Darius walked into his home. It was a nice home. A home packed with memories of the last twenty years.
Those memories came in many forms: platinum records from hit after hit; t-shirts from sold-out national tours; the Gibson acoustic/electric guitar he played the first time the band caught their groove on "Hold My Hand."
But something was awry on this night. Darius kept his house in perfect order, a pristine shrine to the better times. The cocktail parties and County Music Awards galas that now filled his weekends seemed great on the surface, sure, but they always left him feeling unfulfilled, yearning for days gone by.
He thought back to the days when fans called him 'Hootie.' It was a designation that angered him at the time, but on this night, he wanted nothing more than to hear that sweet word.
Snapping out of it, he looked around to find that fallen from the wall was an autographed photo of himself and Dan Marino that read "No, I only want to be with YOU."
Darius picked up the photo, frayed corners now creeping out from its cracked frame, and took it in. A smile crept onto his face. The inscription was laugh-out-loud funny at the time, and any time he read it all these years later, it still made him chuckle. Nothing audible. Just an exhale from his nostrils followed by a quick nod to himself. But then again, not much in his life these days elicited a response larger than that.
Darius's whole life had become a series of nostril-exhales and habitual nods. 'Don't all men lose their exuberance as they get older,' he often wondered.
He stared at the faded photo for what could have been ten seconds, could have been four hours. Looking back at him in the reflection in the splintered glass was a not a man he knew, nor a man he wanted to know. It was a stranger, a broken man he recognized only because he'd seen him on television, gracing the promos for the 2009 CMT awards.
Darius let go. Literally. The frame dropped from his hands, glass covering the bamboo floor that had been paid for with residuals he made from Cracked Rear View in the month of June 2005, alone.
He looked at his now shattered memory. If the photograph and inscription were ruined and lost forever, what would actually change? How would his life be so different? It's not like Dan even called anymore. Sure, they sent each other text messages every now and then. But nothing more than "I'll be in Miami next week, let's get that steak!" And even those were getting more infrequent. 'Maybe Dan got a new data plan and was saving texts for emergencies,' Darius told himself each night.
But he hadn't. It's a truth that Darius felt but wouldn't let himself know.