For the record, I did not pass out on the bathroom floor and make an embarrassing or tabloid-worthy scene a la Lacey Montaigne. Colin and Flip were watching me too carefully for that. One of them had seen me duck into the bathroom and when I hadn’t come out after forty-five minutes they (apparently) debated between them whether to knock or what.
The hiss of a piece of paper being slid under the door was distinctive. Nothing else sounds like that. I lifted my head. It was a note that just read, YOU OK BOSS?
I was cried-out by that point, so I guess you could say I felt better, for some definition of the word “better.” I quickly washed my face for good measure and then opened the door.
I don’t think any of the three of us said anything. I think the two of them just took one look at me and knew the best thing to do would be to hustle me the hell out of there. The three of us were in a car back to our hotel before I could even really start worrying again.
Colin put an arm around me while we were in transit and I leaned against him, exhausted. Crying is hard work.
“Why is everything so hard?” You’d think I sounded whiny when I said that. I didn’t. I sounded half-dead.
“D, you sound depressed,” Colin said. “I mean, like, clinically.”
“I’m not depressed. I’m stressed out.”
“Is there a rule that says you can’t be both?”
“Um, no, I guess not.” I guess I’d always thought of depression as being down and stressed as being keyed up, but maybe those were just words.
“In fact, from what I can tell, stress is a major cause of depression.”
“Have you told me this before? Because I’m having a stroke of deja vu from it.”
“I’ve sure as hell told it to a lot of girlfriends. I might have said it to you at some point.”
I’m sure he didn’t mean that as a comparison between our relationship and boyfriend-girlfriend but you know I was hypersensitive and freaked easily at that point. I had to force myself not to literally physically push him away. I took a deep breath. “It sounds familiar.”
“Maybe you heard it before but you didn’t really hear it, if you know what I mean,” he said in a gentle tone.
I knew what he meant. “So you’re saying the reason everything is so hard is me.”
“I’m saying you feel the way you feel and you’ll have to deal with that. And of course the time when it’s the hardest to deal with your feelings is when you feel like everything’s hard, but there you go.”
That made a lot of sense. A lot of terrifying, horrible sense.
I knew three ways of dealing with my feelings. One was talk to a shrink, one was talk to the people I was having issues with, and one was write songs. A shrink would have to wait until we returned stateside. There was no way I was in any kind of shape to hammer out my shit with Colin or with Ziggy while still trying to get this tour done. And when it came to writing songs…
Shit. My throat closed up suddenly like I was having an allergic reaction, and my heart stopped for a couple of beats as I realized, oh shit, when was the last time I wrote a song? I gasped a little as I got my heart and lungs going again. I’d been jotting down song ideas nonstop for years at that point. Normally there’d be at least one good idea a day, of which maybe a third would progress to a full song fragment, and maybe a third of those would become full songs. But I couldn’t remember the last time I had a song idea.
I mean, of course I hadn’t written anything while I was conserving my playing time, but to not even get an idea for a song?
That was the most bone-chilling evidence I had yet that there was something really, really wrong with me. And any sensible person would have probably concluded that Colin was right, and that depression can really fuck your creativity as well as every other way your brain works.
But I wasn’t sensible. I started thinking, shit, what if that’s it? What if my run is over? What if the reason I’m so miserable is I’ve reached the end of the line and–and this was a thought I’d had a few times that week–what if everyone else knows it and I’m the only dumb shit who hasn’t caught on?
No. No. You just haven’t thought it through. I tried to convince myself that I just needed to get away from everyone for a while so I could think. Wasn’t Carynne the one who usually said I needed some time to myself or I’d go nuts? The problem with having Colin and Flip babysitting me is that I really wasn’t getting that time. Not that I blamed them. As the bathroom non-incident proved earlier, I couldn’t really be left unsupervised.
Except that as soon as I thought about it, the more I realized I really did need some time to myself.
“Daron? You doing all right?” Colin asked, and I got the feeling he’d been asking for a while.
“Just thinking. When do we leave Argentina?”
Flip spoke up. “We’re on an evening flight tomorrow. Doesn’t take too long to get to Brazil.”
The wheels began slowly turning in my head. When I didn’t say anything more, he added, “You want to work out in the morning? And by morning I mean eleven at the earliest. Chris and I have been hitting the gym when we have a chance. There’s a nice one here.”
Trying to imagine myself doing anything other than curling up in a ball right then was difficult. “Um, let’s see how I feel in the morning.” That was sensible, given that I’d hit my head just the other night and I had other injuries and things. Right?
“All right,” Flip said. “Col’, you?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Colin said.
When we got to the room, the two of them must have pre-arranged who was taking the overnight watch–Colin–because I didn’t hear it discussed.
I shed my jeans and went to do my usual stuff before getting in bed. As I was brushing my teeth, a spasm in my hand made me drop the brush. “Motherfuck!”
Colin was there before I could finish the curse. “Damn. I thought it was getting better.”
“So did I. Maybe I was just squeezing the toothbrush too tight.” I picked it up in my left and worked on finishing what I’d started, somewhat more slowly.
Colin shook his head. “You amaze me sometimes, you know?”
“In a goo’ way or a ba’ way?” I asked, still brushing.
“A good way. The whole ambidextrous thing.”
“Ah.” I spat and rinsed, then turned the water to hot and stuck my cramping hand under it, forcing my fingers to slowly uncurl. “Deja vu again. Didn’t we talk about how some people can only jerk off with one hand?”
“That does sound like something we’d discuss, yeah,” Colin agreed. “Speaking of which, should I leave you and a washcloth alone for a bit?”
I blushed hard and suddenly. Not because we were talking about masturbation, which was normal for us, but because of what we weren’t talking about, which was that the physical boundaries on our relationship had changed, and Colin had apparently adapted to the change more or less instantly while I was still messed up about it. I stared into the sink instead of at him. It was kind of ridiculous that I had the kind of sudden shame and guilt most people have when they’re caught masturbating, when I was caught not masturbating.
“It’s… my head,” I stammered. “There was one time, after the concussion, it felt like it was going to explode. When I came, I mean.”
“One time?” he probed gently.
“It doesn’t happen every time. But I’ve been afraid to. Especially since hitting my head again.” I touched the place where I could feel the rough scab in my hair. I’d lost the bandage earlier in the evening. “And I just… don’t know what to do. About anything.”
Colin took me by the injured hand then, and led me to the bed. I stripped off my T-shirt and climbed in while he dialed the phone. He didn’t reach whoever he was trying to call.
He sat down on the bed. “I really do think you should wank. I can stay and make sure your head doesn’t explode, or I can go out for a bit.”
“I’m really okay, Col’. I’m just tired.”
He frowned at me. “You know that’s bullshit, right?”
I was too tired to argue. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Why are you resisting? You know you’ll feel better. You know it’s not cheating on Ziggy if you jerk off, right? Or did he do something messed up like say it was?”
“No! Shit, he hasn’t said anything like that!” Words tumbled angrily out of me. “I’d probably feel better if he did, you know? At least then I’d know how he felt about it.”
“I’m pretty sure he strongly sanctions you taking care of yourself, and me taking care of you when you can’t,” Colin said. “Frankly, he was pretty blatant about it to me.”
“As in, ‘Colin, you’re the only one I trust with Daron’s daily dose of sex.’ I feel like I’ve been slacking, except you laid down the law pretty hard.”
I could hear Ziggy saying that. The flush on my cheeks was uncomfortably hot. “Please tell me he…” I forced myself to ask a clear question. “When did he say that?”
“Ages ago. When they contracted me for the tour in the first place.”
Aha. That eased my mind a tiny bit. “Before this.” I held up my ring.
“Way before.” He patted me on the thigh. “Is that what has you so worried?”
“Um.” When he put it like that, it sounded like something not worrisome. Which maybe it wasn’t. I felt stupid and relieved at the same time. “Yeah. Well, you know, one of many things.”
“You know you get wound up if you don’t–”
“I know, I know.” It was a known fact that flushing my nuts was necessary to my well-being. And yet here I was, resisting doing something about it. “It’s not my head. It’s not my hand. It’s not me worrying about Ziggy. It’s that I’m too tired.”
“We’ve been talking about the state of my dick for ten minutes and I’m not the slightest bit hard,” I pointed out.
“Well, shit, that makes one of us.” Colin stood up. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to go rub one out in the shower, then.”
“Of course I don’t mind.”
Colin went into the bathroom. I think he figured if I was the slightest bit horny I’d feel it at that point. He was right, normally that would’ve put me over the edge.
Instead I slugged back one of my stashed nips, felt relief melt all through me, and went to sleep. So at least I didn’t lie awake worrying, right? You take your victories where you find them.
(At the DGC fan meetup in Louisville, one of the bonus questions on the 80s music trivia quiz was name as many 80s songs about masturbation as you can. There are sooooo many we had trouble picking which one to use for this chapter. LOL. Below is a live version from the Oingo Boingo farewell concert.)