The landing in Sao Paulo was rough. The grab-your-armrests-and-grit-your-teeth kind of rough. But we and the plane survived.
“No plane crash metaphors in your next song,” Bart muttered as we taxied.
Shit. I still hadn’t told him about my songwriting paralysis–like I had a heart that had just mysteriously stopped beating. The thought felt like someone strangling me around the throat.
Not a good feeling. In case that wasn’t clear. I kept it to myself, though.
When we were mustering to get into vans to the hotel, Bart and Chris stuck to me like bodyguards. Ziggy had sped off in the first one to go and I wondered if there was somewhere he needed to be at ten o’clock at night or whatever time it was. Bart, Chris, and me got into another one, along with Colin, and then I waved to Marvelle and Brad — who were not standing together but were both nearby — to hop in with us.
The moment we were rolling I said to the drummers, “Has anything been worked out yet regarding rehearsal with Rogelio and his crew?”
“Nothing definite beyond we’re supposed to,” Marvelle said, “unless Carynne’s heard something. But she didn’t say anything.”
“I think everyone should take a day off tomorrow,” I said. “Not just me. Everyone.”
Bart pulled out a pocket planner of some kind. “Good day for it. We’re here for a while and the show’s not for a few more days. I mean, technically it’s a day off in that the musicians originally weren’t going to be doing anything.”
I nodded. “Can you tell Ro-Ro to get his people together for the day after? That’ll give us time to figure out where–?”
“I was figuring we’re going to go down to his samba school,” Marvelle said. “Unless it’s far or something. We’ll communicate.” He made a back and forth motion with his hands to indicate the communication but it looked kind of like he was playing small air drums.
I felt a little bit relieved. It somehow weighed less on my mind to think I was going to disappear with Ziggy if I knew everyone else was goofing off, too, I guess.
We arrived at a high-rise, high-class hotel, and a manager was waiting to breeze us through check-in. Bart stuck beside me until he went to mention something to Carynne, who nodded, and then he returned to my side.
Carynne came over to hand us our keys.
“Is it my imagination, or are the hotels getting fancier as this tour goes on?” I asked her.
“It’s not your imagination. We needed to upgrade to places with the security manpower to handle a potential fan invasion.” She surveyed the marbled lobby as if making sure no one was hiding behind the planters. “You guys are on the 16th floor. Ziggy’s in the presidential and you’re down the hall a few doors.”
In other words, the 16th floor was the top floor. She had put Bart and I together in a one-bedroom suite. There was an additional connecting door that led to Chris’s room. There were only a few other rooms on that floor, for her, Barrett, and I wasn’t sure who else. Everyone else was on the floors below.
Actually “everyone else” wasn’t–most of the crew were at the probably-less-expensive place we had originally been booked at. But Flip and Colin and a few other people who were deemed worthy were.
I felt a bit weird when I found out the crew was staying somewhere else. Not because it didn’t make sense for them to keep the original reservation–because it drove home to me how much was going on around me that I wasn’t aware of. Did Ziggy know? Presumably he did, if he wanted to. No one really thought to tell me that kind of thing, though.
Remo would have known that kind of thing down to the smallest detail. He would have insisted on it.
I was lucky if I even remembered my own room number.
Was that because of the crap I was born with between my ears or because of the crap I was feeding it? I certainly wasn’t in any kind of genius shape to figure out the answer.
Bart took me straight up to the room and picked up the phone.
“Who are y–” Oh. Of course. It was Bart. He was seeing if room service was still open.
They were, and they spoke English. He set the handset in the cradle with a satisfied sigh a few minutes later. “Ah, civilization.”
“Do you think the ancient Romans had room service?”
“At least until two in the morning, I’m sure they did,” he answered seriously. He kicked back on the couch. “Or at least a scantily clad youth to bring you some wine after your orgy or whatever.”
I sat down in an armchair next to him and examined my hands. Seeing the scars was still disorienting sometimes. I’d gotten used the tattoo on my shoulder faster than this. I took my shirt off to look at it instead.
“Did it hurt?” Bart asked.
“At the time it kind of burned, yeah,” I said. “But it didn’t take very long. I’ve had dental cleanings that were worse.”
He squinted. “That’s not saying much.”
“Yeah, true.” I rubbed the tattoo, which had been sort of raised and bumpy when it was new, but now was just a part of my skin. “You really think we should shelve Star*Gaze?”
He shrugged. “If they come knocking, wanting it, we’re still around. We can pick up that ball.” Then he looked at his own hands. “I’ll be honest. I think maybe it’s not…” Long pause. “…healthy for you.”
“What?” This conversation had taken a sudden turn and the mental whiplash disoriented me. “What do you mean?”
“Maybe I’m wrong,” he said, which was Bart’s way of saying but maybe I’m right. “But it looks to me like the more you tear yourself apart on the stage, the more you tear yourself apart off of it.”
I think my mouth hung open. “That… that can’t be right.”
“Can’t it? You’re putting yourself through, basically, reliving a lot of pretty dark shit on a really deep level. These aren’t just some la-dee-da pop songs with a cute metaphor and a nice hook.”
I felt that pressure in my throat again, like someone was squeezing it. I put my own hand there to convince myself it was my imagination. “But. But that’s why it’s good.”
“It is. The music’s great. And maybe if you were playing the guitar, too, it’d be more balanced. But you go heavy on the self-loathing and pain. You want to know what I think?”
“You’re gonna tell me, regardless,” I said with a half-smile.
He returned the sardonic expression. “I think your hand’s an excuse. I don’t think your hand is the real reason you started drinking again and I don’t think Ziggy’s the reason your anxiety spikes before every show.”
The choking feeling increased. “Interesting theory.”
“Yeah, isn’t it? Think about it, will you?”
I tried to swallow. “Okay. It’s only three more shows, though.”
“God, you’re a stubborn ass sometimes,” he said, affectionately. “Now, at least eat something so you don’t swig that bourbon on an empty stomach.”
The food arrived a little while later. The burger came with yucca fries which turned out to be my favorite thing so I ate a lot of them, which seemed to make Bart happy.
I decided I had to tell him. “You know, my plan for tomorrow was originally that I was going to literally sneak away from Colin and Flip.”
“Was? But you didn’t think you could sneak away from me?”
“Basically. So I’m telling you up front I’m going to disappear tomorrow.”
“With or without a bourbon bottle?”
“Without. Jeezus, Bart. Without.”
“Just checking.” He was still eating something he’d gotten in a bowl that required a spoon. In my memory it’s a bowl of yogurt but thinking back, it was probably something else.
I decided I was all in on telling Bart this. “In fact, the plan is that Ziggy is going to disappear for a day and I’m going with him. Although by ‘disappear’ my impression is he means he’s going to lock everyone out of his room and threaten dire consequences on anyone who disturbs him.”
Bart set down his bowl and wiped his mouth with a napkin, thoughtfully. “I hope it’s good for you both.”
“You don’t think that it is?”
“It might be.” He took a sip of water. “It might be.”
“You sound skeptical.”
“When it comes to you and Ziggy, I have to be. Because I’m the guy whose job it is to put you back together after he tears you apart, remember? I like to think I maintain healthy skepticism just in case.”
“It hasn’t been like that in a long time,” I said. “I mean, him and me. It’s not like that anymore.”
Bart nodded, but it was the nod of I’m-listening not the nod of I believe you.
(Once in a while, what song to pick is a no brainer. -d)