I woke up in the morning to the smell of coffee. I pulled on a pair of jeans. They were on the floor with a couple of other pairs and Ziggy and I are about the same size but I’m pretty sure they were mine.
Out in the living room he was perched on the odd, claw-footed antique chair, with a mug next to him and his notebook in his lap.
“What do you think?” He turned the open page to face me. I came close enough that even my bleary eyes could make out the words. The song was apparently called “Making Up For Lost Time.” I smiled. “I think I’m too sleepy to really judge it. But, hah, yeah.” We were each up to, what, six? orgasms in the past twenty hours? I may have lost track. I was actually starting to feel sore. Not that I cared about that.
I handed him the notebook back and picked up his mug. The coffee had gone cold. I took a gulp anyway. Ziggy liked it with a lot of sugar. “So are we actually going to sift your possessions?”
“Yeah, I guess we should.” He closed the notebook and scrubbed his face with his palm. “I don’t have a lot of stuff, really. Not that I care about. I’ve got to figure out if I’m keeping the art, though, or pitching it.”
“You mean like the painting you were working on yesterday?”
“Yeah. You want to see it? It’s in the kitchen.”
He got up and took me to the kitchen, which was a tiny room, but with just enough floor space for an easel and a person to stand in front of it. The counter was littered with painting paraphernalia, tubes of color and such. I know nothing about painting so wasn’t sure what all I was looking at. The easel was more or less in the doorway, so that he could get the light from the tiny window shining on it I supposed. He squeezed past it so he was in the kitchen while I was still in the hall. He plucked the canvas off the easel and turned it around to face me.
It appeared to be an impressionistic image of deep foliage, with overhanging vines and bushes, except for two eyes peering out of the area of deepest shadow.
“You can’t throw this away,” I said. “People will want to buy it just because you’re famous.”
“But isn’t that the question? What if I don’t want people to buy crappy art just because of my name? What if I suck as a painter?”
“It looks fine to me.”
He growled. “That’s not what I mean and you know it.”
“Bad art is… I don’t know if I could live with it if critics were panning it.”
Oh. This was definitely too deep a conversation to have before breakfast. “What’s the chance you get a fair shake from critics anyway, though? Zig, seriously, when did you decide you wanted to be a fine art painter?”
“Well, I don’t, really, but I have these paintings and have to decide what the fuck to do with them.”
“Keep them. Whether you think they’re good or not. They’re art. You can’t just throw that away.”
“But is it worth moving them across the country, if I move to Los Angeles? Or New York?”
“About that,” I said, but found myself pausing, trying to tread carefully on the subject I wanted to bring up.
He seemed to know it was something sensitive. He put the painting down on the counter, folded the easel, and came out in the hall, kissing me good morning as he did it. That tamped down my rising anxiety.
All right. “You could always leave the paintings at the Allston house,” I said. “Or… you could just move in.”
“No,” he said, then quickly added. “Don’t think I don’t realize how serious it is for you to ask me to move in with you, Daron. But no. It would not work.”
“You’ve thought about this before?”
“Yes. And I would go insane living with Chris and your sister and Colin. For one thing, putting me and Colin into a house together would be a terrible idea.”
“I thought you and Colin got along really well.”
“Too well. Do you really think it would work for me to be fucking Colin with you in the next room?”
“Um…” I was trying to think of a tactful way to say been there, done that.
“I mean on a regular basis,” Ziggy said, as if I’d said it out loud. “And… I don’t know. I’d feel really weird.”
“What would feel weird?”
“Sleeping with you, in that house.”
“What?” Okay, now I knew I needed coffee or a hearing aid or something. “Zig. You snuck into my room after climbing up the fire escape and–”
“Because I was desperate. If I lived there, if we were together? It’d be so creepy, don’t you think? To have your sister, and a guy we’ve both slept with, and Chris who has all kinds of issues, all in earshot?”
I pulled him back to the living room where the mug of cold coffee sat. I drained it and handed it to him. “Are you seriously saying that you’d be weirded out having normal, unsurreptitious sex with me in my own house?”
“I didn’t think you had any inhibitions.”
“Well, you found one.” He put the mug onto the mantel of the fireplace. “That’s part of the problem, I guess. It’s your house. If I moved in there, would I be your tenant? Weird. All kinds of weird.”
“Waitasecond. We were just talking about you paying off the mortgage on the place. Wouldn’t that make you an owner, too?”
He waved a hand like that didn’t matter. “I just know it wouldn’t work. You and I have enough trouble making things work. Putting a monkey wrench like that in, just… no. Trust me.”
“Okay.” I sat down in the chair, but it hadn’t hit me yet why I felt so deflated.
He sat at my feet and rested his head on my knees. “Daron. It’s all right. I’m not rejecting you. Just the idea of moving into your rock-and-roll family commune.”
I snorted, trying to smile. “Is that what it is?”
“I don’t know how you stand being around so many people all the time, actually. You’re even more of an introvert than I am.”
“You’re an introvert?”
“I mean it, Daron. If I lived with that many people I’d spend all my time hiding in my room.”
“You do all right on tou–” I didn’t stop myself in time. Ziggy hadn’t done all right at all on that last tour and his face showed it. “Was that because of all the people?”
He sighed. “No. No, it wasn’t that. And it wasn’t you or the guys. I had plenty of time to myself.”
The full notebook of lyrics proved it, I guess. “I used to live alone. I had a studio in the Fenway.” I combed his hair with my fingers. “At first it was rough, moving into Allston. The house was more crowded then, too, with Lars and his girlfriend, and a couple of others, but I was pretty broke and needed somewhere to go. But now it’s really all people I’m close to. That makes it easy somehow.”
He sighed sympathetically. “Don’t ask me why. We could put all those same people in a tour bus with us and I’d have no problem giving you a blow job in your bunk. But if I lived there, in the house, no.”
“What about if you don’t live there?” I still couldn’t get the logic of this. “Like right now. What happens if we go over there to rehearse and I ask you to stay the night?”
“That’s all right. I like it here better, but I wouldn’t leave you with blue balls.”
“I still don’t see what the difference is, you living there versus visiting me there.”
He looked up at me. “It would feel different. That’s all. Sometimes you just know.”
“Okay. I’ll accept that.” My turn to sigh. “Which reminds me. Speaking of things I just know. Whatever we negotiate in the future. You have to promise me one thing.”
“You ever sleep with Mills, it’s over.” I had meant for it to come out joking, but it came out dead serious. I tried to make a joke about double-homicide but it wouldn’t come out. Instead I repeated, “Over.”
“Promise,” Ziggy said. “I can see why that would fuck you up. For the record, I’m going to continue to treat Courtney like she’s off-limits, even if she does flirt outrageously with me every chance she gets.”
“La la la can’t hear you!”
“That girl tortures me something fierce. You know what? I can’t even tell if it’s because she really wants something to happen but knows because I’m off-limits I’m safe to mess with, or if it’s some kind of revenge for things she thinks I did to you.”
“Seriously.” He sucked air through his teeth. “Your sister’s hot.”
“Revenge-flirting. What a concept.” There were ways in which my sister was more like him than she was like me, I think. “Thank you, though.”
“Don’t thank me for respecting your boundaries. I should. You do get that it’s your job to set them though, right?” He stood up and stretched. He was wearing boxer shorts so old they were wearing through at the edges and his stomach was brown and flat where it disappeared under the sagging elastic. “Any other rules you want to make while we’re on the subject?”
“Good. You, too.” He nodded.
A swirl of old arguments with Jonathan washed through my head. And non-arguments, too. Like the whole “be with me when you’re with me” thing. Somehow I couldn’t quite apply that to me and Ziggy, though. “I don’t want to end up on opposite coasts if we can avoid that.”
He looked out the window, down into the alley between buildings. “We survived being on different continents pretty w–”
“No, we didn’t!” I hadn’t expected my anger to flare up hot like that. I was on my feet and he turned to face me. “Are you fucking kidding me, Ziggy? This relationship barely made it through. And what if you didn’t come back? What if you’d caught something fatal?”
“But I didn’t–”
“What if I’d decided not to come back?”
“But you did. That’s my point, Daron.”
“That I’m at your beck and call?” I was burning too hot, moving too fast.
And Ziggy knew it. “Whoa, waitasecond, where did that come from? No, what I’m saying is that this relationship is the reason both of us came back.” He came close and I managed not to bristle. “Neither of us is here because some corporation owns our contracts. Don’t tell me that’s why.”
I took my cue to slip my arms around his waist. “Don’t try to tell me that you–” Wait, what was I saying? Why was I so convinced that I was the one at a disadvantage? I leaned my head against his. “Never mind. I don’t know what I’m saying.”
“Give it time,” he said. “We’re not making any decisions yet.”
“I don’t want to let you out of my sight.” I buried my nose in his hair.
“Yet you did, the other night.”
“I’d rather give you permission to have sex with someone else than drive you to it by making you feel trapped,” I said.
“That’s a really… evolved train of thought from you, Daron.”
“It’s true. And I don’t feel threatened by Pollyann.”
“But you feel threatened by the idea of me moving to Los Angeles.”
“Yes. I don’t know why.”
“Hm. My next question was going to be why.”
“Maybe because I hate Los Angeles. Or maybe because I wasn’t worried you’d fall in love with Polly but I am afraid if I’m not around you’ll fall in love with somebody and the next thing you know I’ll be pawing on the glass outside again.”
“Are you telling me this thing with this actress was just a fling? You practically eloped to India with her.”
“Well, except it wasn’t like we got married.”
“No, just the honeymoon.” Why couldn’t I shut up? Why couldn’t I slow down?
He made a pained noise, though, more like I was right than like he took my antagonism the wrong way. “I was never in love with Jennifer Carstens, okay? Never. We clicked. But I was never in love with her.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. It was good to hear, good to know, if it was true, but still. “But sometimes fucking somebody leads to love.”
“Sometimes,” he agreed. Then he pulled back to look me in the eye. “No, actually. That’s only happened to me once. Once exactly.”
My throat closed. Don’t you dare fucking lie to me about this, Ziggy Ferias…
“You know who the one person was, Daron. You.”
I don’t know why I argued, but I did. Actually, maybe I do know. Because I wanted so very much to hear him say it. I wanted him to love me. I wanted it to be true. I wanted it enough that I needed to be sure it wasn’t just me hearing what I wanted to hear. “I thought you had a thing for messing with closet cases.”
“I do. But I had wanted to get to know you for a while at that point.”
Get to know me? “Biblically?” I had the familiar feeling of needing a translator when Ziggy spoke. “Wait, at which point?”
“That day in the park.”
“Wait, what? How could you have already wanted to know me on the day we first met?”
He moved his weight from one foot to the other, like we were slowdancing. “I know you think that was the day we met, but it wasn’t. I’d seen you a couple of times before, at parties.”
“Seen me? But did we actually talk to each other?”
“Maybe not, since you were always behind a guitar.”
“Then I stand by my story that in the park that day was the first day we met.”
“Well, fine, but if you could have love at first sight, so could I, only I saw you first.” He seemed extremely pleased to have won this argument.
I was giddy-pleased to have lost it, but still wanted proof. “So when was it? The first time you saw me.”
“Bart’s girlfriend Michelle had a friend from art school named Susanna. Her parents have a house down the Cape. She had a lot of infamous parties at which a lot of art school types got very drunk and had a lot of sex. As you might recall, I was, once upon a time, in art school.”
“Oh.” It seemed obvious when spelled out that way.
“And I would have put the moves on you all the way back then, maybe, if you hadn’t been hiding behind the guitar every time I saw you.”
“Maybe. Girls were plentiful and distracting. And none of my sexual relationships with men had worked out all that healthy at that point.”
“I mean mentally.”
“Like that kid you jerked off behind the school.”
“Yeah. They’d all been like that to one degree or another: dirty and hidden and wrong. It was only women I tried to have romantic attachments to. Tried to ‘date’ or be a partner to. Because that was easier.”
“I know what you mean.” I did. I wasn’t oblivious to the way people treated me and Carynne when they thought we were together.
“But you know what? I don’t think I’m actually any good at intimacy with women. In fact, I think maybe I’m not any good at intimacy with anyone… except you.” He sucked on his lower lip for a few seconds. “And I know I haven’t exactly been stellar with you, either.”
“You went to India without even talking to me.”
“I know. I–” He took a deep breath and I watched his chest rise and fall. I was expecting a long explanation to come forth. Instead all he got out was: “I was afraid.”
Then he started to cry and I squeezed him so tight neither of us could breathe.
Of course, I had to let us breathe if I was going to say anything. “Let’s try not to be afraid of each other, at least, deal?”
“Deal.” He exhaled, leaning against me. “I love you, Daron. I love you but it makes me stupid.”
“It makes me stupid, too,” I said.
“I think we’re better off together, then.”
“Yeah. Two heads are better than one.”
“Mm. Maybe if we each have half a brain we’ll be all right, then.”
“Mm hm.” I also had the thought that two cocks were better than one, too, but this didn’t seem to be the moment to say it. “Don’t move to Los Angeles.”
“What about New York, could I move to New York?”
“You told me once you always thought you were going to live there.”
He stopped short of asking me to move to New York with him. I stopped short of suggesting it. Instead I said, “Let’s go to Allston and work on the song you were writing.”
“Why don’t we stay here?”
“All my guitars are there.”
“I’ve got one in the closet.”
“Really?” That had never occurred to me. “Why?”
“You know how it is. I ended up with one. Come take a look.” He got up and pulled me back into the bedroom. From the within the closet he produced what looked like a brand new hardshell case. He lay it on the floor (well, on top of some of our discarded clothes) and opened it.
Inside was what looked to be a brand new Taylor acoustic. Without getting technical: it was a really nice guitar. If it was a hand-me-down, it was from someone with more money than sense. Then again, that described a certain segment of Ziggy’s art school crowd.
I dug a guitar pick out of the pocket of my denim jacket, which was lying conveniently nearby.
I tuned the guitar. Ziggy sat crosslegged next to me, watching my every move.
I had a strong feeling this was not a hand-me-down guitar, but I also had a strong feeling it wasn’t to my advantage to force Ziggy into telling me the truth about it. He had been honest about so much already I decided it was best to leave it alone.
We started working on a song. It quickly progressed to what I can only describe as a songwriting binge. The binge lasted for two days, with breaks for sex and food delivery.
It probably would have gone on even longer, except eventually Carynne showed up to make sure we were okay. She buzzed from downstairs.
Ziggy talked into the intercom. “Hello? Are you a food delivery?”
“I sure as hell am not,” she replied. “Please tell me you have Daron up there.”
“I do. You want to come up? We’ll put clothes on.”
“No, that answers my question. Next time you guys decide to spend a week in bed, how about let someone know first, though?”
I shouted over, “It hasn’t been a week.”
“You sure about that?”
Ziggy and I looked at each other. Neither of us was confident enough to contradict her. He cleared his throat. “Seriously. If you want to come up, you can.”
“No, just here’s a message. The guys want to know when you’re getting together to play next. Give Bart a call when you come up for air, okay? Later, honeybunches.”