After the show, Bart’s face had the glow I’d hoped to see.
“What did you think?” I asked as we headed back to the hotel suite where the party was beginning.
He thought for a second and then said, “I think I was right about you all along.”
I didn’t ask what he meant by that.
Remo was struggling with a champagne bottle when we came in. It blew with a loud pop, the foam spilling into plastic cups held by people around him. He licked the side of the bottle. “Good job folks!” A cheer went up. I got a cup for me and one for Bart and the bubbles made me sneeze.
Alex Mazel came and shook my hand. “I think Remo has something for you,” he said.
“Yeah, a paycheck,” I laughed. But then Remo came up behind me, his hand heavy on my shoulder.
“I thought you could use this.” He was holding the Ovation’s case in the other hand.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’m giving you this. Here.” He handed it to me.
“No shit?” I wondered if it was possible to sound grateful enough. “Oh my god. Thank you.” Oh man, sincere thanks always sound false to me. “Are you sure? I mean, can I, like…?”
“I got another one at home.” He shrugged like it was nothing. “This’ll keep your Yamaha from getting beat up.”
At some point I noticed Carynne and Bart were missing. I don’t know if anyone else did, and I didn’t care. I let myself float in a champagne haze, thinking, tomorrow I’ll be on my way back to Providence, the City With No Nickname. I’d go on the train. I’d go to the bursar’s office in person and pay off my bill. Then I’d spend the afternoon with Roger, my roommate, and maybe teach him the new song. Or maybe not. It was hard to picture him and his honeyed drone singing it. Well whatever.
The phone next to me rang. Remo waved his hand at it. “Who is it?”
“I’ll get it.” I picked it up. We both sounded kind of slurred. “Hello, Nomad Central, can I take your order?”
“Hey, yeah, Remo there?” The voice was nasal and familiar.
I thrust the receiver at Remo, panicky, not wanting my voice to give me away.
“Who is it?” he repeated as he staggered toward me. “Daron, what’s wrong?”
I put my finger up to my lips too late. Remo grabbed the receiver. “Yeah, this is Remo. What the hell ya want?” He sat down hard, mimed hitting himself in the forehead as he looked at me. “Where are you now? Chicago? That’s great.”
The liquor in my stomach was turning sour.
“Yeah, he’s right here. He brought a friend up to see the show.” Well, that was true. “Me? I’m heading back to LA tomorrow.” He listened a few more moments. “Yeah, here. Hang on.” He shrugged apologetically at me and handed me the phone.
I put it up to my ear. “Hey.”
The connection was good–he sounded like he was in the next room over. Which for a second I worried he was. “Daron! How you doing, kiddo? I thought I’d catch up with you and see if you’re alright.”
“Yeah, everything’s fine, Digger.” Here I was, reading another line out of a script. “Classes start again in two weeks, I’m doing good. I’ve been playing some gigs and working part time in a recording studio. Uh, how about you?”
“Don’t you worry about me,” he said. “I’m working for a promoter, can you believe that? Hey listen, what’s your number? I’ll probably be taking some business trips out that way.”
“Really?” I let my panic sound like enthusiasm. Now I had a choice. Give him the number or tell him a bold-faced lie. “When?”
“I dunno. Maybe in a couple of months. All depends.” He didn’t say on what. “I’ve got a pen and paper right here.”
I rattled off the number. Well, Roger and I were planning to move on September 1. When our lease was up, we’d probably get a new phone, in his name. Or maybe he’d never call. Maybe this was all an act, too, of fatherly concern, something society expected that Digger would never follow through on. I still didn’t like it.
“Well,” he said. “I’m on a pay phone. I gotta run.”
“Yeah,” I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘thanks for calling.’ “Bye.” I hung up without listening to hear if he had anything else to add. I let my head fall back on the couch, my hands fall to my sides, like some puppet whose strings have been cut. “Oh, man.”
Remo yawned. “I told you you can’t hide from him forever.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
“Now, get out of here and get some sleep. We’ve gotta check out by eleven.” He looked about ready to sleep right where he was. I stumbled back to my own room. Martin was nowhere to be found. Bart was snoring in my bed.