(Zing! Saturday post! TT and Amber topped up the tip jar, so here we go! -ctan)
Remember, I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home. Also, don’t try it in a foreign country when you have a fifteen hour flight with a change in Hong Kong the next day. I’m talking about drinking yourself nearly blind two nights in a row.
But like I said, I could handle it. With Flip’s aid (he carried No-Doz and other such essentials) I was upright, dressed, and walking like a facsimile of a human being by the time our van left for the airport. Sunglasses work wonders.
They served Cup Noodle on the plane. Yes, actual Cup Noodle brand, in the styrofoam container and everything. I ate it, every noodle, every drop. Cup Noodle cures all.
I have no idea which meal that was intended to be. I slept a lot. By a lot I mean all total I probably slept four hours in the hotel, two hours before the change in Hong Kong, then another 3-4 on the HK to Australia leg. Trans-oceanic flights are long enough that you don’t count them in hours, you count them in how many ginger ales they serve you. (That trip: 5.)
When we were still a few hours out from Australia, Remo came and sat with me.
“How’s the wrist?” I asked him.
“Stiff, but not too bad.” He yawned. “How you doing?”
“All right. Might be a good idea for me to go easy on the drinking tonight, though. Do we have to be anywhere?”
“Nope. No official function until tomorrow, soundcheck.” He looked me in the eye. “You’re sure you’re all right.”
I knew this time he wasn’t asking me about the drinking. Maybe he was worried I was still upset about the thing with him and my mother. “I’m fine.”
“I told you, you ever want to know, I’ll tell you, but if you don’t want to know, I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
That was definitely about my mother. “I guess… I guess I want to be an adult about it, but I can’t figure out if that means forget about the whole thing because it’s none of my business, or if I should find out more because… it seems kind of relevant to recent events.”
He shrugged. The ball was in my court.
“Okay, here’s what bothers me. Two things. One, I always thought you liked having me around because I was good at the guitar, not because you actually felt parental responsibility for me, and two, I never thought of you as the kind of guy who would cheat on his best friend–even if Digger probably did something to totally deserve it.” There, that came out almost mature-sounding.
Remo chuckled. “I’m probably going to have to tell you a lot more than you really want to hear if I’m going to explain why you’re wrong.”
I sighed. “Of course you are.”
“First of all, though, I thought we had the ‘charity case’ discussion before.”
“You don’t seem like the type to doubt yourself. Musically, I mean.”
He was right. “I’m not. But, it still made me wonder.”
“Quit wondering. Talents like you don’t come along too often, Daron.”
“Okay, fine. I’m awesome. Now tell me why I’m wrong about… the rest of it.”
“I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. One thing you should know is that after Claire had her second child, she not only swore off having any more kids, she swore off sex.”
“Okay.” That sounded like the sort of thing my mother would do.
“That was tough on Digger. In those days he doted on her. But she had lost all interest. No sex drive at all. That is until she suddenly found herself interested in me.”
I looked at him, then away, so it wouldn’t seem like I was staring at him.
“Digger saw it. He’s not blind. They used to have me over for dinner or for a barbecue, or to watch the game on Sunday–”
“Really?” That was surprising to me. In all the time I had known him, he’d steered completely clear of our house. I’d assumed it had always been like that.
“Really. And of course once Claire got interested, she contrived to invite me over more often. This was around when Lilibeth was in kindergarten and Janine was in pre-K and all of a sudden Claire had her mornings to herself, alone at the house.”
“Uh huh.” Of course it was. I was born when my older sisters were five and six.
“It was driving Digger a little crazy, but you know, he and I would go out drinking and eventually he got it into his head that it was an act. That she didn’t really want me, she just wanted to make him crazy. And it started to make sense to him to tell me to push her, see if her flirtations actually went anywhere. Like it would prove something if she would go all the way with me. I’ll admit, I was very attracted to her. I asked if he was absolutely sure he wanted me to go through with it if she offered. His opinion was that unless we did, he’d never be sure it wasn’t just a game of chicken. The very next day after he convinced me I should see how far I could get, your mother called out of the blue at ten in the morning to say she needed help moving the refrigerator. I went over there ready to help, but as you might have guessed it was an excuse to get me alone.”
“Wow.” I remembered what Digger had told me about how manipulative my mother could be.
“Well, the thing is, that snowballed and snowballed, and it all blew up a few weeks later, at which point I was banned from the house.”
“Okay, that explains that.”
“And during that period of time is when your parents had some kind of epic make-up sex during which you were conceived.”
“Wow. Epic unsafe make-up sex.”
“I guess. I have no idea if they weren’t careful or what. But to answer your other question, yeah, I felt kind of responsible for your birth since without me cracking the ice, as it were, maybe they never have you. But I’ll tell you, if you hadn’t been a little prodigy I can’t say I would have seen you but once in a while, or from afar. The guitar kept landing you in my lap, though. And I did not mind. I did not mind at all.”
I leaned back in my seat. “That’s kind of twisted. Then again, my parents are twisted.”
“Did Claire resent you after that? For not coming around again?”
“Oh yeah. She was pissed. She wanted me at her beck and call! I eventually had to break it to her that it wasn’t that I didn’t find her attractive. It was that my loyalty was to your father first and foremost. Well, when she found out that Digger had practically sent me over there to see her that first time, all of a sudden she wasn’t interested in me anymore! Thing is, I’m pretty sure she was only interested in me because I was Digger’s best friend. The whole thing was she wanted not just to cheat on him, but for me to be cheating on him, too. When that wasn’t the case, she banned me from the house and never wanted to see me again.”
“Jeezus.” I had definitely heard enough now. “Wait. I think I…” I blinked, thinking through the idea that had just popped into my head. “That was why she didn’t want me playing the guitar in the house. Because it reminded her of you.”
I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to jump start my brain. “All this time I thought she hated me because I was too much like Digger. And she even used to say I was no good because I was turning out like my father.” I looked at him. “You’re absolutely sure you’re not my biological father.”
“Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that Claire didn’t kind of consider you my kid.”
“That is very true.” My mother had a personal version of reality that often bore little resemblance to facts. “I kind of wonder if Digger considered me your kid, too.”
Remo pressed his lips together for a second. Then he said, “I always considered you my kid. A godson, at least. But I was always afraid if I told you that, you’d push me away.”
He was clearly afraid that might still happen. I put my fingers lightly over his braced wrist. “When I was younger, I probably would have. I wanted a friend more than another parent.”
“And I never wanted kids. But you.? You were always more like a little adult than a kid. It was like we got along instantly.”
That pretty much matched my memory of it, too. “I don’t remember the first time he brought me over to your house. I must’ve been around ten? It was like there was the period before we would go over there, and then there’s the period of my life after, but I don’t remember the day it all changed. It was like I’d known you all along.”
“Digger used to say he couldn’t explain it but that we just stuck like glue.” Remo shrugged. “Anyway. What I don’t want to happen because of all this, though, is for us to change.”
“We won’t change,” I said. “We’re finally at the stage where we can be real peers, Reem. This is what we’ve been waiting for. For me to grow up so we can be friends. We’ll always be more than that, but you know what I mean.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” He seemed to relax, relieved, I guess. “Worth the wait.”
“Very worth the wait. Hey, so when are you hitting the road next? I’m not making any commitments yet but I figure I should ask.”
“Summer. Two months in the US, then Glastonbury and a slew of UK dates.”
The schedule that Moondog Three had been on earlier this year. I was suspicious that Mills had been behind the scuttling of the UK trip. Some other band he favored more had ended up with those gigs. “Did I tell you I talked to Carynne? We’re at Defcon One. Lawsuits have been launched.”
“Jeez. I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault.”
“You got my sympathy anyway.”
“Yeah.” I felt like we’d run to the end of the conversation, but I had one more thing I felt I better say before I chickened out. “Reem, I want to come on tour with you. But I want to come because I want to, not because I have to. Does that make sense?”
“Sure does. No need to decide now. Let’s play it by ear.”
“We’re good at that.”
“Yes, we are.”
(Okay I guess technically I should mix the words around to Just Don’t Understand Parents, but we couldn’t pass up the chance to use this gem from baby-faced Will Smith, the song that won the Best Rap Performance Grammy in 1989. -d.)