So what I haven’t said about my conversations with Jonathan… is was what I haven’t said. I mean, what I wasn’t saying at the time. Which is to say that every time we talked about anything, I meant to bring up the question of Thanksgiving and every time we got sidetracked into something else–usually some other relationship talk. So I finally brought it up one night when I couldn’t sleep because it felt like it had gotten to the point that it was hanging over me so much that it was keeping me from sleeping.
I poked Jonathan in the arm. “Hey.”
“Hey,” he said back, but I don’t think he was awake yet.
“Hey, can I ask you something?”
He blinked and squinted at me. “What? Is something wrong?”
That was a loaded question if ever I heard one. I didn’t answer it. Not directly anyway. “I don’t want you to think I’m the crazy sort who wakes you up to talk about trivial things, but at the same time what I need to ask you is one of those things that I’ve been trying not to make a big deal out of, except that now I’m waking you up in the middle of the night…” That sounded crazy, even to me, and I tried to take it back. “Never mind, go back to sleep. I’ll ask you in the morning.”
He sat up. “Waitasec. You want to ask me something but you don’t want to make a big deal out of it. Except that you woke me up in the middle of the night about it?”
“Forget it. I promise I’ll ask you in the morning.”
“I’m awake now, Daron, and too curious to go back to sleep.” He turned his little bedside reading lamp on. J liked to sleep in a plain white undershirt, one that was so soft and worn that it was nearly see-through, and the whiteness was bright in the cone of light. “Is this about that phone call from Carynne?”
While living with him I’d gotten into the habit of changing shirts before going to sleep. Before that I had usually fallen asleep in whatever clothes I was wearing. I rubbed my face and sat up, too.
Best just to blurt it out, I thought, now that my preamble to it was so messed up and before he got me sidetracked into talking about BNC. “Remo invited us to his house for Thanksgiving.”
“That’s nice of him. Does he want us to bring anything?”
“Um, wait. I told him I’d ask you if it was okay.”
“Why wouldn’t it be okay?”
“Uh…” I tried to remember what my rationale was. “I didn’t want to make the assumption that I could speak for both of us. And at the time I thought you might want to visit your folks or something.”
“Well, honestly my mother did ask if I was coming home and if I was bringing you, but I told her I didn’t want to have to fly all the way across the country just for a three-day visit. And I can’t spare more time than that. So she asked if you’d come for Christmas.”
“What did you tell her?”
“I told her I’d ask you.”
“Aha.” We both laughed a little at that. Apparently, for once, we’d both thought along the same lines. “I know we won’t be invited to Remo’s for that since he’ll be in Japan.”
He seemed to me to be holding very still. “Well, then? Will you come meet my family?”
I thought I was pretty smooth about it. “I should head east to see Carynne and the guys anyway….”
“You’d be only the second guy I brought home to meet them.”
“I’m not. I’ve had lots of relationships, Daron, lots of boyfriends, but very few serious enough to bring home.”
“Okay, okay, can we talk about that? This, I mean?” Yes, that’s right, I was demanding that we talk about the thing I’d been refusing to talk about for months.
“Of course we can,” Jonathan said, though I don’t think he knew yet that I was intending to talk about our relationship as a whole, yet.
“What does it mean to meet your folks? To you, I mean? If you didn’t bring other guys home before.” I couldn’t figure out what I was trying to ask. “I mean, what’s different about me?”
“Maybe I feel more strongly about you,” he said, which made my heart sink. “Maybe it’s just I’m older and more sure of myself. And I think my parents will like you.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No, I think you’ll get along great with them.”
“Why? I have a terrible relationship with my own parents and your parents are surely going to see me as a bad influence.” This conversation wasn’t going the direction I intended at all, but I felt I had to say this. “I mean, think about it, J. I don’t have a college education. I’m a rock musician. I’m most parents’ idea of a disreputable character.”
“Well, sure, at first they were really worried when I said I was getting involved with a celebrity I wrote about, but now I’m not on that beat anymore, and you’re…” He stopped himself before he could say what he meant.
“I’m what, not on the A list anymore?”
“No no, you’re… you don’t come across like some kind of Satanist metalhead or something, do you know what I mean? You’re not pretentious. You’re a nice, hardworking guy, Daron. I’m sure you’d give a perfectly good impression. Especially lately.”
“What? Especially lately?” There it was again, that feeling like we were having two different conversations. “You mean, now that I’m not on the road?”
“Partly, yes.” He was looking at me earnestly.
This conversation wasn’t going remotely the way I had intended, and now I couldn’t even remember where I had been trying to steer it.
He saw how lost I was. He took my hand. “I know it isn’t really what either of us expected…”
I was thinking: Wait, what isn’t what we expected? Are we talking about the same “it”?
“…but don’t you kind of think we have a good thing going here?”
That sinking feeling for me hit bottom with a clank. I’d definitely let this go way too long without saying something. But what would I have said? Thanks for letting me play house? For that matter what was I going to say now? Anything I could think of to say was going to burst his bubble. And I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to be cruel. “J–”
“I’m not saying it’s going to last forever. When this gig runs its course for me, I don’t know what I’m going to do. But look at you. You’ve really settled into session work–”
I jerked. It didn’t matter what I was thinking or what I was trying to make myself think–my nerves rebelled and the result was I twitched–I cringed.
He backtracked before I could come up with any words. “I know it’s not the peak of fame. I know it’s not everything you could dream of. But isn’t it…? At least a little? Some of what you wished for in life…?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat then, trying to swallow my pride and my objections. Because he was right. Could I have imagined a life this good, with a man who loved me, and steady work in music, and everything else, three or four years ago when I was still in the closet, desperately lonely, and wondering if I’d be out on the street in a month? What the fuck kind of ungrateful sonofabitch was I to be thinking this wasn’t enough?
But the plain truth was that no matter how good it could be, it had always felt like a plateau, a waystation, a way to fill the time until either my career took off again or until Ziggy came home. It always always felt that way to me and I didn’t go a day without thinking it: I’d just never said it. And I’d never said it because it would have been a shitty, hurtful thing to say. It would have sapped this of whatever sweetness it might have had…
And then the bottom dropped out again, whoom, when I thought I had already hit the bottom. Because… what if I was full of shit? What if this was the best my career could do? What if Ziggy never came home? What if Moondog Three was in the past, and if I threw all this with Jonathan away to chase after a past that was already gone, I was a fool? What if?
I choked suddenly, because I had gone so deep down the rabbit hole of my doubts that I hadn’t realized I was crying.
And Jonathan, being the deep, caring sort of boyfriend he was, pulled me close and let me cry on his shoulder, even though he was half of what I was crying about. Could he tell I was grieving? It felt like grieving to me. My idealism about how the relationship should have been was dying.
Or maybe I just felt sorry for myself, for putting myself into such a deep bind to begin with. Jonathan being so good to me made it even harder to tell him what I was thinking.
I was thinking it had been fun playing house with him, but that’s all it was ever going to be for me until I knew for sure Ziggy wasn’t waltzing back into my life. Ziggy was the elephant in the room. Didn’t Jonathan know that? Jonathan knew that. I was sure he did. And yet…
And yet maybe he was trying to show me how much better it could be. How much saner a relationship could be. How nice and stable. Or even just how nice. Yes, that’s what he’s said a few minutes before. “A good thing going,” he had said.
I finally found my voice. I was pressing one of his hands against my damp cheek with both of mine, when I said, “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.”
“For what?” he whispered.
“Don’t think like that.”
“You’ve worked so hard to make me happy and here I am crying.”
“Shhh. It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay. Do I make you happy, J?”
“You do. Even if you get like this sometimes. It’s okay, D. I’m here.”
That just made it worse. I dug down to an even lower low than before. I dug down to the level where I felt like the problem was that I couldn’t be happy no matter what. Something was seriously wrong with me. How could I not appreciate what I had right in front of me? I was really fucked up.
But J seemed okay with that. He seemed to expect it. He knew how messed up my childhood had been. He knew how screwed by the industry I was. He knew everything. How could I leave someone who knew me so well? Who knew me that well but stuck by me anyway?
“I don’t want to hurt you,” I said.
“You’re not hurting me. Even if you tell me you won’t meet my parents.”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t meet your parents.”
“We can figure that out later. Maybe I’ll just bring you for dinner. A couple of hours. Nothing too lengthy. Christmas Eve dinner is when we do the big turkey and all that, and there’s lots of singing around the piano.”
“Something tells me if you’re having trouble holding your own in conversations, you’ll have no trouble holding up your end of a Christmas carol.”
“Yeah.” Somehow talking about concrete things like turkey and singing yanked me out of the deepest depths of the mire. “Um, you’re probably right.”
“Let’s not decide now. Talk to Carynne and Bart about what they want to do, too. But if it works out, I’d love to bring you home with me, okay?”
Wasn’t that how he’d convinced me to move in with him in the first place? The whole “If it works out, I’d love to…” strategy? I went along with it before, I was probably going to go along with it again. But I said: “Why don’t we see how Thanksgiving goes? Maybe that’ll boost my confidence.”
“Okay.” He kissed me on the temple.
Jonathan was the path of least resistance, I realized. He made it easy to say yes. I wondered if that was why I didn’t appreciate him enough. Did I imagine that Ziggy was worth more to me because of how much work I’d put in trying to understand him?
That was the sort of thing Lacey would say. Time to put it out of my mind before I went around in a complete circle again. “We better go back to sleep. You have to get up in the morning. I’m sorry I woke you.” With my stupid angst.
“‘I’m not,” he said. “I’d much rather talk about something important than have you lie there stewing.”
“You are too good to me.”
“I understand your needs. Now come on, if we’re actually going to get to sleep now, we both need to shut off our brains. I only know one thing that works for you.”
He was talking about jerking me off. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. And then we’ll both we asleep in under five minutes. Roll over.”
He reached for the bottle of lube. As he took hold of me I realized how different this was from the way I imagined relationships would be. I never imagined that something as charged as someone’s hand on my private parts could become so common and comfortable between me and another person. It was as simple and yet as intimate as something like the way I drank the milk out of J’s cereal bowl when we had breakfast together.
He was right. We were both unconscious shortly thereafter.
(Dear readers, if you’re on Goodreads, help DGC out by up-voting Daron’s Guitar Chronicles on this list of gay rockstar romances? Click here. We’re at #44 as of this morning! If you’re not on Goodreads and you want to do something to help anyway, you can always vote for us on Top Web Fiction!)