So what do you do when you wake up after the apocalypse and find you’re still alive?
If you’re me, you jot down notes for a song about the end of the world. I was still too drained and wrecked to actually work on it though. I hoped the notes would make sense later.
Sometimes I look at pages in my notebook and I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Since the purpose of the note is supposed to be to remind me what I was thinking, it’s frustrating when they don’t. “Double-knotted shoelaces.” That’s in the margin of one set of lyrics. It’s underlined twice like I thought it was important at the time.
I mentioned this to Bart once, way back when we were first writing songs together, in Providence. “I mean, I wrote it, shouldn’t I know what it means?”
He had shrugged and said, “Maybe you’re not the same person you were when you made the note.”
I wondered, staring at the ceiling that morning in Remo’s house, if Ziggy was ever the same person twice.
I could hear the television from the living room, and also Jonathan’s voice, like he was on the phone.
I got myself together. Washed my face. My hair was damp. I barely remembered taking a shower before I’d gotten in bed. I still had that feeling like there was nothing left of me. No energy, no emotions, no thoughts, no ideas.
Well, okay, I had that one idea. I looked at the notebook again and jotted down a few more words. I put clean clothes on. It was going to be time to do laundry soon. It was very hard to care about that but at least I noticed, right?
Out in the living room Jonathan was facing the TV with the cordless phone on his shoulder. “I’m letting him sleep as late as possible. He was in bad shape last night.”
I had a feeling he was talking to Carynne. How did I know that? Something about the tone of his voice.
“This whole thing has just wrecked him. I mean, what a one-two punch, right? First the BNC bullshit and now this?” He nodded, listening to the reply. “Who, me? I’m doing fine. It’s hard to see him like this, but at least I’m here where I can help. Has there been any other news? Okay. I’ll tell him to call you when he gets up. Yeah, I’ll tell him.”
He clicked off the phone and then turned the volume back up on the television. The MTV news was just coming on. Their slogan was, “You hear it first.” I was half expecting them to mention Ziggy. But no, they were talking about something else and I quit paying attention partway through. J. changed the channel. CNN.
They were reporting that ten people had been killed, mostly teenagers studying music at the Royal Marine Academy in Kent, in an IRA bombing. The bomb blast had been so strong that an entire three story building, the barracks rec center, was destroyed. Most of those killed had been rehearsing at the time.
I wondered what piece they were rehearsing. Like it mattered. “Holy fuck. Kind of puts my problems in perspective, doesn’t it?”
Jonathan whipped around. “You’re awake.”
“For the moment, anyway.”
“Carynne’s desperate to talk to you.” He muted the TV.
“I bet she is.”
“She heard from Ziggy.”
That gave me a jolt. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. He sent a statement, anyway. Looks like it went to her and to Digger, a fax, from London, during the flight’s stopover in Heathrow.”
“It’s less of a letter and more of a PR statement. Call her and she’ll read it to you.” He handed me the phone.
I walked out by the pool where at least I could enjoy what was considered “beautiful weather” in everywhere I had ever lived, sunny and dry and not too hot. Remo had a few lounge chairs by the poolside. I lounged in one.
Carynne picked up on the first ring.
“J. said to call you.”
“Yeah. Did he tell you I got a message from Ziggy?”
She launched right into it. “Okay, here it is. Dear fans and friends, I’m sorry I’m not there to be with you right now. If there’s one thing that recent challenges have taught me, it’s that I need to be true to myself. I always heard those stories about people going into spiritual retreat to ‘find themselves’ as cliche and stupid. Why would you need to find yourself when you’re always with yourself? But having lost my way, I now realize how crucial it is for me to find it. Otherwise the ‘me’ you love couldn’t keep existing. Drugs were very definitely blinding me, but now that my eyesight is clear, I can look for the missing piece. I tried to find what was missing, in drugs, on stage, in other people, but I know now it must be inside me. Please wish me the best on my journey.”
“That’s it. You know, if this is what he said to the guys in the ER, that’s probably why they nabbed him for suicide watch. The bit about how he couldn’t keep existing, I mean.”
“Yeah.” I wondered if any of the message was actually aimed at me, or if he had moved on completely from trying to get my attention. “What should I do next, Car’?”
“I would like you to come home and take care of some stuff here, honestly, and meet with that lawyer you told me about. I talked to him yesterday and I think he has some good ideas. There’s some stuff with the house I know Christian wants to talk to you about, too.”
“Why doesn’t Christian just call me?”
“Because he thinks you’re mad at him and it would be better to talk face to face.”
“Oh. Why does he think…?” I realized it didn’t matter why he thought I was mad at him. Maybe because it seemed like I was avoiding him? “Okay, you’re right. I should come home for a little while. What do you think, a week?”
“Two at the most. If you want to go back to LA with Jonathan after that, I don’t see why you can’t. Maybe then you can get some more soundtrack work.”
“Assuming BNC doesn’t sue the fuck out of whoever because I broke my exclusivity clause?”
“I told you, this lawyer, he has some ideas.”
“Okay. Book me a flight and let me know when to be at the airport. And which airport. And, you know the drill.”
“I’ll check the prices. I’ve got a travel agent who often has cheap last minute seats, especially if you can go from one of the dinky airports.”
“Okay, cool. Hey, have you heard from Remo?”
“He’s the one person I feel like I’ve been leaving messages for who hasn’t called back. But then again he’s on the road and in a drastically different time zone.”
“Everything okay there?”
“Other than me feeling like the survivor of a bombing or something, everything’s fine.”
“J. said you were wrecked.”
“Good word for it. I’m… just…” I trailed off, lost for words. Or maybe just lost.
Maybe Carynne knew that. “Come home for a little while, okay?” she reiterated.
“Okay. Call me with the details.”
“I’m calling the travel agent the second I hang up with you.”
“Thanks. Love you, Car’.”
“Love you, too, D.”
I went back in the house. Jonathan was making macaroni and cheese in the microwave. He was watching it go around and around. I joined him. There were two of them in there.
“Is one of those for me?”
“Yeah. I figure if it turns out you’re not hungry I’ll eat both.” He snuck a glance at me sideways.
“I’m okay, you know. I’m not a suicide risk.”
“Suicide isn’t the only thing that worries me.”
“I want you to stop worrying.” I took a deep breath. “I’m afraid if I become too much of a drag, it’ll hurt you. And make things suck.”
“So… let me get this straight. You want me to stop worrying….”
“And what I want is for you to stop worrying about hurting me.” He put his arm around my shoulder and kissed me on the hair. “So how about this. You try to stop worrying about me, and I’ll try to stop worrying about you, and we can just help each other instead.”
“I’ll try. Carynne wants me to come home to meet a lawyer and deal with Christian.” And I really needed to see Bart, I realized. I needed to know what was going through his mind. “Will you be okay for like a week or maybe two without me?”
“Of course. I’m used to being a solitary workaholic, you know.”
Two days later I was on a plane to Boston. I kissed Jonathan goodbye at the airport and I didn’t give a fuck who saw. It was more of a quick one anyway, not a Hollywood one, you know?
(You get your choice of two totally different songs with this title you know…)