363. The Sweetest Thing

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I hate six in the morning no matter which end of the day I see it on. Sunrise is not my time.

I hated it even more, I think, because of how messed up I’d been on sleep all week. I had gotten used to the regular, if unusual, pattern of being on the road, and staying in one place for a week but having to be up at all hours was making me very cranky.

Cranky enough that when I misheard what some peppy young PA with bright red hair was saying to Ziggy about lip synching I bit her head off. I had thought she was suggesting he lip synch the show that morning, when they were actually talking about something else, and I snapped and said something about why the fuck did they even want us there if they were going to use tape or something to that effect. I don’t remember exactly. The point is I immediately felt like I had ruined her day, and Ziggy, who had some kind of instant rapport with her, jumped in and straightened it out, and then I REALLY felt like I had ruined her day, but she fled at that point. Or maybe she had better things to do. I don’t know.

This was in a kind of communal green room, where there was one of those things with the multiple coffee pots going, and various guests and staff were in and out, and I took a cup of coffee in a corner and sat there scalding myself with it, wanting to down the whole thing and be awake finally, but it was too hot. Ziggy finally came over with two cups in his hands, which it turned out were each half full of milk with sugar dissolved in it, and he took the coffee out of my hands, poured it into the two cups and handed them back to me.

I chugged them both and then sat there feeling the same amount of miserable but now my hands shook. He sat down next to me on the vinyl-covered lounge seat. Couldn’t really call it a couch, but I don’t know what to call it.

“So what’s her name?” I asked.

“Leen,” he said.

I leaned on him, putting my head on his shoulder. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“No no. Leen is her name. Like Marleen.”

“Oh. Tell her I’m really sorry, would you?”

“What makes you think I’m going to talk to her again?”

“Zig. Come on. You’re like Velcro. I’ve seen it.”

“You’re imagining things,” he said, but he started to bounce his knee. “And you should learn to make your own apologies.”

“Fine. If you see her again, tell her I want to talk to her.”

“Worried about the publicity?”

“No. I’m worried she feels like crap. And she probably has to be here at five every morning, too. Nothing like having your day wrecked before most people have even had breakfast.”

“She’s probably a morning person if she works here.”

“She’s probably happy to have whatever job in show biz she can get,” I said. “Even if it means getting up when it’s still dark out.”

“Maybe she stays up all night, works her shift here and her workday is done by noon,” he said. “And she goes to the gym in the middle of the day when it’s not crowded, and then she goes to sleep.”

“Yeah and maybe she works a night job, too, to pay for her mother’s medical bills, or volunteers at a shelter, or something…” I had lost the thread of why we were imagining a life for someone we didn’t know. Oh right. The production assistant or whatever she was. “Seems like a nice girl.”

“Fresh out of college, I bet,” Ziggy said. A couple more people came into the room, other guests of some kind, being shepherded by some staff.

“Which one is she?” I asked.

“How could you miss the red overalls?” He snickered. “Women really are invisible to you.”

“They’re not,” I said. “I wasn’t paying attention to what she was wearing.”

Now I was afraid she was going to leave the room before I could talk to her, so I sort of awkwardly hurried over and ended up interrupting her description of the coffee accessories to some guy in a suit.

“Hey, sorry to interrupt, I just… I wanted to make sure I caught you to say I’m really sorry.”

“Oh,” she said, a little taken aback by my suddenly barging in, I think. “Well, that’s nice of you.”

“I’m just sensitive about certain issues and it’s early and I’m kind of a basket case and I’m sorry. I’m sorry. There, okay, I’ll leave you alone now.” You know how sometimes I can’t say anything? It’s the times like this where it all comes out completely stupid that are what I’m worried about. I pretty much ran back to the corner and stood the Ovation’s case on its end and ducked my head behind it, pressing the top of my skull against the hard shell.

“Are you all right?” Ziggy asked.

“Fine,” I said.

“I’ll get you some more coffee.” He got up and left then and I stayed where I was and just sort of stewed in pain. Everything hurt at the moment, my body from lack of sleep, my head from my stupidity, my heart from the same thing, I guess. To think six hours earlier I’d felt completely comfortable in my skin, lying in bed with Jonathan, and right now I wanted to crawl right out of it.

I don’t know why.

I decided to do something useful for myself and tune the guitar, since we would be on shortly.

Tuning, it turned out, was stupidly metaphorical, and once I had everything properly tuned I felt better. Ziggy had disappeared but Carynne had come in, and she sat there reading a magazine.

“Hey,” I asked her. “Do I treat women like they’re invisible?”

She looked up. “What brought that on? And no, you don’t. I mean, you don’t stare at us like some guys do, but you know, those are the guys I sometimes wish I was invisible to.”

“Never mind. I think Ziggy better do all the talking again today.”

“I’m sure he’s fine with that plan.”

Okay, here’s where I tell you what was bad about that plan. Except that it wasn’t. So we go on to do the segment, and we started with a two-minute edit of Wonderland we had, basically cutting out all the repeats of the chorus at the end and with a shorter bridge, and then there was some chit-chat, Madison Square Garden blah blah blah, and then they went to commercial. And during the commercial Ziggy was continuing to chat with the hosts while I zoned out.

The upshot was when we came back from commercial, the hosts, whose names I didn’t know but you probably do–people tell me they’re very famous but when the fuck have I ever watched a morning news show?–kind of laughed and said Ziggy had just told them we could make up a song on the spot, and so now we were going to do it.

I think my mouth hung open a little but when you’re out there on the tightrope without a net you just keep putting one foot in front of the other because that’s all you can do. I struck a chord. “What’s the song about?” I asked him.

He turned to the female host. “What’s the song about?”

“Oh! I didn’t realize I’d have to improvise, too, haha,” she said. “How about… traffic.”

That got a big laugh so I guess there was some news story about traffic jams I hadn’t paid attention to.

“Okay, traffic. Daron, give me a riff.”

I probably had a bunch of thoughts go through my head at that point, but I don’t know what any of them were. I struck an A just cuz, and, and, and… off we went. The progression wasn’t anything special, but a riff has less to do with what chord it is or what the changes are than with attitude and texture. I gave him something crunchy.

He gave back a punchy line about ignition keys and being on the move, turning on the radio and getting in a groove. Never feeling better than behind the wheel, the rubber meets the road with a special kind of squeal…

I don’t know how he did it but he made it rhyme, and he made a sort of raunchy pun at the same time. Hah, see what I did there? Okay, maybe it wasn’t so hard but at the time I wasn’t thinking about that. It was Ziggy’s mouth to my ears to my fingers and my brain wasn’t getting in the way because if it did, the whole thing would fall apart.

The chorus was about hitting traffic, though, about it all grinding to all halt. We passed it back and forth, with me with a riff and him singing “Oh no” back and forth, back and forth, and us getting slower and slower until we ground to a stop. The end.

Ziggy stood up and took a bow. Then he pulled me up with him and we both took a bow. Then we sat down and they asked us to play something we knew, and they went to commercial after a minute of Why the Sky but I didn’t care because I was flying high at that point.

Don’t get me wrong. Part of me wanted to be angry and snap at him and tell him not to pull that kind of shit on me without warning, but part of me was saying look how well it worked. Look. What’s the point in being freaked out afterward? You made it.

It hit me in the men’s room afterward, while I was standing at the sink washing my hands, that this is exactly what he was talking about in Toronto. That was Toronto, wasn’t it? About trusting each other musically. Jump into my arms, I’ll catch you. Push me off a cliff, I’ll fly. We’ll fly.

So it was a dopey little ditty that wasn’t even two minutes long. So what. It was brilliant in its way. In that moment. For the audience who watched it happen, and for us. Something came from nothing. That’s kind of a miracle, you know.

I wanted to kiss him then. A weird, sudden longing that made me put my hand over my mouth because my lips almost itched with it. Plus my heart skipped a beat.

And then I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t drink so much coffee on so little sleep or food.


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