At one point I broke a string, right at the end of a song, at the end of “Wonderland” actually, and it took a little longer to swap to the backup guitar than usual, because I’d picked up some of the stuffed bears and cats and whatever that people were throwing at me and tucked them in the strap, and somehow that didn’t interact well with my shirt and my eyepatch as I tried to get it off… because I tried to lift it over my head instead of undoing the peg strap, thinking that would be better. It wasn’t. Drugs make me really stupid sometimes.
Anyway, it didn’t take that long for Colin to right me and send me back out with a new guitar, but during the brief break, Ziggy vamped for the audience a little. “That was a love song, you know, have you seen the video?” Loud cheers from the crowd. “Love makes us strong. Love is what gets us through day after day, even when accidents happen.” More cheers. “By the way, don’t play with fireworks, kids.” Laughter. “Love makes everything right.”
I wondered if he’d heard what I said to Jonathan. I wondered if he saw. I was too high to worry about it just then.
“Sommmmme people don’t believe in love, though,” he said, sort of taunting the crowd. No, not taunting, but leading them on, like a preacher. “Sommmmmmme people believe in hate. Booo.” The crowd booed with him. “Don’t you hate people like that!” Surprised laughter, cheers, applause, as he released them with a punch line.
None of them knew what he was talking about. But I did. I half wondered if he was going to go further and say too much. But we continued the encore then.
I remembered to stay on time. Two encores, we stuck to the planned songs, but Ziggy did crack out a fabulous Edith Piaf quote in the middle.
If I haven’t said it in a while, let me repeat it here: Ziggy can really sing. It isn’t just the quality of his voice, and it isn’t just that he makes things work musically. It’s… it’s something that is more about personality. I guess it’s kind of like how someone who is a good actor can read a page from the phone book and make it sound good, but give a script to your average person and when they read it, it comes out wooden and flat-sounding.
Ziggy and I came offstage and into the shower and you’d think in our druggy state that shenanigans might have occurred but they didn’t. For one thing, we were trying too hard to stay focused on getting it done, not getting Ziggy’s bandages wet, and getting out on time. For another, we weren’t alone. We were in this giant locker-room shower, big enough for a whole team to shower at the same time, I suppose. So it was me and Ziggy and Bart and Colin (who was helping with the bandages and keeping us focused) all at the same time.
Christian got in after we got out. I put on dry clothes, and ate something, and felt marginally less impaired by the drugs then, and so I went to find Jonathan to say goodbye.
I didn’t find him right away. What I did find was my sister having an argument with Dave in the parking lot. It had rained, and the sidewalk was all slick, and the trees around the campus were waving in the wind. The clouds moving under the lights from the campus looked like something from a movie. (Okay, maybe the drugs were still pretty strong.)
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dave was saying.
“The hell I don’t.” Courtney was wearing a big white shirt I recognized as Ziggy’s, over one of our tour T-shirts and jeans. Her hair was pinned up on top of her head, all tucked in and neat. “Jesus never said a word about gays anywhere in the Bible. What he did say was ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’ Matthew, seven one.”
Holy crap, my sister was quoting Bible verses.
Dave was wearing a black leather jacket and it creaked as he crossed his arms. “God created Adam and Eve, a woman for a companion to man.”
“And God created my brother, too, and his boyfriend,” she shot back.
“But sex outside of marriage, and outside of procreation, is just giving in to base desire. That’s the work of the devil.”
“Does all sex have to be for procreation?” my sister asked.
“Yes,” Dave said.
“Then I guess men who have fertility problems, well, that must be God telling them they’re not allowed to have sex anymore, right?”
“And women who had to have hysterectomies because of cancer? I guess it’s a sin for them to have sex with their husbands after that?”
“There’s no need to go to extremes–”
“Extremes! You just said ‘all’ mister, not me.”
“But it’s unnatural!”
“What’s unnatural about it? In nature there are hundreds of species that form same-sex partnerships. Lions, wolves…”
“You’re making that up!”
“The gay lions were studied back in the seventies. It’s not my problem you’re ignorant.” She was playing it so, so cool. I was impressed. “I’m not the one who has to make stuff up to support my beliefs. I believe in Christian love and acceptance. Christ loves all his children and offers salvation to all, not if they don’t sin, not if they do what priests say, but for one thing only, which is if they accept him.” She put her hand over her heart.
“But part of accepting him is accepting the teachings of the church.”
“Which church, dude? My Christ, my church, doesn’t truck with your kind of idiocy.”
At that point Adam started pulling Dave toward the van and I realized that a whole bunch of people had stopped to watch the spectacle.
Dave pointed a finger at me. “You can’t blame anyone but yourself,” he said, as he let himself be herded to the van. “You can’t argue with that. You’ve got trouble. Accept God’s love, not illicit, immoral—”
That was as far as he got before Adam stuck him into the vehicle. Courtney stood her ground and didn’t move. I stood there watching, too, until they drove away.
Then a deep voice spoke behind me. “Are they gone?”
I turned around to face Christian. Courtney set her sights on him, too, and came stalking in our direction.
Christian held up his hands. “Don’t start with me.”
“I’ll start what I like if you spout that kind of–”
“Whoa whoa whoa. I’m here to apologize.” He kept his hands in the air as if we were pointing guns at him. “Daron. I’m really sorry. I… You know I quit hanging with them when they went straight-edge, right?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“We never ever talked about that kind of thing, though. I mean, all they talked about was the drugs and drinking. I had no idea they were going to be nutcases about… sex, too.” His face was red. “I’m done. I’m done with that.”
“Done with what?” Courtney demanded.
“Hypocritical shit.” He put his hands down. “I… I’m full of shit, too, I know, but at least it’s my shit and not out of the mouth of some preacher. I don’t hate you. I don’t think gay people are the devil. I… your boyfriend’s nice. Look, I know I’ve got issues. I just want you to know, I don’t have issues with you. And the other thing. I’ll kick. I will. But I can’t do it their way.”
“What’s their way?” I heard myself ask.
“Swallow a load of bullshit and get high on that,” he said, shaking his head. His hair was still wet from the shower. “Listen. I know it works for them. I’m sorry I didn’t speak up to defend you, too. But there’s no arguing with them. As you’ve seen. They’re… they’re scary.”
“Scary?” I thought about how Dave had cornered me with Adam and Chris. It hadn’t felt hostile, not like the vibe from Megaton. It was scary in a completely different way.
“Scary-nuts, I mean. Like they got all amped up when they found out you were gay, like they were all excited to go out and Save You!” He held up his fists like someone cheering a sporting event. “That’s what they get off on now. It’s… it’s sick. Addiction’s a sickness but not like that.”
“Okay.” I said. “I think I get it.” I blinked. The lights on the side of the building were all starry and haloed. My eyes were still dilated. “Will you say that all again when I’m not high, in case I forget?”
His shoulders slumped. “If that’s what it takes.”
“Takes to what?”
“To make it up to you. To get back in your good graces.”
I shook my head. “Hang on, you make it sound like I’m the Pope or something now.”
“Daron, you’re my boss, or did you forget that?”
“Oh. I see. Okay.” I took a deep breath, hoping what I was about to say would come out sensible and not druggy. “If it’s about that, then you already know what you have to do to have my good graces and all my respect. Your job. Play the shit out of the fucking drums. That’s all I ask.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay,” I said back.
“Okay,” he repeated.
“Okay,” I repeated, too, and then we stared at each other for another second. Then I slapped him on the arm. “Get in the fucking bus.”
“Okay, boss.” He went. Courtney followed him.
So then I went to look for Jonathan, and of course he was standing just inside the door, where if I hadn’t been on drugs I would’ve probably noticed him long ago. I ducked inside. Trackie and Louis went out toward the equipment truck. I was under the impression the bus would be leaving imminently.
I took J’s hands in mine. “Everyone calls you my boyfriend.”
He looked down at me with a wan smile. “They’re too polite to use the word ‘lover.'”
“It’s hard to explain to them that we have a thing,” I said.
“I like our thing,” he said. “No matter what they call it. I don’t care what they call it.”
My brain was still zoomy from the drug, but I think what we’d both said was pretty clear. I wanted to say one more thing though. “You’re really important to me. Just knowing you’re out there… it makes a difference. I think of you sometimes and even if I don’t see you or talk to you… just knowing you’re there means a lot.”
He squeezed my fingers.
“New York is going to be crazy. But I really hope we get some time there.” I squeezed his fingers back. “We’re there like five days, but I can’t promise…”
“It’s okay, D. It’s okay. If we get a chance, great. If not, call me after you get home.”
“Tour ends July twenty-fifth. Great Woods.” I looked around. We were at the end of a hallway, inside the doors, and I don’t think anyone could see us. “Here’s your goodbye kiss. A real one.”
He bent me back a little he kissed me so hard. I could feel every one of his fingers against my back.
“See you in three weeks,” he said, as he released me.
“Yeah. Three weeks.” I squeezed his fingers one more time and then we parted.