Artie said good night a little while after that. It was the dinner hour and I was too angry and upset to feel tipsy.
I ended up in the tiny phone booth squeezed between the restroom doors in a diner not far from Sarah’s (she’d left word with her doorman to meet her there) using my calling card to try to reach Carynne.
I got the answering service and left a message that I’d try again from Sarah’s later. Then I called her home number but couldn’t think of how to sum it all up for her answering machine so I hung up before her outgoing message finished. Then I called Remo and got his machine and left the following message:
“Yeah, hey, so I wanted to be the one to tell you it looks like I’m a free agent now. Or will be. Contract shenanigans are still going on but I think it’s the end of an era, basically, and I saw Artie today and I’ll call you later. I’m in the city at a pay phone. I’ll call you later. Oh and by the way Matthew says hello and he’s fine and I’ll fill you in about that later too. Okay? Bye.”
I sounded really calm and collected, didn’t I?
I thought about calling Jonathan. Thought about it. Thought better of it. And didn’t.
I called Bart who listened to the whole story and didn’t say much, which to me meant he felt the same as me. Use whatever cliche you want. All the air went out of the balloon. He asked if I wanted him to drive to New York to get me. I hadn’t made up my mind yet when I saw a waitress gesturing quizzically at me. I had forgotten I had ordered food. I told Bart I’d call him later.
I sat down and ate a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup. I wish I could say the food was really calming and grounding, but I don’t think I really even tasted it. I had reached a state of numbness.
I was sitting there with a cup of coffee trying to see if caffeine would make me perk up when Sarah came in. She slid into the booth across from me. “Hey. I guess you got the message from the door man.”
“About you being with your trainer? Yeah.” I had forgotten that was supposedly why I was here. It was hard to remember why I did anything right then.
“Are you all right?’ she finally asked.
I managed to tell her a really dry, bare bones version of the facts as I knew them while waiting for the check.
I didn’t fall to pieces until we got upstairs. I tried to do that thing of explaining it all again to see if it made more sense–except the problem was the whole thing made perfect sense, it just sucked. Right? I expected Sarah to tell me to back and up and look at it from another angle. I thought she’d surely have some perspective I was missing, some insight from a person who had signed a multimillion dollar deal, and that she’d tell me to calm down and pick it apart some more.
Nope. When I started to cry she started to cry and I have no idea how long that went on for. We were not the best match when it came to hugging–she was too tall and bony–but it wasn’t like that mattered. I kept wishing for the crying to stop but it was like falling down a hole, you can’t make the bottom come any faster. My ribs hurt.
I was glad I hadn’t called Jonathan. Who knows what I would have done?
When the sobbing subsided, I apologized. Her eyes were so puffy it looked like I’d punched her in the face, and I pretty much felt like I had. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to ruin your afternoon.”
“You’re stupid,” she said, hiccuping a little as she got herself together.
“No, I mean, don’t apologize, stupid. What are friends for.”
“Um. Okay.” I didn’t really believe it but, okay, I felt slightly less guilty about the fact that she suffered through that with me. “You know what makes it all seem like it’s never going to get better?”
“The fact that it just makes it so obvious there’s this huge gulf between him and me. Whenever I feel like we’re two halves of the same apple, I’m happy. But the truth is we’re from two different planets.”
She patted my hand. “I don’t know. Sounds to me like they’re both stories and both likely to be equally untrue or true. All I know is that swinging back and forth between the two extremes is ripping you apart.”
“Okay. That might be true.” I got up and went to the kitchen, and made an ice pack with a dish towel and package of frozen strawberries and brought it to her. “Your eyes look painful.”
She gave a phlegmy snort. “Oh god. I’m the queen of the ugly cry.” She took it and leaned back on the couch with it lying over her face. “I’m afraid to ask you anything because I don’t want to start you off again.”
“I think I’m out of tears for the moment,” I said, rubbing my chest, which hurt. I don’t think I’d ever cried so hard or so long. “This is normal, though, right? For an epic breakup?”
“I wouldn’t know, but I assume so,” she said. “It’s kind of not fair, I guess. You’re having the breakup with your first big crush and the breakup with your bandmate…”
“And my muse and my obsession and my other half all at once. Yeah.” I stopped short of saying soulmate, which is a term that’s always been sketchy to me. I went back to the kitchen and got us two glasses of water, even if that meant replenishing the tear supply. “And the breakup of the band. But it’s like under all that, I just feel this… gulf. This uncrossable space, and it’s like if there’s such a gap between me and him, how far am I from the rest of the human race?”
“Hm Dunno Dar’, but I feel pretty close to you right now.”
“I know. And that’s good because otherwise I’d probably still be in the phone booth, contemplating sui–” I stopped myself, then forced myself to say the word because I didn’t want to feel like a wimp for not saying it. “Suicide.” It’s one of those words that gets thrown around casually by those who haven’t really thought about it that much. But I wasn’t one of those. Not then anyway.
I had a glimmer of understanding, though, how someone who seemed to have everything might still come to the conclusion that suicide was a reasonable option. When you feel like you’re stuck on a rock in the dark surrounded by a lake, it seems irrelevant that people are celebrating your birthday on the beach you can barely see.
For a moment I wondered if Ziggy felt like he was back on that rock. And then I thought, if he feels stuck on that rock it’s because he put himself there. He acted, he decided, he signed.
The simplest thoughts seemed to hurt the most. “I thought we were in it together.” I didn’t realize I’d said it out loud until Sarah answered.
“You really feel like he did it for himself?”
I looked at my own feelings. “Yeah. Could he have signed without getting all those concessions? Yes. But it just means me and the guys don’t get screwed quite as hard, you know? Did he think that was going to buy forgiveness? He knows damn well he took things into his own hands when he shouldn’t have. He knew damn well I was going to be ripshit about it. That’s why he was so contrite and woe-is-me when he saw me. That’s… that’s the part that kills me. He knew. He knew. And he did it anyway.”
“I’m so sorry.”
That was confusing. “What are you sorry for?”
“Stupid. That was the ‘I sympathize’ sorry not the ‘I apologize’ sorry.” She handed me the frozen strawberries.
I pressed them against my own eyes. Huh. It was dark and cool and soothing. “I apologize, then. My emotions are so broken right now I can’t tell the difference.”
We sat there in silence for a while. Until she said, “You do know some people go to therapy to feel better, right?”
I looked up. “Um.” I confess the thought had not occurred to me. Every association I had with therapy was that it was awful and painful. “Therapy,” I said, like I had never thought about what the word meant. “Therapy.”
Therapy is one of those words that if you say it a few times in quick succession it quits sounding like a real word at all.
“Therapy. Should make me feel good when I feel so bad, but feeling bad is all I’ve had,” I said.
“Is that a song?”
“It is now.”
It’s a cliche for a reason. We spent the next couple of hours at the piano–well, her at the piano, me on the stool next to her with a guitar–working out the song. A blues song. In case that wasn’t obvious. It’d sound a lot better if Remo sang it–he’s got a much better honky tonk voice than I do–but right then I didn’t worry about that so much. Singing the blues is singing the blues.
(By the way! My latest BDSM romance novel releases today officially! SLOW SATISFACTION should be going live in ebook everywhere, even Amazon, where they’ve been refusing to take orders for the book because of the fight they’re in with Hachette, my publisher. There’s a Goodreads giveaway going on until August 28 for copies of it: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17727482-slow-satisfaction -ctan)