The next day was a gray wash from the moment I crawled into the shower onward. I stood there with the water running down around the my ears and swore myself to celibacy. It seemed the only sensible option, the only possible way to avoid the self-loathing, the anxiety, the worst of the loneliness. I declared myself at the moment to be separate from, above, and beyond sex. It was the only way to divert the freight train of badness bearing down on me and the band if I even contemplated the incestuous act I wanted to. I wasn’t even going to fantasize about it. Even thinking about not thinking about it produced nightmarish flashes of blackmail, tabloid headlines, bitter midnight arguments, other vague shit I couldn’t even picture but knew would be horrible.
I got out of the shower and concentrated on getting to work. I was passably on time. At four pm, I was taking a break in the coat room when Michelle came in and greeted me with a sleepy smile and a peck on the cheek. “How are you?”
I resisted the urge to reach up and touch where she’d kissed me. “Uh, fine.”
“You look kind of tired.”
I gave back an automatic, neutral answer. “So do you.”
She just kept smiling and went on through to the office, and I breathed a sigh of relief. She was only being friendly, I told myself, and I knew it was true, but I still felt a little prick of worry–the last thing I needed to make my life even more complicated was a come-on from Bart’s girlfriend. I reminded myself I was celibate now, not a sexual creature at all, not even for a nice, normal pretty girl like Michelle.
And what was I going to do about Ziggy? Nothing, I wasn’t going to do a thing. Nothing had changed, and nothing would, either. Now I just had to prove it. I had to prove to myself that my hands weren’t going to shake when he came near, that my tongue wasn’t going to go silent at the wrong moment, and that those feelings weren’t going to get the best of me again. He’d never know. I both hoped and dreaded that he would come into the store.
He came in often, to browse both the albums and the customers. Last week he’d sidled up to a red-haired girl and picked up a tape. Within minutes they moved out of my sight together, his smile now on her face. God he works fast, I had thought. And thinking about it now made me wonder if anyone would ever sweep me off my feet that way, with such utter surety that they wanted me. But then I thought of Carynne and something in me shivered. Ziggy did not come into the store that day.
I spent the afternoon working the cash register. Michelle did not pass by again. I wandered through Kenmore Square with the idea of getting something to eat on the way home, but I didn’t feel like stopping, like sitting alone, like eating.
From the door of the apartment I saw my answering machine’s message light blinking. As it was rewinding, I wondered if it could be Remo, but I hadn’t left him a message, had I? The machine clacked as the tape reversed to play.
“Daron, this is Artie in New York.” Artie. That A&R guy Remo had introduced me to. “I received your demo and would like very much to speak with you about it right away. Give me a call on my direct line tomorrow, or leave me a message when you get in.” I scrambled to copy down the numbers he gave, as if they were the words of a magic spell that would disappear with the dawn.
(Wow, check out the hair. But she has good taste in guitars. -dm)