375. Tower of Strength

I was the first one off the stage when we ended the regular set and I stood at the bottom of the stairs waiting for the others.

Ziggy came last and pretty much fell into my arms, limp and trembling with exhaustion. I hung onto him in the cacophony that was the crowd exhorting us to come back on stage.

Bart and Chris circled close, and Colin and Barnaby.

“Do you need to sit down?” I shouted into Zig’s ear, feeling somewhat useless. “Water? Gatorade?”

He squeezed me tighter as an answer, and I took that to mean “give me a minute.” So I gave him a minute. I held him and met the concerned looks of the others with a faked calm one of my own.

Zig raised his head what felt like an eternity later but was probably more like a minute and accepted a bottle of water from Colin. Most of it ended up on his face–and mine–but it seemed to revive him somewhat. His torch-like hairdo had long since been wrecked with sweat and head thrashing. We moved just into the corridor where it wasn’t really any quieter and he leaned against the wall instead of on me. It seemed clear there was no way we were making the trek all the way back to our dressing room.


“I’m all right! I’ll be all right,” he insisted. He held up a hand, though, like he wanted to keep our attention. “I don’t think I can make it through two encores. Let’s combine them together.”

“Won’t that just make it tougher?” Bart said.

Ziggy shook his head and slid down the wall until he was sitting. He looked very small like that. “I think I can get my energy up one more time. Not twice.”

That made sense to me. “You let us know when you’re ready. The crowd will scream all night.” In fact… I sat down next to him and let out a breath.

Barnaby looked at us for a minute and then walked away quickly, saying something into his radio. Probably telling Louis and the rest of the crew to hold tight. Or that we were insane. Whatever.

Ziggy waved his hands at Bart and Chris and I realized he was trying to get them to sit down, too. Okayyy.

They did, and then he made us all hold hands. “Breathe with me,” he said.

“Breathe?” Bart asked, making sure he’d heard right.

Ziggy nodded and took a long deep breath. We all did. Then he let it out slowly and I we all exhaled.

I had no idea how long Ziggy planned to have us do this, but if it helped, fine. It wasn’t hurting the rest of us. Is this what they actually mean when they say “have a breather?”

I don’t know how long it went on, either. Because at some point after I lost count of the breaths I zoned out. I don’t know if I was meditating, really, or just… zoned out. I don’t know how you tell the difference. But at some point Barnaby came back and I looked up when his radio squawked, and Ziggy gave a nod and we all stood up.

“Okay, one long encore and that’s it?” I checked.

Nods all around.

“Barn’, you got that?”

“Check,” he said, and out went the word on the radio.

We went back to the stairs and stood there in the dark. I pulled Ziggy to the front of the line and he didn’t protest. I felt somehow that he should go up first this time, like he needed us behind him propelling him forward.

When the lights came up, it was like someone hit an “on” switch on him, though, and he went into Energizer Bunny mode. He winded himself slightly he was so energetic, actually. Not badly enough to miss a line or for us to change anything, though. He leaped. He pranced. He sang his heart out. He didn’t miss a beat. The crowd loved it. The photographers in the pit loved it. I loved it.

And then we were really done, really really done, and I handed the Strat to Colin and took back my dog tags…

and then I had my arms full of Ziggy again. This wasn’t like last night where he was glued on. This was he couldn’t hold himself upright anymore.

This time he was weeping. I couldn’t hold his full weight for that long so I sank down, bringing him down with me gently, and saying those things you always say when someone’s crying their eyes out. “It’s okay, everything’s okay, it’s over now,” and stuff like that.

Someone smart pushed a tall road case, the kind the light truss goes in, behind us so anyone in the seats who was trying to get a glimpse of what was going on backstage couldn’t see us. I was only vaguely aware of it. I was kind of busy.

“It’s okay,” I said, petting his hair and feeling him rub his wet eyes against my sweaty neck. That was going to sting if he opened them, I thought.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” he said, gulping air. “God. I didn’t think I was going to.”

“Well, you did. You did. You were awesome.” I realized then that this wasn’t that Ziggy was sad, and that it wasn’t about us. It was more like when marathon runners cross the finish line and burst into tears. A huge release. “It’s okay. I’m here. Let it out.” I rubbed his back.

Eventually he was done. He sighed in relief and pulled back from me and put his hands over his eyes. “Ugh. God. I was already exhausted and crying is exhausting but I guess I needed it.”

“It was your turn, I guess,” I said.

He took his hands down and his makeup was incredible. I snorted, unable to keep it in. “You look like Jackson Pollock did your makeup.”

That started us both laughing for a few seconds and then he tried wiping his face on the leg of my jeans, which didn’t accomplish much other than to make me laugh harder.

We made the long trek to the dressing room after that. Dirk had been hovering off to the side, I guess, and he went with us. Tony was still on door duty over here and I went with Ziggy into the washroom to actually wash his face. He got as much off as he could, using Noxema from a blue jar and hot water, and then he touched up, redoing just the line under his eyes and putting on a touch of purple lipstick.

“Shouldn’t you go straight to bed?” I asked.

“In case anyone sees me,” he said with a shrug. Then he turned to me. “Will you come with me somewhere?”

“You mean like in Toronto?”

“No no, not like that.” He waited a few beats before telling me what was on his mind. “I want you to come meet my mother.”

“Zig. Of course I’ll come meet your mother. Why didn’t you ask me before?”

He took me by the hand. “She’s upstairs in a skybox. She said she’d wait. She has to wait until the crowd thins out anyway.”

“Oh, you mean now. Okay. Sure.” I squeezed his hand. He’d mentioned earlier she had some kind of medical condition but he didn’t say what exactly.

“We better take someone from security with us, though. I think we should take Tony. I trust Tony.”

“Okay, sure. I’ll ask if he and Dirk can switch or something.” I honestly wasn’t clear on how they decided who did what on a given night, only that they did.

We went back out and I explained the situation in a low voice to Tony while Ziggy hung back. And Tony said no problem, and he got someone from venue security to watch the door, though by that point there wasn’t much to watch.

It took us a while to ascend to the Skybox level. Everything was pretty quiet in most areas except for the sound of the floor cleaners running. “Is she alone up there?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” Ziggy said. “I mean, she came with an aide, if that’s what you’re asking?”

I didn’t know what I was asking. I was thinking it might be kind of boring sitting in a room waiting for your rock star son to show up, but then again I didn’t want to guilt trip Ziggy for collapsing. “Um, yeah,” I said, thinking, I’ll shut up now.

Tony pushed open the door to the skybox, though, and I was surprised to see several people there. Bart’s parents, Michelle, Digger, Jonathan, and in a wheelchair in the center of them, an enormous woman. She had an oxygen tank with a tube leading to her nose, but this did not seem to be stopping her from entertaining everyone around her. You would have thought the wheelchair was a throne the way she was holding court.

We came out of the dim spot by the door and her face lit up and she held up her hands. “Querido!” She pulled Ziggy into a hug and then kissed him on both cheeks. “You were wonderful! Magical! Oh, I wept it was so beautiful!”

“I’m glad you liked it, mama,” Ziggy said, sounding like he was trying to be humble. “I see you’ve met everybody? Well, except Daron.” He stepped aside and gestured to me.

I came forward and took her hand and found myself pulled into a double-cheek kiss. She might have been in a wheelchair and on oxygen but she still had arm strength. “Pleased to meet you, um, Mrs. Farias.”

“Please please please, call me Eugenie.” She kept hold of my hand. “Ziggy’s told me a lot about you.”

“Oh, um,” Ah, why did my mind go blank at times like that? What could I say? Well, he hasn’t told me anything about you… No. “Um. I hope he’s said something good, then.”

She laughed like I’d said something that was actually funny. “Very good. I have you to thank for making my boy’s dreams come true.”

“Oh, well, um, you’re welcome,” I said, hyperaware that everyone there was focusing on this conversation. “He’s, uh, he’s a really big part of my dreams coming true, too.”

She kissed my hand then, and patted it. “Congratulations. Congratulations on a huge success.”

And then she let me go and it was like a spell was broken. People started to chat with each other around us, and her health aide started to speak to her about leaving. Ziggy told them the hallways were clear now but he didn’t know about the traffic outside. The aide was an Asian-looking guy who laughed and told him ambulances didn’t worry too much about that. “Technically we can’t run the lights unless it’s an emergency, but you know, we’ve never been stopped.”

The aide wheeled her out, then, while Tony held the door, and off they went to the elevator, Ziggy following.

I turned to Michelle. “Hey, long time no see. Have you been here for a while and I just missed you?”

“Nope,” she said, pushing her black ringlets back from her face. “Didn’t get here until late afternoon today.”

“So wha’d you think?”

She nodded her head. “Show’s gelled really good. It’s almost too bad the tour’s almost over.”

“Almost,” I said.

“I thought your playing was a little rote in the encore, though,” she went on. “And I noticed you made it one mega-encore.”

“Yeah. I spent the whole time worrying Zig was going to fall over. He waited until we got off stage to do that, though.”

“He seems all right now.” She looked toward the door as he came back in. “You all look really tired, though. I guess maybe it’s a good thing the tour’s almost over.”

“Yeah. You coming to the charity show tomorrow?”

“Yep. And I’ll tag along to Great Woods.”

“You and Bart going anywhere special after we get back?”

“Maybe. We haven’t had a chance to pick where, though. You?”

“Lacey and Chris are going to Paris. Jonathan and I are thinking London.”

She gave me a knowing and appreciative nod, which I took to mean “Oh, so you and Jonathan is a real thing, eh? I approve,” though it might have just meant “London is nice.”

“We talked about doing a bicycle trip, or hiking in Banff maybe.”

“I don’t even know what country Banff is in.”

“Canada,” she assured me. “Now, come on. As I understand it, the party is already happening over in your hotel.”

“Oh, crap, I wonder how we’re going to get over there? Hey Tony, what’s the plan for getting us back across the street?”

He gestured for me to follow him. He got Ziggy in tow, too, and radioed that we were on the way. We got in the elevator.

“Your mom is really nice,” I said, as we were descending.

“Yeah,” Ziggy said, as if only half heard me.

Tony cleared his throat. “No running for the fire exits this time guys, please.”

Ziggy looked up at him. “You know, if we hadn’t had so much fun last night, tonight I would have been tempted. But I am way too tired to pull any of that.”

Tony nodded. “Thank goodness for small favors.”

(This video is weird. I mean I get that the band is called the Mission, but the video makes them out to be like Jesuit demon-fighting superheroes of a post-apocalyptic future? I guess? I like the song though. -d.)


  • Averin says:

    Just when it seems I know what’ll happen, surprise. Truly, ne plus ultra. Thank you.

  • Sara Winters says:

    Aw @ Ziggy collapsing like that. Poor baby. I can’t imagine how he made it through the encore. At least I don’t have to read the headlines about him passing out on stage.

    “he’s a really big part of my dreams coming true, too.”

    Ha. I’d like to see Digger’s reaction to that. Come to think of it, I kind of want to know want Ziggy thought about it.

    I love that his mom was the center of attention. Felt completely natural. He had to learn it from somewhere.

    • daron says:

      He had to learn it from somewhere.
      I know, right?

      And I think the way he made it through, honestly, was having brass balls and an iron will. And I know at this point he’s developed his own professionalism and professional pride, but I can’t help but feel he sort of did it for me.

  • deb h says:

    loved it ,Love how Ziggy always manages to fall onto Daron ,any way to touch or be close to him.I have really noticed it a lot more since Daron looked in Ziggy’s notebook,maybe I am just looking for it more now or read more to it.I am Glad he got thru it too.Funny how even in a wheelchair Ziggy’s mother was the center of everything,now I know where Ziggy gets it from.

  • JB Starre says:

    Omg I loved “meeting” Zig’s mom for the first time! Of COURSE she would be the center of attention. I want to know more about her, though… and Ziggy’s brothers… and just wtf is going on in Ziggy’s head in general. I just love him so, so much. <3

  • Bill Heath says:

    Daron, great care-taking. I think it’s time to put Jonathan on a plane by himself to Ulan Bator and spend a month with Ziggy.

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