22. I Know What Boys Like

When we finally arrived in Boston the next day, after some mishaps with bad roadsigns, or maybe just bad roads, Remo was waiting for us in the lobby. He was talking to the Musician reporter again, a hand-size tape recorder on the table between their chairs. They stood up when they saw us coming. Waldo burst out with a tirade, spit flying. I hardly understood a word he said but I knew it was about the directions. Remo handed him the keys and that shut him up.

Waldo fanned the keys like playing cards. “We only got one for each room right now, you can get dupes at the desk. Up for grabs…”

I took one and hooked Martin by the arm. “You and me, man.” He gave a groggy nod and came with me. I didn’t see who Matthew went with.

The first thing I did after putting my stuff down in the room was to call Bart. I hadn’t talked to him since the day he’d left me at TF Green. Martin crashed like a rotten tree and started snoring.

“Hello?” A woman’s voice answered.

“Hi, I’m looking for Bart, is he around?”

“No, I’m sorry, he’s at the summer house on the Vineyard. Would you like the number there?”

“Yes, please.”

She read me a number in another area code. I dialed it and listened to the interchange click and beep distantly before it rang, making me wonder if maybe I had the wrong notion of how far away Martha’s Vineyard was, like maybe it was actually part of Canada. I let it ring ten times before I hung up.

I wanted Bart to come up and see the show, to hang out with the band and see how things were. Bart was maybe the best bass player I’d ever met, but he’d spent most of his life in practice rooms and recital halls. I hoped my impression that the Vineyard was like an hour or two drive was right.

I took a nap. It was dinnertime when I woke up and I dialed the number again. Still nothing. And Martin was still sleeping.

There was a knock at the door. I opened it to find Matthew standing there. “I wondered if anyone here was conscious for dinner…?” His gaze slid past me to Martin’s still snoring figure.

“No, I don’t think so. Thanks.” I stepped back to close the door.

“Daron…” His hand twitched and I fixed my eyes on it. “I’d like you to come and eat with me.”

I held my eyes on his fingertips, their slight curl, as I said “I’m sorry, I’m not hungry.”

I knew he was searching my face but I didn’t move a muscle. “Won’t you at least come along?”

“No, I’m sorry.” I pushed the lie one step further. “I have plans.”

His foot moved forward just a tad. “Then I’ll have to say what I have to say to you right here.” His eyes flicked toward Martin again.

I leaned my head on the door. “I don’t think we have anything to discuss.” My heart was getting loud.

“Daron,” he began but didn’t finish. He ran a hand through his hair, then shoved it into his front pocket.

I made the mistake of looking at his face. The lines there were deeper when he frowned. And in his eyes I saw something honest and sad.

“Don’t give me that pitying look,” I said. It was the sort of thing Digger would have said to Claire and I regretted it immediately.

“I just really think we should talk,” he said, without sounding like either one of my parents.

“Okay.” I stood there, waiting to hear what he was going to say.

“It’s been really great having you along this trip,” he said, and it sounded sort-of rehearsed. “I mean, I usually spend my of hours by myself.”

Except when you’re in New York, I thought, and surprised myself that I was gritting my teeth. It made me even more angry that as I sat there, feeling angry, I was still wanting him, still wanting to taste him, to feel that rush. And I was angry because I didn’t know why I was angry. I didn’t have any right to be angry with him and that made it worse. “Me too,” I managed.

“Daron, I just want to be clear about a few things.”

“Okay.” Martin snored behind me and Matthew lowered his voice even more.

“I know you’re anxious about a lot of things. That’s natural. You need to take your time…”

“Take my time doing what?”

He sighed and looked up and down the hall. “Let’s just say I know things aren’t always easy. In this business…” He stroked his mustache in a worried way. “What I really wanted to say was, I didn’t want you to go away hurt or angry.”

“And why…” I started, but I couldn’t finish. I felt dizzy. He started to answer but I stopped him. “You promised. You made me a promise you wouldn’t say a word about…” Us? “…it to any living soul. That includes me.”

He stood back an inch, unhappiness aging his face. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe we don’t have anything to discuss.”

“Of course not.” There was no it. No us. But if that was true, why did I feel exactly the way he’d described me? Maybe it was nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me. “So will you quit with the mother hen act?”

He pressed his hands together and I had the feeling he wished he were holding my hands. “I just worry about you, that’s all. I want to be sure you’ll be okay.”

I stood up. “Don’t worry about me,” I said. The bubble of anger that I’d been carrying around since New York began to sag and I wanted to leave before it burst and left me empty. “Just don’t worry, Matthew. There’s nothing you can do anyway. Forget about it.” I don’t even know what I meant by that, but I left him there with it, and tried to follow my own advice. Forget about it.

We shook hands then, which felt even more ridiculous than the handshake Remo’d given me back at the Cage. And then I closed the door.

I resolved to wait a few minutes until I was sure he was gone, and then slip out and get something to eat by myself. The only drawback to this plan was it meant sitting in the dark for several minutes with nothing to do but think about things like why I felt hurt. Especially since I didn’t know why the fuck I felt hurt. I didn’t figure it out while sitting there, either.

I got sick of that pretty quickly and closed the door behind me with a soft click. From the lobby I picked a direction to walk at random. The hotel was in a downtown-ish area, most of which seemed to have closed up at five pm. I wandered around darkened storefronts and closed cafes until I got tired and sat down on a bench under some thoroughly city-made trees, thin maples growing out of brick-edged squares of dirt.

I watched a car pull up across the street and a James Dean look-a-like in a bomber jacket and crew cut climbed out. The car drove away and Mr. Dean struck a pose against the walls of a posh but closed jewelry store, lighting a cigarette. I watched him take a drag, then lean his head against the window as he exhaled, then take anther drag, and do it again. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. A brown hatchback drove past. His chin turned slightly as he tracked it around the corner. I wondered if he was hot in that jacket. The sun was going down but the heat rose up out of the concrete. Another guy, black hair, also smoking, came around the corner and they nodded to one another. The guy kept going. Then the brown hatchback drove past again. Mr. Dean watched it again. Then he took a drag on his cigarette and leaned his head back. I began to feel like I was caught in a film loop.

When the brown hatchback came around the third time, it slowed to a stop. Mr. Dean walked up to the passenger window, then got in. I watched them drive away, rooted there by the realization of what was happening. I wondered if James Dean was just cruising, or if he was tricking for money.

A car pulled up in front of me, the driver’s side window beginning to slide down. I twisted off the bench and ran. I went back to the hotel, back up to the room, and was surprised to find Martin was gone. My hands shook as I picked up the phone. The hotel operator patched me through to Carynne’s room.


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