I’ll tell you about seeing Matthew later. Telling you about Ziggy is more urgent.
I expected to see him Monday. I didn’t. I paged him around nine o’clock that night and he didn’t reply. As you can imagine that started to freak me out. Sarah was saint-like in keeping me calm.
When he hadn’t called back by midnight, she convinced me he was probably on a delayed flight, and probably still in the air and couldn’t even get a page. She half convinced me that he had probably told me his flight time and I had forgotten it… but I thought I would remember something like that. I’m pretty sure he hadn’t told me what time he was due in or anything. She did what any good friend would do, which is distract me. And the next thing you know several more hours went by between a bottle of Maker’s Mark and a guitar and the piano. We jammed and wrote and played and drank and I told myself not to worry.
But you know how being a worry wart works, right? If you don’t worry, but then something goes wrong, you feel like it’s your fault. As if your worrying could somehow magically prevent disaster, while not worrying would invite it.
I know it doesn’t work like that. I know. But knowing doesn’t stop me from feeling like it did.
I woke up to find myself lying on my back on the couch, my arms around the Ovation, the neck making a crease on my cheek. For a second I wondered why I was awake and whose ceiling I was looking at. Then the phone rang for what I realized was a second time. I raced to grab the handset off the kitchen wall.
“Hey.” Yes, it was Ziggy. He sounded worn out, that one syllable little more than a croak.
The clock read ten AM. “You all right? Tough flight?”
There was a long pause. Then: “…Yeah.”
“Are you all right?” I repeated.
He dodged the question. “When… Where are you?”
“Upper West Side.”
“I’m at the Penta.” His laugh sounded bitter. “I have such great memories of this place.”
“I need to get some sleep. Can you meet me on Canal Street in the afternoon?”
“I need to do some shopping. I’ll bring Antonio.”
“Yeah. Bring Sarah, too, eh? We’ll make a thing of it.”
I was annoyed he hadn’t let me get a word in edgewise and that he was being evasive and maddeningly Ziggy-like. “What if I don’t want to make a thing of it?”
“Then don’t. Jeez, Daron, not everything has to be an international incident. Will you come or not?”
If I had not been hung over, underslept, and freaked out I might have come up with a better answer than the one I did. In hindsight I realize I could have made a counterproposal, or at least tried. Instead I said, “I’ll be there.”
“Let’s say two o’clock at that big Japanese housewares store. You know the one I mean?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Azuma. The place you can get a Hello Kitty kitchen lamp.”
“Never mind. How about the East Village? Which street is Trash & Vaudeville on, Eighth? Fourth?”
“I know that block. There’s a comic book store and a guitar shop across the street from there.”
“Perfect. If you get there first, hang out in the guitar shop and I’ll come get you there.”
“All right.” I was blinking, looking around Sarah’s kitchen, trying to figure out why I felt so unsettled. “You’re all right, though?”
“Everything’s going to be fine. Go back to sleep.”
“You’re acting weird.”
Now it was his turn to sound annoyed. “I’m trying to keep you and Digger separated, all right? Or did you forget he’s not supposed to know you and I are in cahoots?”
“Um.” Right. I had kind of forgotten it. Well, not forgotten exactly but it wasn’t as much in the forefront of my mind as it was in his. Okay, so maybe that explained why he was being so cagey. “All right.”
“I gotta crash. See you at two?”
“Yes. At two.”
He made a kissy noise into the phone and hung up.
If you think I got back to sleep after that, you’re a wishful thinker. I ended up making a pot of coffee and closing Sarah’s bedroom door, and played quietly in the living room for a while with my brain off. Flamenco, bits of school recital pieces I’d memorized, you know. Noodling. I only drank about half of a cup of coffee before it got cold: my stomach was roiling too much to put plain black coffee in it. I gave up after a while and went out to buy either bagels or donuts and ended up with both, plus some other pastries, which I carried back upstairs in a paper bag.
When Sarah got up she was delighted to find the pastries on the kitchen counter. She mixed the coffee with ice cream, which was a brilliant idea I can’t believe I’d never thought of, and we dipped pastries in it and it was decadent and sweet. Which was the point. Then I told her I was having a cloak and dagger meeting with Ziggy.
“I thought I heard the phone ring, but I thought maybe I’d dreamed it,” she said. “You look worried. I thought everything was going good with you two?”
“It is. I just… I don’t know. I’m worried.”
“You’re always worried,” she pointed out. “So do you want me to come with you or not?”
“I think if we’re trying not to attract attention, probably you shouldn’t come.” Wait, though, I thought, why would Ziggy have suggested I bring her if we were trying to keep everything low profile? It was that kind of stuff–stuff that didn’t make sense–that drove me crazy about him.
“You want my driver to take you down there?”
“Nah, I’ll take the subway.”
We were sitting in the living room at that point, with the pastries strewn across the coffee table, crumbs everywhere, and she was in an oversized T-shirt, her hair disheveled, her legs crossed, licking ice cream off her upper lip. Looking like a lot of guys’ wet dream basically. But not mine.
“Do you actually like taking the subway?” She looked at me curiously.
“I like not being treated like a circus animal,” I said, a little more vehemently than I meant to.
She sat up very straight then, her expression stern. “That’s not a very nice comparison.”
“Sarah. I’m not trying to put you down, believe me. I get it. Celebrity is… I get it. It means people are going to gawk at you and take photos and crowd around you like you’re a giraffe or a tiger or something. That’s all I mean by it. You don’t take a tiger on the subway. I get that.”
She pursed her lips. “I like being driven around and not having to take the subway.”
“Giraffes probably like being fed every day and not worrying about hungry lions nipping their heels, too,” I said. “I’m not saying it’s not a valid choice. All I’m saying is I’m not a tiger. I’m just a garden variety, commonplace…” I tried to think of a word.
“Dog,” she said.
“A moondog, you might say.”
That made me laugh. “I guess. I like walking around on my own. No one bothers me.”
She yawned and stretched. “I’d say I envy you… but I don’t. I’d still rather be driven where I’m going.”
I went to the window and looked down toward the street, but it wasn’t like I was going to be able to see a photographer hiding in the bushes. “What are you going to do when you have a girlfriend?”
She shrugged. “No idea.”
“I feel funny asking you about this because Ziggy used to ask me this kind of thing all the time and I felt really weird about it. But he was right. I should’ve paid better attention to my needs.”
She made a dismissive noise. “We girls are different. Trust me.”
“If you’re sure.” Why was I trying to give her advice? I’m not sure. I did anyway. “I guess I’m saying it’s better to have a plan than to get blindsided.”
“Why, you think if you had a plan you would have ended up with someone other than your lead singer?”
Oof. Remember how I had told Ziggy it felt like there was a sword through my chest, only I’d gotten so used to it I didn’t feel it anymore? When Sarah said that it was like the blade twisted. My heart stopped for a second.
“Sorry,” she said, standing up and coming closer to me. “Didn’t mean to hit a nerve.”
“It’s okay,” I said, but a little breathless. “That’s what friends are for…?”
I held up a hand to stop her coming closer. “Hang on, hang on, I don’t want to lose my train of thought.” Too much coffee and not enough sleep and too much sugar and not enough Ziggy were making that close to impossible anyway. “You might be right. You might be. But you might not.”
She raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
“I mean, maybe if I had been more comfortable with my orientation I would have already been in a relationship when Ziggy and I met? Or maybe I would have at least known what I wanted?”
“Or maybe it wouldn’t have mattered because Ziggy was the right one for me all along and I should just be grateful that the universe delivered him to me on a platter right when I needed him?”
She shut her mouth, but she still looked concerned.
I leaned my arm against the window frame and looked down the street. I could just make out a little bit of green that was either a sidewalk tree toward the avenue or maybe was a sliver of Central Park. “I need to get over the fact that I can’t live without him,” I said. “Because that fact’s terrifying, but it’s a fact nonetheless.”
I made myself a mental note to write a song for Sarah called “Devil’s Advocate.” Because what she said next was, “But you proved you could live without him. You did fine in Spain without him, didn’t you?”
I shook my head and looked out the window, a lump in my throat too hard to talk through.
“Okay, but which is it, then? Is Ziggy your soulmate or is he the only one of the available people in your life that you’ll let in?”
More like he’s the one who wheedled his way in, I thought. But what I said was, “Maybe both.”
“That seems awfully convenient.”
“Ain’t it though.” We were silent for a while, listening to the sounds of New York City. Cars and traffic and distant sirens. Then I asked, “More convenient than having a relationship with a member of the press?”
“I thought you said Jonathan was good for you?”
“We were good as friends and pretty good as lovers but we were terrible as boyfriends,” I said. “Jonathan was a Learning Experience.”
She cringed. “That sounds awful.”
“He admits it. That’s why we’re still friends. We agree it was all one big Learning Experience.” I sighed. “Ziggy is not a Learning Experience. Ziggy is…” I thumped my fist against the wood, frustrated that I didn’t have the words to describe what I thought or felt.
Sarah squeezed my shoulder and made me let go some of the tension I was holding. I guess she had come closer than I realized. “Hey. Isn’t that what all those songs we write are about?” Love, she meant. “Go with your heart and have no regrets, Daron.”
“Sarah, when you meet that person, even if they’re the most–or least!–convenient person in your life…”
“I’ll grab on and I won’t let go. I hope I have the sense to know them when I meet them, though.”
“You’ll know.” If you know yourself, that is. Unlike me. Sarah was a lot more aware than I had been. I was sure she’d be fine, whenever that time came. “You’ll know.”
Why do I have that “something-awful-is-about-to-happen” feeling? Anyone else getting that? Ugh.
I’m really glad, Daron, that you have a friend like Sarah. Everyone needs someone willing to play devil’s advocate.
It’s funny me trying to give her advice, right? She’s way ahead of me on a lot of this stuff.
Read the sign in seventy-foot-high orange neon lights: Ziggy expects this conversation with Daron to be very difficult.
He asked for Sarah to attend. That puts a level-headed person present, in front of whom Ziggy hopes Daron won’t go ballistic.
He is evasive about the meeting. Daron’s beginning to trust him, yet he forgot Reagan’s dictum: Trust but verify.
Ziggy has just spent time with Digger and with Mills. Digger is toast within a month or less. And Ziggy’s a lightweight compared to Mills, who no longer has a use for Digger and has decades of experience in making people believe that his decisions were their ideas.
Ziggy’s games always worry me. Right now, I am VERY worried. And Daron not following the plan? Not bringing Sarah? Don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
They worry me, too. Was that a plan? I didn’t think that was a plan. I thought that was a suggestion which I later realized he couldn’t have been serious about. Could he? Argh, Ziggy, always sends me in circles.
I feel like Ziggy is up to something and it’s Daron that will get hurt.
We all have a hard time trusting him, given his history.
Oh you’re all making too much of this!
Ziggy is fine – he’s just being weird, Daron is being Daron…
I am most certainly that.