We were actually doing a live television interview, the day that second hashtag came out. And not just any television show – we were on Oprah for goodness’ sake. If someone had told me, even three months before, that I’d be meeting Oprah…
And if someone had told Oprah that I took most of Rex’s speeches from watching re-runs of her shows….
We performed a song on the show right before Rex’s interview. Did I tell you we had started to do songs again now? We had this new one called ‘The Eye Of The Needle’ – you know about how it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Or whatever. Book of Matthew, again, would you believe. It was such a rush, being on stage. Did I tell you I was in the band now? I had always played a little bass, and I figured I could play as well as that session guy we had hired, so I got rid of him. And with Rex singing my lyrics, reading from my script – this was about me as much as him now. This was my time.
What a feeling. People needed answers more than ever, and they were coming to us. And we had the answers. I had the answers. Love your neighbour, God forgives, treat others as you would be treated, and so on and so on. It’s not rocket science, is it? But people seemed to really need Rex to tell them what to do. The media credited Rex with getting people off their phones and doing good in the outside world. And I’ll take that credit, don’t mind if I do, because we were making a real difference.
And what do you know, that song of ours, The Eye Of The Needle, went into the charts – and heavy metal songs NEVER get in the charts. And just about every billionaire you can think of started giving their money away. But after the second hashtag, that’s when things got crazy. Crazy in a good way, for our success, because people needed answers more than ever. We kept up our message of kindness, and in some ways this gave us a new angle. I mined that Book of Matthew again: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. It was easy.
John: And Jesus said, let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
Luke: Love your enemies.
James: Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Who are you to judge your neighbour?
Again, it’s not rocket science, is it? But our message about being kind didn’t work so well no more. Because now everyone was competing to be kinder than the next person. And one way of doing that is to put the next person down.
We had been squeezed in to a couple of big summer festivals, and in Chicago we ran into Sporn backstage. The last time we saw them – in our record company’s office when we told them Rex was quitting – to say that meeting was unpleasant would be the understatement of the century. I knew we would meet again one day, and I had played out this situation in my head so many times. It did not go the way I expected. They were frosty as hell with me – barely acknowledged my presence. But they greeted Rex warmly, and there was no patronising him like they used to, like the soft teddy bear they just had to wheel on to the stage to perform. They treated him with a new respect. Asked whether it was all real and whether they would be ok. And they also insinuated that he might be welcome back in the band. They had managed with a revolving bunch of stand-in vocalists since Rex quit, and none of them were working out. Be careful what you wish for, that’s what I always say. Because that used to be my dream – for Rex to rejoin Sporn – but it’s not my dream anymore. I want more. And anyway, I don’t trust them – they don’t want me around.
That night we were staying in a proper hotel in Chicago, real fancy, and Wesley was in high spirits at dinner.
‘Say Rex, that was pretty nice after all, seeing Sporn again. Would you ever think about rejoining?’
Rex had hardly said a word all evening, hardly touched his food neither, and it was some of the best food we’d been served in a long time. He smiled at Wesley, but he wasn’t replying, he was just nodding knowingly, picking at his food, so I butted in.
‘They don’t deserve you. And anyways, you’re bigger than that now. Besides, you’re all booked up until next Christmas honey!’
He still wasn’t speaking, so I continued, trying to keep my voice from shaking. ‘You got a job to do, to help all these people, and now with this crazy new message and them all fightin’ each other, it’s even more important. Remember what the Book Of Matthew says, Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’
Rex put down his fork and finally looked at me. ‘You know what else the Book Of Matthew says? Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest. Well I am weary, Crystal. I never thought I’d say this, but I want back in the band.’
I slammed down my glass. ‘It’s too late for that. And anyway what happened to your plans to build a church, your dream of youth missions, prison missions? Now you want to be in a band again? Sounds like hypocrisy to me..’
‘Crystal. I…. I’m sorry honey, but I don’t know if I can do this anymore.’
My mind was racing. I needed to keep control of this. I softened my voice and took his hand across the table. ‘For whatever reason, honey, you have been chosen as the spokesman for this – this thing. This movement. I don’t know what it is, but we finally have a chance to make it big.. I mean, to make a difference. God is speaking to people through you.’
‘But honey, God isn’t speaking to me. And he sure as hell isn’t speaking to you. How long can we pretend to be people we’re not? We’re just making this shit up, and that was ok when it was just people giving money to charity and visiting their parents. But now you’ve got people shaming each other in public, committing suicide… ‘
‘But that just gives us more opportunity to help..’
‘No.. this feels wrong. I don’t believe this is how it’s gonna be, how Heaven is gonna be. So we gotta ask ourselves why we’re really doing this. Just like we’re telling everybody else – examine our motives. You gotta stop this, Crystal. This is not you.’
‘Maybe it is me. Maybe you didn’t really know me. I’m not your goddam nurse. Or- I was your goddamn nurse… now it’s my time. ‘
So that new hashtag was a turning point. A watershed, you might call it. This was starting to divide us. If there were any cracks that we had papered over, they were starting to show up now. And I haven’t even told you about all the cracks in me. I guess I didn’t realise how upset he would be… I guess I underestimated him. I mean, he felt wronged by God. I think he was losing his faith. While me, I was gaining a sort of faith. Faith in myself. I knew what to tell people, and I wanted to keep that power.