When the meeting was over, and we had run out of things to say–because you know of course we rehashed everything at least twice and maybe three times–I was in no mood to actually play. More importantly, neither was anyone else. Bart made some noises about having to get up early for real and that was all the excuse any of us needed to call it a night.
Eventually it was just me and Ziggy in the living room. I felt awkward all of a sudden. I knew how this song went, didn’t I? If he had melted away and disappeared I’d know I wasn’t going to see him and but he lingered it meant I would, right? Maybe not. There was that time he threw rocks at my window. Maybe any attempts I made to predict him were doomed to failure.
He seemed to feel just as awkward. He looked around at the empty room and then back at me with a hesitant look on his face, like he hadn’t intended for his mere presence to be a come-on, and now that it obviously was… he wasn’t sure what to say.
Don’t think that I didn’t want him. Don’t think that where his lower lip was a little swollen from where he had chewed on it during the meeting didn’t look delicious to me, like I wanted to be the one sucking on it next. But I was trying to figure out if the warning voice in my head telling me not to jump into bed with him was actually a rational, sensible one or just the same old fear pretending to be something new.
“So, how are you?” we both said at the same time, and that made us both laugh. Like we were thinking the same thing. Last time we’d talked we hadn’t really talked, you know?
I decided right then that someone I was that in tune with I should not worry about so much. “You want to hang out?”
“Yeah,” he said.
I opened a can of Coke from the fridge and offered him one. He declined and we went up to my room.
He stopped in the doorway and scanned the place from left to right. “Nice. When did you get this?” Meaning the furniture.
“I made Courtney do the shopping. She has good taste, eh?”
“It’s a step up from Early Dorm Room, anyway,” he said, stepping into the room. He trailed his fingers along the bookshelf. “I didn’t realize you had so many books.”
“I didn’t either. When they were in piles on the floor and in boxes in the closet it was hard to tell.” I sat down on the bed and put a cassette into the player. “Speaking of closets, I have some of your stuff.”
He sat down next to me and tested the bounciness of the futon–which was to say none–by pushing on it a couple of times with his hands on either side of his hips. “What stuff?”
“I ended up with what you left on the bus.” I didn’t say when you were held in isolation on suicide watch. I didn’t have to. Ziggy was always good at hearing what wasn’t said. Maybe that was why we got along, since I was always holding back something? The thought gave me slight goosebumps.
“Oh,” was all he said for a few seconds. “How much stuff was it? I don’t even remember.”
“One bag of clothes… here. You might as well take a look.” I went to the closet and dragged out the bag.
Ziggy unzipped the top flap and rummaged through it a bit. He pulled out a white stuffed unicorn that he’d decorated with markers. “I kind of wondered if these had survived the trip.”
“I kept mine,” I said. The bear he’d decorated for me with tribal-style “tattoos” in Sharpie was in the shelf with the stereo that served as my headboard. “Oh, and this.” Instead of reaching for the bear, I pulled out the notebook. Or should that be The Notebook.
He stared at it. “I thought I’d lost that.”
I sat crosslegged on the bed and handed it to him. “Someone, I assumed it was you, put it into my bag.”
His mouth hung open a little and his eyes unfocused as he thought back. “When?”
I kept my voice quiet and even. “The night of the charity show. You must have done it before the show or during intermission.” I thought I did a pretty good job of not showing any hint of how scared and angry and freaked out I had been. After that show. After he fell. For weeks.
Ziggy rubbed his hand over the embossed cover of the notebook but didn’t open it. “I guess I… Do you remember the intermission of that show?”
“Before I answer that: do you remember the opening act of the show?”
“You mean us?”
He nodded also, his eyelashes fluttering a little as he looked down.
I had the sudden feeling he was going to cry. I had the sudden feeling *I* was going to cry.
When we both held it together, though, I answered his question. “I remember wondering where you went between sets. But there were so many people there, from the charity, and industry types, and stuff, I…” I fell silent, the feeling in my chest too heavy to continue.
He nodded again, blinking rapidly.
“And when you came back, for a second I thought you just wanted a costume change, a makeup refresh. But you… you seemed different.” Colder, I thought. Much colder.
“I was on drugs,” he said, his voice a resigned whisper.
“I figured that much.”
He held up the notebook. “I… I want to say I had a premonition something might happen to me, so I must have put this in your bag. In case. But… but the premonition was about myself, you know?”
I wanted to ask, Ziggy, did you plan to kill yourself? But I couldn’t ask, so instead I said, “No, I don’t know.”
“I… I knew I shouldn’t be taking those drugs. I knew I was at the end of some kind of rope. I know it doesn’t make sense. It only had to make sense when I was in the drug state.” He handed me back the notebook. “I’m not ready to see this yet. I’m… I don’t know.”
“Are you afraid it’ll… bring back that mindset?”
“Pretty much. You keep it for a while longer, okay?”
“Okay.” I slid it back into the shelf so only the spine showed. Anything to minimize the enormity of the fact that Ziggy might have, at any point, considered suicide.
And then I had one of those weird moments of clarity, as if the rules of a game had suddenly presented a loophole to me. I didn’t care so much whether it was “true” that he had, or had not, tried to kill himself. What I actually cared about was that he knew that I worried about it, and I wanted him to do something about it. Not to “tell me the truth” necessarily, but to acknowledge that I felt the way I did. And you know what would have to happen for that?
I would have to tell him how I felt. Fuck.
I let my own eyes close for a second while I drew a breath. When I opened them, he was looking right at me. Here goes. “I really worried you tried to kill yourself. And I really worried it was…” My throat got so tight I could barely choke out the last two words. “…my fault.”
Shit. Ziggy cracked like a second-rate aquarium and like that he was projectile crying. I don’t know which one of us had the bright idea to hug the other. Maybe it was spontaneous. We ended up pressed together, me cradling his head while he wept into my shirt and I dripped tears into his hair.
One of us was repeating the word “Okay” softly over and over and it took me a while to realize it was me.
Eventually he said, “No.”
“No, it’s not okay. And it’s not your fault. Nothing’s your fault. You didn’t get me hooked on painkillers. And I wasn’t taking them because of you.” He lifted his head and drew a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
I remembered something suddenly, then. “Digger even rubbed my nose in it. Told me that I ought to quit being such a baby and just sleep with you already because if I didn’t put out, you were going to crack. And then he said I told you so.”
“You’re fucking kidding me.”
Ziggy’s face went slack with disbelief, shaking his head slightly. “I… I don’t understand his relationship with you.”
“That makes two of us.” I rested my forehead on the top of his shoulder. For all the upset and angst I felt, the scent of him, the solidity of him in my arms, the reality of him filled me with intense relief.
He freed one of his arms and took a sip of the Coke I had left next to the CD player. “This is you.”
“That’s the one I opened before we came up here,” I said, not understanding what he meant.
“The music, I mean,” he said. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Yeah. This was a soundtrack I did while waiting for you to get out of rehab.”
“It’s nice.” He lay back on the bed with a sigh. “Tranquil.”
“Working on it wasn’t, though. It was an emergency job after something else fell through. I think they half expected I wasn’t going to pull it off, either.” I lay down next to him and we looked up at the ceiling. “Nature documentary of some kind, whales and oceans in part of it and the American west in part of it… they didn’t give me a lot to go on at first so I just did whatever the fuck I wanted. You know, hm, if I were watching a nature documentary, what would I want the music to sound like? And I did whatever I thought of. I didn’t have time for anything else. I did it in Remo’s home studio in Laurel Canyon.”
“You and Jonathan lived with Remo?”
“For a while. And then he got this disastrous writing gig–although we didn’t know it was going to be disastrous when it started–and so we rented a place in West Hollywood for several months before I took off for Japan with Nomad and he moved back East.”
“So,” he said carefully, “would you say you’re–”
“Done? We’re done.”
“Okay.” He smiled. I wasn’t looking at him but I could hear the smile. “I wasn’t sure if it was, you know, a trial separation or what.”
“We’re still friends,” I said. “If we’d stayed together any longer I’m not sure we’d even be that.”
He nodded knowingly. “So tell me about Japan.”
“If you’ll tell me about India.”
“I have a lot of stories about India.”
“Good. I want to hear them all.”
That gives you some idea of why it is that Ziggy and I talked all night. I’m not even sure who had the last word. Some time after light had started to seep into the sky we fell asleep in our clothes. I woke up at one point spooned against him, my nose against the back of his neck, and I thought, you know what? There’s this cliche expression: “better than sex.” This isn’t what they mean by it, but that’s what it was.