Late that night insomnia bit me in the ass and wouldn’t let go. I didn’t want to wake J, and I didn’t want him to think if I left–i.e. went for a walk or something–that I was freaking out over something he had said.
Which led me to wonder, wait, am I freaking out over something he said?
We’d just agreed we weren’t in a serious relationship, hadn’t we? We agreed we were in the early days. The still-figuring-it-out days. Was that scary?
This whole concept that there was something to figure out was new to me. But not freak-out scary. I don’t think.
What I was thinking about mostly was the fact that the deadline for Digger was fast approaching. Six months we’d given him, and that would run out when the calendar turned to July 1st. We’d be in Memphis or somewhere then, I couldn’t remember exactly. I’d been trying not to think about it and I’d been succeeding, until I was lying there in the dark, under J’s arm.
It felt odd to be so sated physically, warm and comfortable under the covers with him, pressed together but utterly relaxed, and yet to have my mind racing. I kept waiting for it to stop and for sleep to come back around, but it didn’t.
I heard him snuffle sleepily and felt something damp on my shoulder. His mouth, kissing my arm affectionately. He shifted position and I settled even more under the crook of his arm.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
He murmured. “Mm, bullshit. You’re tense as a string.”
“A guitar string?”
“Er, yeah. I think I meant to say bowstring, but I’m sleepy, and guitar string is more appropriate anyway.” He rubbed his face and propped himself up on one elbow. We’d left the light on in the bathroom and I could see his face in the dimness. “You need something?”
“Not something like that,” I said, knowing he meant sex. Not that I’d have said no if he suggested it, but he seemed to genuinely be asking. “Just, can’t sleep. Thinking about everything coming up.”
“And, yeah. And the whole business with Digger.”
“You mentioned being kind of glad to be rid of him for the leg of the trip when I saw you in DC…”
“That’s not it. I really… did I tell you he’s my father? I can’t even remember.”
“You told me, but at the time you didn’t act like it was a big secret.”
“I didn’t?” I suppose I’d already decided to trust J that far back. “It’s not, not really. A big secret, I mean. I just don’t want it to be a… a thing. It’s just vaguely embarrassing, I guess.”
“Is it? Lots of people have family members working for them.”
“He’s just vaguely embarrassing, is what I mean, maybe.” I groaned. “He probably feels the same way about me.”
“Does he? Why? You’re incredibly successful for… oh.” He looked at me and frowned. “Oh.”
“Yeah, ‘oh.’ Not so thrilled about the gay part, I don’t think.” It still wasn’t easy to say the word “gay” honestly, but I didn’t want to seem like a wuss in front of him, besides it would have been kind of ridiculous not to be able to say it while lying in bed with him. I mean, I know I’m ridiculous sometimes, but that would’ve been too much even for me. Meanwhile I was kind of impressed with how he seemed to know what I was talking about, and I knew what he was talking about, when we hardly said anything. That was kinda scary, but really nifty at the same time.
“You don’t think?”
“Well, it’s complicated. He knows. I know he knows. He knows I know that he knows. And so we have kind of a truce about it.”
“Hang on. He knows that you know that he knows…” J blinked while he worked that one out. “I’m making some coffee if we’re going to talk about anything that complicated.”
He slid out of bed and padded back and forth in the room, fussing with the coffee pot the hotel had provided. “Keep talking.”
“Anyway, yeah, I didn’t come out and say ‘Hey Dad I’m gay,’ but you know, it just feels like sometimes he goes out of his way to make gay jokes or…” I paused while I tried to remember what he’d said about Carynne. Digger thought I was sleeping with her, too. Well, or knew that I had. Which might kind of make the whole conversation we’d had in the strip club…. “Oh fuck.”
“I just realized maybe the whole conversation we had about it without talking about it, he might’ve been talking about something else.”
J brought me a mug of coffee with cream and sugar that smelled fancy. Like hazelnuts, I think. I sat up to take it in my hands, crossing my legs with the sheet over my knees.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter,” I said. “The gist of the conversation was that who I fuck is none of his business regardless, and that much he agreed to, basically. Even though I never came out and said… I mean, I never ‘came out.'”
“But you think he’s still upset over it.”
“I think he’s still none too happy if I’m gay. He’s a homophobic, sexist asshole. You should hear the shit he says about Carynne when she’s not there to hear it. For that matter, the shit he says about me when I AM there to hear it.” I shook my head.
“Would you put up with that if he wasn’t your father?”
“If you’d hired a manager, and he made disparaging comments about you or your other employees, would you keep him?”
I thought about that for a moment. “No. Except that he doesn’t think he’s making disparaging comments. It’s not like he realizes he’s being a sexist pig, you know? If he could tell he was, he’d already be way ahead of where he is now. Does that make sense?”
“That makes perfect sense,” J assured me. “But to play devil’s advocate for a second, you’re not going to find a lot of manager types out there who have embraced a feminist consciousness.”
“By which I mean guys who…”
“I know what you mean,” I said quickly. “You’re using big words but they’re not that big.”
He kissed me on the forehead then. “Sorry. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m coming across. They don’t teach you to talk like a normal person in the Ivy Leagues.”
“No, shit, Sherlock.” I reached up and traced his lip with one finger. “So anyway, my asshole dad is my manager, he might owe me money, and when his contract runs out we’ll be in the middle of a tour he helped arrange.”
“What do you mean by he might owe you money?”
“So, he quit his old job and started his own talent management company, right? That took startup money he didn’t have, to open an office in LA, get an answering service, all that stuff. There are a lot of technicalities in it, like he can claim that he was opening the office for the band’s management, but you know, I’d think he’d have asked me first if that were the case, right? Carynne had a lawyer friend of hers who had Mike Fink by the short and curlies draw up the contract, trying to make it airtight. She asked him about. Thing is, Digger didn’t outright spend much of our money at all, but he did use the band’s contracts and income as collateral… He established us a credit line based on the money in the bank, and he spent from that.” My head hurt a little just thinking about it. “So even this lawyer said it’s dicey ethically speaking, but not actually illegal, and not actually a breach of contract.”
“The part that sounds dicey to me is that he didn’t tell you about it.”
“I know! If it was legit, he should’ve just asked me.” I sipped the coffee. It was too hot and I scalded myself a little but I didn’t pay much attention to that. “But meanwhile, he’s the one who got Ziggy this movie deal, and who got Mills to let us hit the road when he wanted to bury us.”
“Waitasec, Mills wanted to bury you?” J actually stood up as he said that.
“Well, not in so many words, but…” I faltered under J’s incredulous stare. “Oh, come on, you know bands get buried all the time by their labels.”
“And he was saying not to tour. To wait. But come on. ‘Candlelight’ was in the Top 40. Why wait?”
“Can you think of a good reason?”
He paced a bit back and forth between the two beds. “Well, there must be some reason. Had they already committed the touring budget to some other bands?”
“What would it matter if we supported ourselves?” I said. “I don’t even remember what his rationale was. Didn’t want us playing places that were too small because it’d diminish our image, was one line he used, but come on. The Police played a show to three people in Albany when they were in support of their first record. He did say he wanted us to wait until we had full tour support. But at the same time he wasn’t saying what kind of support they were going to give, yet.”
J wrinkled his face. “Okay. That’s kind of fishy.”
“He kept saying let’s get the new album on the shelves before doing anything bigger. And I said great, we’ll do something bigger, but let’s do something small first. We needed to do that B tour, J. We really did.”
“Yes. I agree. And you were only out for two weeks. It’s not like you took six months on the road when they were waiting for you to go in the studio or something…”
“Anyway, Digger made him see sense. So that’s all worked out. But…”
J sat across from me again, gulping his coffee and setting the mug down. “So that’s what Digger’s good for, I guess.”
“What, it takes a slime wad to talk to a slime wad?”
“I didn’t mean it like that…” J said cautiously.
“Yeah, well I did.” I set the almost full cup of coffee next to J’s on the nightstand. My stomach was churning a little and it might as well have been a cup of rocket fuel in my hand.
“So what happens if you fire him?” J asked.
I shrugged. “No idea. Worst case scenario, Mills eats us alive and we never work again, right? Best case scenario, we get someone we both like and trust and I get a source of stress out of my life.”
J looked at me kinda sideways. “Well, he might not be your manager if you fire him, but that doesn’t get him out of your life. It’s too late to change your name and go into hiding.”
“Tried that already,” I said, lying back and looking at the ceiling. “Didn’t work.”