(Sorry about the post-out-of-order confusion this morning. Turns out it was a post LAST week that got accidentally skipped! So to make sure you’ve read everything, here’s the proper order:
Putting on the Ritz (the skipped one that popped up briefly this morning)
Then today’s chapter, Debaser, below.)
Everyone hates being wrong. I’m no exception. I really thought Jonathan’s attack of angst was over with. Maybe I was having post-sex rose-colored glasses, though. We took a shower together and everything seemed rosy, like a sunset after a rainstorm.
But I was wrong. I had just pulled my jeans on while we were getting dressed when I asked, “Do you want to do anything tonight?” In my mind I was asking him to say whether we were staying in or going out, whether he needed to work or he wanted to punt until he’d worked out what to do or what.
Jonathan apparently heard it as something else. “Stop pressuring me to go out,” he said.
I basically froze with my hands on the sides of my suitcase, which had all my shirts folded in it. I tried to recall what my exact words were and what I’d said wrong, while at the same time my brain was scrambling to come up with the words to fix it. “I… No pressure… I…” I felt my skin flash hot and cold, and then a surge of anger. “That’s why I’m asking. If you don’t want to go out, just say so.”
“Of course you want to go out,” he said, pulling on his jeans. His tone of voice was fairly reasonable. “You finished your project. You’re ready to celebrate. Why not?”
“Why not?” I forced myself to straighten up and face him. “Because I’ve barely slept for three days and because if you don’t want to go out–”
“You could go out without me,” he pointed out.
“Yeah, I could, but I don’t… wait, are you trying to get me to leave the house?” I kept trying to put myself in his position. “If you need some time alone–”
“No, I don’t need some time alone!” He sat on the bed and pulled a shirt over his head, his wet hair sticking in all directions. “I need you to stop acting like I’m a 24 hour sex dispenser and I need to stop thinking about how unfair it is that you just aced the gig that fell in your lap while I’m drowning over here.”
We stared at each other, then, my eyes and mouth wide, and then his slowly growing to match mine. My mind was racing. Jonathan felt that way? Was I treating him like a groupie and not realizing it? And since when did he feel competitive with me?
He was apparently coming to his senses now that he had vented, and was realizing what he’d said. He even put his fingers over his mouth.
“Let’s start over,” I whispered. I still hadn’t moved a muscle since I’d stood up, like I was afraid to spook him. I cleared my throat and tried to say a little louder. “You… you’ve had a tough day. What… do you want to do tonight?”
He ran his hands through his wet hair, trying to get it to lie down. “I should call my agent.”
“Okay. That’s a good idea.” In fact, before we’d had sex, hadn’t I been the one telling him to call her, and hadn’t he been the one arguing against it? Had he been lying there the whole time thinking I’ll just let Daron have his way and then I’ll go call her? Because that’s what’s really important? Maybe I didn’t want to know. “I’ll… I’ll go in the studio so you can talk in private, all right? I’ll… I’ll be right in there if you need me for anything.”
“All right,” he said, staring at the carpet and looking miserable.
I really wanted to do something to ease that miserable look. But right then I was worried I’d make it even worse.
I grabbed a shirt on my way out and put it on as I crossed the house. I went into the studio, and picked up the Ovation, and sat down with it in the far corner behind an amp, on the floor, my back to the wall, and the guitar in my lap.
And then I just sat there thinking, how did I fuck this up? He kissed me. He touched me first. Didn’t he? Had he felt pressured to do it? Had I been… ignoring his signs of reluctance or something? The way Ziggy used to willfully ignore mine?
I didn’t think so. But I was suddenly really not sure what to think. Jonathan had never been a drama queen with me before. He was always the voice of reason.
But this was the first time I’d been there for an artistic setback. I knew perfectly well how a creative block could fuck up my perspective on life and the people around me. Why should J. be any different?
I wanted to cut him some slack. But what I didn’t trust now were my own reactions. I’d thought I was helping. I’d thought I was being a good boyfriend. In fact, I’d say that up until the point where it all took a left turn when he’d accused me of pressuring him, today had been the most like his boyfriend I’d ever felt.
I played the moment over in my mind again and again. Eventually I realized something. My reaction, freezing like that, trying to fix it… That was the same reaction I used to have as a kid when Digger would suddenly make a left turn on me. Those nights when he’d go from being the cool dad I looked up to, to the god of caprice. And that was why I got so angry. I was done with that shit. It was not my job to tiptoe around him anymore.
Which didn’t mean I didn’t care about Jonathan’s feelings. I did. Was it something about me that kept me from reading Digger’s moods and kept me from reading Jonathan’s mind? I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect me to be a mind-reader. In fact, I think Ziggy had said that to me once, or me to him, I couldn’t remember. Or maybe it was Carynne. At any rate, I was pretty sure mind-reading was not actually on the list of things that were required to be a decent boyfriend.
Which didn’t mean it wasn’t my fault somehow, but I didn’t think it was that.
Two hours later I was still sitting there. I heard the hinge on the studio door as Jonathan pushed it open. It was meant to be a silent hinge, but when there was no other sound at all, I could hear it clearly.
I scrambled to my feet, suddenly not wanting him to see that I’d been literally hiding. I don’t think until that moment I had realized that’s what I was doing. It had seemed perfectly reasonable when I’d walked in to stuff myself in the back of the room behind a piece of equipment…
“Over here,” I said, holding the guitar by the neck in one hand. “Um, just checking out the cables back here.” I put on that false bravado that had helped me fake through so many tough situations in the past. I didn’t feel anywhere near as brave or chipper as I sounded when I said, “Hey, how are you feeling?”
There was no falseness in his reply. “I am so sorry.” He stepped closer and I put the guitar into a stand and let him take my hands. “I said some things I really didn’t mean. I don’t know what got into me.”
I do, I thought, but figured it wouldn’t be a good thing to say. “I’m not good at telling what people mean other than what they say.”
“And I’m even worse at telling what they want to say but don’t.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I don’t usually suck quite so badly at expressing my needs.” He looked me in the eye, which meant he was looking down at me, but you know, it wasn’t like he was looking down ON me. He was just taller.
I made a pre-emptive guess. “If you want to have less sex, just say so.”
“That isn’t it, Daron. I have no idea why I said that. If we’re anything, first and foremost, it’s lovers. I was just being hurt and angry and stupid. I was feeling like I’m losing control of my life and my stupid reaction was to try to grab it from you.”
“You don’t feel like you’re the one who dictates when we have sex?”
“Not as such, no. I was under the impression it was more of a mutual thing…? Am I wrong?”
He seemed to be thinking it over.
“Tonight, for example,” I said, “I really really thought was your idea.”
His eyes unfocused. “It’s kind of fuzzy to me now how it started. I guess it was a bad idea, though. I didn’t realize how I was going to feel, I guess. I mean, I feel like I’m on the verge of whoring myself to Hollywood for the money, but I didn’t realize that having actual sex when I feel like that was going to make me feel like a cheap piece of ass.”
“Why don’t you get on top when you feel like that?”
He laughed a little, then realized I was serious. “You wouldn’t mind?”
“No. I don’t care which of us does what. I wouldn’t want it to always be the same in either direction.”
“I can’t believe I never asked you that before.”
“We’re still new, J.” I said. I think he actually had asked me that once before, but I guess the answer didn’t stick. “Look. I don’t know how long it usually takes people to get to know each other, but really, our relationship as lovers can still be counted in days, not months. I don’t count the time we’re apart unless we talk on the phone. By my count that gives us… a couple of days in Boston, two days in Georgia, a week in New York, a week in Mexico, and what, a little over a week here in LA?”
“I suppose you’re right. I’ve been thinking of you as someone I’ve known for years…”
“But not known.”
“In the Biblical sense.”
“Yeah.” I squeezed his fingers but didn’t want to make a false move toward ending the conversation if he still had more to say.
But no, he was done. This time, his face and voice were as clear as the sky after a storm. “Well, I’m really sorry. For saying totally uncalled-for things.”
“Apology accepted. And I knew you must really be having trouble…” I said with a grin. “Normally you can’t lay on the bullshit so thick!”
“God, I know! Save it for the manuscript, Jonathan! Say that to me next time, okay?”
“Okay. Now, tell me seriously, what do you want to do tonight? Order a pizza? Work? Drive to Mexico and pretend we were never here? Totally up to you.”
“Well, my agent said sleep on it, don’t make any decisions until after that. She wants me to meet with the team tomorrow. So she basically said don’t touch it, don’t work tonight.”
“All right. We could watch movies? Or go see one?”
He made a dismissive noise. “Let’s go see a show. I’m sure there’s something. Come on. It’s not too late.”
So that’s how we ended up going to see some local bands at the Whiskey after all.
(Next Thursday is July 4th, a holiday here in the USA, but DGC will post as usual! If you’re celebrating away from the Internet, come back and read it over the weekend…)