I didn’t get much done while waiting for Ziggy to call me back. I couldn’t concentrate enough to work, didn’t really feel like I could eat. Television failed to hold my interest. Remo had a bunch of books on a shelf but I couldn’t bring myself to start one. Starting a book is like striking up a conversation with a stranger and sometimes you just don’t want to get sucked into the wrong one.
I made the mistake of turning on the TV and caught a clip of a news piece on the charity shindig. There was Ziggy, being shepherded by an entourage, Antonio right behind him looking very Secret Service, two women, two other guys… Entourage was the right word for them. Ziggy looked very small in the midst of them. The little prince. Maybe I imagined he looked sort of lonely, too. I wondered which one of the two guys had played the guitar.
I turned off the TV before I could beat myself up any more.
You know what I did to distract myself then? I taught myself to use Remo’s space-age juicer. I found the manual in a drawer in the kitchen and decided it was the only way I was going to get around to eating the apples and oranges and carrots I had sitting around. I suppose I should mention I hadn’t really improved my haphazard ways of shopping for food. You know how it is. You go to the grocery store, you think, hey, I should buy fruits and vegetables because they’re good for me. And most of what I would buy were apples, oranges, and carrots because they last a long time without you eating them. So at least you have a chance to eat them before they go bad. Celery, too. But I never had a plan for how or when to eat them. I didn’t even like apples particularly, but they could be eaten without utensils or any forethought.
Turned out when I put apples and carrots and oranges into the juicer what came out was actually drinkable. I did a small batch first, and after I tasted it I decided I might as well run them all through. So in a really weird way the juicer solved two problems at once: what to do with the food I’d bought and how to keep my brain busy while waiting for Ziggy to call.
The juicer running was the only explanation I have for how a car could pull into the driveway without me hearing it. When the doorbell rang I nearly jumped out of my skin. Remo’s house is on a canyon road out of earshot of the next house. I wondered if I should pull a kitchen knife out of the block before I answered the door.
I went and looked through the diamond-shaped window on the front door and saw Ziggy standing there. If level ten was him dressed and made up for the stage and level one was him fresh from the shower, he was at about a four here, very light eyeliner, unremarkable jeans, T-shirt, and unadorned leather jacket. (Yeah, what was a four for Ziggy was a nine for me.)
“Can I come in?”
“You sound like I should be sure of that.”
I found myself saying, “You can come in if you’re not here to rip me to pieces.”
“That’s not my intention,” he said.
Fine. They say vampires have to be invited in, don’t they? “Come in.”
Then I saw him wave to a car. I didn’t see who was driving, but they backed the car down the steep driveway. Tony, maybe?
I shut the door behind him and went on autopilot, so completely unprepared for his presence. “Uh, can I pour you some juice? I just made it.”
Ziggy sounded completely unprepared for this question. “Um. What kind is it?”
“Apple, orange, carrot.”
Confused: “At the same time?”
“Yeah. It’s surprisingly good.”
He gave one of those glances around like he was expecting a prank film crew to pop out. “Uh, okay.”
He sat in one of the stools at the island while I debated whether to put ice cubes in the drinks. Ice never tasted right to me in LA. Well, neither did the tap water. Then I remembered the beer glasses Remo had in the door of the freezer. Where all the juice collected was this section of the juicer that could be used as a pitcher. I poured into two glasses and set one down in front of Ziggy, and then I leaned back against the part of the counter next to the sink, the island between us, feeling utterly and completely ridiculous.
Maybe Ziggy felt the same. He looked around again, like this wasn’t what he expected somehow. He slid his leather jacket off, leaving it inside out over the back of the stool, looking suddenly as small and naked as something newly hatched. He took a sip, or at least pretended to, while we sort of stared at each other in this odd bubble in spacetime created by the gulf between our minds. I mean: I was wondering what he was thinking and then I realized he was probably wondering what I was thinking, which meant we were thinking the SAME THING and so how could it be we felt worlds apart?
I felt that hot feeling behind my eyes like I was about to sneeze or cry.
“I’ve got some things I should say,” he said, as he put the glass down on the white countertop. He was wearing no lipstick, and his lower lip was plumper and shinier than the upper one, and that was the kind of thing I was noticing while he spoke. “But I’m not sure if I’m ready to say them.”
I just nodded at him, since I didn’t trust myself not to burst into tears or say something I’d regret–I wasn’t sure which. All I knew is I felt like the pressure was building: inside this bubble was a vacuum and I was swelling up with unexpressed words/feelings/angst. I was so angry and hurt and messed up, but at the same time there was a sense of relief at being in the same room with him that was so intense it was frightening.
He slipped from the stool and came closer to me. I reminded myself to keep breathing. He took the glass out of my hand and set it down, and then he reached a hand toward my face.
His thumb brushed my chin. “Don’t,” he said.
Don’t what? I thought, but I couldn’t actually make words come out.
“Don’t bite your lip like that,” he said, his thumb brushing my lip that time as I realized I was clenching my jaw and had done a number on the inside of my mouth. “Not for me. Not over me.”
Is there any reasonable response at that point other than to kiss him? I’ve never thought of one. Maybe kiss isn’t the right word because that sounds kind of premeditated. This was more like I put my mouth on his mouth like I had lost my grip on the magnet and couldn’t resist the force that stuck us together any longer.
Yeah, there was a chatter in the back of my head while we kissed, a flock of flittering negative thoughts like hey, Chris was right, this is exactly like an addiction; it feels good now but what is the hangover going to be like? And: is it a good idea to kiss someone you’re so angry at? Generally not. And: what the fucking fuck, Daron, is this what you called him for? But at least the chatter was in the back of my head, not the front. The front was busy devouring him.
When we came up for air, what Ziggy said was, “Thank god.”
He shook himself, the look on his face telling me that hadn’t been what he intended to say at all. “Just… happy to see you.” His hands had ended up gripping the unbuttoned edges of my flannel shirt and he didn’t let go.
The PR director in my head was waving at me, trying to get my attention, trying to tell me to steer this back to business talk, or to small talk. He was shouting suggestions: bring up the radio thing you heard! tell him about Bart’s visit! Anything but relationship talk.
I ignored it. “Happy. You don’t look happy.”
“It’s hard to be when…” He closed his eyes, then opened them and started over. “I don’t know. It just feels better over here than it did over there.” He jerked his head toward the abandoned stool. “And being over there felt better than being apart.”
“I feel exactly the same way,” I said, a little wonderingly.
“Which would explain why you didn’t shove me away.”
“Were you afraid I would?”
That sliced me. And it brought home the fact that, for fuck’s sake, we really did feel the same. “You’re as afraid I’m going to say something to rip you up as I am that you will.” It came out like word salad, but he understood me, which only proved we felt the same.
I felt like the ghost of Jonathan was hovering in that house, though. I knew from him that feeling the same didn’t mean things were always going to work out. Still.
Ziggy went on. “When you took off from the limo I think maybe I… appreciated how freaked out you must have been when I left the country without telling you.”
“I wondered if I’d ever see you again.”
Wow. Remember what Remo had said? He’d asked me if it was Ziggy who’d torpedoed the relationship by signing the contract or if it was me by walking away when Ziggy probably needed me the most.
Maybe both. “Zig.”
“I… I have some things to say, too. And I don’t know if I’m ready to say all of them either.”
“Well, we can’t say them all at once anyway.”
“True.” I fell silent then for a couple of long moments, caught up in experiencing his presence, the scent of him, the knowledge that he was there in the room. This is what being apart for so long did to me, I think. And then to have been glued together for that stretch of days in Boston, only to be torn apart again until now. I couldn’t make sense of it: why did I want him so much, need him so much? Was it because I loved him? If so, was that a good reason? or was reason really nothing to do with it at all?
His mouth touched mine this time, tentative and searching, then more firmly as he found what he was looking for. I know that how angry I was affected the way I kissed. But that didn’t mean I wanted to stop.
When he pulled back, I said, “What would you have done if I pushed you away? Just now?”
“Said some of the things I wanted to and left,” he said. “For good.”
I wondered where his driver had gone, but didn’t bring it up.
“And I figure if I said some of those things, that was probably the last straw for you, too.”
“What makes you sure the last straw didn’t hit me two months ago?” I asked.
“That you didn’t push me away,” he said, as if that made perfect sense. Maybe it did? Maybe that’s why he’d said “thank god.” Because he knew I was willing to listen?
“Maybe we should take a step back,” I suggested.
“We tried that once, remember? Maybe we should take a step forward.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“That’s for you and me to figure out,” Ziggy pointed out.
“Sounds to me like figuring it out IS a step forward.”
“Which is exactly what I mean.” Ziggy gave me a sharp look. “We seem to agree an awful lot for two people who supposedly aren’t getting along.”
“Yeah, well, neither of us has said the things we mean to, yet.”
“You mean we won’t know until we do whether this is going to be a breakup or a makeup conversation.”
It didn’t feel much like a breakup conversation, honestly, given how close he was standing, given that one of my hands had strayed around to the small of his back, but, you know, I’ve been wrong about Ziggy before. So I tried to keep an open mind. “You’re right. I don’t know which it is.”
He licked his lower lip.
I was getting frank in my old age. “Sex first or after?”
He was unsurprised by my question. “I think you better decide that.”
“Because if I say first, you’ll suspect the only reason I came here was to get you in bed. And if I say after, you’ll suspect I was trying to negotiate while you were in an impaired state.”
Ouch. The truth always hurts the most. In the same kind of “logic” that had ruled the conversation so far, then, I came up with a solution. “Okay, then we should have sex before and after.”
“And if we melt down during the talking, go nuclear and there’s no going back?”
“Then we’ll hate-fuck after and both write songs about it for decades to come.”
I wasn’t joking but it made him laugh. I don’t think he thought I was joking, either.
This is the thing. Part of my brain was telling me that sex was the worst possible idea. But the thing I was finally coming to understand (thank you, therapy?) was that my instincts about sex were badly skewed by homophobia and Digger and Ziggy himself. I was gradually learning to distinguish my actual instincts from bullshit that I’d soaked up in suburbia and from defense mechanisms I’d developed. And so, sure, “common sense” said I shouldn’t “give in,” but why was it considered “giving in” in the first place, as if withholding itself were some kind of virtue? That was bullshit and even I could see that.
He started to sink to his knees but I gripped him by the elbows. “Don’t. Let’s go to the bedroom.”
I was not sorry with this decision. Not sorry at all.
(BONUS SCENE?? Did someone say bonus scene? All right, all right, twist my arm. If you want to see what Ziggy and Daron got up to in the bedroom AND YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH TO LEGALLY READ SUCH MATERIAL, either join the Daron’s Guitar Chronicles Patreon by pledging $1 a week [Patreon link] or just make a one-time contribution right now via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org or using the Paypal Contribute button below! This is BONUS #8 if you want to ask for it specifically!
Remember ALL donations count toward triggering an extra story post! Whenever the tip jar hits a total of $100 there’ll be an additional chapter that week! [Then we go back to zero and start again.] Thank you for your support of DGC! -ctan)