Bart came over on Tuesday because we all wanted to play. As the saying goes from when we were kids, “Just cuz.” And the funny thing was I had vague plans of teaching them some stuff, but we ended up learning a large portion of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s kind of polyrhythmic, basically the drums going along in four while the guitar is in three. The guitar and bass are in unison, which is unusual, but that’s one of the things that makes that song so interesting.
The way we got started on it was I was trying to explain to Christian one of the things that I liked about his drumming, which led to us discussing when his playing style was behind the beat and when it was ahead, which at first I think he was kind of worried about. Eventually we started speaking the same language, though. Here’s the thing. I think Chris felt that a couple of guys like me and Bart, coming out of music school like we did, would be some kind of rhythmic purists, wanting everything on a metronome. You’d think by now he would have realized we didn’t, but you know, that’s why it’s good to talk about these things. Granted, Bart and I are purists about some things, like pitch, but even there it’s all relative.
You sometimes hear bands described at “tight.” The thing about the really tight bands is not that their tempo never varies. It’s that as they vary the tempo they are so tight, so together, that you don’t notice the variations.
Interestingly enough, Led Zeppelin I would not describe as tight, but I think that looseness was intentional. Listen to “Black Dog” again. How are the guitar and bass able to play to tightly together given the riffs that Page is ripping? And yet the drums have the most extreme “behind the beat” feel I can remember hearing on the radio.
Anyway. We ended up learning the song, and Christian ended up feeling a lot better about himself, and then my fingers got tired and we went out for pho.
I can’t remember if I’ve explained pho. Pho is vietnamese noodle soup. I’m not sure why, but the Boston area has a ton of pho restaurants. Like a lot of the other ethnic food restaurants–Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican–they were cheap and delicious and filling. There were two pho places walking distance from the house, so we ate it a lot. Courtney came along. Michelle met us.
After dinner we went back to the house and Bart and Christian got into playing a video game. Court was having fun watching them. Michelle and I sat on the front steps, drinking beer out of bottles.
“Are you glad Lacey’s gone for a while?” I asked, remembering something Court had said.
“I hate to admit it, but yes. She was really starting to get to me.” Michelle had long black ringlets of hair and hazel eyes, and a face right out of a classical Greek or Roman sculpture. “I feel a little bad, because I don’t want to alienate her, you know? Here I am trying to get this design business going, and here’s a supermodel who could be really helpful…”
“And here I am wishing she’d just shut up.” Michelle took a swig of her beer. “At first I thought she was trying to be helpful, and then I thought I would cut her some slack because she was working out her stuff with Chris. But then she went off into fantasyland.”
“What kind of fantasyland?”
“I knew she was out of touch when…” She had to stifle a laugh. “…she warned me I better keep a close eye on Bart if I didn’t want him sleeping with you.”
That made me nearly snort my beer. “Really? Where did that come from?”
“I have no idea. Bart is straighter than a plumb line.” She shrugged.
“And even if he wasn’t, our relationship just isn’t like that.”
“I kind of wonder if Chris talked to her about stuff but she only hears what she wants to, you know?” Michelle set her empty bottle down on the brick steps. “She only absorbs a little and she fills in the rest with her imagination or something.”
“Or if he didn’t really talk to her about us and she’s just guessing based on what she sees.”
“That could be it. If she thinks she saw you and Ziggy and Colin and Jonathan all in quick succession, maybe she thinks…” a half-giggle “…you’re working your way through all the guys.”
She was joking but I wondered if that was actually how it looked. “I do feel kind of like maybe I’ve slept with too many people I know.”
“Would it be better if you slept with a lot of people you don’t know?”
“Errr, no. Probably not. I just… worry. When you name people off like that, it’s like… I must come off as a nymphomaniac or something.”
Michelle turned and looked at me seriously. “I’ve known you a long time.”
“You know what I’ve never known you to do?”
“Make the first move.”
“Um, does that matter?”
“Daron, I’m pretty sure you can’t be a serial seducer if you’re the one getting seduced. Tell me. What the hell was going on with you and Roger?”
“Back in Providence, when you lived with him.”
“Nothing really. I mean, when you get two horny nineteen-year-olds living in the same apartment, things are going to happen. Roger was a lot more… sure of his sexuality than I was, then.”
She accepted my explanation at face value. “Okay, but tell me, are you always the pursued? Are you ever the pursuer?”
“Are those technical terms?”
“You know what I mean, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“With Bart and me, I think the reason we’ve lasted so long, is that we were each the exception for each other. Bart was always the pursuer of his conquests. Meanwhile, I was a pretty girl. All I ever had to do was sit back and wait to be pursued. But when we met, he was wrapped up in chasing Ruthanne…”
“I never even met Ruthanne. Was she the one who was the Dean of Students’ daughter?”
“Dean of Admission, I think,” Michelle said. “He was wrapped up in chasing her, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I chased him like crazy. And you know Bart. He doesn’t usually say no to sex. But it really quickly turned into something more than sex. I was the first woman he really wanted to move in with, and he was the first guy I ever wanted to move in, too. We kept finding things that were against our usual patterns. After three months I usually started trying to find a way out of a relationship. Not this time. And so on.”
“So you knew you were really right for each other.”
“For what it’s worth, it really looked to me like the instant you got together you bonded like Superglue. I mean, Bart went from being Bart to one half of Bart and Michelle pretty much immediately. But because you’re so cool, that was okay.” My own beer bottle was empty and I picked at the label. “I don’t mean to sound so condescending. I mean, you fit in when none of the other girls he slept with or dated did. I really didn’t think about it at the time. I just accepted it, I guess.” A thought hit me then. “Are you guys going to get married?”
“Maybe? We’ve talked about it. I’ve got to decide if I’m getting an MBA first or if I’m going to dive right into this business. I think maybe I can’t wait. I have to strike while the iron is hot.”
We sat there a while in silence, watching the cars go by, various splashes of music coming from the open windows. One of the songs stole a riff that had been big when I was in high school and I spent a few moments racking my brain to remember it. Right. “Super Freak” by Rick James. Whereas the song that was pumping out of car stereos tonight was MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”
I thought about what Michelle had said. About the “right” one being the one that wasn’t like all the others. About her being pursued all the time but the one she knew was for her was the one she wanted to pursue. I thought about all the time Ziggy had spent chasing me, catching me, and playing with me like a cat does with its prey.
But I’d wanted him first. I was just too chicken to chase him. I held back and held back until he decided he could use that, until he broke through my resolve.
He admitted he’d been more interested in making sure he had control of the band by controlling me than in a genuine relationship.
He’d admitted it.
He’d admitted it because he was apologizing for it, though. He admitted it because he wanted another chance. A real chance, maybe.
I never gave him that chance. Not really. It had taken the whole tour, the accident, the fights, the drugs, the challenges, the talks, the songs, the performances, for me to finally get myself into a state where my barriers were down and I could see that actually, none of the crap mattered. That in spite of or because of didn’t matter. What mattered was how ridiculously deep my passion for him ran.
Maybe if I still believed that, if I still felt that way, it meant it was finally my turn to be the pursuer…?
“Penny for your thoughts?” Michelle asked.
“Thinking about Ziggy,” I said.
“Thinking about going to India?”
I shook my head. “Can you imagine? It’s a really large country. Ziggy went there to find himself. I don’t think he wants to be found by someone else.”
That had given me the idea for a song lyric though, about finding, and foundlings, and foundering, and I hopped up to write it down. I ended up in my room, where the new bed hadn’t been delivered yet, working on it.
I worked on it until three in the morning, when I realized what time it was, and decided to try to call Jonathan, since it would only be midnight his time. I dialed Remo’s number and J. picked it up on the second ring.
“How was your flight?”
“A little bumpy over Colorado, but otherwise fine. My stuff won’t be here for another couple of days, though.”
“I know. Which is why I’m still calling you at Remo’s.”
“Ah, right. When I get a phone hooked up I’ll let you know the number, unless you’re here by then.”
I didn’t say anything about it since I hadn’t booked a return ticket yet and wasn’t sure when I was going to.
He plowed on. “How was the Cape?”
“Capey. We hit King Richard’s one day, too. It was nice. I’m having a kind of weird problem though.”
“Yeah. My jeans here don’t fit right. I’m starting to worry I’m gaining weight.”
“Go look in the mirror and see if you can see your ribs.”
“Hm. Not really.”
“You’re fine, Daron, I promise.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, yeah, you’ve gained weight, but you’re far from being chubby. It’s that you used to be too skinny. And now that you’re not expending as much energy as you did on tour, and you’re eating more regularly, you’re putting on weight.”
“I kind of thought about saying something a few weeks ago, but you know, telling someone they put on weight is so easily construed as negative.”
“Ah. Yeah.” I examined myself in the mirror. “I think I look fine actually. It’s just a pain that my old jeans are too tight.”
“Argh. Now you have me picturing you looking at yourself in the mirror.”
“Not in my imagination you’re not.”
I flushed with heat then, turned on and bashful at the same time. “J–”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.” Especially now that I was horny.
“Let me know when you figure out your schedule, all right?”
“All right. I really will check with Carynne and have her book me a ticket back.”