(Happy Thanksgiving, everyone who celebrates it. If you’ve been trapped with your biological family all day, welcome back to your rock and roll family. -daron)
This was the absurdist tableau before me: my roadie holding back my drummer from attacking my sherpa who was being held back by my other drummer. One burly, one black, one naked, one pint-sized.
“Why am I a dickhead?” Colin asked. “I’m not the one who–”
“For fighting over me.” Brad’s teeth were bared and his voice was rough.
“I’m not in the habit of letting people punch me in the face,” Colin argued.
“I wasn’t trying to punch you, I was trying to slap you upside the head,” Marvelle said, straining against Flip’s hold.
“Whatever,” Colin shot back. Colin’s towel was at his feet.
“Stop,” Brad insisted. “Both of you. Just… shut up.”
The tense moments that followed were filled with the harshness of breathing. Brad caught my eye and I saw a plea for help there. I knew what was going on: he’d told them to shut up and then realized that meant he had to be the one to speak next.
I bailed him out. “Excuse me,” I said, “if you guys wouldn’t mind keeping it down? I’m trying to figure out if I’m having a relapse of concussion symptoms or what.”
“Shit,” Marvelle said, with feeling, as he realized I was standing there. Flip let him go, both of them shaking their heads.
“I’d also, you know, appreciate a quiet, sensible explanation for what’s going on, what with me being your boss and all?”
They filed meekly into the room and Colin picked up his towel, then pulled on a pair of jeans (no underwear and no shirt).
Now all four of them looked guilty, which was ridiculous, but maybe it was just the mood. I sat on the corner of the bed and everyone else settled on various surfaces, chair, desk, floor, bed.
“Marvelle, you first.”
He took a deep breath and looked around at us all, considering. “Look, I’m probably the oldest one here.”
That prompted snorts from Colin and Flip but they didn’t interrupt him.
“I’m not some greenhorn; I’ve been around.” Then he said to Brad directly, “You went behind my back. What were you expecting?”
Brad didn’t answer and gave me that save-me look again. “Um, Colin,” I said. “How about your side of the story?”
“My side? My side is…” He looked around at all of us. “You said Brad had the hots for me. We hooked up a couple of nights ago and have a couple of times since. You knew that.”
Yeah, I guess I did. “Brad, just making sure, that’s the way you see it, too?”
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “I didn’t expect Marv here to flip out over it, though.” He folded his arms. “He told me I should…get some experience with people I knew. Don’t mess with strangers.”
“This Nazi isn’t who I meant!” Marvelle said. “I didn’t want to be too direct about it because that’d make things too weird.”
“Like this isn’t weird?” Brad shouted. “If you were interested in me, why didn’t you just say so?”
Marvelle blinked like he’d been slapped. “What? I wouldn’t know the slightest thing about how to go about romancing a girl like y–I mean, a guy like you, or any guy, for that matter!”
“I thought you were my mentor!” Brad looked furious.
“In drumming and shit like that, yes!”
“But you still acted like a jealous lover? What gave you the right!” A vein in Bradley’s temple was throbbing.
Marvelle shook his head. “You think that’s the problem here? That I’m jealous? I thought you knew me better than that.”
“Apparently not.” Brad was still steaming.
“Look. You’re still my… little bro. I still feel responsible for you, you know. There’s a lot going on with a tour like this.” Marvelle was steaming under his collar a little, too. “Was I wrong to take it upon myself to show you the ropes? Who rehearsed with you for hundreds of hours in the break, huh? Be straight with me, Brad. If you really felt everything was right with you and this guy here you wouldn’t have felt like you had to sneak behind my back to see him.”
Now Bradley blushed hard. “I wasn’t sneaking.” He sounded awfully guilty, though.
“Mm-hmm.” Marvelle folded his arms. “You knew I wouldn’t approve of his Nazi ass.”
“Okay, can we clear one thing up right now?” Colin said. “There is a huge fucking difference between white supremacist skinheads and non-violent punks, even if you can’t tell the difference.”
Marvelle gave him a “oh really” eye roll. Which Colin partly deserved, I supposed, because Colin’s never been a non-violent punk–though he and I talked about it a lot. He was definitely never a white supremacist, though. Fuck no. So I understood his point even if he exaggerated it.
I was still trying to figure out what to say about that when Brad spoke again. “Number one, big bro or no, you don’t get to police who I sleep with. Number two, if I want to sleep with a skinhead I will. Number three, Colin’s not a skinhead but I knew you had a chip on your shoulder about him so I figured it was better for all concerned if I just didn’t rub your nose in it. Therefore, are you really going to tell me that ‘sneaking’ around was the wrong thing to do if I knew you were going to act like such as ass?”
“Shit,” Marvelle said, defeated by that logic.
“Yeah, he’s got you there,” Flip agreed.
“You could’ve just asked me about it,” Brad said. “Instead of barging in here.”
“Well, I was trying to ask you about it before, but you brushed me off, and then I come up here and this guy opens the door wearing nothing but a towel and I lost my head.”
Flip snorted. “He was wearing a towel because me and him were trying to wash the blood out of Daron’s hair.”
“Which is why we were in the bathroom when you came in,” I added, as it was dawning on Marvelle that it was a little weird that we happened to be there to see the confrontation if what he thought was going on was going on.
“Shit,” Marvelle said again. “Okay, look, I know I owe you all some apologies and we’ve got another ten days together and the last thing I want is friction. But can you give me some credit for trying to do the right thing?”
“Trying and failing, maybe,” Flip said under his breath.
“I’m a straightforward guy,” Colin said. “If you’ve got a problem, I have no problem hearing it. But expect me to fight if you’re wrong. That’s all.”
“If you’re not a Nazi and it was Brad’s idea to get with you, then I have no problems,” Marvelle said.
“Then we’re cool,” Colin said. They clasped hands to prove it.
“I’m cool with all of you,” Flip said. “No hard feelings, Marv. I didn’t mean to manhandle you, but I went into bouncer mode.”
“We’re cool.” Marvelle rubbed his neck. “Long as you can recommend me a good chiropractor.” They both laughed and then looked at me.
Me? “If you two are having a good time hooking up, more power to you. Marvelle, I appreciate you being a mentor to our rookie, but you gotta let him leave the nest, okay? I have no problems with any of it as long as you all do your jobs and don’t get into fights.”
“Well, I have problems with it,” Brad said. “Because I don’t think any of this would’ve happened if you’d all just treated me like one of the guys.”
“Oh, here we go again,” Marvelle said. “We’ve been over this. You think I’d be less protective of a kid drummer who was like you but….not like you?”
“I do.” Brad lifted his chin.
Marvelle stood up and threw up his hands. “Then I can’t help you with that, Bradley-boy. That chip is on your shoulder, not mine. Good night, y’all.” He exited the argument before it could start.
Silence hung in the air for a few moments after the door closed behind him. Brad huffed. “It’s complicated.”
“It always is,” I said.
“He’s just as annoying and impossible as an actual big brother,” Flip said.
“You have older brothers?” I asked.
“Oh yeah. And they’re stupid. One’s an actuary for an insurance company and one’s a forensic accountant.”
“That doesn’t sound too stupid to me…” I said carefully.
“You know what I mean.” Flip got up and stretched.
I didn’t exactly, but I was still trying to circle back in the conversation. “Brad.”
“Yeah?” He was settling on the bed next to Colin, who put a long, wiry arm around his shoulders.
“Are we doing it wrong? I mean, how we relate to you, how we treat you?” I realized that “little brother” was kind of a good fit for how I had come to think of him and now I worried that he resented it.
Brad sighed. “You guys are fine. Really. Never mind. Forget I said anything.”
“Because, you know, if I can change something–”
“No, no. It’s fine. You’re fine.” We stared at each other a moment, gauging each other’s sincerity. I’m pretty sure we both seemed one hundred percent sincere.
“Who wants to order room service and see what’s on TV?” Colin asked.
“You guys go ahead,” I said. “I’m going to get some sleep.”
Flip came with me to steer me to my actual room, which he remembered I’d forgotten the location of. People whose brains work amaze me sometimes. He made sure I had everything I needed and then he said good night, going off in search of his own amusement.
I lay down in the dark. My head throbbed slightly. I reminded myself not to scratch under the Band-Aid if it itched. I played over the argument again in my mind and tried to figure out if there was a way I could have prevented it from happening in the first place. Getting Colin and Brad together had been partly my doing, after all, and it bothered me that it had created strife between Colin and Marvelle and between Brad and Marvelle. But was that my fault, Brad’s fault, or Marvelle’s fault? Probably if I had been feeling better about myself at that moment it would have been more obvious to me that it wasn’t really my fault, but given the state of mind I was in, I felt it was almost completely my fault.
It was then it occurred to me to wonder how Ziggy’s meeting with the dancers had gone. That he felt it necessary to meet with them to smooth over my mistakes and make excuses for me made me feel even worse. That’s the state it had come to. Where even Ziggy was forced to make excuses for me and babysit me.
Sleep was very slow in coming that night.