“It feels almost like having a job, doesn’t it?” Chris said to me a couple of nights later, as we were sitting around the living room eating take-out Chinese with the pretty much the entire gang, which meant the rest of the band, all our roommates, their significant others, and Carynne.
“What does?” I asked. The hanging out as a group was becoming a regular thing.
“You know, get up, go to rehearsal every day, this routine we’re in. It feels like having a job.”
“Um, I wouldn’t know,” I said. “Every job I’ve had has been of the highly irregular variety.”
“Even working at Tower?”
“Yeah, okay, but they were always screwing around the shifts, and what time I worked was different every week. Sometimes I opened, sometimes I closed… It was a complete pain. But I see what you mean about a routine. It’s not going to last, though.”
“I know, I know.” He yawned. I got the impression that he hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, but I wasn’t about to ask how his date went. I got the feeling he wouldn’t ask me the same, you know, so it was only fair. “Hitting the road will be good, too, though.”
“Happy with how it’s sounding?”
He nodded. “More important, are you happy with how it’s sounding?”
“Yeah. Ziggy’s never sounded better, and me?” I pretended to slick back my hair. “I’m always awesome.”
That got him cracking up. “I’m glad you’ve come out of your shell,” he said.
“No, seriously, Daron.”
He just gave me a look.
Bart, who had been listening to this whole exchange but not saying anything, possibly because of the amount of peanut noodles he was inhaling, finally coughed and spoke up. “‘What shell,'” he said with a snort, shaking his head.
“Come on, I haven’t changed that much,” I insisted. “Onstage I’m the same.”
“Onstage, yeah, I’ll give you that.” Bart balled up a napkin and threw it at me. “Wait, you’re right. If it weren’t for us, you’d be a recluse who never left your room, am I right? Maybe you haven’t changed.” He turned to Chris. “When we were at school he only left his room for three things, class, performing, and ice cream.”
“And coffee,” I added. “When I could afford it. Ice cream had a lot more calories. Speaking of which, why isn’t there an ice cream shop that delivers?”
It was raining out, which was the only reason I didn’t suggest we make the walk to Herrell’s as a horde. My pronouncement got people talking about delivery services, though, and lo and behold Ziggy produced a card from some enterprising business that would pick up video rentals for you and didn’t mind getting ice cream on the way.
Which meant that like an hour later someone brought me ice cream. It sounds stupid, I know, but it made me feel like I had the right to feel like I was the king of the world.
Carynne and I were sitting in the kitchen later, when I got her to agree to buy us new plates and bowls and stuff. Ziggy had gone upstairs with Colin to see something on his computer.
She licked ice cream off the back of her spoon and said, “He’s been acting really normal, don’t you think?”
She had to be talking about Ziggy, of course. There wasn’t anyone else we could refer to as “he” and everyone knew exactly who we meant. “Yeah, I guess. When he first got back we had a kind of… not a fight, but… how can I describe it…” I ended up telling her most of the business with the hair dye and me playing him the song and him getting upset about it. “I feel kind of shitty for doing it, but the thing is maybe something finally sank in. We’ve been getting along smooth as glass since then.”
She shook her head. “It’s like the only language he can understand.”
“Which language is that?”
“You know, if you just tell him something straight out, he doesn’t believe it. But if you tell him through some secret or hidden method, then he gets it.”
“Maybe no one was ever honest with him as a kid,” I said. “I don’t know. I feel more like I’m fighting fire with fire, but it’s working. We’ve been writing like crazy. And writing good stuff, too, I mean. The more personally he takes the digs in the songs that are aimed at him, the stronger he comes back. It’s fucked up, but it’s working.”
“Ride that horse as far as it’ll go, then,” she said, and then got up to put the rest of the ice cream in the freezer. She started to chuckle.
“What’s so funny?”
“You are. You know how guys with their bank accounts stuffed full for the first time usually act? It’s not ice cream they order out for.” She was smiling.
“What, like I’m going to call for hookers and heroin?”
“Don’t laugh. That’s exactly what most of them do.”
“That’s such a West Coast thing,” I joked. “Here in Boston it’s ice cream and computer games.”
“Apparently,” she said. “Anyway, it’s good you guys are getting along. He’s been smooth as glass with me, too. Like that’s all in the past. If he can play it that way, so can I.”
I stood next to her at the sink, where she was starting to stack up the mismatched bowls. “Is it in the past?”
“Yeah. It was only a couple of months ago but it feels like years.” She hunched over a little. “But being single kind of sucks, too.”
“Oh, no no no, I don’t mean I have any thought of getting back together with him, I mean, heck, we weren’t what you could call ‘together’ in the first place. It’s not like it was a relationship. But I can’t get involved with someone now, you know?”
I took that to mean the guy she’d mentioned to me back in April was already history.
“We’re about to be gone for two months,” she continued, “and what if this Japan or Europe tour shapes up? I’m not going to ask some guy to sit at home with his pecker in his pants waiting for me. It would be a disaster for both of us.”
“Yeah. How’s he not going to cheat on me? Watch a lot of porn and jerk off? Phone sex? Ew.”
“Um, well…” I was trying to wrap my head around it like it was a puzzle that could be solved.
Carynne seemed to think it was unsolvable. “No. Just no. I’m not going to share with someone else. I’ll be flipping out the whole time I’m gone, thinking, oh my god, is he with ‘her’ tonight? What happens when I get back? I can’t get emotionally invested if I don’t know he’ll still love me when I get back.”
“And on the flip side, you don’t want to get involved with someone you work with.”
“No. Thank goodness Ziggy was a short fling and it’s over. I just can’t imagine it. That’s why Louis and Shiree split up. They worked together for a couple of years, on tour together, but it just couldn’t last. And she wanted kids.” She shook her head. “Fuck, Daron. I’m only twenty five, I shouldn’t be thinking about it already, but I do want kids someday.”
I ended up pulling her into a hug. I know that doesn’t seem like me, but maybe Chris was right, and the shell that kept me apart from everyone else was cracked. It was a nice hug. It reminded me of cuddling with Jonathan, when we weren’t feeling sexual at all. “That’s why, by then, you need to be our manager, and not our road manager,” I said. “So if you need to stay home with the kids, you can. You’ll have hired someone to replace you on the road by then. It’ll all work out, Car. You’ll see.”
I really believed what I said, too. Because you believe everything is going to work out when you’re the king of the world.