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Sometimes it's the little things that mean so much

One more autograph, one more city, one more day on the bus, and one more show. I'm exhausted beyond belief, but there are fans waiting in a long line. Some have spent the night outside. Some have been here for more than a day, waiting to see the fellas and I. Some people thought we mattered enough to risk their lives, so I'm ignoring exhaustion to sign autographs.

It's funny, because every time that they tell me they slept outside for a night, I wonder why they think that one stupid signature justifies risking your life. I mean, hell, we sing, but we're not that damn important, right? How crazy are some of these people?

And then I realize that I'm just as crazy as they are, because I risk my life for these kinds of people. I don't sleep for days at a time so that I can travel the world, performing for people who spent the night outside somewhere in the rain or in the cold, waiting to see us. I don't take care of exhaustion properly until I can't stand up straight, don't take off for the flu until I can't sing. I may not be able to talk, but if I can sing, I'll perform sick, just for these thousands of psychopaths that come to our shows.

Of course, they're also wonderful people. They've given the five of us a career doing what we love. They've given us a name for ourselves and a chance at making a difference in people's lives. They've given us the world, and yet they don't even realize it.

Of course, they also seem to think that we repay them just by signing a sheet of paper. But that's never enough, because then they want a show, and a backstage pass, and an hour alone with us, and hugs, and kisses, and "thank you"'s until their eyelids are drooping and it's time for us to get on the bus again. They go home, deliriously happy because we gave them what they wanted (or tried to) for an evening, and we go back on the bus for another ten hours, just to finally stop moving so we can do it all over again.

They want so much more than they realize, and I just want to go home and sleep with my wife. These people get to go home to a warm dinner and a family that loves them, and I go home to an empty bus with a bodyguard and a driver that's often crankier than I am. And, trust me, that in itself is an amazing feat.

I agree that we should be thanking them. I know exactly how much each one of them has blessed my life, but I also know exactly how much they've cursed it. Unlike Nick, I grew up as a normal kid, and I really do miss it sometimes. When I miss it, I'll tell him stories. For a short length of time, he usually appreciates it too.

In a way, I think the fans gave the fellas and I each other, and I will always be grateful to the fans for that.

I just wish they understood more. I wish they could see the way we bite each other's heads off when we haven't slept in three days. I wish they could see the way we fight with significant others about the distance. I wish they could see the way our hearts drop when one of our family members tells us just how much we're missed. I wish they could see the way Howie will spend five hundred dollars a month in cell phone costs just so he can keep in touch with everybody, the way AJ will drink four glasses of Jack Daniels in ten minutes because he's tired of being lonely, the way Brian will literally crawl out of bed just to talk to his wife for five minutes in passing, or the way Nick will throw up in a bathroom stall, only to walk back onstage and perform another song. I wish they could see the sacrifices that we make to keep those smiles on their faces. The music makes them smile, and so we make the music. In a way, the music puts a smile on our faces too, and everyone's happy, if only for a moment.

We learned a long time ago, though, that it can't always be about the music. There's so much more that goes on, so many struggles that we face that the fans don't hear about or photograph. Of course, the second we open the closed doors and walk back into the world, the cameras start clicking again.

I wish they could've taken a picture the last night of the trip to the Bahamas, when we were all lying half-dead around the studio, trying to cut the last track before our flight out. Maybe then they'd say "thank you" just as much as we do.

Or maybe not.

The fact of the matter is that it's another day in another city with another autograph to sign, and there are many more still waiting in line. With a heavy sigh, I look up and offer a bright smile to the girl in front of me. Even before I can offer a Southern greeting, she smiles back.

"Kevin, hi!"

I always find it funny how they talk to us as though they know us, but the smile remains intact.

"Hey. What can I do for you?"

She's shy now, cheeks flushing pink as she hands me a CD. "Could you please sign this?"

I nod. "Absolutely. What's your name?"

She bites the bottom corner of her lip, and I follow her lead to keep from laughing. She can't be younger than sixteen, but it never fails to amaze me that girls seem almost afraid of us. "Kerri. K-E-R-R-I."

I smile again for good measure as I sign a quick message. "And Kerri, how are you today?"

She smiles genuinely and makes eye contact with me, a first for fans. "Good. How are you?"

Something about her tone makes me think that she actually cares about my answer. I'm done with the autograph now, so it probably seems like I dropped the pen on purpose. Thankfully, I know enough to keep my mouth from hanging open, and another huge smile covers my face. This time, however, the smile is genuine.

"Thanks for asking. I'm good." And I don't mean it, but I'm grateful that she cared enough to ask.

She grins. "No problem. Thanks for the autograph, and take care."

I chuckle lightly. "You too."

Another fan moves up to take her place, and I sign another autograph, but Kerri's face stays with me. There are some days where I just want to crawl in bed and sleep for a year--and this is one of them--but sometimes a smile can brighten those days.

Of course, one simple question can have the same effect. About ten girls later, there's another person with a genuine smile.

"Hey, Kevin!"

I smile. "Hey, how're you?"

She grins. "I'm excellent. How're you?"

I laugh with delight. Two in one day? "Thanks for asking. I'm good."

And, this time, I mean it.

Title taken from Matchbox 20's song of the same title.