I tried to fix it. I grabbed his elbows and blinked at him in surprise. “I mean, holy crap, J. I wasn’t expecting to see you until New York.”
“I know.” The hurt in his eyes was just a flicker and then it was gone. “I’ve been trying to call you since I saw it on the news. I finally just said, fuck it, I live fifteen minutes from Newark Airport anyway. I had to see you.”
It occurred to me that although he’d seen the accident on TV a hundred times, and probably thought it was worse than it was, he had no idea about the other stuff that was going on. “Um, yeah. Well, I’m glad to see you.” I looked around at the Miracle Mile guys and Chris who had sort of awkwardly made their way past us toward the backstage door. Ziggy was nowhere in sight.
Digger and Colin were right there, though. Digger was at the door, and Colin had been sitting on the back of the loading dock, his feet on the truck bumpers, and some of the rest of the crew were milling around. Carynne came out just then and I wondered why the hell everyone had chosen now to come outside or if it was just Murphy’s Law biting me on the ass.
A moment later I had my answer, though, as Marty came pulling around the driveway to the back, honking the horn of the bus.
They hadn’t just painted over the graffiti in the back.
They’d redone the whole bus with the Moondog Three logo down the side and photorealistic airbrushed renditions of our four faces.
“Holy shit,” I said, and let go of Jonathan.
Marty was as pleased as a parent with a new baby. I’d never seen him smile like that. I’d also never heard him utter a longer sentence than when he was explaining that the paint was “dry” but not “cured” yet, but it was the best they could do on short notice. The hot weather would help, he said.
In other words, everyone got to focus on that and not on the fact that I’d just kissed a man in front of them all. Or he had kissed me. Whatever. To the witnesses I’m sure it didn’t matter. I was about as uncomfortable as I could remember being with people who already knew me, which was a very uncomfortable feeling indeed. But it wasn’t the kind of nausea-inducing terror I would’ve felt two years ago. Or even last summer. That was progress, right?
I didn’t hide. I made sure Bart and Colin sat down with me and J. to fill him in on all the shenanigans that had been going on. We swore him to keep it off the record, using the same lawsuits-pending line we had on Guy, only actually a little more serious since we actually told J. everything that had happened. Everything. Lacey’s collapse, Paco’s arrest, Chris’s paranoia, Megaton’s bullshit… and the accident. Jonathan at one point looked at his watch and asked if we’d been on the road for a month or for a year.
The way he looked at me, I’m pretty sure it felt like a year to him, too.
And then it was time for our soundcheck. Here’s how it went: fine. But at the end of it–we’d played one song and some bits of another–my jaw was aching from clenching it and my hand was shaking.
I finally said what I had been not-saying all day. I said it to Colin, in the wings, as he handed me back my dog tags. “I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the set.”
Ziggy, looking somewhat gray and subdued himself, came up and put his undamaged hand on my shoulder. “Same way I’m going to,” he said. “You can have the other half.”
Of the painkiller. “All right. Now? Or closer to show time?”
“Now,” he said. I didn’t argue. We went back to the green room. Colin followed. Zig dug the bottle and the pill cutter out of his bag. He set them aside, though. “I better do your eyeliner first.”
“How? You’ve only got one hand and it’s your left.”
“For fuck’s sake, you guys,” Colin said. “Let me do you both.”
Ziggy looked at him a little skeptically.
“I was an industrial goth before I went all the way to punk,” Colin said. “I can handle it.”
“All right. Then, here.” Ziggy handed the little makeup bag to him and picked up the pill bottle instead. He used the pill cutter to chop one in half, we each took a piece. “Down the hatch,” he said, and we sort of saluted each other. He took a swig from a water bottle and then handed it to me and I did the same.
Then the three of us sat down. Colin did my one eye first. I kept blinking but he managed it. Then he did Ziggy and I sat and watched. Colin had long fingers. He was efficient. He drew a little curlicue with the pencil from the corner of Zig’s eye down to his cheek.
“Thanks,” Ziggy said.
“Anytime.” Colin handed him back the pencils and tubes and then went off to do whatever was next on his agenda.
Ziggy and I sat there a minute. I think I was waiting for him to say something. Maybe that’s why he did.
“So. Jonathan,” is what he said.
“Jonathan,” I said, the uncomfortable feeling suddenly intensifying and making me feel like I wanted to curl up and die.
He got up and left just as brusquely as Colin had. I heard Miracle Mile’s soundcheck starting.
And then the next thing I knew, my head started to feel like a balloon floating six feet off the ground. So this is what painkillers are like, I thought. They make me feel taller.