Enough of the band was healthy enough to do one of the two shows we had scheduled in Maryland–the second one, of course. It was not what I would call a high energy show, but a lot of love came from that crowd. My guess was that a lot of those folks had tickets to both nights and knew we were suffering.
Alan played the show on a stool at the keyboards instead of standing up like usual and at one point about two thirds of the way through the set he put his head down on one of them. Some of the crew helped him offstage. Remo and I quickly conferred about the fact that yes we could go on without him. The two biggest features for the keyboard were intros to two songs we’d already played, and a solo in a song in the encore. We’d worry about the encore later.
Later came up fast, though. We huddled backstage. “Where is he?” “Get on radio.” “Is there an ambulance onsite?”
Alan emerged from the first aid station looking worn thin but upright. He came straight to me while Remo hovered nearby. “I can make it.”
“Make what? Don’t try to be a hero,” I said. I wondered if he’d needed water or alcohol or what. Both, maybe, which was a catch-22.
“I can make it through one encore,” he amended. “If I keep my butt on the stool.”
I looked him in the eye. “You’re sure? I don’t want you given anyone in the crowd a heart attack if you keel over.”
“I’ll be all right.”
I took him at his word. We did the one encore and didn’t push it. Everyone survived.
The original plan was for us to get in the bus after that show and head directly to New York City. But when you’re a nomad you have to be flexible. As Steve Winwood sang, you “roll with it.” We went back to a hotel and everyone had orders to sleep as much as possible. The new plan was that we wouldn’t leave for Tuesday’s show at Brendan Byrne Arena until early that morning and we’d go straight there. I guess the timing worked out such that by the time we arrived, none of us would be disease vectors anymore, thus sparing the greater metro area from the plague.
So that meant basically an entire day of complete downtime, at a suburban hotel in the middle of nowhere Maryland (or maybe Virginia, I’m not even sure). By then I was the healthiest person because I was the furthest from having been ill, and I rapidly grew bored out of my mind.
I did reach Ziggy at least, while lying in bed. Flip was out cold in the next bed over, taking the “sleep as much as possible” order quite seriously. I kept my voice low. “Hey.”
“Hey. You all right?”
“You’re not going to believe what’s been going on. Ninety percent of us have been hit with the stomach flu.”
“Oh, that can’t be pretty.”
“It isn’t. I think they went through the bus with concentrated Clorox. I’m not kidding. It’s a nightmare.”
“And you’re coming here…next?”
“Not til Tuesday night, though. I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?”
“Feeling sorry for myself that I’m not going to see you until then.”
“Mm.” I listened to the sound of something scraping that was probably him moving the phone from one ear to the other. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.” I cradled the phone, restlessness crawling right up my spine. Now that I was healthy I was like a dog that hadn’t been walked in a week. “I’m going to go to the gym.”
“Me too,” he said. “Think of me while you’re working out.”
I didn’t really, except for a little at the very start, because once I started actually doing the workout my brain latched onto that and I didn’t daydream. I didn’t do too much, though, just one set each of pullups, pushups, situps, whatever-other-kind-of-ups. Then I started on curls.
Jam came in while I was partway through that and got on the treadmill.
“How bad did you have it?” I asked.
“Not as bad as some,” he said with a shrug as he got up to speed. “Just kept on putting water in and kept the juices running clear, you know? In the end it was almost like a therapeutic cleanse.”
I chuckled skeptically.
“Seriously,” he said. “You can pay some dude in Santa Cruz a couple thou for the same results. I figure I’m recovered now though.”
“How can you tell?”
“I’m ravenously hungry and every other thing my body hasn’t done for a couple of days it’s raring to do, like this.” He upped the speed on the treadmill a little and the pitch went up. It was kind of a noisy contraption.
“Yeah, I got ravenously hungry, too.” In fact I was kind of hungry right then. “I should probably grab something to eat and then try for another nap.”
“Good plan.” He gave me a little salute as I went into the locker room and tried to put my plan into action.
An hour later I was back in bed with a sandwich in me and a towel on my pillow because of my wet hair. The exercise must’ve done me good because I felt sleepy right away. It was the middle of the afternoon and my body was suddenly greedily tired, my eyelids closing heavily. Good.
I came to only partly at one point, a sound coming from Flip’s bed that made me think someone was getting a blow job, which seemed perfectly fine so I went back to sleep without finding out for sure what was going on. I thought about Ziggy, about how soon I was going to see him. I drifted into a dream where Ziggy was waking me up with his mouth on me, part memory, part imagination, part latent need surging now that I no longer felt ill.
It was the hand gripping my balls uncomfortably hard that woke me. Someone was under the covers sucking the come right out of me. I was groggy in the way that only a midday nap can make me and wondered if I had forgotten where I was. I was expecting to see Ziggy when I pulled back the covers, as my legs were beginning to shake and my orgasm was bearing down like an unstoppable freight train.
But my hand didn’t bury itself into Ziggy’s hair. My fingers took hold of a mass of short blond dreads and Jam gagged when I came.