Eight or nine hours later we rolled into Bloomington, Minnesota. The venue was a giant concrete box sitting in the middle of a giant concrete parking lot. They whisked us pretty much right into soundcheck. That suited me just fine. It looked like the crew, as far as I could tell, had gotten everything important done before we got there. The truss was up, anyway. If they were still hanging some lights here or there I think it didn’t matter so long as they didn’t drop anything on our heads.
Our green room was separated from the other bands’, not that we had time to really hang out with them all that much.
Carynne was relentless about checking in on how much pain Ziggy and I were in. My eye was actually starting to feel fine, except when bright lights were shining in it. Of course I was about to spend two hours with some of the brightest lights imaginable shining into it, so I decided to put the eye patch back on. But no more bandage, no more tape.
My hand was a different story. Where the skin was scorched the worst still really hurt like a motherfucker. And where it was healing? Itched. I told her I wished just my hand could take the pill because the rest of me was fine.
Ziggy’s burn was worse than mine.
We ended up splitting the pill again. I told him to cut it a little off center if he could, and he could take the bigger piece. Maybe that was why it didn’t hit me as hard that time. Or maybe I was getting used to it after three (was it three?) shows in a row.
The stage was a pretty standard hockey-rink setup, the same as we’d seen so many shows already in the past few weeks. So maybe I can be forgiven for not remembering much distinct from that show. I think it was another one with a lot of girls throwing stuffed animals.
After the show, I wasn’t as high as the previous couple of nights, but maybe my judgement wasn’t the greatest when I decided to unbandage my hand completely before getting in the shower. That could have been a bad idea. It turned out not bad, although I couldn’t stand warm water on the burn, and took a really lukewarm shower as a result. I also had to be really careful while using both hands to wash my hair. Oh my god, though, what a luxury it was to be able to just wash my hair and rinse it with both hands! You just don’t appreciate how fantastic that is until you’ve had to keep one hand dry for a while.
I helped Ziggy, too, though he wrapped a garbage bag around his forearm to get under the water and only needed a little help getting his hair rinsed.
After we got out, he took a look at my burns. Along my wrist it had scabbed over and looked almost scaly, but on the side of my palm, where the blistering had been the worst and where pain was still the worst, the scab felt like it went really deep.
“I’ve got to bandage it to keep from scratching,” I said. “I’m afraid I’m going to rip it open and it’ll bleed.”
“Keep putting the cream on,” he said, getting out the silver tube from the hospital. “It’s got to help.”
That night, we slept in the bus, which stayed parked at the venue. I woke up at one point, probably when the painkiller wore off, and lay in my bunk reading for a while, and then just couldn’t resist. I went into the head and unwrapped the part of the bandage around my wrist. And then I sat there and really, really gently–but relentlessly–worked at the scab.
I stopped when I got to my palm, where it actually hurt to touch. Where I’d exposed it, the skin was shiny and red underneath. It still felt burned, but more like a sunburn now. I wondered how long it would take before the rest of it healed that much. I pondered stuff like this: was the burn on my wrist a second-degree burn and the one on my palm a third-degree burn? I didn’t actually know the definitions at the time. (I later asked the rock doc and he said all of our burns were second-degree, but of varying severity. To my mind that sounded like they didn’t create enough degrees. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
When I came out, I found I wasn’t the only one with insomnia. Chris was sitting at a table in the back. It looked like he was writing a letter.
When he saw me he crumpled up the piece of paper, though, and lobbed it so it bounced off the wall. I took that as an invitation.
“You want a beer?” I asked, looking into the back fridge and finding some.
“Nah, but give me a 7-Up, if there’s one,” he said.
“There’s Slice,” I said, pulling out two cans of soda.
“Orange or Lemon-Lime?”
“Slice comes in orange?”
“Well, this is lemon-lime.” I sat down catty corner from him and handed him the can. We sat and drank for a bit. Almost like old times, like, oh, a month or two ago.
“Hey,” he said, and I looked up, because I knew that was his signal he was about to say something important. “You sober enough to hear me this time?”
“I’m sorry, Daron. I’ve tried so hard to be cool with it. It shouldn’t be a big deal. Really. It shouldn’t. But then I think about…. about stupid shit and it starts this kind of downward spiral in my head.” He took a sip. “I don’t mean to burden you with my problems.”
“It’s cool, man,” I said. “Whatever you want to tell me.”
“You know that cliche, it’s not you, it’s me? It’s me. I’m not proud of everything I’ve done.” He shook his head.
That was kind of cryptic, but I figured I’d let him either explain or not.
He went on. “What I was saying about Dave’s way of doing things. They sort of… it’s sort of like a cult, I think. You’ve heard about Scientology and ‘est’ and those, right? Where they like, break you down mentally until you’re such a basket case you lose all perspective and will believe whatever self-help bullshit they feed you?”
“Yeah.” There were Dianetics nuts on Newbury Street handing out flyers and trying to get people to take some kind of personality quiz all the time when I worked at Tower, right there alongside the random hari krishnas. I liked the krishnas a lot better. They were just friendly and happy and smelled like good incense.
“Well, the ‘recovery’ program Dave and those guys are on, I tell you, it’s a lot like that. They get to the point where they just believe they are total pieces of shit, and only God can redeem them from that. And the reason they’re total pieces of shit? Because they’re addicts. Okay, maybe that works for them, and if it does, great, except for all the other bullshit that they tack on, man! The ‘gays are the work of the devil’ stuff is just one prime example.” He shook his head again. He wasn’t going gray, but dawn was starting to near in the sky outside, and through the heavy-tinted lounge window, the light gave his hair a silvery sheen. “So not only can’t I stomach the auxiliary conservative bull-caca, I can’t really buy into the ‘I’m a piece of shit’ thing either. Think about it. If the root of my problems is low self esteem, how is lowering it even more going to help?”
“I see what you mean,” I said.
“So I can’t do their fucking program. There are other kinds of rehab, though. When we get home I’ll get into some real therapy, too. Work out my anger issues about my father and all that shit I’ve been putting off forever.” He let out a long sigh. “Talking to shrinks suuuuuucks. But fucking up your friendships sucks worse. I hope… I hope it’s not too late.”
I listened to the soda fizzing in the can. It was weird being in the bus at night without it moving. “Tell me you don’t think it’s my fault that you fell off the wagon. Or got on the wagon. Whatever that expression is. Started using again.”
“Oh, hell no, that’s not your fault. That’s Lacey’s fault.”
“I mean, I can’t blame her for wanting to taste all the fruits of stardom, but I don’t know anyone who’s done coke who didn’t end up with a problem with it.” He looked me in the eye then. “Tell me you don’t think it’s my fault you and Zig got hurt.”
I wasn’t wearing the eye patch then. I was looking at him with both eyes for the first time in, what, a week? My eye chose that moment to water a little, but I held steady. “I don’t think it was your fault. But I sure would appreciate it if you’d stick up for me in the future.”
“I can’t promise I won’t be too chickenshit. But I’ll promise to try stick up for you if a chance comes up.”
“All right, then.” I held out my hand and we shook because that seemed like the thing to do. “That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, okay, we’ve smoothed over the interpersonal stuff. Now what about the musical stuff.” I finished off the rest of the can of soda and then burped. “I just don’t want to hear ‘I can’t’ from you when I know you can.”
He let out a long breath, and it was like I could hear him thinking, “Fuuuuuck.” I waited. Eventually he started talking again. “Here’s the thing. I can when I’m loose, when I’m in a groove with you. But when I’m tight, when I’m uptight, I mean, I just go crazy trying to catch up to what you’re doing and I stress out, because the more stressed out I am, the tighter I get. The more I get in my own way of playing. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I tried to repeat what he’d just said. “So… you’re saying if you didn’t get nervous that you were going to fuck up, then you wouldn’t fuck up?”
“And this is one of the things drugs probably helps with.”
“Exactly,” he said again. “Which is probably not what I should be thinking. But there it is. It’d be better if I didn’t have an excuse to use. Except I know that’s all it is, an excuse.”
“I guess I can understand that.” That made me wonder, though, if I pushed the issue, if I started messing around with the set, improvising, adding songs, would that drive him to do more drugs? And if so, would that actually be my fault? That flip-out in New Orleans had been about throwaway improvs during soundchecks. How would he feel about more of them during actual shows? I felt like me and Ziggy were a musical time bomb that could go off at any second–in a good way. Unless you were Christian.
We both felt talked out then, though, I think. We called it a night–or a morning–and climbed into our cocoons. The bus started to hum as the air conditioning kicked on then, and I pretended we were moving, and I fell asleep.