889. House of Pain

(Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to a better 2018, eh? -ctan)

Room service brought us food. Since we were in a fancy suite we had an actual dining table made of some fancy wood. I don’t remember what I ate, but it was very grounding. The headache in my ears intensified, though–I could feel it all the way down to my jaws.

Ziggy gave me some Tylenol and said I should drink his coffee. “Maybe you’re having a caffeine headache.”

“Then wouldn’t drinking coffee make it worse?”

He rolled his eyes and stretched his arms upward. He had put on an oversize white T-shirt with the neck cut out and his collarbones were visible. “By caffeine headache I mean lack-of-caffeine headache.”

“Is that a thing?”

“It is if you drink a lot of caffeine and suddenly stop. Remember the news stories about yuppie disease?”

“Yuppie disease?” I clearly didn’t remember anything of the sort.

“Young urban professional…?”

“I know what yuppies are. I’ve just never heard of yuppie disease.”

“It’s a thing where they drink Diet Coke all week at work and then on the weekends they get whanging headaches and they couldn’t figure out why. Doctors eventually figured out it was the sudden drop in caffeine in their systems and why Excedrin worked so much better than other headache cures.”

“Oh, because it’s got caffeine in it?”

“Yes. Here.” He pushed the carafe of coffee toward me. “I’m actually feeling sleepy and want a nap.”

I took the carafe and cup and began examining the coffee fixings on the tray. The cream was in a small pitcher. “Has your insomnia been bad?”

“Awful.” Even his sigh sounded tired as he stood up. “A lot of the time I sleep for an hour, hour and a half, then wake up and can’t shut my brain off.”

“Ugh. I hate that.”

“Does it happen to you, too?” He looked at me curiously.

“Sometimes. I’ve been kind of figuring that in my case it’s related to all the substances in my bloodstream.”

He rubbed his eyes. “I don’t have that excuse. I’m not even on an antidepressant right now.”

“Take a nap. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

He came and kissed me on the cheek and then went into the other bedroom–not the bed we’d been in before–and shut the door most of the way, leaving about two inches open.

I spent a while fussing with the coffee, adjusting the amount of cream and coffee and sugar until I felt it was perfect, but needing to keep refilling it. It was like a science experiment. When the carafe was empty my headache was still there.

Of course it was. I rubbed my temples. If yuppies could get debilitating headaches from skipping Diet Coke for a day, what did I expect after going off Flexeril? Just because it wasn’t classified as an “addictive” substance–neither is Diet Coke, by the way–didn’t mean quitting it left no effect. Flip had told me my daily intake had gone up quite a bit as I’d gotten more and more used to it. If it was something you could habituate to, I figured, it was something that could fuck you up going cold turkey, too.

I didn’t really have a choice, though. Did I?

By the way, before I forget, Ziggy was wrong. Yuppie disease isn’t the name of the Diet Coke headache; it’s a nickname for chronic fatigue syndrome. But anyway.

I went into the other bedroom and then through to the bathroom with the big tub where there was a phone. I figured I was far enough away from Ziggy with enough doors between us that I wouldn’t wake him up if I made a phone call. I called Carynne.

Took a couple of tries to get the right room: she was in Barrett’s suite, which they were using for an office. “Hey,” she said. “Are you with Ziggy?”

“I am.”

“Oh, good. That’s a load off my mind. Bart said that’s where you were but I worry, you know.”

“We haven’t even left the hotel. Although Ziggy wanted to go to the beach.”

“A little chilly for the beach.”

“That’s why we didn’t go.” The edge of the tub felt very hard under my legs. “I have a headache that won’t go away and everything hurts. It feels kind of like a hangover and coming down with the flu at the same time.”

“On the one hand, you better not be coming down with the flu…”

“On the other hand,” I said, “I’m pretty sure the only cure is more Vitamin F.”

And Carynne said, in her usual matter-of-fact way. “I’m having a copy of your prescription faxed here to see if we can get it refilled.”

“You think that’s possible?”

“We’ll see. Plan B, though, treat the symptoms. Hot bath?”

“Already took one.”



“Hydration and food?”

“Just finished eating.”

“Well, damn.” She huffed. “Alcohol is the only legal thing left I can think of.”

“I think Ziggy doesn’t want me to drink.”

“I’m pretty sure Ziggy doesn’t want you to suffer, though.”

“I’ll ask him when he wakes up.”

What followed was one of the longest hours of my life. Alone in a room with nothing to do. Even if I had brought a guitar I shouldn’t play it. I didn’t have a book with me. I didn’t want to turn on the TV and wake him. Staring at the city didn’t hold my interest, not when my head hurt like it did.

There was a notepad by the kitchen phone. I took it and a pen and thought, hey, I will Sit Down and I will Write A Song.

I’m sure I’ve done that before. Sat down without a specific idea in my head and usually there are a couple of things right under the surface that pop up.

Not this time. Addiction. I should write about addiction, right? About withdrawal, maybe? Withdrawal is sucky.

Oh, okay, it should be a song that makes a parallel between withdrawal from a drug and lovers withdrawing from each other in a failing relationship. That sounds great. Good concept.

I touched the pen to the paper and wrote the word Withdrawal. And then my brain stuck like gears with a wrench thrown into them.

I literally couldn’t even think of a line, or a word, or a rhythm. There was just…nothing happening inside my skull.

Songs can come from any direction. Sometimes a riff is in my head, or sometimes there’s a word that sort of rings and so you make it the last word of a line, and then look for a rhyme, or find the cadence in words that lead up to it just right… None of that was happening. I had a concept for a song but no actual words or music. Should it be a sad song? An angry song? Slow or fast? Soft or hard? I had no answers.

It literally felt like I was pushing a pile of boulders in my brain and they didn’t move an inch. It was as physically painful as trying to move a pile of boulders. (Or maybe that was that my muscles were cramping and sore from Vitamin F withdrawal.)

When Ziggy woke up I was still sitting at the table with both arms over my head, my face on the notepad, successfully trying not to cry.

(This is another one of those overproduced, bland hair-band power ballads that just seemed ubiquitous to me in the eighties. But I finally listened to the lyrics almost by accident one day, in an airport shuttle, and they hit me really hard. -d)


  • s says:

    Some of those overproduced hairband songs had some great lyrics. (I happened to be one of those kids that loved 80s hairbands.)

    Oh, Daron, I’m sorry you are having such a rough time. It will get better. Hugs.

    “I don’t have that excuse. I’m not even on an antidepressant right now.” That made my blood run cold. Now I’m scared for him, too. You can’t just stop those drugs cold turkey.

    • daron says:

      I don’t know if he quit taking them on his own or if he worked it out with his shrink or what. I kind of think he hasn’t been taking anything for the whole tour and that his “drug free” thing included that, and I realllly hope he had his shrink’s input on that.

  • G says:

    I hope the two of you can actually enjoy part of this day together…you’re both so wrecked in your own ways. Hugs to both of you.

  • Aunt Muriel says:

    Uh oh. I suspect that creativity is something where the more you worry about losing it, the more it runs away. Maybe you need to back into it, like doing some kind of routine exercise until something loosens up.

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