24 Hours -- Part Three


My eyes follow Tiny's hand as he reaches to press the button again.  Elevators are a bitch.  I swear I spend half my life waiting for them when I'm in New York.  This morning is no different.  I don't know if I'm cursed or if this is just some kind of strange backwards luck.  As if on command, the stupid thing seems to hit every floor on the way up.  Why the hell do we have to say on the fifteenth floor of a twenty story building?  I mean why can't we get a break and stay on a lower floor for once.  If the world was made to be one story my life would be so much easier.  This is another reason why I love Orlando and Tennessee more than Los Angeles and New York. 

I sip my coffee listening for a moment to the sound that the top makes when I breathe into the opening causing the plastic top to expand for a moment before I drink the coffee out of the cup.  I move to the wall to lean against it making sure that my backpack is out of the way so my shoulder doesn't crush anything.  Everyone glances at me as if me putting my hood up and closing my eyes means that I'm sick or something.  This morning I don't think I'm sick.  I'm not hung over.  I think that it's just jet lag.  If I was in LA I'd still be asleep, hell if I was in Florida or Tennessee or anywhere else in the world I'd be asleep until at least ten in the morning.

I hate five in the morning.  I lean my head against the wall and close my eyes.

I've been good this morning.  I used my shower time to think about what I'm going to be doing the rest of the day so that I don't dwell on the emotional roller-coaster that I've been on the whole summer.  I sigh.  It's been five months now and while I've avoided this topic for a few weeks now, I know that today is going to dredge up a whole bunch of feelings, comments, and rumors that I clearly and rightly, I might add, do not want to deal with it.

The break-up.

I almost groan as the word enters my mind.  I know that this is going to be something that I'll have to talk about.  People assume that's why I went on a vacation, because she broke my heart or whatever.  Yeah, ok, she did roll over me with a steam roller.  It's evitable that a woman will break my heart, I've broken too many at my young age, it's only me getting paid back for what I've done in the past.  I mean I'm not completely innocent in all this.  I had a hand in the demise of our relationship.

The quiet hallway is the worst.  I can't get away from my thoughts at times like this.  I can't help but to think about it.  The last time I was here was the weekend after we broke things off and I probably was standing right in this very spot doing the same thing that I'm doing now.  It's funny how so much time can go by and I'm still in the exact same place I was months ago.

The weight that had been temporarily lifted off my shoulders settles again and I feel the pressure on my chest as if someone is sitting on my chest as I try to pull breaths into my lungs.

To compensate for this I start to recite lyrics in my head.  I never knew that technically talking to myself like this would be so calming, but it's the only thing these days that can get my mind completely off things I don't want to think about.

Patty cake, patty cake, I'm the baker's man
I bake them cakes as fast as I can
And you can tell by how my bread stack up
And disguised in this rap so the feds back up
Watch it, like my whip, like my chick, topless
Doing a buck-six with me in the cockpit
Grindin' cousin, I got pot for a dozen
Even eleven-5, if I see ya keep it comin'
And my weight, that's just as heavy as my name
So much dough, I can't swear I won't change
Excuse me if my wealth got me full of myself
Cocky, something that I just can't help
'Specially when them 20's is spinning like windmills
And the ice 32 below minus the wind chill
Filthy, the word that best defines me
I'm just grinding man, y'all nevermind me...

I am soon awakened by Vivian tapping my arm to show me that the elevator is here.  I must have really dozed off because she stares at me a little too long and makes eye contact with me.  I blink a few times then follow everyone into the elevator and stand in the corner again putting my head on the wall.  My brain is still processing the fact that my phone isn't ringing off the hook.

At the beginning of the summer and before when we were still together and the group was still on the road, if I was out and about like this I'd be on the phone with her half the time or trying to figure out when I'd get a moment to call.  It's not just the loss of a person in my life, but also the lifestyle that I'd gotten used to over the last two years and I think it's THAT behavior that is hardest to get over.

"Don't fall asleep too soon," Vivian jokes.

"I'm not," I say slowly and sip my coffee again, hating that it's already getting cold.

There is nothing worse in life than cold coffee.  I hate that bitter cold coffee taste.  Frapachinos and blended drinks are great, but actual cold coffee that was not made to be cold coffee sucks.  I need one of those freaking mugs, the metal thermoses would work for me, but kind of tacky to carry one of those around.  Maybe I should have Vivian pick me up one of those insolated cups next time we get coffee.

Maybe I'm getting sick or something.  I force a cough to see if it will come out sounding strange and so far I sound ok.  I open my eyes and look around just to make sure that things are going well.  Vivian gives me a look and I sigh.  "I had something caught in my throat girl.  I'm not sick."

Well there goes the first lie of the morning.  I close my eyes again.  One of many I'm sure that will pass my lips considering the schedule for the day.  Interviewers never have figured out that half the stuff I tell them is a lie.  I word it in a way so that it's more of a half truth than anything else.  I'm not usually one to throw out a whole bunch of them in my personal life, but keeping the general public and my little entourage happy seems like my biggest priorities today.   I mean what would happen if I just yelled at everyone and told them exactly what I thought of them.  I'd be back on the farm in Tennessee with Nana and Papa driving a tractor.

Wait...maybe that is a good idea!

Nope, despite feeling like I want to crawl under the covers I know I must go on.  Don't start sending your money to any charity for me.  I know this definitely isn't a hard life to be living, but the pressure sure is laying on thick lately.  Too much is riding on my back and too many people's jobs are on the line if I mess up.  Before it didn't seem like that big of a deal because I always had someone else to blame for stuff going wrong and someone to share in the stuff that goes right.  Today it's just me.

Right now I'd like to go back up to my room, crawl under the covers and hide from the world for a while.

Tiny's voice is the next to bother me.  "You ok?"

"Jet lag," I say not opening my eyes.

"Well get it together."  Tiny shrugs his shoulder and pulls out a baseball hat on and puts it on.  I love the fact that he can be totally serious about my safety and still be able to wear jeans and a starter jacket.  "D says that there are about fifty girls on the curb waiting for you."

"Yeah yeah," I say knowing full well that when these doors open I'll be overly excited to see them, just like I am every other day of my life.  I hate to seem so phony about it, but really, if you have someone tell you that they love you and cry at you over and over again, it kind of looses it's appeal.

I hear Vivian next to me stifle a comment.

It's not the first time she's done something like this, but it seems as if this is one time where I can actually comment back at her, or at least explore why she seems to always do that when I am sarcastic.  "Did you have something to share with the class Miss Manners?" I ask with a snide tone turning my head and opening my eyes to stare at her.

She looks up at me from her smaller five eight frame and frowns, "Nothing that will actually teach anyone anything so I'll keep it to myself."

"You do that," I say.

"Both of you need to quit it."  Tiny moves to stand in between us.  "I don't want JIVE breathing down my neck saying that I need to protect you from each other."

I instantly stand up straight and look at Tiny praying that he'll take my side this morning.  I need all the support I can get today.  "It's not--"

Vivian starts to defend herself as if Tiny is our father and we need to keep score of who is winning which arguments.  "It's his--"

"Both of you quit it."  He smirks at us.  "Or I'll turn this car around and no one will get ice cream for snack."

I shiver at the mention of ice cream and I tuck my chin to my chest, count to ten and then look up at the rest of the people around me.  Is this what my life has really come to?  I'm just about twenty two years old and I'm standing here arguing with my assistant and my bodyguard about comments that weren't even made!

In the lobby we cross the room quickly and head for the front door.  I can see the girls waiting for me outside and as I walk I casually make sure that all the pockets of my backpack are closed.  God knows that greedy little hands will do with my bag if I let the girls near me.  Don't get me wrong.  I understand the obsession--and no that's not an egotistical comment--I understand that they want to get next to me, experience what I experience and all that, but really it's annoying having to feel like everyone around you is a pick-pocket.

On the curb Tiny motions for me to engage in a little conversation with the girls while Vivian contradicts his comment.  "We only have a few minutes girls.  Justin has to get over to z100 for an interview."

I don't even take in any of the conversation around me.  I've gone through it too many times to be able to keep track of it.  I try to pick one thing to talk to them about and this time it's the baseball hat that the tall girl in the back has.  It's a DEA hat, blue with yellow letters like the cops wear.

"Nice hat," I say.

She touches the brim and blushes.  "Really?"

"Wanna trade?" I ask and move to grab out my hat from my bag.  Vivian takes my coffee from me and I thank her with a nod.  I know that this will make the girl's year, put me in better with Vivian, and it seems like a good trade because her hat is cooler than the Volunteers hat I've been carrying around with me lately.

"Really?"

"Yeah," I say and pull out the hat I have for her.  "I'll sign it and everything."  I grab someone's permanent pen and start to sign the brim.  "If you promise not to throw this up on EBAY or something."

She laughs nervously and removes her hat and hands it over just as I hand her mine.  "Can I get a picture?"

"Sure," I say.  I turn so that someone can take our pictures then tells the person to hold on.  I slip my skull cap off and put her DEA hat on and I motion for her to put on the Volunteers hat.  Together we make quite a pair as our picture is snapped.

"Thanks," she says.

"No troubles."  I tuck the skull cap into my backpack and smile for the rest of the group so that they can take pictures before Vivian finally calls the meet and greet to a halt so that we can get to the radio station.

"Bye Justin!" the girls all say to me.

The door is held open for me and I throw one last wave at the girls on the curb before I slide into the huge SUV, moving to the far seat so Tiny can take the seat near the curb and so that Vivian can have the front seat.  When I'm finally in my seat I put my skull cap back out.  I want to wear the DEA hat, but not until later when it gets a little warmer.

“Hey D,” I say slapping the driver’s shoulder.

Normally I’m not that friendly with my drivers, not due to me being an ass or anything, but due to the fact that drivers come and go.  If you count up all the cities I've been in and all the cars I've ridden in, I'm sure you can see how it would be impossible to remember them all.  Seven years seems longer than it really was if you think about it that way.  The one constant is New York.  It's a lot of strange traditions and who drives me around is definitely one of them.

My driver today has always been my driver in New York.

Doug--“Big D” --Stone, was the driver our first day in New York with NSYNC when we came to New York in 1995 searching for a label deal. He retired a few years ago, but comes out of retirement to drive the guys and me around when we’re in town. He gets compensated for his time, but I actually think the he’d take the time spent with us in the city over the money that he gets in return. At fifty-six, he’s got kids around my age-two girls and a boy--but they live out of state so he seems to dote on us like we’re his own.

"How's it going J?" he asks turning sideways to look at me.  He keeps a hand on the wheel and his feet on the brake, but totally disconnects himself from the driving aspect of the job to talk to me.  "I heard the CD last week.  Thanks for the copy."

"No problem."  I sit back and turn so that I can look at both Tiny and Vivian in the front seat.  "What'd you think of the it?"

"It's good."  He nods.  "Definitely not Michael Jackson like everyone says.  I may not be all up in that style, but your voice really has come along."

"Thanks," I say praying quickly that this is what the rest of my day will be like.  It'd doubtful, but at least it puts me in a good mood to start my day off with.

After the VMA performance I got a hundred and one nasty articles written about me saying that I was a complete MJ copy.  I hate that.  The gloves were breaking gloves, the hat was from Fred Astaire and the shirt being open was the fact that I was hotter than hell and threw up on the other one that I was going to wear that night and didn't have time to button it.  I'd never tell anyone that part of it, but really people need to get a clue.

"I got with ESPN--"  D pulls the car into traffic and uses the rear view mirror to talk to me.  "I got you copies of the 'AND-1 show' to watch when we go off to Philly."

I lean towards the front of the car and smile at him in the mirror as Vivian hands my coffee back to me.  He shares my love of basketball and I know he's got a story for me.  His nephew is a VP there.  We usually listen to the games at night when he drives me around.  "Really?"  I try to focus on that instead of the few hours that I'll be stuck in the car today no doubt doing phone interviews.  Maybe if I'm lucky I'll get to go through the drive through and get a burger or something.  Isn't that pathetic to be looking forward to going to McDonald's?

"Yep," he said, "I saw it the other night and called up Marry up at the station and he sent it down all for you and says that if you want more tapes you can email him--"  He hands me a business card.  "Tell him I sent you over to him and he'll get you anything they have on tape from the station whenever you want it."

"Dang," I say and stare at the card.  "Thanks D."  Sometimes it's fun being famous.  The perks aren't that bad when I think about it.

I hit his shoulder with my hand and give his shoulder a squeeze to thank him then notice the look on Vivian's face.  She looks stressed.

He laughs a little.   "No trouble."  His hands go back to the steering wheel as he maneuvers the car through traffic.  We're about four blocks from the hotel when he takes a right turn then another left to the building that we needed to go into.

^V^V^V^V^

Paul "Cubby" Bryant was waiting for me in the sound booth when I walk up onto the floor of the station.  I know we're not late, but it seems as if he's running early, something I barely ever see when someone is interviewing me.  This business is all about hurry up and wait.  All these places look the same.  Only the logos on the walls change and I practically have lived here for most of my early career so I already know which way to turn to get into the sound booth.

"Justin!"

The sound of the live broadcast fills the hallways.  They're playing a commercial for their upcoming Christmas Concert that's going to happen about two months away.  They asked me about performing there earlier in the summer, but the contracts are in negotiations so I don't know yet if I'll be there.  I hope that's not something he's gonna want to know about today.

Suddenly my adrenaline shoots up.  I know that this day is just about to start and I know that I'm going to get asked the worst and most boring questions of my life, but I take a deep breath and try to calm my nerves.  At least this is the first one and not the last one.  Cubby is too hyper to really be handling at the last part of the day.

"Justin," Vivian says again.  She pulls my bag off my shoulder and takes my coffee from me.  "Give me your phone."

"Justin Timberlake is here!" Cubby yells into the microphone.  I hate when he does that.  I love getting interviewed by z100, but this guy can grate on a person's nerves this early in the morning.

I turn and wave to him and tell him with a wave to stall for a minute as I throw my jacket and everything at Vivian. 
I walk into the room and take my seat.  "I don't get a headset?"

Cubby turns his head and widens his eyes.  "Do you like my headset?"

I look at him again and then look back at the lobby area where girls are now lining the small window that is outside.  "I don't get a headset?" I ask again as the girls scream.

Cubby ignores my comment.  "Yeah, I want to be a sportscaster so, I have this.."

I want to throw him the finger, but instead I compliment him.  It's the only way to not strangle people like that.  "well, good luck."

Cubby turns to the microphone and leans in with an evil smile.  "Too bad this isn't TV 'cause you'd see my head set ladies and gentlemen. I've got a cool head set w/ a microphone attached."

I settle myself in and laugh a little seeing that Cubby has two empty cans of Jolt Cola in front of him.  "I think it's better for everybody at home that this isn't TV, Cubby."

"What because of me? Are you dissin' me?"  He puts up his hands into fists.  "After all these years?"

My voice stays in control this time unlike when I was talking to Vivian when I woke up.  There are so many things I could say to this guy, but my publicist would kill me if I did it.  "I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. No, because of me. I don't know."

"Yeah OK."  He laughs.

Vivian appears in the window and I turn away from her.  She's already glaring at me if she knows that I want to wrap Cubby up in his headphone wires.  "I don't know."

"We're live! Justin Timberlake and our live studio audience!"  He flips a switch and the girls out in the hall can be heard screaming.  "And we've got the next oh 4 or 5 hours..."

"They're very well behaved."  I wave to them.  "Very well-behaved."

"Yeah they're very well behaved. What is it with you? I mean around me they're like acting all crazy throwing stuff at me. With you they're like Oh Justin's here."  He makes some faces and the girls laugh.

I shrug and look at the girls.  They don't seem that bad behind all that glass. "I don't know."

"Finally, what's up with the bling-bling?"  He reaches over and looks at my watch.  "Good lord I have like a Swatch watch and look at this watch."

I hate when people focus on what I have on.  I wear it to get noticed of course, but really an ok, working watch, is all that I need.  I have to wear stuff like this or people will think I'm a bum like JC with his Jelly bracelets and jelly watches.  "I don't know. I don't know. It's just..."  I turn my wrist over and pull it back into my hoody's arm.  "I don't know man!"

"You look good!"

"It's just a watch."  I lean against the counter and smile.  "Thank you sir!"

Cubby plays a song and I sit there and listen to it and sign some promotional posters that a PA brings into me.  I don't know what the deal is.  The posters are from a photo shoot that I did a few weeks ago for the album.  They aren't that bad, but I hate staring at myself all day.

"Justin Timberlake is back ladies and gentlemen and uh you have a new CD coming out tomorrow?  Justified?"

I nod again and keep signing.  "Justified."

"What kind of preparation has gone into this new CD?"

"Well um."  I stop signing and look at him across the table and wonder how this guy is like THE VOICE of New York.  "I mean obviously I spent the whole first half of the Summer writing the record uh with the "select producers"--"  I use a funny voice since it seems that everyone already knows who is on the CD with me.  "And uh the second half was really about the production and mixing the record so that they came out the way that they were thought about."

"Congratulations."

"Thank you sir."

"Actually rumor has we have clips from the CD that we're going to play."  His hands move over the computer in front of him and a moment later he has a screen up with the list of the songs on my album.  "We can't play the whole song
for legal reasons."

"Yes. I've brought some clips."  I didn't bring them.  They were sent over last night from JIVE, but I always say that I hand delivered them.  The media guys and PR people love that.  "I brought The Clipse on the first song but I actually brought some clips with me."  I laugh trying to make light of the fact that it's still before seven in the morning.

"Now how come we can't play the whole songs? Tell everybody the legal reason."

I shrug.  There are a million and one reasons why I don't want people to have the songs before the CD comes out.  "I guess it's because of Napster."

"Well yeah true, all the Internet--"

I sit back a little in the chair and keep signing the posters, moving the microphone closer to me.  "That's a record company thing man. I don't know, I just write the songs. I don't know all that."

Cubby laughs and takes a drag from his cola can.  "Hey like I love You was produced and co written by the Neptunes. Tell everybody who the Neptunes really are and how good they really are cause some people don't know how good they really are."

"They're amazing. Amazing musicians."  Finally, let's not talk about me.  "Uh I guess I think everybody knows that they did Girlfriend."  I think about Pharrell and Hugo and wish for a moment that I was back in the studio.  I'm not ready to promote this alone.  I need Joey and Chris and Lance hanging out and JC falling asleep so I can punch him.  "Um but they ended up doing the biggest portion of the record. They did seven songs with me on the record and just all live like Like I Love You. And um incredible musicians. Incredible. Incredible."

"What makes them so good though?"

"Um well first of all they understand groove. They understand how to get a pocket, uh a groove better than anybody that I know."  Get a pocket?  Even I'm impressed with that one.  I don't know where that came from but everyone is going to start using that.  It's pathetic, but true that somehow I've become part of our culture and what I say gets thrown out into the world.  "Uh and second of all the melody. Like Pharrell is a really um he's very involved uh in the melody and he has a good sense of melody. Same thing w/ Timbaland though, I mean his beats are incredible."

"Now Clipse is the rapper on Like I Love You."

I roll my eyes and try not make him feel like he's stupid.  He doesn't know any better.  No one knows anyone from Virginia Beach.  "Both of them."

"Yeah,"  Cubby nods getting the idea that he's made a mistake.  "Are they both featured on many more tracks on the CD?"

This album is hard to explain alone.  I don't know if I can remember it all right now.  I'm distracted by this girl that keeps staring at me through the glass.  "There are features. That's the only one The Clipse are on. There are other features. Bubba Sparxx, Janet Jackson. Uh there's this new girl by the name of Vanessa Marquez. I don't even think she has a deal but I just loved her voice so much I just wanted to put her on the record."

Angie was a friend of a friend of a friend and I shouldn't have even mentioned her name.  God knows what person later on today will ask me if she's my baby's momma, not that I even have a kid at all.

"Well something tells me with an endorsement like that she might have a deal in about a month!"

"No doubt."  If American Idol can create a star then I could spark someone's career with a few words.  "f she doesn't right now then she definately will cause she's incredible."

Cubby goes to commercial and Vivian comes in the room with a bottle of water.  She take the posters from me that I've already signed and leaves, giving them to the girls in the hallway. 

I hate that Cubby doesn't talk to me between when we're off the air and on the air.  He just sits and does his business and doesn't even play like he's interested in me even being there.

"If you just tuned in this is Z100 and we're live with Justin Timberlake with our live studio audience. Give it up for you guys for winning. And if you want to talk to Justin call us. We've got to take some phone calls cause some people aren't as lucky as you guys and gals hanging out w/ Justin Timberlake. Your VMA performance by the way was absolutely amazing, give it up for that."  Everyone cheers.  "Justin was that really your first solo performance. Like in front of that many people."

"Well yeah."  The VMAs were the worst.  I got sick and almost didn't get through the performance because of a cold.  "I was more nervous about the eighty something million people at home."  When I say it out loud my whole body breaks into a cold sweat.  I haven't thought about it since the performance and I wanted to keep it that way.  "So yeah, I was excited though. I was excited. I think for the most part though my main concern was that I didn't want to do something over the top. I didn't want the performance to take over what the song was. Just because nobody had heard the song yet."

I know what's coming next.  It's been something that people have always wondered about me when I perform.  This time though the answer will be completely different.  I don't have Chris to make a joke for me to let everyone know that I'm not a chicken when it comes to getting on stage.

"Now I'm sure when you go out on stage you don't get nervous anymore, because you had the group usually. But are you back to kind of getting nervous again being by yourself?"

"Yeah a little bit."  I try to play it off, but I can tell from the look that Vivian is giving me that I'm a horrible liar.  "It's something totally different. I mean obviously I had dancers up there but I mean they get like paid to dance. So you have to be like extra good."

"Exactly."

I won't tell them that I freaked out before the show then got yelled at by Joey backstage when I totally told him that it was a shitty performance.  "It was fun though. I had a really good time."

"But did you like keep looking around like hey where's Chris? Where's JC? Where the Hell did everybody go?"

"Yeah, yeah yeah. Exactly."  Why does he have to bring up the guys?  Doesn't he know that this is already strange enough being here by myself?  He doesn't have to remind me of it every two seconds.

"Because it's wierd right now interviewing you. I've interviewed you I don't know ten times."

"It's much more organized. Without Chris."

I know if Chris hears this he won't be offended.  He knows the sound of my voice and when I'm joking he'll always laugh along with me.

"Without Chris. I was gonna say."  Cubby puts his hands up to fake the action of dodging paper airplanes and spit balls.  "Cause Chris is throwing paper airplanes usually at us and bubblegum. "

"Can actually get something done!"

"Well should we play the track that we've already played oh a couple of million times already?"

I nod.  I hate listening to myself at this point of the game.  I need to sing these songs a few more times before I get them perfect.  The CD copy is good, but I don't know that it really sounds like me.  "If you'd like, if they'd like. Would you like?"

The girls outside scream.

Cubby only taunts them.  "Would you like to hear Like I Love You? Are you ready? Alright, Justin Timberlake. It is live on Z100.  Like I Love You."

He looks at me for a little bit of help so I shrug and add, "Yeah. It's just Justin."  I see the shocked look on his face when I say that.  "I'm just kiddin."

Cubby continues.  "From Justified. You gotta buy it."

As Like I Love You plays over the air I sign more posters and pray that this is almost over.  It's funny how much I've been praying lately.  Praying that the songs come out good, praying that the CD sells.  Praying that I can get out of New York alive.  It's getting to be a bad habit.  These aren't the things I should be praying about.


The song lyrics are:  http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/SongUnid/F5F75245534E6F5948256C1C0006CCF2

z100 Interview copied from:  http://justjustin.nsync.nu/news/09_29_2002.htm 
**I've added and taken away to fit the storyline, but basically that's what was on the air in New York.**


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