When I got home it was early evening, and so I wasn’t surprised that Christian was home. What was surprising was he was sitting in the living room with a six pack next to him and a beer in his hand. Okay, that wasn’t surprising either. The shell-shocked look on his face, though, that was.
I plopped my stuff down and said, “Hey, everything okay?”
“I’ve never needed a drink more than I need a drink today.”
“Okaaay.” I tried to remember what he’d told me about rehab and alcohol.
He saw me thinking. “I’m all right. I’m not falling off the wagon.”
“If you say so. Did something happen?”
He took another swig of the beer. “Yeah.”
When he didn’t say anything else right away I took that as a cue to take a bottle out of the carton, pop it on the bottle opener in the kitchen doorway, and sit down across from him.
It was some kind of summer Sam Adams, different from the regular. I took that as a good sign somehow. Having decent taste in beer seemed to indicate less of an addiction to me. Not sure that was actually true. But that’s how I felt about it.
When he was ready to, he said, “A guy at work sawed two fingers off today.”
“Holy fucking shit, Christian,” I said, when I was done spitting my beer.
“Sawed ’em off clean. Went right to the hospital. They jammed his hand and the… the fingers… into the cooler and sped him there. Crew chief said they can totally reattach those kinds of things now.” He put the beer down, suddenly, looking a bit ill. Not that I blamed him. “Right? Shit. I’m never going to be able to get a drink out of that cooler again.”
“Holy fucking shit,” I repeated. “You’re never going back to that job anyway, okay?”
“Shit, Daron, don’t be such a hard ass. Def Leppard’s drummer lost a whole arm and he’s doing all right.”
“Fuck. That’s not funny.”
He shrugged. “It’s either laugh or cry.”
“Tell me again why the fuck you’re doing this job? I thought you were painting houses.”
“General contracting. So that’s painting and also hanging dry wall and laying tile and other crap like that.” He put the empty bottle in the carton and opened another one, using the bottom of a lighter to pop the top.
“And was the guy using the saw, like, trained in safety?”
“He was trained to use the saw, anyway. I think.”
Chris shrugged again.
“And now that he’s in the hospital, who takes over the saw? You? Fuck that shit, Chris. There’s got to be something better. Or with less likelihood of maiming.”
“I’m not afraid of getting maimed.”
I had only had two sips of my beer. “This is not about whether you’ve got cojones or not, motherfucker!I’m your fucking boss. Don’t tell me you’re doing construction because if you quit the other guys will call you a pussy.”
His face reddened.
“For fuck’s sake, Christian.”
“It’s not that. It’s not.”
“The hell it isn’t.”
We were silent for a couple of minutes, drinking and stewing. I spoke first. “I’m serious. Is it your father?”
“Of course it’s my father.”
“Okay, look, do you want to stay here and swap my father sucks stories or you want to go and get properly hammered?”
He looked at the bottle in his hand. “Hmmm.”
“Deal. I take it you ran into Digger in New York?”
“Shit you’re smart. Come on.”
We walked down the sidewalk while drinking our beers, flouting whatever regulations there might have been, then threw the empties into a dumpster before we got to the bar we liked drinking in. It seemed like a good idea to sit at a booth instead of at the bar, given the subject matter our conversation might cover. We waited for a host to seat us. He was a college kid, or looked like one, with dark brown hair and glasses.
“Let me just check, one moment,” he said, and went to check on something host-like. Whether the table was clean, maybe? I could only guess.
He came back but appeared to be rummaging around in the host stand for something. A flashlight? A sponge?
I could see there was a dimly lit booth in a corner. “Chris,” I said, intending to point it out to him.
“Yes?” the host said.
“He means me,” Christian said. “Didn’t you?”
I looked back and forth between them. “Yeah, you. Why, do I know you?” I then said to the host.
“Doubtful,” he replied. “Just moved here from Nowhereville, South Carolina.”
“This must seem like freakin’ paradise to you, then,” Christian said.
“Came here as soon as school finished,” the host said with a nod of agreement.
“Could we have that booth in the corner?” I asked, not wanting to interrupt the conversation but I remembered that when he’s been drinking sometimes Chris can go on and on. Gift of blarney, he called it once. The kid seemed a little lonely so I hoped I wasn’t quashing his one chance to talk to someone interesting that night.
Then again, who am I kidding, we were in Allston: All kinds of interesting characters probably came in and out all the time.
He didn’t seem to mind. He showed us to the booth. An actual waiter came by a moment later. We ordered things with whiskey in them.
Christian didn’t seem like he wanted to go first, so I did. Thus began the recounting of Digger’s latest fuckery. I filled Chris in on almost everything in New York. Okay, not so much the whole story, like I left out the business about Ziggy sexing up the director of the film, but I included the bit about Mills and Digger shaking me down, and the sneaky ways they’d kept him and me apart, and how it almost fucking worked except that Ziggy and I actually talked.
Chris was as outraged as that bullshit as I was about his co-worker getting maimed.
“Okay, then, your turn,” I said. By this time we were on out second round and I could barely see straight. “Digger sucks. Your turn to tell me why your old man sucks.”
“Because he fucking sticks his hands in children’s panties, that’s why.”
At first I thought he was kidding. It took a minute for it to sink in that he meant it seriously. “Shit.”
“Well, I don’t think he does it anymore. But still. And now he’s trying to quit drinking. Trying to make amends. All that shit. He wanted to make amends with me and the program he’s on, you know, you try to actually make up for the shit you’ve caused because of your drinking. So he gets me this job like he’s doing me a big favor but the more I look at it, I’m the one who’s fucking doing him a favor.” He let out a long, boozy sigh. “But then I think, hey, he tried. He reached out and tried. And you know, I keep thinking, if rehab is going to work for him, I have to give him a chance the way you’ve given me a chance–”
“Hang on, wait, one second. You never did anything as fucking wrong as… as all that.” Besides the comment about being a child molester he’d told me at various times about his father abusing his girlfriends, beating Chris, some pretty serious shit.
He rubbed his eyes. “That’s not for you to judge.”
“Hang on, hang on. You told me once that the reason you couldn’t do the extreme style of rehab was because they broke you down and made you believe you were shit, and you couldn’t hack that because low self esteem was what drove you to drugs in the first place. So I think I do get to judge. What did you ever do, besides drugs, that made you a piece of shit? Had a little tantrum once in the studio? Big fucking deal, Christian. That’s water under the bridge and you’re better than that now anyway.”
“Uh…” He swirled the liquor in his glass. “Jeez. You took the wind right out of my sails.”
“Damn straight I did. If it was going to be a pity party I say party’s ovah.” I said over as “ovah” as if using Christian’s own accent would make the point sink in better. Like I was speaking his language. “Okay, I get it. You gave him the benefit of the doubt. You tried to be a good support person by being there when he was kicking booze.”
“Yeah. So I went and worked with him on a job, and another, and next thing you know I’m part of the regular crew, and with my money problems it made sense, you know? But you know what? Now he’s sober and he’s still an asshole.”
“Is he actually sober?”
“Well, funny you should mention that. I think he’s cheating. He doesn’t get it. He thinks he can cheat on sobriety the way he cheated on every woman he’s been with. Like just a nip of vodka when no one’s looking is okay. As if the reason he was staying sober wasn’t actually because he needed to, but because he was going along what other people said.” He shook his head. “Stupid ass.”
“I thought you were supposed to try not to interact with people who undermine your soberness.”
“Whatever. I have not got it at the moment, obviously.”
“Yeah. Point taken.”
“Okay, you’re sure us drinking this much is okay?”
“We’re not driving and we’re not making it a habit. Once or twice a year is not a habit.”
“Okay good because I don’t want to be one of the undermine-y people, you know, I want to be one of the support-y people. And fuck your dad.”
He sniggered. “You do not want to fuck my dad.”
“Fuck! You know what I mean! Oh fuck I can’t believe you said that. I’ve never even met your father.”
He was laughing hysterically now though, tears leaking out of his eyes and trouble breathing and everything. And you know, that kind of laughing fit is contagious, and so when *I* was finally done laughing and could breathe again, I said, “Besides, if you keep up with that job sooner or later they’ll make you cut your hair and then I’ll know you’re done.”
He got a horrified look in his eye. “Never.”
“I mean it. You know how much shit I take for this hair sometimes?”
“I think I can imagine.” When was the last time I had a haircut, anyway? Ziggy had trimmed it out of my eyes in April 1989. I remembered that because it was before we went on tour. Hadn’t cut it since. It hung in my eyes a lot. I think most people thought that was a “look.” Intentional.
We lapsed into silence, but it was an agreeable silence. After a while he clinked his glass against mine.
Sometimes that’s all you can say.