even if Bowie wasn’t Goldie’s hero, the song Rock ‘n Roll Suicide had played a huge role in their relationship.
“He’s…he passed away.” The words spilled out with a torrent of tears. Goldie straddled Jett’s lap and wrapped his arms tightly around him to sob against Jett’s neck.
Whatever Jett thought Goldie was going to say… That possibility hadn’t even occurred to Jett, testimony to how immortally large Bowie loomed in his consciousness. Bowie literally just dropped an album. He was fine. He’d been fine . How was it even possible he was… No. Nope. No.
Stunned, Jett pulled Goldie closer and curved his hand over the back of his head, cradling him against him protectively as he tried to make sense of those words. “Did— Did some crazy fan kill him or— Was there a plane crash?”
“Cancer.” Goldie clutched Jett so tightly that it was hard to breathe. They’d just been to see Lazarus, the musical Bowie co-wrote. How could he have had cancer? Had he been skinnier lately? He’d always been gaunt….
Jett had only met Bowie a couple of times in passing, always at industry parties. Goldie was often so overwhelmed he could barely speak. It was always so cute seeing him starstruck.
Goldie’s voice broke into Jett’s memories.
“He’s had it for eighteen months, they say.”
“What?” Jett exhaled shakily and stroked Goldie’s hair, trying to process how a world-famous legend could be sick for so long and tell no one. Not a single leak to the press. He chewed his bottom lip and then held Goldie tighter. “So he was…finishing construction on his legacy. Preparing his way.”
Tears stung Jett’s eyes, and he blinked rapidly. He couldn’t speak again for a moment, choked by emotion. Then he managed, “He orchestrated his exit as gracefully as everything else he ever did. Left us with something special to remember him by, to guide us without his presence.”
And how could that be possible? That David Bowie was no longer in the world? He was a rock god, meant to live forever. Jett’s heart hurt, for his own loss, for Goldie’s…for the world’s. For Bowie’s family, who surely knew and spent a year and a half mourning very privately, waiting for the Reaper.
Goldie nodded and started to pull away but then lapsed back against Jett, drenching his neck with another release of tears. “How can I feel this bad, Jett? I didn’t know him. Not really. But it feels like such an exceptional loss. I don’t know if it’s better or worse that he left us such a beautiful piece of work to remember him by. It makes me miss him more.”
This time, Goldie sat back to meet Jett’s gaze. His amber eyes were tinged with red. He wiped the tears away with the ball of his fist like a child. “I feel so stupid. What did I think, that he was immortal?”
“Oh, baby.” Jett smiled crookedly and smoothed Goldie’s hair back from his tear-stained face. “I sure did. Forever and ever.” He sighed and shook his head, releasing a ragged breath. “We just gotta accept that a godlike alien walking among us mortals and offering us brilliant gifts of understanding and insight from time to time couldn’t stick around this shithole forever. Bowie had better places to be.”
“I thought we’d be seeing his shows for the album. I didn’t think he’d built a spaceship to return home. God, poor Iman. His daughter…” Goldie exhaled shakily and then reached across him for a tissue to dab his eyes with. “But I guess it was a very glam rock sort of exit. A birthday, an album release, and then an exit. Dramatic and shocking. I guess in the absence of an offer from Converse…”
Goldie lowered his lashes as he often did when he was throwing shade.
“Ha fucking ha. No doubt, Goldilocks. If only Converse had intervened.” Jett rolled his eyes and then leaned in to kiss Goldie gently, brushing his lips against his husband’s with a sad smile. “Guess when it’s my time to shuffle off the mortal coil, you want me to take the sellout cure? ‘Rejuvenate your aging rocker with lucrative merch deals! Act now!'”
“No, we’re going out in a spaceship built for two, my love.” Goldie cupped Jett’s face and gazed at him with the sort of intensity that verged on draining. “If you get cancer, I’m going to get it, too. Everything together. Oh no love! You’re not alone ….”
Goldie’s sudden fatalism, his passion, caught Jett off guard. He struggled against it for a moment, protective, wanting to shield Goldie from the dark side of love. Then his resolve failed and he wrapped both arms around his husband, holding him tight, and leaned in to kiss him again, silencing the song on his tongue. When he pulled back to look into those beautiful, red-rimmed eyes, he licked his lips and nodded.
“I won’t go home without you.” He lifted two fingers in salute, kissed their tips, and then crossed his heart with them. “Solemn vow.”
“See that you don’t.” Goldie looked past Jett with a wistful expression. “Sometimes when you would leave without me, I’d wonder what I’d do if you didn’t come home. If there was an accident on your bike, or an overdose. I don’t worry about that as much, now that we’re always together.” He stroked Jett’s hair tenderly, gaze fixing on Jett’s silver roots, ever a reminder of the difference in their ages. “I love you.”
“Love you too. Always.” Jett cradled Goldie’s face in one hand and gazed into his eyes intently. “You’ve got me. Okay? For keeps.” Jett dragged Goldie’s hand from his hair down to touch the dog collar he’d worn every day since their wedding, wanting to remind him of that commitment, of how serious Jett was about forever.
Then he looked over at the little black tech-y cylinder on the coffee table, ordered it to play Goldie’s Bowie playlist, and shifted sideways with Goldie on top of him, lying back on the couch as the music came to life. The beautiful, melancholy notes of Bowie’s final album flowed from the speakers, surrounding them, and Jett closed his eyes and soaked them in as he held his husband.
Jett used to think a rocker should go out young, in blazing glory, before he could get old and lose the plot and sell out. Those fucking Converse just seemed like one more vote in favor. But this… This music, Bowie’s final, poetic departure from Earth…
No, now he aspired to something else. The happy marriage, maybe a kid, more challenging, inspired albums full of music to surprise and engage the world, and then a quiet, dignified bowing out, leaving a planet changed and generations united in loss.
Rest in peace, spaceman.
Copyright © Clancy Nacht & Thursday Euclid
If you don’t know who Jett and Goldie are, they have two books to their names and where were you?
(written with Thursday Euclid)