(Happy New Year, everyone! Yes, it’s a holiday, but it’s a Tuesday, too! So here’s a post! -ctan)
I know I’ve been lucky. Sometimes the luck goes bad, and everything works out wrong, but sometimes it all goes right. If there was one thing that worked out perfectly about Ziggy’s throat problems, it was that the show in Cleveland and both shows in Pittsburgh were in jewel-box theaters where the acoustics were excellent and the capacity was small.
Cleveland’s Music Hall was one theater inside a bigger complex, and it was more like Boston’s Orpheum or the Opera House than like the sports arenas we’d been playing, or even the outdoor amphitheaters we’d done. The Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh was like that, too, 3800 seats, built for the days before amplification. Thank god or fate or whatever you want to thank. Zig didn’t have to over-sing, and wasn’t tempted to, and you could hear every whisper and growl and high note perfectly.
After reading all those songs he wrote, I went into a kind of fog for a couple of days. I don’t know if it was because of what I read, or if everyone was kind of subdued, totally focused on making it through until Ziggy got better. I think I put on a pretty good act. I still gave Colin guitar lessons, and I started calling the band to the stage for soundcheck with improvised cover songs again, like I had been at the beginning of the tour. Chris, I’m pretty sure, was being “medicated” daily, so he didn’t chirp about it, the other bands stayed friendly but kept their distance from Ziggy while he maintained his “no talking” rule, and I found ways to steer clear of everyone.
There was a lot going on in my head. I didn’t have many word-for-word memories of what I had read, but I felt I’d gotten the general gist of most of the songs.
I should be better at not lying to myself by now. Did I actually say a couple of seconds ago that I didn’t know if what I read had to do with what sent me into the fog? Of course it did. It sent me spinning into retreat. Maybe some people would’ve been flattered. Me? I felt crushed under the weight of Ziggy’s emotions. I told myself they were songs, not confessions, characters and stories, not his “real” voice or feelings, but it didn’t help.
Part of me wondered how he could feel that way about me, when there was no way I was worthy of such devotion: whether it was love or obsession didn’t matter. That level of devotion should be reserved for those… like him, who inspire that kind of thing. Me? I felt it could only doom us to heap adulation on or to love a flawed fraud like me.
Part of me said: what did you expect? You knew. You knew perfectly well how he felt. How he feels. But part of me said no, I didn’t really know. I didn’t trust it, I guess, until I saw it raw and undeniable like that. Lust and heartbreak and anger and blaming himself. Pretty close to a lot of things I’d felt, I know, but I had to put some distance between us or I’d drown. I’d lose myself. Something.
So I went into my shell and spun my mind around in circles and tried not to hurt anyone or myself. Fog.
When the fog would lift was when we were on stage. Before every show he took me aside to do the vocal warmups together, and once we were live, all my anxiety was forgotten. Anxiety became irrelevant and I became a god. By the time I was showered and in dry clothes after each show, though, I was right back to wondering what to do about the fact that I was worthless as a lover or relationship partner.
Worthless is a pretty strong word. I’m not sure which was weirder, either, the fact that I felt worthless or that I could also think to myself while feeling worthless that I was being ridiculous, and that these extreme emotions couldn’t possibly be valid. Which only fed into evidence that I was too broken to participate in a loving relationship. Which validated the worthless feeling.
Those three shows, one in Cleveland, and then two nights at Syria Mosque, were some of the best shows musically that we’d done. They sounded great. Everything was very technically perfect. I held nothing back. It’s weird, I know, that on the stage I could be so free, so huge, so at the top of my game, and then shrink back down to nothing within an hour. All or nothing.
I should tell you about what happened after the show in Cleveland, I guess. We had gone back to the hotel so Ziggy could rest up some more. While we were in the van, that feeling of being crushed by the weight of the world came creeping back. I had thought for a while I’d gotten over it, that everything was going to be fine now, but it was like it got darker and darker as we neared the place.
The upshot is we had a little party–just a small one, just a few of us–but I drank too much. I had already felt stomach-clenchingly nauseous, so when I got sick, I don’t think I actually had drunk enough to make me puke. But my memory is fuzzy and I could be wrong.
Colin was the one who kept my hair out of my face while I purged. You don’t get to hide a lot from someone who does that. Someone who sees you at your most miserable. I remember lying on my side atop the bedspread that night, asking him, “Wait. You didn’t go to Pittsburgh with the crew?”
He was sitting cross-legged on the floor, possibly with a bucket. “I’m supposed to be your sherpa,” he pointed out. That might have been all the evidence I needed that I wasn’t doing such a great job of acting like nothing was wrong with me.
But I went on. “Then who’s with him?”
I didn’t say who I meant by “him” and I didn’t have to. Which is part of what I meant by I couldn’t really hide. I was exposed just by asking. Which is probably why I remember asking. I don’t remember Colin answering. I probably passed out before he could.