Let’s face it. If we’re going to blame anyone, we should blame my parents—two people who each lived in their own reality while constantly undermining the realities of the people around them. When I was growing up they made me constantly second-guess myself and my right to exist, and made me question the motivations of everyone around me.
How else do you explain that whenever I was unhappy, my first instinct was to blame myself for being broken? Instead of blaming whatever was making me unhappy? That’s one thread of what was going on with me and Jonathan—me beating myself up about not being happy when I was “supposed to be.”
Come to think of it, Jonathan did a little of that himself. I guess it’s an easy trap to fall into. My parents were big on calling me ungrateful. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Calling someone ungrateful is a great way to ensure they feel shitty about you rather than grateful.
So when you call yourself ungrateful you just feel shitty about yourself. Back to square one and feeling broken.
The tears that wouldn’t fall during my negative epiphany on the stage threatened for no reason while we were in an elevator on our way up to the party, which was taking place on the top floor of the hotel. I held them in and declared generally to those with me–Carynne, Chris, and a couple of dancers who’d been in the van with us–“God, I’m tired.”
“Just put in an appearance at the party and then you can duck out,” Carynne said, clutching her soft-sided briefcase to her chest and looking up at the floor number indicator. “Okay?”
I swallowed down the urge to cry. Come on. Just fifteen or twenty minutes. You can do it. “Okay. I’m going to change my clothes, though.”
“Sure.” She didn’t even blink at my excuse for getting away. It being the end of the tour I was low on clean laundry, but I guess it was conceivable I had a couple of decent shirts or something left.
I ended up in a plain black shirt and black jeans, and I opened the window to feel the warm night air. It was cooling off but still had a hint of tropical spring and I thought it would make me feel good to feel it on my skin.
I could hear voices. The next window over was either Barrett or Carynne’s room, and the two of them were in there, talking. I only made out a couple of words that Barrett said but they were excited-sounding. “Dates” was one of them. I was sure he was not talking about dried fruit.
I stuck my head out as far as it could go, trying to hear more, and in the end I did a notably foolhardy thing, which was I crawled out on my ledge and onto theirs.
“Will you look at how this is blowing up?” he was saying in an exultant way. “John Mills can kiss my silky smooth butt cheek. Japan is Rio ten or twenty times over.”
They couldn’t see me because I was behind the curtain, but I could hear him perfectly well through the open window. Carynne must’ve been facing away from me because I couldn’t quite hear what she said. Something something… and then “dates” again.
I edged just far enough over that I could see into the room and, yep, there was the back of Carynne, and Barrett with a piece of paper in his hand, and a couple of other people moving in the background…
I ducked back again. White denim jacket edged in rhinestones. That had to be Ziggy I’d caught a glimpse of.
“Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Fukuoka…” Barrett named off a bunch of cities I knew because they were all the places Nomad had played. In almost the same order, even. A tour. He had to be listing off Japan tour dates for Ziggy.
The thing that was like a panic attack that had never really left from the night before–which had been dulled by Valium but wasn’t anymore–flared up sharp and hot. I could barely breathe. No. No no no. I can’t. They can’t. I can’t.
This wasn’t like I thought about it logically and concluded that between my still being fucked up and injured and my realization on the stage I really should consider bowing out if they were planning Japan shows. This was me flipping completely into believing they’d already set the dates and that I’d be trapped like this forever.
Remember how trapped I felt with Jonathan? Like I was never going to get out of the relationship because if he asked me to stay I knew I wouldn’t be able to say no? This was exactly like that only ten times worse because if I couldn’t say no to Jonathan, I sure as hell couldn’t say no to Ziggy. And this time I had paranoia crawling up my butt, too. They were obviously talking about this amongst themselves before making the announcement because they were plotting how to make sure I couldn’t get away.
They were going to announce it at the party while I was there, of course. When they knew I wouldn’t say no in public.
I felt ill, the bottom dropping out of my stomach and a touch of vertigo hitting me, as the certainty sank in that this was payback for me popping the question in public. It all made sense now.
A ledge sixteen stories up is the wrong place to be having vertigo, of course. I knew I had to get back inside, but then I was afraid to go back in. They’d be looking for me. They knew I’d gone to my room.
I looked around for an escape route. There. On the far side of my window a ladder was bolted to the side of the building. I don’t know if it was intended for maintenance purposes or fire escape or what, but I knew I had to make it over to it. Was anyone in my room yet looking for me? If they were, they’d see me crossing, right? Well, except the gap in the curtains was only about three feet wide, and I was wearing black. If I kept my arms and my face above the level of the window, gripping the upper contours of the decorative ledge above, I could probably slip past nearly invisible against the night sky.
My heart pounding, I hurried across. No sound from inside my room, no curious Colin or Flip or Bart sticking their head out wanting to know what I was doing out there. No panicked scream, although in my throat I felt a tickle like one wanted to come out of my own mouth.
I climbed the ladder to the roof. My hands were brown with rust and flaked off paint. On the roof were various vents and chimneys which didn’t make for very good places to hide.
When I’m looking for a place to hide I’m not really thinking. It’s more like instinct. On the far side of the roof was a round thing that reminded me of a hut. It had a ladder up one side to a hinged doorway in the pointed roof. I climbed up and opened it. It was a water tank.
From the hatch/doorway, a kind of horizontal ladder ran across, with another one crisscrossing it in the middle. On the far side, several wooden planks made a rough platform under the slanted roof. Crawling across was kind of tricky. At the very center, the roof peak was high enough that I could have stood up, but I didn’t chance it, crawling on all fours on the metal rungs to the platform. Then I realized I’d left the door open. I crawled back across, pulled the hatch closed behind me, and then returned to the platform, where I promptly curled up in a ball and started to cry hard enough to make my face hurt.
I was trying to be quiet while crying–after all, I was hiding–but inside the water tank everything echoed. The water only came maybe two thirds of the way up the walls, which left a lot of space for sound to bounce around in. Every now and then a machine noise would run for a while–a pump, I’m guessing–but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the sounds of my distress.
After a while I got quieter because I got tired. So tired. And my mind started to spin again. Everything was wrong. I was convinced of that. Anything I could think of I came up with a way to make it fit the paranoid theory that Ziggy felt coerced by my marriage proposal and that making me miserable was his payback.
Look. I know the facts don’t actually add up, but so much of a relationship isn’t “facts” so much as it’s subjective reality. It’s called a relationship because it’s about how you relate to each other–and sometimes everything is relative. I convinced myself that Ziggy saw this coming, and that the whole seeming wedding theme I had seen in the tour visuals half a year ago had been part of his plan to make me regret asking him to marry me. Music had become a job and Ziggy had become a ball and chain.
I was having thoughts like, “God, I don’t want to go to Japan.” Followed by, “God, I don’t want to go to rehab.” And then there were long stretches where there weren’t even coherent thoughts, just fear of being found, of being broken, of being permanently creatively blocked, of being trapped in a hell I couldn’t escape.
I was there for hours. Hours and hours. It was a good hiding place. I convinced myself they wouldn’t find me there. They’d have to give up and go home without me. They were probably going to assume I’d been kidnapped or something and that ransom demands would be coming. They’d flee the country, go back where it was safe.
I was out of my mind. I know I was because I wasn’t even thinking about ever leaving the water tank. Part of me believed I was literally going to stay there for days on end, weeks maybe, if that was necessary. And no thought about what to do after that, how I’d sneak out or where I’d go. Actual facts just didn’t hold any weight.
I was in a lot of pain. Emotional, spiritual, and physical pain. I had no way of knowing during that long, dark night that I was disconnected from reality.
The light of dawn was beginning to seep around the cracks of the doorway when the first crew of people searching for me crossed the roof. I could hear a dog barking, and various people moving around on the roof, but no one ever touched the water tank or climbed the ladder outside it. They moved on and I knew I’d chosen my hiding place well. That was the only thing I felt happy about.
This wasn’t like when I was upset about Jonathan. This wasn’t even like when I’d gotten heatstroke trying to get Ziggy from Betty Ford. Those times I was in bad shape but I wasn’t completely out of my mind. I maybe had a foot out the door, but at least I still had one foot in reality. It’s actually hard to remember what I was thinking because it made sense at the time but I know it was only paranoia and selective memory that made it make sense.
I didn’t sleep. I cried intermittently. All my muscles hurt but I didn’t dare stretch out on the platform and potentially fall into the water. I couldn’t imagine how this was going to end.
I certainly didn’t imagine how it did end. I was crying and I suddenly held my breath because I heard the reverberation that had to be the sound of someone climbing the ladder. I couldn’t hear anything else, no voices, no dogs barking. My heart thumped so hard in my throat I couldn’t swallow. Was some maintenance man about to find me?
No. The door creaked and bright sunlight flooded in, making a familiar silhouette out of the figure in the opening.
He looked at me for a long moment before he said anything. I was expecting recrimination or drama or a guilt-trip, a demand of where-have-you-been? or at the very least the demand of an apology for keeping them searching all night…
He said none of those things. All he said, very mildly, was, “Hey.”
“Hey,” I said warily in return.
And then he said another thing I didn’t expect.
“May I come in?”
I told you I couldn’t say no to him.