Miracle Mile arrived that night at around midnight after their flight out of Boston was delayed.
Let me give you some idea of what kind of logistics were entailed in the whole operation. Six top-priced last-minute airline tickets. A hotel to put them up for the night. A van to get them from place to place and to the next gig, too. Some equipment rental: keyboards mostly. I’m not sure what else. Oh, and they wanted a dedicated roadie since their regular support guy couldn’t get away from his day job, so we gave them Cain, who was more than happy to do it.
Somehow it ended up that we went to pick them up at the airport in our bus. We were renting a separate van to take them from Atlanta to Carolina after the show the next day, but we didn’t have it yet, I guess. So almost everyone went along to the airport. Not that there was much else for us to be doing at that time of night. Our own crew and equipment truck had arrived a while before (with Digger) and even they had called it a night by then. Louis had been glad of the extra day in the schedule and the fact that the venue didn’t have a booking either, as he told me he wanted to do a “paranoia check” of everything.
It was while sitting in the bus at the airport that I saw my first video of the explosion. Not the one that MTV was showing, which had been shot by a fan in the fourth row with a snuck-in camera, but the one Louis had taken. He wasn’t planning to tape over this one in case it was needed as evidence at some future point. He popped it into the VCR in the back lounge and me, Ziggy, Bart, Courtney, and Digger clustered around to see it while Carynne went into the airport.
Watching it wasn’t that upsetting. I mean, it was over with, right? What was a little disconcerting was that I had misremembered when it had happened. I would have told you it was a different line we were singing.
When the sparks shot up we actually laughed a little while watching because you could hear Louis clear as day shout “Motherfuck!” and it just sounded funny, now. On the video, the spray of pyrotechnics went on for several seconds. I remembered Louis’s explanation of a “four by four,” four feet high for four seconds.
At the end of the four seconds, you can’t even see me anymore. I’m on the floor by that point. You can see Ziggy trying to sing and get his burning shirt off at the same time. That was the part that looked scary to me.
“Drop the microphone next time, you stupid motherfucker,” Louis said to Ziggy, in a really affectionate way.
We rewound it and watched it again three or four more times. “Motherfuck!” got funnier each time.
“I saw you give the kill sign,” Louis said, “but what I wanted to do was push house up full to see what the fuck was going on. Instead I went to full black, then brought up the amber backlights slow.”
When we’d seen enough, Digger asked how the recording in NOLA went. There wasn’t much we could say about the song other than we liked it and we hoped the movie people did, too. Digger said not to worry about it: he was prepared to shove it down their throats regardless. Well, okay, then.
“Here they come,” Bart said, looking out the tinted window at a group of people walking across the parking area.
We all got out of the bus, Christian included, to meet them.
Dave Gerrard, known under his stage name of Dave Jerusalem, was leading the pack. He was wearing a black denim jacket and his wiry, curly hair was back in a pony tail. He made a beeline for Chris. I was expecting a handshake, or a backslappy hug. Nope. Dave swung his backpack off his shoulder, took Chris’s cheeks in both hands like an Italian grandmother would, and then kissed him on the forehead.
I can’t imagine Chris liked the way that looked. Dave kept hold of his face and then pressed their two foreheads together and spoke softly. Dave was shorter, but not as much as I was, so Chris only had to lean forward a little.
The two groups met then, with handshakes and how-are-yous. I was introduced to their new keyboard player. They were all introduced to Digger and Louis. I was about to turn back to the bus when a voice rang out. Dave’s.
“Let us pray!” he said, in what I can only describe as a preacher voice, as he dropped to one knee right there on the asphalt.
Chris, somewhat reluctant-looking, lowered himself slowly, too.
None of the rest of us knelt. Not even the rest of Miracle Mile, though I noticed two of them did bow their heads and clasp their hands.
“Lord,” Dave said, “we ask you now for the strength to heal our brother Christian, to fight the demons in him and return him to the peace and joy we know flows from you, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
A few of the others murmured “Amen.”
And then everyone got in the bus like nothing unusual had happened. Maybe with them it wasn’t unusual. It took a few minutes to get their guitars stowed properly, and then we pulled out.
We dropped them off at the hotel where they’d be spending the night, not too far from the venue. Chris went with them, making noise about sleeping better in a bed than in a cramped coffin, but as we said our goodbyes in the lobby of the place, I saw him looking at us. I saw him watch us leave and he looked a little to me like he wished he was coming with us.
I mentioned it to Courtney as the bus headed to back to the venue where we had a permit to park overnight.
“Oh man, I saw that, too,” she said. “Poor guy is probably going to be stuck studying the Bible all night.”
“You didn’t tell me they were evangelists.”
“Is that what they are?” I really didn’t know.
“Dropping to your knees to call on the Lord’s help at the drop of a hat, yeah. I know this type,” she said. “I was trying so hard not to roll my eyes.”
“Yeah, well, so was I,” I admitted. “I mean, Jeez.”
“Exactly.” She and I cracked up, then. It was just funny, you know? Jeez. Maybe you had to be there. Or have grown up with Digger.
Bart sat down next to me. “They didn’t used to be quite so…” He waved his hand trying to come up with the word.
“Preachy?” I tried.
“Demonstrative?” Courtney added.
“That,” Bart said. “But I guess it works. They used to all be completely hooked.”
“Now they’re just high on Jay-sus,” Courtney said with a knowing nod.
I looked around. “Where’s Ziggy?”
Colin jerked his head toward the bunks. “Already in.”
I stood to go check on him, then sat back down as the bus swerved to a stop. Marty opened the door and got out.
Digger got out, too. That just made it even easier to go peek behind Ziggy’s curtain.
I didn’t actually peek, at first. I just said, quietly, “Zig?”
When there was no answer, I peeked to see if he was asleep. He was curled up, still in all his clothes, and kind of rocking himself just a little, not enough to make the padding crinkle.
“Zig? You okay?”
He shook his head and I wondered if it was another panic attack, but then he rolled onto his back and I could see he was cradling his bandaged arm. “Just hurts,” he said.
“Did you take a painkiller?”
“Isn’t that what they’re for, though?”
He looked at me through eyes shadowed with pain and fatigue. “Should I really? I mean, given what’s going on?”
“Zig, I’m sure they gave you what they did because they knew it was going to hurt, and they didn’t want you to suffer.” But I was saying it because *I* didn’t want him to suffer. “Please take one? Or a half, at least?”
That seemed to convince him. “I’ll try half. Maybe at least then I’ll sleep. Will you cut it for me?”
He had a little thing for cutting pills, a plastic doohickey with a blade in it. He’d gotten it for his other meds. I took it and the bottle he got in the ER and chopped one little pill in half. I brought it back to him with a bottle of water and he took it.
He lay back down, looking exhausted. “How long until it takes effect?”
“I have no idea.”
He rolled onto his side, facing me this time. “This reminds me of getting hurt in summer camp.”
“You went to summer camp?”
“Once. An urban youth thing, like show us poor city kids some trees for a week.”
“And you got hurt?”
“Fell out of a tree and sprained my ankle. The other kid who fell out broke his elbow. He had it worse.”
“Wait, you both fell out of trees?”
“We fell out of the same tree. At the same time. Actually, the branch under us broke.”
I suddenly saw where the story was going. I played it “straight,” as it were. “And what were the two of you doing in the tree?”
Ziggy grinned sideways at me. “K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” he spelled/sang.
That made me laugh. Of course the story was supposed to make me laugh, but hey, it worked.
“I mean, come on, I’d always heard that little song, the nursery rhyme, and I thought if I ever got in a tree I had to try it,” he said. “It was an all boys camp, though. And you know the tree was the only place to get any privacy.”
I wiped my eye. “Okay, is that a true story?”
“I swear, one hundred percent true,” he said, putting his non-bandaged (left) hand more or less over his heart. Then he blinked. “Wow. Feeling sleepy. It’s like the second the pain level started to go down…” He trailed off as he closed his eyes.
“Get some sleep,” I said, but I think he already couldn’t hear me.
I really wanted to kiss him, then. But kissing him when he was asleep would be totally creepy and weird. So I just closed the curtain and backed away.