Will knew which song the audience wanted to hear. Even from his backstage dressing room he could hear them chanting "Carla!" The band would have to perform it - there'd be a riot if they didn't. With a heavy sigh, he stood up and stretched his aching arms. The song's hook was definitely one of the best lead guitar licks he'd ever composed, but even the most intricate riffs got old after years of playing them.

He began pacing slowly. The rest of Psychotherapy was waiting for him just offstage, but Will's ritual between the main set and the encore was to spend 10 or 15 minutes alone in his dressing room. This one was dingier than what he'd become accustomed to when Psychotherapy's popularity was at its peak, but it was still well appointed. There was a vanity mirror and a battered dresser, as well as a sagging couch. Will's favorite guitar, a venerable Fender Stratocaster with Jimi Hendrix's signature burn pattern, leaned against one end of the couch. Picking up a towel from the dresser, he ruffled his hair to get rid of some of the sweat. Then, sitting back down on the couch, he hefted the guitar and began strumming idly. His fingertips were so callused that even after a two-hour set he could still play without pain.

The audience was still chanting, and hearing the name of one of the first songs he'd written resonate throughout the stadium put Will in a kind of nostalgic trance. Before long, he found himself loosely strumming a cover tune he'd learned before writing "Carla." It was an old favorite of his, with a simple but compelling hook - one of the most common and popular descending chord progressions imaginable. Cliché, but so infectious you didn't care. He couldn't stop himself from singing the first line of the chorus:

"I've still got your face painted on my heart -"


Will stopped. He hadn't sung that in ages, and the last time ... Carla, all those years ago, when she was still the namesake of Psychotherapy's hit single. "Painted on My Heart" was a strangely bitter song to serenade someone with, but Will and Carla both loved it anyway. It was by The Cult, one of the few bands Will was glad to see survive the end of the '80s.

Will shook his head in an effort to clear it, his shaggy hair flying every which way at once. It didn't help. Back in the early days, "Carla" sounded remarkable in concert because Will always had the real Carla on his mind while performing it. Afterward, when he'd had to attach the "ex" prefix every time she wandered into his thoughts, Psychotherapy stopped playing the song. Album and ticket sales dropped, and Psychotherapy's fifteen minutes were over. The lyrics of "Painted on My Heart" became much more appropriate: "I thought it would be a matter of time / till I had a hundred reasons not to think about you / but it's just not so." Will tried to drink Carla away, but instead he lost his visitation rights with their child. Soon after that, Carla moved to another city.

Comments on