Help Me Up

(Sorry for the late post! The site is running realllly slowly now, but at least it’s up, and the Internet outage is over! Here’s hoping it stays up. We’re apparently having a nor’easter right now. -ctan)

One of the things Bart used to say often is the problems aren’t that you can’t learn what you don’t know. It’s that you don’t know what you don’t know. He was talking about things you can only learn through performance and experience in front of an audience, things you can’t practice or prepare for because you can’t even imagine the situations until you find yourself in them.

But his words apply pretty well to everything else in life, too. Relationships, for example. There were things I never dreamed I’d have to figure out until I was living with Jonathan. I know we only lived together for a matter of months, but it felt like years. (Didn’t it?) That big tour of the US and Canada in 1989. That felt like it took years, too.

Ask me now how many years I spent in Tennessee and you won’t get an accurate answer either, probably.

Carynne rode with me in a taxi to Ziggy’s. By then I knew that when she stuck to me like glue like that it was because she was worried what I might do–or feel–while I was on my own. I could have called her on it. I could have told her how me and Ziggy were in a “no drugs, no alcohol” phase.

And she probably would have told me that made her more vigilant, not less. Anyway. I wasn’t fussed about it. I didn’t mind the company. It dulled the edge on the pain that was missing Jordan.

She came upstairs with me while we waited for Ziggy to come back from… wherever he was. I couldn’t keep track of his obligations. They were many. That’s the difference between being a musician and being a “celebrity,” I guess?

The phone rang at one point and we ignored it, but the machine picked up at it was Ziggy. “Daron, are you there? Did you see my page?”

I hurried to pick up the phone in the kitchen area. “Hey. I did not see your page. What’s up?”

“I’m in the car downstairs. You want to go get something to eat? Tony’s driving.”

“Can Carynne come along?”

“Sure.”

“Okay, be right down.” I hung up and explained to Carynne that Tony and he were double parked downstairs. She came down to the curb with me, but then after giving Ziggy a kiss on the cheek she begged off, saying we’d already eaten and she had stuff to do. Tony dropped her at an uptown subway stop and, like that, she was gone.

Ziggy snuggled up to me in the car. “You look stressed out.”

“I am. I think. I just… am not processing everything very well.” I closed my eyes and tried to relax into the motion of the car as Tony pointed the car across town. “I got grilled today by a WTA lawyer.”

“Grilled? What do you mean, grilled?”

“I mean… grilled. Like, interrogated. At the end he said it was just they need to know what I’d say if I get deposed–is that the right word? If I have to give a deposition to Sarah’s lawyers. But it really felt to me like they were trying to find out if they can stick it to me, somehow.”

“Have they forgotten you’re WTA, too? Barrett will–”

“Barrett was there. This happened in his office.”

He kissed me behind the ear. “I’m sure it feels like they’re after you because your stress level is high.”

“Not my stress level is high because they’re after me?”

“Did you guys talk about Mills and Megastar at all?”

“No, we didn’t even get to that.”

Ziggy sighed and burrowed his arm between mine and my ribs. “Brr. I’m chilly.”

“There’s a leather trench coat in the trunk,” Tony said from the driver’s seat.

“Could you get it out for me when we get there?”

“Of course, of course,” he said.

Meanwhile, I made him shift so I could get my arm around him. “I just feel like I’m waiting for a guillotine to fall. And I’ve felt that way for a long time, but it keeps getting worse.”

“I know what you mean. Hey, I have an idea.”

“What?”

“Let’s forget eating out. Let’s grab a pizza and go back to the apartment and let me try a relaxation thing on you.”

Tony said, drily: “That is the worst pickup line ever.”

Which made us both chuckle. “I’m serious,” Ziggy insisted.

“Okay, sure. I’ll never say no to pizza.” Or to sex with you, I thought, but didn’t say.

So we grabbed a pizza and sat in the limo eating it with Tony while semi-illegally parked too close to a hydrant. While eating, we got talking about Claire and how she was currently in the care of Flip.

“You know,” Tony said, “there are, like, homes where you can go when you’re that sick.”

“Wouldn’t her doctor have recommended that if she needed it?” I asked.

“Maybe? But maybe he’d only recommend it if you asked him about it directly. You can get home health aides, too, you know. That’s what my brother’s doing now.”

I startled. “Ray-Ray?”

“Naw, naw, my big brother.”

“Oh, him, the former linebacker?” I couldn’t remember his name and Tony did not help me out.

“That’s the one. Used to work where, um.” He cut himself off suddenly and started again. “At a care facility. But now he goes to help out in people’s own houses.”

Ziggy licked his fingers. “It’s okay, Tony. You can mention my mother.”

“Just, you know, didn’t mean to bring it up without warning,” Tony said, folding a slice in half in one hand and cupping the other underneath it to catch any oil or cheese that might drip. “But yeah, that was the place.”

By which I took it to mean that Tony’s brother had worked where Eugenie Farias lived… and died. It was starting to feel like death was stalking me. “What do you mean, goes to help out in people’s houses?”

“You know, it’s cheaper to keep people in their own house than in a nursing home, if they don’t need to be watched 24-7. If they just need the home health aide once or twice a day, maybe, to help them get washed and dressed or to feed them a meal and make sure they take their pills or whatever. Especially people without family or whatever. It’s a little weird at first, he says, because some people are like holy shit, there’s a huge black dude at the front door! But then they find out he can lift them out of bed or into the tub or whatever without any trouble and it starts to make logical sense.”

“He’s even bigger than you, Antonio?” Ziggy asked.

“Yeah, he–”

“Wait,” I said. “You can just hire him? He’s like a visiting nurse?”

“Home health aide,” Tony said. “Not the same as a nurse. He’d need another degree for that.” He looked at me over the top of the front seat. “Why, you want me to ask if he wants to take a trip to Tennessee?”

“I wouldn’t advise that,” Ziggy said. “It’s a really redneck part of Tennessee.”

“Hang on, though, wait a second,” I asked. “How much does it cost? Is it something that, like, insurance will cover?”

Tony shrugged. “I don’t really know. I know he doesn’t make as much as a nurse would, but it beats flipping burgers.”

“He doesn’t make as much as you do,” Ziggy chided.

“Because I’m your nursemaid,” Tony chided right back. “Nursemaid making top dollar.”

Them ragging on each other was cute, even if I was freaking out a little. “Okay, so you’re saying people hire him and they pay out of pocket? Like, with money?”

“They don’t pay him cash on the spot if that’s what you mean,” Tony said, pausing while he ripped a bite off his slice. “He works for a service. They hire out.”

“Just like an escort service,” Ziggy said, “except when he wipes your ass it’s not a fetish.”

Tony snorted. “You got an evil mind.”

“You know it.” He smirked. Then he looked at me seriously. “You thinking of hiring someone to look after Claire? You know she’ll fight it.”

“Yes, and you’re right.” I rubbed my face and probably got pepperoni oil on it. “She’ll go on about the indignity of it. Unless we can find someone who’ll really pamper the shit out of her.”

“And who won’t report her to the cops for all the drugs,” Ziggy added. To Tony he explained, “The elder Mrs. has decided her best nurse is named Mary Jane.”

“Ah, like mother like son?” Tony said, with an eyebrow raised in my direction.

“No. I never liked weed,” I said with perhaps a bit more vehemence than necessary. But the jokier they got the more I tried to resist it. “And I didn’t like painkillers either.”

“Whiskey’s the only drug you’ve ever really liked,” Ziggy said.

“Well, and ecstasy, that one time, but it wasn’t worth the hangover.” And LSD, I thought, but I almost didn’t think of it as a drug in the same way. You didn’t take acid to feel better or forget your problems or relieve your pain. You had to plan a short-term vacation to take it, really–two days, minimum. When it was good, acid was more like a spiritual retreat than just “getting high.”

Thinking about it made me try to remember that top-of-the-mountain feeling I’d had in Australia. The top of the mountain is the center of the universe is the note at the beginning of creation. The vibrating string holds the universe together. It was a comforting thought while at the same time seeming thousands of miles away from the reality of my mother shitting bile.

In all the time I’d known her–which by definition was my whole life–if Claire had ever felt at peace with the universe, she had never mentioned it to me.


(Remo’s not the only one who got some soundtrack gigs around this era. -d)

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