What woke me was someone knocking on the door. I lay there for a second trying to remember where I was. I wasn’t used to waking up in an actual bed, you know? It was so bright in the room I was amazed I’d slept. Then again, I’d gotten laid. My entire body felt better than it had in weeks.
I sat up suddenly, wondering if Ziggy was still here somewhere. It was hard to tell if the other side of the bed had been slept in. I looked around quickly as I went toward the door, where whoever it was knocked again.
I looked through the peephole.
Thank god. Bart. I might not have opened it for a lot of other people. “One sec,” I said, loud enough for him to hear me, and he gave me the high sign.
In the closet next to the door there were guest bathrobes. Perfect. I dragged one on and opened the door.
He stared at me for just a fraction of a second, then came in.
I collapsed back on the bed like a felled tree and bounced slightly.
“That bad?” he asked as he sat down in the desk chair and spun in a circle.
“Yes. No. I’m not awake yet. How’d you sleep?”
“Fine. I’m starting to think I’m the only one who sleeps really well in the bus, though.”
“I was okay for the first week,” I said. “I kind of like the vibration and engine noise. It’s…other things that are keeping me up these days.”
“You mean like worrying your ass off.”
“My ass is still firmly attached, I’ll have you know.”
“So do you need a check-in, or are you all right?”
I thought about that for a second. “Have you seen Zig yet today?”
“Then, I don’t know.” I was, amazingly, not feeling like I’d been taken advantage of or jerked around last night, but that feeling could change in a heartbeat… I knew from experience. Maybe that was why he wasn’t here this morning? So he wouldn’t say anything like he had in the past? I hate guessing.
Bart looked at the clock, then picked up the phone, placed a room service order for lunch for both of us, and then hung up again. “In case we’re here for a while,” he said.
“I’m still full from yesterday’s feast.” I rubbed my stomach. Actually, that was a lie. I could eat. “So, you want the situation update?”
“Yep. I’m assuming from what you’ve said so far that Ziggy is up to his old tricks.”
“See, that’s what I don’t know. A lot depends on how he treats me today.”
“It’s not as pathetic as it sounds.”
“I don’t know. Let me think about it a minute.” Why was I all of a sudden trying to defend Ziggy to the person I’d enlisted to help keep me from getting hurt by him? Maybe because every time we had sex I got all wrapped around his finger again? “Let me change the subject for a minute, but let’s go back to this later. What did you think of yesterday?”
“Hah. Where to start? I think the song’s going to be fine.” His curly hair was starting to grow over his eyes some, giving him a sheepdoggish look. “But that’s sort of the least of my worries.”
“Seen Chris yet today?”
“Yes, just barely. He was picking up his per diem from Carynne same time I was.”
“How is he?”
“Hung over, but civil enough.” Bart shrugged. “I really don’t know what to do about all the… the bad-mouthing himself. I mean, I get that the drugs have made him paranoid as fuck, so all that stuff about us being out to get him, that’s the drugs talking. But thinking he isn’t…” His hands moved in the air, like a magician showing nothing was above or below. “Isn’t on the same level as we are? Where the fuck did that come from?”
“No way has he been faking it for two years,” I said. “Can he really think he’s not that good? I really didn’t think low self-esteem was one of his problems.”
Bart shrugged. “His father’s been telling him he’s a piece of shit all his life. That probably affects a person.”
“Yeah, I suppose it would.” I rolled over and hid my head under a pillow for a minute, but it was hard to breathe so I came back out. “What do we do?”
“Dunno. I filled Carynne in on the whole argument she missed. If anyone can talk some sense into him, it’s her.”
“Yeah. Hope so.” I put my head back under the pillow.
Bart just waited until I needed to breathe again to say, “And then there’s Ziggy.”
“And then there’s Ziggy,” I agreed. “Or me. We have enough basket cases. I’d really like not to be one of them. Seen my sister yet today?”
“Yeah, Carynne seems to have taken her under her wing. She’s fine, Daron. What about you.”
“Before we get to me, I haven’t told you all the reasons Ziggy’s a basket case yet.”
“Oh?” Bart gave me an alarmed look, like it might be my fault that Ziggy was fucked up.
“I got him to tell me a bunch of things that I probably shouldn’t even be telling you, for confidentiality reasons, but fuck, if I can’t tell you, then I may as well not even know.” I made myself sit up and cross my legs. “Did I tell you he’s on Prozac?”
“Well, he’s having side effects. Including panic attacks.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“And you know what? He didn’t say he was having insomnia from it, but now that I think about it, I bet that’s going on, too.” I played with the ends of the belt of the robe, whapping my ankles with them.
“You know that lack of sleep literally turns people temporarily psychotic, right?”
“I think you might have mentioned that before. Are you sure about that?”
“Scientific fact.” Bart stuck his fingers into his mop of hair. “Jeez.”
“Yeah. So, anyway, I figure I should cut him some slack when it came to… you know… me.”
Bart looked up. “How am I supposed to help you keep him from jerking you around if you–?”
“It wasn’t like that.” Except that it was. Did the results justify the means? I don’t know. “I’m pretty sure it was just a momentary lapse for both of us.”
“You’re pretty sure?”
“I’m pretty sure it won’t be happening again anytime soon, anyway.” I crossed my arms confidently.
“And you wonder how he’s going to treat you today?”
“Well, yeah. that’s why I’m only pretty sure, not 100% sure.”
“And what happens if he treats you like shit today?”
“I’m not that pathetic. I’m not like some girl who gets… taken advantage of.”
“This totally is not a gender issue,” he said, but his face was saying: Yes you are, you stubborn fucker. “Answer the question. How do you want him to treat you today?”
“Look, I don’t think he’s going to make waves. Not with Chris being precarious and his own problems with the medications. That probably means…” I trailed off as it occurred to me that probably meant he would ignore me today. Act like it didn’t happen.
And I was surprised that although I had convinced myself that that was probably for the absolute best, fuck, it hurt to even think about.
I must’ve looked pretty upset. Bart said my name. “Daron…”
But I was closing the loop on my thinking, where I’d come back to the same conclusion I always came to: love is pain. Not only love, but everything that approximated it.
He tried again. “Daron…”
“I just came to a conclusion I really hate.”
“Why don’t you try eating lunch first before you make any conclusions.”
“Um…” I was about to say “what lunch?” when there was a knock on the door. I’ll never know whether it was that he kept an eye on the time or he heard the cart being wheeled down the hallway or what.
My stomach was in knots then, but angst was trumped by a really decent spread, and after the two of us had polished off just about everything on the trays except for a couple of extra rolls, I felt a bit better.
“Okay, so what was this conclusion you came to?” he asked.
“Oh, just some stupid teen angst kind of shit,” I said. “Never mind. I just told the drama queen inside my head to save it for songwriting. I’m okay now.”
“Okay.” He shook his head. “Just holler if you need me, all right?”
(I’ll give you one guess what brand of guitar Bret Michaels is playing here. -d.)