348. Cracking

(Sorry for the late post, everyone. Technical difficulties! -ctan)

It felt like everything started to move really fast once we got to New York. For one thing, that first day we were hurried everywhere. A radio station, the BNC offices, a photo shoot at some hip cocktail bar while they were closed. The shoot required two changes of clothes and hair and makeup and I had no patience for it, but no choice really but to sit there/stand there wherever I was told.

They ran us ragged from eight in the morning to eight o’clock at night and honestly that would have been perfectly fine with me, except I could see Ziggy wilting at the edges like a lily about to fall right off the stem. One minute he’d be full of energy, putting on that public face that he loved to show to the press, but then he’d sag when the cameras went off. He begged off the last interview claiming it was his throat, but he gave me a look that told me it wasn’t that.

How I’d gotten so good at knowing when he was lying, I don’t know. I guess because now he let me know he was lying.

I may have gotten snippy with the reporter toward the end. That may have been because I was hungry, though. I hoped they’d forgive me. Carynne handed me a granola bar in the car back to the hotel but I was so hungry I actually felt worse after eating it. Do you know that feeling?

Going the last two blocks to the hotel took thirty minutes. I seriously almost opened the door of the car and walked, except that Ziggy didn’t look like he was up to walking. So I sat still and pretended to gnaw my arm.

Thankfully, all the checking in had already been taken care of, so there was no waiting around to get keys or anything like that when we arrived. I didn’t even bother going upstairs. I dragged Ziggy and Bart directly into the restaurant.

Thank god New Yorkers are pretty much blase to fame. We were pretty much ignored as we sat in a corner booth. I devoured a steak. Ziggy had chicken soup. I don’t remember what Bart ate but I’m sure it was good.

“Where did Chris get himself to?” I asked, when I could slow down chewing enough to talk.

“Meeting Lacey and her people, I think,” Bart said.

When he said “her people” I assumed that meant she was in town working, too. Manager, publicist, makeup artist? I wasn’t sure who a super-model would need to travel with.

“And what else do we have to do tonight?”

“Nothing, so far as I know,” Bart said. “We got offered guest list at Naked Raygun.”

Ziggy perked up. “With a name like that, surely they must be fun?” He looked at me. “Would I like it?”

“They’re a punk band,” I said. “From Chicago, I think. What time?”

“No idea. They’re at some funky art collective place in the East Village.”

“How do you know this and who invited us?”

“I was talking with the guy from the Village Voice who was at the photo shoot and one thing led to another,” Bart said. “Here.”

He dug a piece of paper out of his pocket and showed me what was scrawled there. “RAPP Arts Center?”

“Oh, I know that place,” Ziggy said. “It’s a big of Catholic school, and they converted a bunch of it to artist studios and stuff, and a performance space.”

“It’s too bad we’re playing tomorrow,” Bart said. “You know who’s at Great Woods tonight and here tomorrow? Violent Femmes, with the Pogues, apparently.”

“Don’t change the subject,” I said. “Are we going to Naked Raygun or not?”

“Let’s. Oh, let’s,” Ziggy said. “If it sucks we can leave. I’ll go change clothes.”

So that led to us going upstairs to see our rooms, finally.

Right out of the elevator the first person I ran into was Digger.

“Hey, kiddo!” He gave me one of those annoying pat-on-the-back hugs. “You made it.”

“We stopped for something to eat on the first floor.”

He gestured up and down the hallways. “So what do you think? The entire floor’s ours.”

“Great.” That explained why Antonio was sitting by the elevator. He gave me a little nod as we walked past him. Partway down the hall we came to the open doorway of the suite. before I could say anything to Carynne she jumped on Digger.

“What the fuck do you mean you told the buses to park in Hoboken?” she demanded.

“Whoa, hey, look, you weren’t going to just keep them on the street here, exactly,” he said. “They had to move.”

“That wasn’t your decision to make, though.” She made a frustrated noise. “So, what, Marty and his boys are going to spend the night in some war zone? Hoboken? What the fuck were you thinking?”

“They’re not in the bad part. And it’s cheap–”

“Cheap! We budgeted for this. You know how long it’s going to take for them to get back here in the morning? We need to be in Philly by two o’clock…”

I got my key and my per diem from Courtney and went to my room, deciding that it wasn’t a good idea for me to get into the argument. Carynne knew if she needed me, she could ask.

My bag and a guitar case were sitting on the bed. I dug through the bag to see what clothes I had clean at this point. Almost everything, because while we’d stayed put in Cleveland we’d had everything washed.

I put on the shirt that had Ziggy’s handprint on my chest, and my most worn-out pair of jeans, and my black high-tops. I put my drivers license, per diem, and the hotel key into the pocket of my denim jacket.

A knock came on the door. It was Ziggy. He looked me up and down. “That’ll work,” he said. “But we should do something with your hair.”

It’s not like I looked noticeably different from my usual self, but I guess I am rock and roll by default. “Like what?”

“You’ve still got mousse in it from the shoot earlier. Here.”

He pushed past me into the bathroom and ran his hands under the water. Then he ran his fingers through my hair and made it stand up in various ways. My hair is so fine and straight it doesn’t do much, but he managed to get it to stick up somewhat interestingly. I let him do what he wanted. It gave me a chance to ask:

“Are you feeling all right?”

“Great,” he said quickly. “I really needed to eat.”

“You’re sure you’re up to this?”

He put his hands on my shoulders. “If I get tired, I promise I’ll take a cab back here and get some rest.”

“Okay.”

Colin joined the party, too. He was the only one who had seen Naked Raygun before. And Courtney came along, partly because she wanted to and partly so Carynne wouldn’t worry about us as much. I know that sounds weird, but my little sister was more likely to be keeping an eye on us than the other way around.

She’s the one who came out of the pit unscathed. I got knocked on the head but not in a bad way. Colin got a shiner on one cheek.

And Ziggy? Ziggy stage dove and ended up dragged off by security. Which of course turned into a whole to do where we went to rescue him and ended up backstage with the band after the show.

I’m bad at this rock star thing. That’s the point where we’re supposed to crack out the drugs and weed and have an epic party, right? I’ll give you one guess what I actually did, though, while Ziggy was making friends with their singer. I helped their bass player move their amps and take apart the drum kit. I ended up in a conversation about brands of ear plugs. Wild, I know.

And I saw Courtney exchange phone numbers with one of their guys and I had one of those inexplicable, big brother protective rage moments, but it was only a moment, and it passed, thank goodness, because I eventually figured out she was bucking for a job with them, not flirting, and I would have made a total ass of myself if I’d said something.

I don’t understand where the protectiveness stuff comes from. I hope it means I love her and not that I’m an asshole.

We made it back to the hotel without losing anyone. Not surprisingly, something of a party was going on. I ended up jamming for a while with Topher and a couple of the Blissmen. And so it was like three in the morning when I finally went to my room.

Ziggy was sitting there on the edge of my bed, his head in his hands. He took a deep breath before he looked up. He had that slightly panicked look, where I could see the whites of his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hurrying over to him.

“Can’t sleep. Can’t sleep,” he said, letting me take his hands in mine.

I really hated what came out of my mouth then, but I didn’t know what else to say. “Didn’t the doc give you something for that?”

“He did. But I’m afraid if I take it I won’t wake up.”

What? “Zig–”

“If you watch me take it, I’ll be okay, though.”

That made no sense. “Why don’t you take just a half of one?”

“I took a half of one.” He ground his teeth on the word “took.”

“Oh.” I squeezed his fingers. “Zig. I’m sure it’s okay to take the other half. I’ll… I’ll watch you. Look. Sleep here. I’ll watch you.”

“You’re sure.”

“I’m sure.” Where did this come from? I wondered. Ziggy was afraid he wasn’t going to wake up? What?

“Okay.” He got up and went into the bathroom to get a glass of water. I went with him. He took the plastic pill bottle out of his shoulder bag, and the pill cutter we’d gotten at the ER after the accident, and he solemnly cut the pill and swallowed the half-moon shaped piece.

We stared at each other for a few seconds. Then he got out his toothbrush and we went about getting ready for bed.

“I’m going to take a quick shower, okay?” I started the water running. I had a lot of smoke and mousse and sweat to get out of my hair.

“Okay,” he said. “I had mine already.”

“Stay and talk to me, though?” I asked. “What did you think of the show?”

He put the lid down on the toilet and sat down. “Fun. Did you know they didn’t stick to their set list?”

I ducked my head under the water but when I could hear again I said, “No. But what are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking the show at the Ritz we should do more freeform. We’re the only act, we have all the time in the world… don’t you think?”

“Well, let’s at least talk it over with Chris before we make any decisions.”

“We could be our own opening act. Just you and me and the microphone, like we did in Toronto. And then bring on the rest of the band for the actual set.”

“That idea has some real possibilities,” I said. “What’s the charity again?”

“Covenant House.”

“That’s like a homeless shelter?” I asked as I shut off the water.

“It’s a whole homelessness program for teenagers specifically,” Ziggy said. “Haven’t you been briefed on this? A ton of the local press stuff is going to be about that.”

“I thought it was some kind of rainforest preservation thing we were doing.”

“Originally. That fell apart ages ago, though, Daron.” He handed me a towel.

“Sorry, I’ve had other things to think about. All I know is we’re playing a charity show and we’ll get a ton of press for it.” I toweled my hair and squeezed it out. It hung completely over my eyes now if I let it. “And some political reason nixed the original thing?”

“Yes.” Ziggy got up then and went back to the bed.

He climbed into bed and lay on his back looking up at the ceiling.

I pulled on a shirt suitable for sleeping in and slid in next to him. “What do you need, Zig?” I asked. “Whatever you need.”

He curled toward me, eyes wide. “You really mean that.”

“Of course I do.”

“Because you’re not a liar, like me.”

I guess. “Because I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

“What about you?” he asked. “What do you need?”

“I need you to be okay,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, swallowing a little. “I’ll try.” He nestled close to me then. “I… I just need you close. And then I’ll sleep.” He whispered, then, like he was trying not to wake himself up. “I’ll be okay, if you’re here.”

I hoped that was true. He dozed off then, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

He slept like a stone that night. I didn’t.

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