The next morning I climbed out of my bunk and realized I couldn’t bring myself to flush out my eye. I needed to get my courage up. That wasn’t happening without some coffee and breakfast.
You know you’ve been on tour for a while when you have no idea where your wallet is, but you don’t leave the bus without putting your laminates on your neck.
I walked into the venue, found the production office, and found Digger sitting there with the phone to his ear. He appeared to be on hold since he wasn’t saying anything and was staring into space. He waved me to come in and I sat down in a wooden chair against the wall. The walls were cinderblock, covered here and there with tour posters.
Digger was in a peach-colored polo shirt and khakis, like he just walked out of an ad for a golf course. Except something about Digger always made him look more like the guy taking bets on the shots than playing actual golf.
He hung up, apparently tired of waiting. “How you doing?”
I made a sound like “Ugh,” then decided that wasn’t the most communicative thing I could say. “I feel hungover and I haven’t even been drinking.”
He nodded like he knew what I was talking about. “Drink some water. Catering will be setting up in like two hours but there’s drinks in the fridge in the green room.”
I leaned back against the wall. “Any news?”
“I was just on hold for Mills. Patty’s got the number here, though. She’ll call if he comes up for air. Speaking of which.” He shuffled the scraps of paper on the desk. “Here. There’s a message for you.”
He handed me a pink message slip with the name field filled in: “Jonathan” And a phone number. And the time he had called. Nine a.m. I chuckled inwardly. Like I’d be awake then, even if we weren’t on tour. More likely he knew he could get the venue to take a message then.
By the clock on the wall it was almost noon.
I wasn’t about to call him back with Digger sitting there, though. “Water,” I said, sticking the message in my pocket and going into the green room.
The smell of fresh paint and new carpet filled the room. I guessed all the noise we’d heard the day before had been renovation. The smell was actually kind of headache-inducing, which might explain why the door was propped open with a box fan blowing air into the hallway. I wondered if that was secure and then I noticed Antonio sitting in a chair a few feet down the hallway.
We gave each other the “‘sup” sign, and I stood there and chatted with him for a few minutes before I went into the green room.
I took a bottle of water out of the fridge and sat drinking it. My eye didn’t actually hurt right at the moment, but the mere thought of getting in the shower was worrisome. Then I thought to myself, you think you have it bad? How’s Ziggy going to manage?
It suddenly struck me then that in three hours we were supposed to do a soundcheck and then tonight do a show. I mean, I know, it’s obvious, but with so much happening, it was almost like I’d lost sight of what was going on. I hadn’t picked up a guitar since the accident and I flexed my left hand inside the wrapped bandage around my palm.
It was one of those “oh shit” moments. My ring finger was stiff and the whole thing was painful. Would it be better or worse without the bandages? I started trying to strip them off, then realized scissors was probably the better way to do it, didn’t know where to find some, gave up with a bunch of the tape hanging loose and went to pick up the Ovation instead. The case to Ovation #2 was sitting off to the side of the couch.
Oh shit oh shit oh shit. I tried to play through a little of Candlelight and all I can tell you is it wasn’t good. My hand was weak, some of the fingers didn’t want to move right, and it hurt. My immediate thought was this: how the fuck am I going to get through tonight?
See, this is how my brain works. I didn’t think about all the people around me who were there to support me and help me. I thought about how I was going to hide it from everyone and have to come up with some kind of a solution on my own.
No, I don’t know why I think that way.
I tamped down the anxiety, trying to plot my way out of it. I could use the slide for the solos, kind of like I had that time I’d sprained my thumb. I could have a couple of belts of booze before going out there so I wouldn’t care about the pain. I could have Cain play some of the chords from the wings–I knew Colin wasn’t good enough. I didn’t even know if Cain could play the guitar but there was a good bet he could…
Totally fucking nuts, I tell you. I’m nuts.
Carynne came in about that time, carrying a huge take-out bag. She put it down on the side table where the caterers would be setting up later.
She came right over. “You okay?”
“I don’t know.”
She sat down next to me, perched on the edge of the couch. “Daron. Talk to me.”
I really can’t lie to her. “Every time I try to play it feels like the skin is trying to rip where my hand is burned.”
“Yeah, that was my thought exactly.” If we had to cancel, after we’d already flown Miracle Mile here, after all we’d been through… I felt nauseous for a second.
She put a hand on my leg. “Look, just because it feels like that doesn’t mean you’re actually about to bleed all over. Should I get a doc or should we go to the ER?”
“No ER. We’d be there for hours.” I couldn’t imagine that the ER in Atlanta was a pleasant experience. “You’re right. It probably hurts worse than it actually is.” Maybe in another hour it would feel better, I told myself. “By the way, I had to practically force Zig to take a painkiller last night.”
She sighed. “But he did?”
“Half of one. Knocked him right out.” I had a sudden fear he hadn’t woken up. That was the kind of anxiety I was having right then. “We better check on him.”
“I just saw him a minute ago,” she said. “Trying to figure out how to wrap his arm in a plastic bag so he could shower the rest of him.”
I sagged in relief. “Okay. Yeah. I should do that, too.” Everything felt impossible, though.
“Daron,” she said, real quiet. “It’s going to be okay.”
“It is. Let’s just get through one step at a time, all right? The accident was a major deal. We gotta deal with the fallout, but one thing at a time.” She stood up. “Oh, dammit, Marty’s supposed to take the bus for a paint job. Jeez. Look, for showering, why don’t I get you and Ziggy over to the hotel and see if we can borrow someone’s there.” She shook her head and chuckled. “Glamorous life of a tour manager. Everyone thinks it’s about show biz but some days my job is indistinguishable from a nanny’s. Is everyone fed? Clothed? Washed? Speaking of which: eat.” She pointed at the bag she’d put on the table and left the room.
The bag was full of cheeseburgers and fries and some other stuff. Within a minute or two, the rest of the band and crew came and dug into it, too. There was a lone salad at the bottom of the bag. No one actually ate it. I wondered if she had gotten it for herself and forgot about it.
So Zig and I ended up going to the hotel while the bus was off at what Marty jokingly called the “manicure appointment.” Adam, the bass player for Miracle Mile, was in nursing school, and we not only used his shower, but he helped us redo our bandages.
The showering came first. Adam went out front to have a cigarette while we showered.
Simple things get complicated when you have an injury. “The real trick is washing my hair with one hand,” Ziggy said.
“Stick your arm out from the curtain and rest it on my shoulder,” I said. “And do whatever you have to.”
I helped him get undressed. I won’t lie. Even hurting like we were and knowing he was having sexual issues, I got turned on doing that. He helped me out of my stuff, too.
We didn’t make eye contact. We both knew that in other circumstances us showering together would have been quite different.
He got in first, and I held his arm out of the water. He managed to get most of himself scrubbed and his hair washed and rinsed. Then it was my turn.
We unbandaged my head and then taped my eye shut so I wouldn’t open it by accident and get water or soap in it. Then he held my raggedly bandaged hand outside of the curtain while I got under the water.
Once that mission was accomplished, there was much mutual toweling and we helped each other into clean clothes.
I really wanted to do what we’d done in NOLA. Or something. My brain really wasn’t working at that point.
He didn’t aggravate the situation. Besides, Adam was sitting out there. I could hear the TV.
“Take a couple of minutes to yourself,” Ziggy said, and slipped out.
So I did. I can get off in under two minutes if I really focus.
If Adam thought it was weird that either Ziggy and I had been in there together or that I then spent some time in there alone, he didn’t show it.
He had a mop of blond curls and a red goatee, which I thought was curious and I kind of fixated on it while he snipped the bandages on my hand and arm away.
“Take a look,” he said, gesturing to the wide mirror in the bathroom with the bandage scissors.
I held up my hand and looked with my one good eye. The whole edge and some of the wrist was ugly-dark, and there were blisters. I tried to make a fist and the injured skin didn’t like that at all.
He slathered it in the burn cream they’d given me at the ER, and wrapped it in gauze, then a layer of stretchy black stuff that held it all in place. It was better than tape, though he did tape the end of it in the center of my palm. That didn’t look half bad.
Don’t ask me when Ziggy had time to do it, but he’d decorated the black eye patch with rhinestone studs and painted on a white skull and crossbones. I put it on. It looked a lot better than the bandages had, anyway. Looking at myself in the mirror I realized I had some pale red streaks–mild burn–on both cheeks, too. Nothing worth doing anything about.
And then it was Ziggy’s turn to get re-bandaged. I was a chicken and didn’t look. It was supposedly much worse than mine, and covered more of his arm, from what Adam said.
We went in Miracle Mile’s van back to the venue when it was time for their soundcheck. They were all pretty quiet, Christian included. He had his sunglasses on and didn’t say a word. Dave and Adam made small comments about the passing scenery. I wondered if they were nervous about the show.
And then we got back to the venue, and the van pulled up at the back entrance by the loading dock where it seemed like a lot of people were hanging around, and I was kind of wrapped up in my own thoughts about how I was going to make it through the show, and so I didn’t even realize who it was at first who ran up to me.
Jonathan threw his arms around me and kissed me and exclaimed, “Oh my god, thank god you’re all right.”
And I know I should have said something else in response–though I’m not sure what–besides what came out, which sounded entirely wrong: “What the hell are you doing here?”
(Is this where I admit that I was in junior high when this video came out and I fell in love with Stevie Nicks, which made me think I might turn out “normal?” -d.)