It wasn’t a new phenomenon, to place him and Ione together as a topic of discussion. The media has always had the idea that every time a man and a woman were friends there had to be more to it. Being that Ione has always been a musician in the spotlight with speculation geared towards who she was dating, it was merely par for the course when she and Alex became friends and started hanging out. The stories came out in doses, but they still managed to make their way to the surface. The headlines varied. Their love affair began with their first conversation, she was in love with him, he was in love with her, they were dating in secret, the timing just wasn’t right, she was jealous of his girlfriend, he was jealous of her boyfriend, a night out at dinner meant a romantic date, a morning going out for breakfast meant a shared night.
There was a time when he would breeze past those questions with a laugh, a joke, a gentle let down with bringing up the fact that they were indeed friends and nothing more. That was also easier when it was actually a fact. He resolved not to lie, and that was something he would stick to as time went on. His version of being truthful was still being truthful, wasn’t it? It was important to him to give that much to the fans. He found that he didn’t need to divulge information he didn’t want to, but he could be clever with his words and handling situations that were placed in front of him. That didn’t mean he wanted to bare his soul, didn’t mean he would stupidly let his mouth go wild with proclamations. The balance of when to censor himself was lost on him when it came to most things that he could toss out. He would passionately discuss the state of music censorship and streaming with Zane Lowe, he would give out some sex advice and talk about turn ons in the bedroom with Howard Stern, he would comment on feuds other musicians would politely ignore in an MTV chat. Those were things that fell under the category of surface things. His relationship, however, that was not a surface thing. That was sacred. That was personal. That was intimate. That was his to keep. She was his to keep. No one else’s. But not entirely.
She belonged to the music, to the passion and creativity with every penned out lyric and song on guitar. She belonged to her family, important members in keeping her identity and a means for comfort when it was needed most. She belonged to her friends, the ones who wiped past the exterior and cared enough to know what was beyond the surface. She belonged to her label, with the good moments and the bad. She belonged to herself, a unique presence with parts unknown he wanted to keep exploring.
A part of her also belonged to the media, and that's what he focused on in this particular case. They had this intense desire to know everything about her, the fans and the reports especially, and sometimes it came off as a right they felt she owed to them. They were honest in their approach with their unwaivering devotion, in turn, she was supposed to be honest with every facet of her life. She was supposed to hand over everything in a book that they could all look through and make commentary on. He was no stranger to such a phenomenon, he experienced it on a similar level as she did, but never in the exact same way.“They weren’t supposed to talk about that.”
“I know. It’s fine, Theo. It’s not that. It just threw me off.”
“That’s their whole deal, you know? Ryan gets to play innocent while Ellen takes on that nosy personality which is basically that of the rest of the world. The part that wants to know everything, the part that is trying to uncover things, the part that would be thrilled to have you announce your relationship status on their show because it boosts ratings and gives them even more notoriety.”
“I know, I just. You know how it is. I never fucking understood it. Why the fuck do people care so much?”
“You’ve gone through this a couple times, with being questioned about the girls you’re dating, or have been spotted with, or just fucking talked to. It’s a shitty situation but it’s a situation you’re in and you always deal with it well. They want to know every detail about you, it comes from a good place with most people. The fans who genuinely have an interest in you as a person. With others, yes, it's just being nosy. It's feeling entitled. It's wanting to break you down. It's wanting to give commentary on your relationship status to get more hits to their website. It's what happens when you're in the public eye.”
“I’m just. I just. I think about how it was then, right, when the girls weren’t even in the spotlight. How their social media accounts blew up and so many of the comments were about me. It feels like I’m the one that brought it on to our relationship, I caused it to be a strain, because at first that's what it was, a strain. They didn't like getting these nagging comments breaking down our relationship and them as a whole. Ione's different, she already gets all of that on her own, She has all of these people watching her already, and I have all of these people watching me already, combine them together and you've got a lot more people who want to know about everything. I know it bums her out sometimes, too. So I think about that. I know it already makes her nervous, wondering how I'm dealing with it, meanwhile I'm over here not wanting her to worry for her sake or for mine. Everyone can speculate, they can talk, they can write, they can take photos, but they can’t force anything out of my mouth. They don't know what she and I are like together, alone.”
“I’m with you, mate. I told you. Whatever you want to do. You know what the PR crew thinks but when have you ever really listened to all of that? Why start now? It makes my job a hell of a lot harder, but that’s why I get paid the big bucks.”
“So they think I ought to just flat out say something, yeah?”
“They think that at this point they can make anything work. They love the fact that you’ve been out and about with Ione. They can spin words to make it more sensationalist and enjoyable for the public. Would they like a solid confirmation from your mouth or hers? They think it would cause a fucking frenzy that would elevate your status together, yeah, but at this point they’re not pushing it. You share a few of the same fans so people are already familiar with you and her together, it’s not like she’s a new girl people will latch on to and try to dissect. She’s got her shit out in the open already, so do you. She’s been in your life, now she’s in your life in a different way, that’s how it' will be seen's being seen by most. I keep myself in the know. People are still extremely interested and it seems like the lack of saying anything flat out is helping out there. There are theories, people anxiously waiting and wondering.”
“It’s weird, Theo. I don’t want my relationship to become this...this thing that is not my own. It’s been a long while since I’ve been in anything this serious, and god, it feels right. This just feels right.”
“It won’t be like that if you don’t let it, and you never do. You never have. You're right, those other girls, they didn't know what it was like to have that sort of scrutiny on such a grand scale. She does. She lives with it every single day. You do, too. You live with it every single day, too. You both have comments thrown at you, on social media, in the public, in interviews, in passing. You both deal with it, you both know how to deal with it, you can both deal with it together.”
“I’ve never dated anyone like her.”
“Yeah, well, if I could've seen the future I would’ve pushed you into more high profile relationships so that this would be a piece of cake for you.”
“The thing is --”
“It's not the easiest to grasp. I know.”
“Yeah. I also don’t mean that I haven’t really dated anyone like Ione with the way she’s so involved with the media, because even though I haven't, I mean in the sense that she’s just different. She’s special. I don't want this added weight or pressure to hurt it.”
“You want to protect that.”
“So, that will be my goal for you. To help you protect that in any way I can.”
“That’s why I get paid the big bucks, mate. Now come on. Let’s go. More press to do before you're done for the day.”
They continue on with promotionals throughout the day without too much time to rest. There is an hour timeslot between Jamie’s last performance, a quick lunch stop, and then continuing on to VH1 headquarters and so after Alex grabs his lunch he finds a couch in one of the offices and falls asleep, a quick recharge. When he wakes up somewhat disoriented, the first thing he does is check his watch to make sure that he’s not late. Turns out he got a forty five minute power nap in, which was much needed.
Before he goes out to meet up with the usual crew, he takes a few moments to himself. Something Theo once told him replays in his mind.
Alex knows what he's doing. He has still researched how it’s 'supposed' to be done, though. The preferred method. He remembers when a girl from back home started hanging around tour and when more news media started picking up on the story he was shown a video of how Brad Pitt first evaded the topic of Angelina Jolie with how disarming he was. He’s supposed to smile broadly, leaving the rest of his words in the hands of glossy reporter eyes that are hanging on his every word. He’s supposed to talk about how Ione is such an amazing girl, how anyone would be lucky to be with her, to gloat about how their friendship has made him a better man, and then laugh while changing the subject that is so clearly a cover up which Ryan and Ellen would joke about before moving on. He is supposed to teasingly pinch fun at Ryan for trying to poke into his life, and when Ryan doesn’t give up, he’s supposed to say that he and Ione have a lot of fun together and that’s all he will say on the matter. He is supposed to gush about her with hearts in his eyes. He is supposed to open up his chest and allow them to take a look before grabbing at the pieces they so desperately wish to expose to the world on their watch to further their own agenda.
The thing is, Alex has never really been good at doing what he is supposed to do.
He thinks about what Theo said a few weeks ago, too, how the PR crew was getting a kick at being able to capture such a perfect union. They couldn't have planned it better themselves if they were the ones completely fabricating the whole thing. To them, the image is simple. Two wildly successful, talented, powerful, beautiful musicians who have been friends for so long decide they can no longer deny their feelings for each other. They begin to fall in love, it is passionate, it is meaningful, it is everything in a romantic comedy that teen girls swoon over. The PR crew imagines Tumblr photos being reblogged of Alex and Ione holding hands while walking through the city, they imagine quotations from years ago being dug up in contrast to the quotations they give about each other now: from denial to adoration, they imagine Instagram photos being loved and shared interviews with playful banter. It is nice, in theory, to think that if they are going to talk, tweet, reblog and reupload content anyway that it is all good things. But that just isn't the case, and won't ever be.
He knows better than to get wrapped up in a fantasy. A life that is being lived with many different interpretations is not that simple, it can never be. The rest of the interviews go on without mention of Ione. He and Jamie play some games, they sign some autographs, talk about their business relationship, Jamie performs a few more times and then they are done for the day. Theo lets him know that there's some traction in the media on the conversation he had earlier in the day with Ryan and Ellen, but they both agree it's nothing particularly juicy anyway. All websites have their own spin on what he said, as they do, but it was to be expected.
Back at the hotel, he allows curiosity to get the better of him. What could the big deal be, anyway? He checks out the first site that wrote up a story about the interview. Basically just a retelling of events, nothing special. He shuts down the laptop and pushes it to the side. He holds on to the fact that he and Ione will always have a more intense truth than what anyone will ever know. It's his piece of sanity within the madness, something no one can take away from him.