(Another bonus post thanks to Kickstarter donations! If you haven’t chipped in to help produce a new omnibus paperback of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, now’s a good time… http://kck.st/R31kCx -ctan)
I slept three hours and then was wide awake in the morning, more because of jet lag than because I was worrying or something. I went back to the basement where the Mac was still set up and I checked my email, working backwards from the most recent.
After a while I came across one with Jonathan’s new phone number in it, wrote it into my notebook, and then went back to bed for a bit. When I woke up again, hungry this time, I called him while I was making toast.
“Guess who’s back?”
“Daron! I heard through the grapevine that you were in Spain.”
“I was. Which grapevine?”
“Carynne, who else. Are you caught up on everything?”
“Not even remotely. When did you talk to her last?”
“A month or two ago? Why, what’s happening on your end?”
“Hang on. Let me eat this piece of toast so I don’t have to go into it all on an empty stomach. Tell me about you. I’m guessing from your phone number that you moved to Manhattan?”
“Yes, at least for a while. I’m subletting a place in Chelsea, friend of a friend’s, rent controlled so it’s ridiculously cheap compared to what it’s worth.”
“How long are you there?”
“At least a year before he comes back. I lucked out. Let’s see. Oh, I finally finished a first draft of the novel!”
I nearly dropped the stick of butter. “What? Congratulations!”
“Yes, I know, it seemed like I was never going to finish it. After I moved back East I couldn’t focus, was living in my parents basement, and I thought, okay, you know what? It’s now or never. If I take a job somewhere or I go back to the freelance grind, when am I ever going to have time to focus on this? This is why people go to writers colonies. When was I ever going to be able to take a month or two off? to do nothing but write? I looked into a couple of programs and destinations as well as the possibility of just going to a Motel 6 somewhere for five or six weeks. I got accepted to a place in Vermont and was there all of May and June. And, you know, you go to one of these places and there is literally nothing else to do but write.”
“Wow. So you did it.”
“I did it.”
“So what did your agent think of it?”
“She looked it over and fast-tracked it straight to the editor at the publishing house who’s been waiting for it.”
“And what did he think of it?”
“I haven’t heard from him yet. He’s only had it a few weeks, though.”
“So that’s normal?”
“It often takes them a couple of months to get back to you. I can hardly blame them, though. I was so late getting it to them. Now they can take their sweet time.”
I refrained from asking what he thought of it. If he hated it, he wouldn’t want me picking at that soft spot, and if he liked it, well, he liked it. “Well, it’s great that you got it done. In the end I guess it was really a matter of time.”
“Yeah. Also, I finally realized there was a character in it I had to change. Things just weren’t clicking, weren’t working, it wasn’t making sense.” He chuckled a little nervously. “The character based on you, actually.”
I bit into the toast instead of answering. I had sort of known there were things in there based on me, us, but he’d never talked about them. I mean, to me it was as natural as breathing that my art would reflect the loves in my life–aren’t most rock songs about either the people you wish you were with, were actually with, or were no longer with?–but Jonathan had been especially close-mouthed about it when you consider how much else he told me. So I had never pried.
“I guess finally having the relationship with you I had been wanting and then getting over you finally freed me to stop trying to turn that character into a version of you. Or something.” He sighed. “Anyway, let’s just say I really sympathize now with that urge to get away from it all.”
“Yeah. So when did Ziggy reappear, anyway?”
“I’m not sure exactly when he came back. His first public appearance was maybe a month ago?”
When Carynne started trying to call me. I felt stupid all over again about the dead phone. “Carynne told me his mother passed away.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I take it you haven’t been in touch?”
“I haven’t. I’ve only been back for a couple of days, and I hear he’s in L.A. anyway.” I put the butter back in the fridge. “Okay, I’m fortified. Are you ready to hear the latest twists and turns in our BNC legal bullshit?”
“Off the record, of course,” I said, just to be sure.
“Of course. I am freelancing again, though, by the way. I’m finally getting to do some more political work, actually.”
“That’s awesome. You’ve wanted that for a long time.”
“And it’s like all hell is breaking loose in the status quo politically! Mandela, end of the Cold War, fall of communism, war in the Gulf, it’s like what the hell is going on? All of a sudden a lot more pages are being devoted to geopolitical stuff and less to the antics of poodlehair bands or what have you.” He cleared his throat. “But I’m listening.”
I went back to my room to give him a fairly detailed account of everything I knew about what the audit had turned up, the contract, and the Mills image makeover idea. Jonathan was one of the only people I knew who had a good grasp of the ins and outs of the industry and who knew enough of our band dynamics to be able to give some advice on the matter.
Of course, leave it to Jonathan to zero in immediately on my biggest deficiency. “You can’t make any decisions without talking to Ziggy first.”
By then I was lying on the bed, looking at the ceiling. “You know how sometimes I get terrified of fucking things up?”
“Well, this is undoubtedly the most terrified I’ve ever been of fucking things up with someone. I mean, essentially, I’m afraid I’ll find out it’s already way too late. A year apart from him… J, it’s been a year! You know how he is, a chameleon, what if he’s not even the same person he was?”
“If he’s not the guy you fell for, Daron, maybe that’d be a blessing in disguise. If he’s changed that much, then maybe you can move on, too.”
“Shit, I hadn’t thought of it that way.” I shivered as if the thought were making me cold. I rolled over and the futon frame creaked under me. “I don’t know which would be worse, he’s changed, or he hasn’t changed.”
“Can you get his phone number? Maybe you should at least try to chat a little before you meet face to face.”
I made a sound of dismay.
“Daron. Is this the real reason you went to Spain? To avoid him?”
“No! But I’d half-convinced myself he wasn’t coming back by that point.”
“But he did. And you did. Don’t make it into a bigger deal than it is.”
“Or you’ll make it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ll worry about messing it up so much that it’ll be messed up from the start.”
“That, right there, is the description of my entire history with him.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?”
“What can I do to help?”
“You’re already doing it. Listening and being a voice of reason.” It suddenly hit me how fortunate I was that I could have such a good friend for an ex. “Which, by the way, thank you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it that you’re there for me, J.”
“Of course,” Jonathan said. I think he felt that people who hated or avoided each other after they broke up were vulgar and un-evolved.
“In other news, Bart learned to play the cello.”
“He says it’s not that different from the stand-up bass, which he learned a long time ago, but the cello you can play sitting down. I don’t see why that’s an advantage, but then again I’ve been playing sitting down for months now and my shoulder’s sore today from the strap of the Fender.”
“You know Gary Hunter, from Geozilla? He was having shoulder pain from his bass being so heavy. Says he cured it with acupuncture, though.”
“Yeah. You’ve got to take care of yourself, D. You’re not a kid anymore.”
“I’m only twenty-three. I’m sure I just have to get used to it again.”
We were on the phone for another hour after that. I told him more about Spain and he told me more about the articles he’d been writing and some of the travel he’d done for research. It was kind of nice to know that even after going through a fairly dysfunctional relationship, a kinda wrenching breakup, and then many months without even speaking to each other…. we were still friends. In other words we were actually friends, and not just guys who had been friendly because we were flirting.
In my mind I was dividing people into two types, those who didn’t change if I didn’t see them for a long time, and those who did. Bart and Jonathan and Carynne were definitely in the former group, while Chris was in the latter.
I feared so was Ziggy.