I went to pick up Remo in his own truck. I was surprised he didn’t have much with him, but apparently most of it was being taken care of by the road crew. “It means they’ll dump off a load of my dirty laundry after everything’s unpacked, but at least I didn’t have to carry it,” he explained as he buckled himself into the passenger seat. “Now let’s get Mexican food. It’s the one thing you can’t get in Europe.”
I drove, and he directed me to a taco stand in Silver Lake, where we stuffed our faces for about five bucks while sitting on the back bumper of the truck. And Remo talked about how touring in Europe was different from the States, and it took more support and more coordination, but the album sales bump was huge. And I told him what he’d already heard, but with more detail, about how our US tour hadn’t bumped sales much at all, seemingly because of lack of inventory in the right places.
We drove to the deli then for dessert and I bemoaned the lack of good ice cream places in Los Angeles. I told him about doing session work over an ice cream sundae while he had a cup of coffee.
“Do you like the work?”
“Yeah, I like it. Sometimes it can be a bit dull, but come on, I’m getting paid to play the guitar.”
“Better than playing in a cover band, though?”
“Oh, way better. It’s apples and oranges, can’t compare. I’d rather be doing my own thing, but that’s all in limbo right now.” With a spoon, I dug into the hard ice cream where the hot fudge had weakened it.
“Last time we talked, you said a lawyer was gearing up. Anything happening with that?”
“Here’s how he explained it to me. ‘Lawyers are like gorillas. We go in there and beat our chests at each other and usually that’s all you need before someone backs down and there’s no actual fight.’ Far as I can tell the chest beating is still in the firing letters back and forth stage.”
“In other words, nothing.”
“Heard from Digger?”
“Not a peep. And nothing from Ziggy either.”
“How long’s he been gone?”
I winced like I was having brain freeze but really it was that I had avoided actually calculating how long it had been. And now I couldn’t avoid it anymore. “Three months since we heard he went to India.” Which meant I’d been living with Jonathan for almost as long.
Remo whistled appreciatively. “I can’t believe I’ve been gone that long.”
“That’s because the weather hardly changes here. So it seems like the same as when you left.”
“Smartass. Europe’s a big continent and you end up with days off between shows. We did summer festivals first in August, then some in the Mediterranean in September, and then back through the cold countries for regular shows before winter comes.”
“And why Japan in the winter?”
“The winters aren’t too bad there, I hear. It’s only a 19-day tour anyway. We’ll be flying back on the day after Christmas.” He had creases by his eyes and the wrinkles in his forehead were starting to show, but that was a good look on Remo. It went with his sort of cowboy-ish image. His sandy hair hid the gray that was salted all over his head. “Speaking of holidays, you ask about Thanksgiving?”
Shit, I hadn’t. But I was really sure J. would say yes. “We’re in. Should we bring anything?”
“How about a bottle of wine?”
“Okay, but, you know, you don’t have to do all the cooking.”
He chuckled and took a sip of his coffee. “I’m not doing any of the cooking. I hired caterers.”
That was a relief. I wasn’t sure I was actually up to candying yams or whatever. I couldn’t help needling him a little, though. “Caterers? Isn’t that cheating?”
“You’d rather eat undercooked turkey and burnt potatoes?”
“Bottle of wine it is. So is this going to be fancy? What should I wear?”
“Hell no, not fancy. Well, you know, the Mazel wives might get prettied up, but the rest of us, no.”
“So who else is going to be there?”
“Well, Alan and Alex and their wives, and Martin wasn’t going to come but then he had some plan fall through so he is, and I invited Carynne and Waldo and her mother, but they said no.”
“Carynne is on the other side of the country and she can’t stand her mother,” I said.
“I know, but I figured I could at least ask.” Remo shrugged. “Alan’s kid is four now, I think?”
I hadn’t even realized Alan had a kid. Then again, Alan was the quiet type. who didn’t say much about himself. Alex was pretty much the same. When we’d gone on that short tour three years earlier I’d spent a lot of time hanging around with them but not really saying much. Then I remembered Alan had a photo of a baby taped inside one of his road cases and there was only one logical reason for that. Duh. “Yeah, four, I would guess.”
Remo dropped me off at the apartment then and drove himself home from there. Jonathan got home a few minutes later.
He kissed me. “How’s Remo?”
“On the verge of collapsing from jet lag but he won’t admit it,” I said. “How was your day?”
“Exhausting. What do you want for dinner?”
“Want to go to a really awesome taco stand in Silver Lake?”
“How did you find out about a really awesome taco stand in Silver Lake?”
“That’s where Remo and I went to re-acclimate him to Southern California. I’m sure I can find it again.”
“But didn’t you just eat there?”
“I didn’t get to try the fish. Come on, you love the little authentic places, you said.”
“That is true…” He paused to think about it. “Let me change and then let’s go.”
I stayed in the living room, fussing around with the Ovation, figuring that following him into the bedroom while he was getting undressed might seem too much like a come on for a weeknight. He re-emerged in ratty jeans and a T-shirt.
I drove and figured out how to get back there, and had fish tacos while Jonathan had the tongue. I had a bite of his and was immediately envious they were so good. Sadly, when I went back to the window I was told they were out of tongue then, so I couldn’t get any. It was probably just as well since three full orders of tacos (plus an ice cream Sunday) was getting to be a lot of food for one night, even for me. We debated whether we were actually in Silver Lake or Los Feliz and determined that neither of us knew well enough where the border was to speak knowledgeably about it.
On the drive home, Jonathan said, “Thanks for taking me there.”
“Here you go with the baffling thanking again.”
He was driving. “You were just there. You could have said you already ate and told me to fend for myself.”
“Could I? Wouldn’t it make you feel like shit if I did?” I rolled up the passenger side window so I could hear him better.
“I’m pretty sure it would, and I’m pretty sure it’s my job as your boyfriend not to make you feel like shit unless absolutely necessary.”
I’d said it half as a joke but it came out sounding really serious. And, well, I took being Jonathan’s boyfriend really seriously.
He took his eyes off the road to look at me for a moment before he had to concentrate on driving again. “I… appreciate that.”
A sort of heavy silence fell in the car then, though, and I couldn’t tell what it was about… other than our relationship as a whole, which I knew at that point was broken but I didn’t know how we’d broken it or how to fix it. Maybe all relationships were inherently difficult to reconcile.
Or maybe they were for anyone who thought that. Like me.
I stared out the window at the hills and lights and buildings going by and ended up staring at my reflection. Why am I so bad at this? Is it me or is it everyone? It’s not everyone. Bart and Michelle are happy. Alan and his wife are happy. Maybe it is me. Hey, didn’t you have therapy on your to do list? Crap.
Maybe it was time to have a discussion with Jonathan about therapy. But that would be a discussion about whether our relationship was ready for therapy. Which would be the discussion about our relationship that I was terrified to have in the first place, much less in the course of therapy. If he brought it up, I would have gone along with it. But I couldn’t bring myself to be the one. Too afraid of messing up. Too afraid of the expectations that would set.
“How was work?” I asked then, striving for casual and failing.
“You asked me that already.”
“And you gave a one-word answer. I thought maybe with some food in you you’d feel like telling me more.”
“Eh. It’s pretty boring to talk about.”
“J. You don’t have to worry about boring me.”
“Okay. I hear you. But you know, I’ve been trying to figure out what to tell you about my exes. Since you feel in the dark about that.”
I made what I hoped was an encouraging noise and didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to derail him.
“I haven’t had that many steadies. In college it was one or two fuck buddies who weren’t serious, and two summer relationships, one of which I knew was a summer affair, the other I thought was going to turn into more but then it fell apart after two months anyway.”
“How did you know the difference between the summer affair and the other one?”
“Well, the summer affair we stated up front. We knew we couldn’t continue once the school year started again.”
“Why?” I was thinking it was because they would be too busy studying for a relationship.
“Because he was a professor and I was a student,” J said casually.
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what to say about that, good or bad.
“Don’t look so worried. I wasn’t one of his students. He was at the conservatory, actually.”
Jonathan clucked his tongue. “I promised I’d never say. It was a very nice summer, very good for both of us, and then we moved on. He lived a very private life, as you might imagine.”
“Ah, okay. What about the other one?”
“First really serious one,” J said, so quietly I leaned toward him to hear better. “Gregory. I thought we were perfect for each other. He was a literature major, would be graduating at the same time as me, lived off campus. We moved in together the summer before my senior year and I thought this is it, this is the one, we’re going to be together for years and years. Well, it was months.”
“Can I ask what went wrong?”
“Plain and simple, he lost interest. He was one of those absence makes the heart grow fonder types, while familiarity bred contempt. During the semester we’d had to work hard to see enough of each other, you know? But after we moved in together…” J let out a long sigh. “He was downright cruel about it by the end, saying things like ‘I’m sick of seeing your face.’ I tried to understand it at first, tried to fix things, turn him back into the man I fell in love with, but he very clearly was trying to get me to move out. Then I stayed for a little while out of spite, after all, he’d promised me a place to live for the summer at least… but it was miserable, we couldn’t even be friends anymore, and I went to live with my parents until the semester started again.”
“I half-suspected he was cheating on me but I never found evidence. No one moved in with him as far as I could tell, and around Christmas I heard he’d taken up with a friend of a friend but it sounded recent.”
“So he held out on you emotionally more than sexually.”
“I guess.” He pulled the car into the driveway. “Let’s continue this inside.”
Once we were in the apartment though, J didn’t seem to know what to say next, and I didn’t really know what to ask.
When we got ready for bed, J did say something, though. “Can I jerk you off again tonight?”
“Haha, twist my arm. Of course you can.”
In the end he got excited, too, though, and ended up jerking us both off together, his slick hand around both, making for an extra copious mess. Not that I minded.