I finally talked to Ziggy for a good stretch on the phone around lunchtime in St. Louis. It had been like seven in the morning when we’d pulled in, Flip made sure I was tucked in and passed out before he went to bed himself, but he’d apparently slept through all the drama on the bus the night before so he got up in the morning and was not there when I woke up.
I ordered room service and caught Ziggy at home.
“Are you watching the news?” he said. “Bush just made a statement about the death of the Communist Party in Russia.”
“What?” The state of world politics was pretty far from my mind at that point. Bush was the first Bush, by the way, the one who’d been veep under Reagan. We were in our twelfth regressive year in a row under conservative Republican rule at that point, the party that had been in power since I was in grade school.
“The U.S.S.R. just banned the Communist Party. Or disbanded it. Or something.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I don’t know, but it’s good,” he said. “How are you?”
“You are not going to believe what’s been going on here.”
I turned on the TV under the theory that I could watch the crawl on CNN while talking to him but the first thing I saw was the video for a Bryan Adams song I was utterly sick of at that point so I turned it off again. “My mother lives in some kind of conservative Christian enclave a couple in Kansas of hours from where we played last night. Court made plans to go visit her.”
“Yeah, she had said she was thinking about trying to do that.”
“Well, she did. And she brought my mother to see a show.”
“Oh. And were there…fireworks?”
“No. Though my head did explode.”
“Oh, dear one. I’m so sorry. Do you want to tell me about it?”
There was something so formal about how he said that; it rubbed me the wrong way. It was like I knew he was going through the motions to be supportive but somehow it didn’t feel supportive. But was that because he wasn’t “really” supportive or because I was too messed up right then to be able to appreciate it? Was it possible to be sincere about being willing to listen without being sincere about wanting to?
I decided to wait. “In a little while, maybe. Tell me how you’re doing.”
“Doing fine, but bored and missing you. You had all your shots?”
“What? Oh you mean before traveling to South America? Yeah, a while ago. And the band were supposed to all get them when they signed their contracts.”
“I’m sure Barrett and Carynne are on top of that kind of thing. Are you really thinking about stuff like that?”
“I guess I’m just looking out for whatever could go wrong.” He sighed.
“You’re clearly bored.” I sat back on the bed. Everything in the hotel room was some shade of brown. “Memorized all the choreography already?”
“Yes. I’ve done everything I can do without you here.”
“You sound resentful I’m not there.”
“I am resentful you’re not here. I’m okay, and I’m okay with you being on the road, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling this way.”
Well, that was honest. Ziggy always contained multitudes. “I’ll be there soon. Tuesday, I think. Today’s…” I had to get off the bed to look at the day sheet to be sure. “Thursday. I’m in St. Louis.”
“When I was a kid I thought Kansas was a made-up place because of the Wizard of Oz,” he said, in what might have sounded like a non-sequitur, but was actually obviously meant to bring me back to what I was saying before about my mother.
I took my cue this time. “It’s real, but it’s real strange. Like, Claire had to get her husband’s permission to go anywhere?”
“I think that’s how marriages are in a lot of the Third World,” Ziggy said, “as well as traditional and rural parts of Europe.”
“Agreed. But it’s how a lot of people live.”
“Are you saying it’s okay?”
“No. The same people who think that’s a wholesome lifestyle would like to see you and I dead.” His voice was rather matter of fact, almost emotionless for such a strong sentiment.
Or maybe it was that through the phone there was only so much I could feel. “Anyway. She came to the show and then Remo and I went to see her backstage and… and…” I found myself at a loss to describe the encounter. “It was weird. She was…so…fake.”
“I mean, like putting on such a show of… manners, I guess.”
“So the opposite of Digger who would have cursed you out, spat on the floor, and left a shit stain if he could?”
That made me chuckle a little. “I guess. They do say opposites attract. The thing is she really only said like two sentences maybe to me before I had a concussion flare up.”
“Maybe that’s for the best. If all she said was something nice, I’d hate to see what happened if she said what she really felt.”
“Yeah…” And yet. “I still somehow feel sort of let down, though.”
“Well, you’ve built her up as Cruella DeVille in your mind. Of course it’s disappointing if she’s not wearing a skinned dalmatian.”
“I suppose.” I cradled the phone with my shoulder and began to do the gentle hand exercises I was supposed to. The first one was using the fingers of my left hand to carefully stretch and straighten the fingers on the right. “Then Remo drove her home and that made Melissa go off because she thought he went off to sleep with her.”
“No! Besides, would a woman who asks her husband’s permission to go see a concert commit adultery?”
“If she thought she could get away with it, maybe? But presumably Remo’s too much of a goody two shoes for that.”
“Pretty sure he is,” I growled.
“Why are you being so defensive? I’m not criticizing.”
“Sure you aren’t.”
“You’re really in a state, aren’t you? It’s not like you to bite my head off for no reason.”
Why did it upset me that he didn’t sound the slightest bit upset? I knew rationally that he had no reason to be–and that I didn’t want him to be upset at me–but somehow I was irked that his sympathy only extended to dispassionate listening and not participating in my pain. Which is unfair and counterproductive but that’s how I felt.
Maybe it was the distance. “I have the day off tomorrow,” I said.
“What are you planning to do?”
“Nothing. What are you doing this weekend?” I was trying for casual small talk.
His voice sounded like a shrug. “Everyone’s off for the holiday weekend. No rehearsals, no nothing.”
Right. Labor Day Weekend. “Come to St. Louis.”
“Get on a plane. You can be here by showtime tonight I bet.”
“I know I’m going to see you in a few days but–”
“Can you get someone to pick me up at the airport?”
“Page me your flight info when you have it and I’ll see if someone from the crew can do it. If not I’m sure there’s a limo service. We’re at a hotel downtown. The venue’s not far. St. Louis is a city, in case you were thinking we’re in some cow pasture somewhere.” I was stomping hard on the little voice in the back of my head that said it was going to take a thousand dollars minimum to get him there, what with needing to buy last minute tickets. I could live off that for a month.
“You’re really really sure about this,” he said.
“Yes. It’ll be good for us to see each other.”
I was so sure about that.