Helsinki, Finland - 5:18 PM EET (Eastern European Time)
I've gone back to keeping a road journal, I haven't done this in a few years.
The shows have been going well, everyone's doing great on stage. We're all sounding good and the routines are perfect.
Off stage hasn't been so good for me anyway. I'm stressing out like crazy. I just don't feel like myself. I wanna be alone a lot more than usual. I'm trying not to go off by myself so no one suspects anything. I'm just trying to go on as normally as possible...
I still can't sleep at night, I'm trying really hard not to take anything for it. I don't want it to become a habit. But I also don't want to negatively affect my performance by not sleeping. God, I feel stuck, helpless...this sucks.
'I need a drink...and maybe a cigarette. No, Kim would kill me if I started smoking again.'
AJ closed the book and put it back in his bag. He took a piece of paper and wrote a note to Kim explaining where he was going. He left it on the bed and walked over to Jordan.
"J, daddy's going downstairs for a little while. I'll be back soon. Tell Mommy when she gets out of the shower, okay?"
He kissed Jordan's forehead. "Love you, be good."
AJ left their hotel room and took the elevator to the lowest level. He went into the restaurant and sat down at the bar. He ordered a half-pint of Guinness and sipped it thoughtfully.
'This isn't the answer. I know that. But what am I supposed to do? What if it's too late? What if it has already happened? ... I feel like shit—'
His head snapped up and he looked around to see who said his name.
"Oh, hey, Howie. What's up?"
"Not much. What're you doing down here?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" he joked, gesturing to the beer in front of him. "Want one?"
"No, I'm good. We're all gonna go out to dinner in a little bit if you guys wanna come."
AJ nodded. "Sure, sounds good. What time?"
"Around 6, is that okay?"
"That's fine. Do you know where we're going?"
"Nope. I think we should let our wives handles that, remember the last time one of us picked a place?" Howie asked him.
"Oh, God," AJ shook his head. "I honestly think I'm scarred for life because of that day." He laughed and almost choked on his beer. He felt like that was the first time he genuinely laughed in years, this whole depression thing had sucked the life out him as of late.
"Yeah, I'm still trying to forget that night. I hope Baylee or Jordan never have to see one of those places again until they're legal."
"Or never, if I can help it," AJ quipped with a serious tone.
The two of them were of course reminiscing about the time Nick took everyone out to dinner on the Never Gone Tour in Stockholm. Everything was fine...except that the 'restaurant' was a strip club! No one ever lets him live it down, always bringing it up when everyone is together for a meal.
"Well, I'm gonna go back up. Gotta get ready," Howie said.
"Alright, dude, see you later."
AJ returned to drinking his beer. He sat there thinking for a while, then paid for it and went back to his hotel room.
"Hey, babe," he said as he shut the door behind him.
"Where were you?"
'She looks pissed.' "I left a note, you didn't read it?"
"It's on the bed, see?"
"I didn't see it, sorry. So, where were you?" Kim repeated.
"I went down to the bar to have a beer." Kim shot him a look. "What?"
"Nothing," she said, hoping to end it.
"I didn't even finish it, I drank like half of it. ... Wait, why do I even have to explain myself to you? What's the big deal?"
"You're right, it's not. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. Listen, everybody's going out for dinner later. You wanna go?" AJ asked.
"Sure. Go get ready." AJ kissed her cheek. "And brush your teeth, would you?"
AJ just laughed and went into the bathroom. He showered quickly and got dressed. He trimmed his beard and came back out to put his shoes on. "Is everybody ready?"
"Yeah, I just talked to Brian. We're going to some restaurant called Omenapuu."
"Hm...never heard of that one."
"Me neither. Well, let's go meet everyone down in the lobby."
"Alright. C'mon, Jordan, it's time to go," AJ said.
The three of them left their hotel room and met everyone downstairs. They went in some rental vans and it was about a twenty-five minute drive to their destination.
Once they got there and were seated, everyone ordered drinks and began to look at the menus.
"Wow, now this is my kind of place. They have everything here—burgers, pizza, pasta, fish, steak, traditional European dishes, even a kids menu," AJ said, impressed.
"Yeah, I sure know how to pick 'em," Brian said with a big grin.
"Oh, come off it, Rok. We all know that Leighanne picked this place," Nick said.
"At least Leighanne has never taken us to you-know-what!" Howie said with a cackle. He loved taking the opportunity to bust Nick's chops once in awhile.
"Seriously, guys, that happened what, two years ago? It was an accident, an honest mistake! Do you always have to bring that up?" Nick replied, obviously flustered.
"Yes, yes we do," Howie said triumphantly. "I win."
"Well, it was my idea to go out to eat, so there," Brian added, sticking his tongue out at Nick.
"Can we please act like adults here? I swear, Baylee and Jordan are more mature than you guys most days." Kim said with a laugh.
The three of them shrugged and continued to look at their menus. A few minutes later, two waiters came with their drinks and they ordered food. AJ got a water, he wasn't going to risk anyone telling him off for drinking when he'd already had a beer earlier. He didn't see anything wrong with it anyway.
About a half-hour later, everybody was just waiting for their food and making small-talk with each other. AJ wasn't saying much, he was checking his phone constantly and fidgeting with his fingernails. "Damn," he muttered under his breath.
"What's up, babe?" Kim wondered.
"Nothing, my nails are chipping."
"Well, maybe if you'd stop picking at them then they wouldn't become brittle and chip," she smirked.
AJ just let out a huff and left it at that.
"What is with you lately?" she hissed.
"Nothing!" he said a bit loudly. Everyone stopped and stared at the two of them. "Sorry," AJ said quietly and checked his phone again. He texted someone and put it back in his pocket.
Everyone went back to talking and didn't say a word to either of them. AJ went back to picking at his nails and was happy when the food arrived because it gave him an excuse not to say anything.
Kim noticed that he was picking at his steak and potatoes, not really eating it. "Is that good?" she asked him.
"What?" He looked up, obviously distracted.
"Is that good?" she repeated.
"Uh huh." He took a bite in hopes to satisfy her so that she would back off.
AJ was pretty much silent for the rest of the meal. He couldn't wait to go back to the hotel and get away from everyone. Well, almost everyone. He just had this overwhelming feeling that he needed to be alone.
When they got back, everybody went to their rooms and chilled for a bit. AJ was sitting on the bed with the TV on but wasn't really watching it. He had more important things on his mind than some stupid show. He sighed and laid back and tried to clear his head.
"Hey," Kim said as she laid down next to him.
"Hey," he echoed.
"I love you." She kissed him.
"You too." AJ put his arm around her and rubbed her back.
Kim kissed him again and once on the neck and back to his lips. She was trying to get him riled up and he knew it. "Not tonight," AJ said shortly.
"Awww, c'mon, baby...it's been like, two weeks. I miss you."
He looked at her. "How could you possibly miss me? I'm right here."
"You know what I mean," she said, then started kissing him again.
AJ rolled over with his back to her. "I said not tonight." He sat up and sighed heavily. "I gotta piss." He got up and went to the bathroom.
There was a knock at the door. Kim got up and answered it, surprised to see Howie standing on the other side.
"Hey, Howie. Alex just went to the bathroom, I can get him if you want."
"No, it's okay. I actually wanted to talk to you. I'll make this quick," he said quietly.
"Okay, come in. What's up?" Kim wondered.
"Alex was awfully quiet at dinner tonight and we all know that's not like him. Do you know if there's anything going on with him?"
"No, I don't. I've been wondering the same thing. He went down to the bar earlier and had a beer before dinner which isn't like him. I don't think he's been sleeping well either," she said worriedly.
"I know. I found him down there and he seemed okay. I don't know about the sleeping thing though."
"Yeah, I found him awake the other night looking through the cabinets on the bus for some food or something. He has been looking tired lately..."
Howie rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "I don't know...I just hope that he comes to one of us or figures out whatever's going on in that head of his."
"Me too...is that all you wanted?"
"Yeah, thank, Kim. Goodnight." They hugged.
"'Night." She shut the door and turned around to see AJ standing there glaring at her. She could only pray that he hadn't heard the conversation that had just taken place.
"Hey," Kim said a bit nervously.
"Hi," AJ replied. "What did Howie want?" he questioned, hoping to catch her in a lie.
"Oh, nothing, just uh—"
"Save it for someone who cares," he growled.
Kim started walking toward him. "Alex—"
"If you're so worried, or if anyone is for that matter, why can't I just be asked instead of people sneaking around trying to get the dirt on me?"
"I have asked you and every time I do you say you're 'fine' or that it's 'nothing!' Why can't you talk to me about this? Why are you shutting me out? I'm your wife," Kim fired back, her voice rising slightly.
"You know what? I really don't need this right now. I don't have to take this from you." AJ avoided her question and went to the closet to put his shoes on.
"If not me, you can talk to someone! I don't care who it is! I don't mean to push you."
AJ just ignored her, not saying a word.
"You are so stubborn, you know that? So, this is how it's going down? You're just gonna run away?"
"Yep." AJ got his room key and wallet and went to the door.
"I love you. Please don't do this," Kim practically begged in a last-ditch effort to try to get him to stay. She was no fool, she knew exactly where he was going.
AJ just turned around and stared at her for a brief moment, pain evident in his eyes. He left and shut the door as quietly as possible so Jordan would not wake up.
"Alex..." Kim whispered. She turned the TV off and went into the bathroom. "Why won't he just talk to me?" she asked herself. She began to cry and wished he was there to hold her, to reassure her that everything was going to be okay, that he would talk to someone about what was going on with him.
'I just hope that it's nothing too serious...'
He refilled AJ's shot glass and set the bottle next to it. "It's all yours."
"Thanks." He downed another shot of Irish whiskey and poured a third one. He stared at it for a moment, thinking about what Kim had said to him upstairs. He shook his head to rid himself of those thoughts and threw back the glass, almost enjoying the burning sensation as the liquor went down his throat.
And then he poured a fourth.