We walked down Boylston Street. The night air was breezy, humid in that end-of-summer way.
“I can tell you’re upset,” Ziggy said.
“In the sense of, like, the apple cart in my mind flipped over, yeah.” I took a deep breath of the night air. We were passing the hotel where Jonathan and I had spent a weekend, but that thought barely made it to the surface. “I’m not angry. I’m not freaked.”
“It’s okay to be upset, Daron. This is something that’s going to change everything. Whatever we decide. All the apple carts are going to flip.”
“I guess I’m still clinging to the fact I wish it didn’t have to.” The breeze was blowing his un-gelled hair across his forehead. It was confusing that I wanted to pull him into my arms and kiss that forehead at the same time we were discussing breaking up the band.
“Okay, first of all, on that point, are you blaming yourself? Because if you are, stop.”
“I don’t think I am. I think I’m pretty well blaming Mills and maybe Digger for it.”
“Being a waste of a human being, but even more for being a manager who didn’t look out for us. Especially now that I know what he had on the table for Sarah Rogue was a deal like yours.”
“You think he was so blinded by Sarah’s deal that he didn’t see what was coming on the other side?” That frown line between Ziggy’s eyebrows. I wanted to kiss it.
I tried to stay on topic instead. “No. I mean he sold us out to close Sarah’s deal. Instead of fighting for us, he was cozying up to Mills and trying not to make waves so he could close this other deal.”
“Oh.” Ziggy’s eyes were as wide as I’d ever seen them without aid of eyeliner. “Oh, shit. I didn’t realize that.”
“Yeah. When I fired him I knew he’d rolled over for Mills but I hadn’t known why. Now? Now I know why.”
“Well, no wonder you’re so against me signing this deal.”
I stopped in my tracks again. “Ziggy, you signing this deal signs the death warrant for Moondog Three. Even without all the crap about Digger. Can’t you see that?”
“Okay, but… What if it didn’t have to?”
“What do you mean?”
“Hear what I’m saying. We’re talking about two different things. One, you being against the deal because it plays into what these guys you see as enemies want. Two, because of how it would actually affect the band. They’re related but separate.”
We weren’t holding hands anymore, but I didn’t remember when we’d let go. “Okay.”
He looked up and down the street. We were in front of the convention center. “Come on. Let’s keep moving.”
“All right.” We started walking again, slowly. My feet were moving but what we were saying was a lot more important to me than moving through space right then.
“Now, try to set aside the whole Digger selling us out thing for a second. I know that’s huge so it’s not easy. But compartmentalize a little for the sake of figuring this out.”
“That’s hard to do when I wonder if he wasn’t thinking all along that what he was going to do was get Sarah’s deal closed, and then work one like it for you, which would essentially let him keep control of everything I built while cutting me out of the picture.”
Ziggy made an “unh” sound deep in his throat. “God. When you put it that way… Okay, yes, I allow as to how that might have been his plan. But honestly, Digger’s not great at such long term planning. He’s great at recognizing opportunity and grabbing it, though. And he’s also a selfish prick who is definitely not above screwing you for spite. So I get that. But still. Let’s try to set that aside and look at this deal for what it is.”
“Which is a fuckload of money.” He was looking up the street as he said it, not at me. “So let me see if I have this straight. Christian needs money because he got himself in a hole with drugs and he knows if he doesn’t keep up his mortgage payments, you’ll have to cover him, and that’ll torpedo what self-esteem he has left and make him so unable to face you he’ll probably have to move to another state.”
“You don’t think that’s what’s going on?”
“Well, I knew he was funny about money, but–”
“Daron. Trust me on this. Chris will never live it down if he defaults to you. His pride can’t take it. He’s already on a self-esteem rollercoaster as it is.”
I got the feeling Ziggy was more familiar with the self-esteem rollercoaster than I had previously suspected. “You might be right. Especially after I called him a motherfucker for convincing me to buy the house with him when he was pretending he was totally okay with me being gay, when he wasn’t.” That came out sounding wrong. “I mean, now I know it was more complicated than that. But when we were fighting that was how it seemed. You know, how could you have done that if you were actually afraid to get my cooties? We’re cool now but it was an issue.”
“I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten that either. So, problem one is your mortgage.” He bent back his left index finger with his right, as if ticking it off the list. He added his middle finger. “Problem two, art.”
“Music. Artistic self-determination. Whatever you want to call it. I don’t want to say artistic ‘freedom,’ because the only way you have that is to not have a record company at all. Freedom would be us doing four solo albums and selling them on street corners, right?”
“Okay. We accept a certain amount of compromise is necessary as part of the package. I’ve always known that. You don’t record a single where all the lyrics are the word ‘Fuck’ just because you feel like it unless you’ve got the mentality of a six-year-old.”
“Which some bands do.”
“True. But we never did. I like to think we’ve always been more mature than that, musically speaking.”
He nodded. “Hey, this is the rock and roll sushi place.” He pointed to a restaurant on the other side of the street.
“The what, now?”
“Rock and roll sushi. You know. Most sushi places are like some kind of modernist Zen garden. This one they call it rock and roll sushi on weekends. Because the music’s loud.”
“Do you want to go in?”
“We just ate dinner,” Ziggy pointed out.
“I know, but if you wanted to go in, I’d go with you.” I realized we hadn’t made it very far down the street.
“No no no, I’m just noticing it’s here. Not saying I want to go there right now.” He waved his hands and sped up walking, as if to get us away from the place. “Anyway. So problem one, mortgage, problem two, to put it more frankly: what happens to the band. Mills wants to get rid of you, that much seems obvious.”
“Him and Digger both.” We were walking more briskly now, as if the questions we were asking had more urgency.
“Assuming I have some bargaining power here, I might be able to do something.”
“Like make it a condition that the band stays with me. Or that you are totally free to start something else without them owning your ass. Or they have to liberate the back catalog. I don’t know exactly but I’m sure I have at least a little leverage.”
“And if I sign it, a couple million dollars goes a long way to solving problem number one, and most of the other problems I can come up with. Like how to put your sister through school. How to keep Carynne employed–”
“Wait, what about Carynne? Wouldn’t signing this deal mean you’re keeping Digger as manager?”
“First of all, why? So I can get my money’s worth or something? Second of all, you don’t think Carynne would still be my road manager if I asked her to? This is assuming you don’t get the rights to the band name, hire another singer, and have her locked up so busy I’d have to hire someone else because she’d be on tour with you.”
My knees got weak and I had to stop walking. He gripped my wrist.
“Sorry, too upsetting?”
“You never…” I felt dizzy. “Stop for a second and listen to what you just said. You go off and have a solo career while I replace you and Moondog Three goes on without you?”
“In theory, Daron, in theory.”
“In theory the entire world could end tomorrow, too!” So this was the thing about being upset but not angry or freaked out: it was a very, very short distance from upset to either or both of those things. “What happens to us, then? What happens to you and me if we’re both on separate tours for half the year, and you’re on location shooting a film the rest of the year?”
He took the small paper bag of CDs out of my hand, put it into the plastic bag hanging from his wrist, and then took both my hands in both of his. “That is problem number four, or five, I’ve lost track. And let’s not call them problems anymore. Let’s call them priorities. How high a priority is it?”
“How high a priority is what?”
“This.” He squeezed my fingers in his. “Don’t answer yet. Listen to me. I know we just had the world’s most mind-blowing sex. I am so in love with you right now I am almost ready to throw five million dollars out the window, okay? But I’m also not some lovestruck teenager who believes ‘if we just stick together we’ll find a way.’ Don’t try to sell me on some kind of idea like we can live on what we’d make busking in the park on sunny days. This isn’t Spain. Plus Courtney’s tuition isn’t cheap. Plus your mortgage. Okay?”
I tried to mull that over sensibly. But what I said was, “You thought the sex was mind-blowing?”
“Yes, best I’ve ever had, but you’ve had a lot more–”
“Daron,” he said, eyes flaring and emphatically knocking that train of thought right off the rails.
“Okay. Okay, you’re right, if you’d asked me two weeks ago, or two years ago, which I’d pick, a guaranteed five million dollars or a very not-guaranteed relationship with you, it might have been a tough choice.”
“And I’m saying let’s not throw five million dollars out the window merely because love has made us stupid.”
“Okay.” I pulled him to me and kissed him then, a quick but deep kiss that left us both breathless. Quick because we were standing on a public street. So much for love not making us stupid? We were practically standing in front of the gay bookstore, for pete’s sake. I looked up and could see the sign in the window on the second floor where it was located. Glad Day, it was called.
Ziggy saw me looking. “You ever been in there?”
“No. And we’re not going in there now.”
“No. We’re going back to your place to fuck because at this point that’s the only chance we’ll have to talk rationally again. I want you so much right now I can barely finish this sentence, much less a rational thought.”
So we did that. Went back to his place and peeled back the bedspread to the un-love-stained sheets underneath and stained them good and thoroughly.