356. No New Tale to Tell

J. hit the next exit. When he rolled down the window to toss a quarter in the ramp toll basket the air smelled swampy. We rolled on up the road toward something that looked lit up about a half mile away.

A diner. A real, honest-to-god diner. They made me sit down and have a bowl of chicken noodle soup, followed by Greek moussaka (most of the best diners in New Jersey are run by Greeks–I have no idea why), then the half of Jonathan’s steak he couldn’t finish, and chocolate cream pie to top it all off. I have no idea what Ziggy ate. I was too focused on my own plate and he was done by the time I looked up.

“Feel okay?” J. asked, looking more worried than I thought the situation warranted. Then I remembered I’d chewed his nuts off a short time ago. We’d never had a fight before. And he’d never seen me in the dumps. Of course he was worried.

Ziggy looked worried, too, though.

“I’m fine,” I said. “Wiped out, though.”

They were hanging on my words. And I could feel the tension between them, too. They each wanted to make me feel better. Neither one knew if he could do that with the other one sitting there. Which was the one thing left that made me want to put my head down on the table and scream.

Nothing I could do about it, though.

J. and I started to talk at the same time. “But thanks for–” I said, while he started something like, “I didn’t think–”

And then a few seconds of “you go-no you go” ensued, before I finally forged ahead. “I was trying to say: thanks for taking me over there. Even if it didn’t turn out to be what either of us hoped.”

“Heh. I was just saying I’m sorry it was such a bust. And, I had no idea visiting home was going to be so rough on you. I’m sorry.”

“I never felt at home there.” I shrugged.

Except that was a lie. Madison’s had probably been the one place that did. Maybe. Or it felt like it to the person I thought I was going to be. I’m not sure that’s who I actually became, though.

“I wonder if there’s somewhere else that has live music now, or if that’s just over with now,” I said, looking at my hands in my lap.

“I don’t know,” J. said. “It’s not really like there was a music scene there, was there?”

“Not really. It wasn’t like they ever booked anyone there but local acts, you know, It was mostly a crowd of regulars that kept the place going…” I tore open a sugar packet and emptied it onto the plate that had held my pie. “Maybe karaoke is a step up from the acts they had lately. I don’t know.”

“But still,” Ziggy said. “A fern bar?”

“I know. I’m amazed they kept the name.”

“They probably had to keep the name to keep the liquor license. The owner probably got a nice payday from selling that,” J. said.

“I wonder if Remo knows? Probably not. He hasn’t been back, either, as far as I know.” I pushed the sugar around with my finger. “The first time I got on the stage there I think I was eleven.”

They let me talk then. I did the Zen sand raking thing with my fingers with the sugar on my plate while I told them about how Remo used to pay me ten bucks to help them haul their gear up the stairs, and another ten bucks to haul it back down. It was two payments since sometimes Digger and I didn’t stay to the end of their second set. He never paid me to play on the stage with them, though. That was its own reward, I guess. I hadn’t really thought about it.

Right before they’d left for Los Angeles we’d gotten into a routine where we’d switch back and forth which of us was playing rhythm guitar and which was lead. Even mid-song. At the time I hadn’t thought of it as amazing or even out of the ordinary. I wondered if I was ever going to be that sympatico with another guitar player again.

“So you played twice a month with Nomad, in a regular gig there?” Ziggy asked. “Did you go around other places, too?”

“Not very much. Some places wouldn’t allow it because I was underage. Some were too far to get me home in time to go to school. They snuck me into summer gigs down the Shore sometimes.”

Ziggy was looking right through me, it felt like. I pushed the sugar around.

“And then they up and left?”

“Yeah.” Not that I could blame them for doing it. “I had just finished my sophomore year of high school.”

That was the last word on that subject. The waitress came and offered more coffee. I asked for the bill, paid it with per diem cash including a decent tip, and then went to the men’s room before we hit the road.

On my way back to the table, a girl stopped me, though. “Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you, but my boyfriend thinks he knows you and he’s too much of a chickenshit to ask you.”

“Is he normally afraid to talk to people?” I asked.

She laughed. “No! Just ones that got rich and famous.”

“Well, it’s okay then, because I’m not rich yet, just famous. Where is he?”

She pointed to the booth a few feet away where the boyfriend was given me one of those awkward smiles and waving his palm back and forth slowly.

“Holy shit, Adam, right?” I went and shook his hand and he relaxed a little. I couldn’t remember his last name.

“Rasmussen,” he said, nodding. “I’m amazed you remember. I didn’t see much of you after freshman year.”

“The trombone player,” I said, as it clicked into place where I knew him from. My somewhat short-lived experiment in the high school band.

Ziggy came up then, probably wondering why I was now in a conversation with some random people. I introduced him. We exchanged a couple more pleasantries. Ziggy was focused on getting me out of there, I think, and he autographed some things and made me sign them, too, and then we shuffled out.

In the car I told them that the only reason I remembered the guy’s name was that I’d had a crush on him. Neither of them seemed inclined to talk about that. We pulled in WPRB, the Princeton college station I’d only been able to get sometimes on my radio at home. When that faded, I looked for WSOU, the Seton Hall station, which was reliable for music that was loud and head-bangy.

My next worry, of course, was what the fuck was going to happen when we got to the hotel. What kind of awkward hell awaited? Was J. going to come upstairs? Was Ziggy going to let him?

I fell asleep, though, somewhere before the Pulaski Skyway.

(Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Thanks for being a part of the love story that is DGC! -ctan)


  • sanders says:

    What kind of awkward hell awaited? Was J. going to come upstairs? Was Ziggy going to let him?

    Well, there is that agreement if Jonathan’s around, you’re just with him. You wanted normal, and normal—I’m told and disagree—isn’t going off to bed with your sometimes-whatever while your boyfriend is around. But I’m also inclined to want Jonathan to just go away. The potential to not think things through and treat you like his pet rock star, when he already has, is just too much for me to be fond of him. Ziggy might be screwed up, but he’s not publicly careless with your boundaries about your sexuality and he’s not mining your time together in the same way for the next step in his career. And there’s Colin, who really is the only one who’s not out to use you somehow so far. As much as I hate to say it, he really might be the safest choice of all.

    • daron says:

      Ziggy is only publicly “careless” by design. Still not sure he’s not going to out us both one of these days. That’s the difference. J. does it in front of my father. Ziggy will probably wait until we’re on national television.

      I’m pretty sure J’s rule about “being together when we’re together” doesn’t apply when I’m at work.

      Colin’s nice. But I’m also his landlord and his boss/only source of income right now.

      • ziggy says:

        I would not!

      • sanders says:

        D, I’m pretty sure heading into the hotel for the night, even when you’re on tour, doesn’t really count as ‘at work’ in relation to that rule.

        Jonathan outed you to everyone you work with on a day to day basis. That’s a pretty big deal, and something Ziggy’s been pretty painfully avoiding doing—and not even outting himself in any way that forces you all to address it. I can’t see him outting you both on national TV (or radio), just himself. On the other hand, I *can* see him deciding to lay a kiss on you during a show or when accepting some award, and being able to play it off as his own impulsive emotional response.

        That is the difference I think. Jonathan just doesn’t think things through. Ziggy does seem to calculate the relative risks, mostly through trying not to do things that are going to push you away or piss you off. When he does do one of those things, he’s almost always able to take the entire blame on himself, so he can say—and you can tell yourself—he’s the one pushing boundaries and you’re just caught up in it.

        Sometimes it seems like he does a remarkable amount of work making space for you to be in denial about things, you know?

        As for Colin, I don’t know if he’d have that many hang ups about the landlord and boss issue. It didn’t exactly stop him from having sex with you, and he doesn’t seem to think you’re taking advantage of him. It’s not the same as your situation with Roger from ages ago; Colin seems to be able to make his own informed and proactive choices about when and how he engages in sex.

        • daron says:

          And I didn’t think Roger was taking advantage of me. I hope to hell Colin doesn’t think anything like that. You’re right–he’s got a better head on his shoulders.

  • Peter Wilcox says:

    I root for Colin!! But then I always have. Seems the best bet, of all.

  • Averin says:

    But Colin and Daron in the same house with Chris, I don’t think Daron’s that domestic or Chris that open-minded. Besides, Colin says he is 90% straight, that can only lead to its own heartbreak.

    • ctan says:

      Daron definitely has the whole roommates situation in the back of his head. Even without Chris flipping out, sleeping with housemates can go tangled places, yeah.

  • Joe says:

    Crap, I’ve finally caught up with the posts.

  • LenaLena says:

    Some days I am just happy that this story is still going and that I can catch up with Daron on a regular basis.

    Don’t get me wrong: some days I just want an effing resolution already.

    But today is one of the first type.

  • cayra says:

    Happy Valentines day! Consider yourself blessed this year, not burdened with choice, Daron!

  • deb h says:

    loved it ,it would have been nice to at least have one good memory left there ,but at least he got to see an old semi friend from school ,you think maybe Ziggy got a bit pushed out about the attention to Adam? I think on some level he accepts that Jonathan is there but someone new,maybe just wishful thinking on my part.I am on the fence with both Jonathan & Ziggy but I think Colin is a bad choice.

  • terri h. says:

    I vote for Ziggy all the way! No one else comes close.

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