Dear Chester:

I recall when I found Hybrid Theory at the local K-Mart when I was a sophomore in high school. Back in a time where you were forced to commit to a band by purchasing a physical copy of their album instead of searching YouTube or Spotify. Often the gamble didn’t pay off and you found yourself stuck with a mediocre album with one hit from the radio you heard. In this case, I had never heard a snippet of Linkin Park and took a $10 gamble on an unknown. About a month later, the world was saturated with In The End, One Step Closer, Crawling and a host of other Billboard toppers. In a way, I felt like I found you before anyone else did.

To be honest, I drifted away after Hybrid Theory and only caught an occasional hit like Numb or Breaking The Habit or What I’ve Done throughout the years. Mostly on 98 Rock or 106.5 as I drove around at work in a 95 Ford Ranger. Each time, I heard your voice and knew how that visceral tone could slice through the static and reveal an aching, a desperation that resonated from the depths of each person. You just gave voice to those emotions and helped us all exorcise the rawness.

I heard about the end in July 2017, only a few months after Chris Cornell took his life, and a part of my youth seemed to die with you. You were always there in the background. In grocery stores, basketball games, bored days at work and that familiar voice always reoccurred. A comfort though, at the time, I didn’t realize it.

Out of nowhere, I heard an acapella version of I’ll Be Gone and it haunted me. Just you and your voice. No Mike Shinoda rapping or heavy guitars or a DJ spinning some track. Only you singing about the demons that haunted you. The demons you showed to the world, perhaps a cry for release but your smile made it seem like everything was fine. I don’t know what tortured you. The abuses and traumas which lead to only one exit for you. I didn’t know you but felt like I did through your honest, conviction and catharsis. When I hear your lyrics now, when you sing I’ll Be Gone, the words sting more. A bitter prophecy of what you might have known would be the inevitable end. But we sat in our cars, in arenas and sang along, blissfully ignorant of the true desperation behind those raw words.

I pray there is peace now from those demons. A silence only the ethereal can accommodate where there are no grasping fans, fake friendships or predators to steal your peace. I’ll continue to listen with new ears to your voice and, hopefully, others will as well. I’d love to hear the melodies you and Chris can make now that you are free.

Sincerely,

NM

 

Stereo Story #656

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N.T. McQueen is the author of The Blood of Bones, Between Lions and Lambs, The Disciple, and the children's book, Moses Jones and the Case of the Missing Sneaker. He received his MA in Creative Writing from CSU-Sacramento and his work has appeared in issues of Fiction Southeast, The Kentucky Review, The Grief Diaries, Gold Man Review, Camas: Nature of the West, Transition Magazine, West Trade Review, The Sunlight Press, and others.