My home away from home, eh? I was feeling fancy so I heated up the soup in a pot on the stove instead of in the microwave. We sat at the counter on the island, eating it silently, each absorbed in our own thoughts for a while.
You know, it wasn’t just that Remo’s house was a home away from home for me: Remo was a safety net of all kinds. I felt pretty confident that if I ever needed a gig, I could get on Remo’s bandwagon. If I ever needed a place to live, I could move in here. I mean, I’d probably always be too proud to, but knowing that safety net was there… That gave me a kind of footing that a lot of creative people don’t have. For all I’d said to Ziggy that guitar was the one thing I had, I actually did have more options than some people we knew.
I was thinking of Christian. Then I took it back: Christian did have other options, if only he’d explore them. But instead of exploring them, he’d gone back to construction. Why? Lack of self-esteem, he’d said. And trying to avoid drugs. But I remembered how nervous he’d been during the tour. The cool cucumber we thought was Mr. Experienced was the one with fear of failure.
I didn’t seem to have fear of failure. Partly because I was so confident as a musician, and that confidence was only growing the more I learned and did. Partly because I had the Remo safety net. And now at least partly because, technically, I had failed. And I’d found that fearing failure was worse than the actual state of so-called failure itself. Yeah, things were fucked up, but not as fucked up as things could have been if I’d rolled over and done what Mills wanted just because I was afraid. I was pretty sure if I’d done that then I’d have neither success nor artistic integrity, which was lose-lose, and at least this way I still had a whole soul. Which I needed to play and to make music. And if the point was playing and making music, well, then I was doing okay.
Ziggy had given us all a safety net, too. With the money. That was finally starting to sink in.
And I was starting to get an inkling that maybe Ziggy had more fear of failure than I thought. It was just outweighed, maybe, by his drive. And maybe he just had brass balls.
Ziggy, meanwhile, was thinking about something completely different.
“Do you ever miss your mother?” he asked, pushing the alphabet noodles around in the bottom of his bowl.
“Really? Not even from when you were little?”
“Nope. She never bonded with me, I guess. I was a difficult pregnancy and she didn’t want a boy and there was drama.”
“Didn’t I tell you this? About how she wanted to cheat on my father with Remo and all that?”
“Ah, right. You did. But you’re not Remo’s kid.”
“Maybe only in a spiritual sense,” I admitted. I got up and stuck my bowl and spoon in the dishwasher. He tipped his back with his hands, drinking the last of the soup from the rim, and then came and put his next to mine. The silverware went clink in the basket.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said, going back to the subject of mothers. “Those last couple of years, I hardly saw her, hardly spoke to her, you know? But knowing she was there, and now she’s gone… it’s like my whole world changed.”
“Your whole world did change.” I put my arms around him tentatively.
Ziggy wasn’t tentative. He clung. I didn’t mind even if it made it hard to breathe. “It isn’t even like a day to day change, you know?” he said. “But somehow… something’s missing. Something’s missing.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that, so I didn’t.
“I mean, maybe everyone’s got a hole they’re trying to fill. And people pour a lot of drugs and alcohol down those holes.”
“I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of songs about that exact thing,”
“Yeah.” He exhaled and I felt the warmth of his breath trapped in my shirt. “Everyone’s got traumas, I guess.”
“Do you feel like you were traumatized by not having a father growing up?”
“Hm. Not really. I think it’s different when there’s someone and then they’re gone as opposed to not there in the first place.”
He looked into my eyes. “You get used to having certain people in your life.”
“You know I could be saying the same thing to you, Mr. Indian Subcontinent.”
“I know. Does that mean I don’t have the right to ask?”
“Ask me what?”
“For… Hm.” His eyes narrowed while he thought about how to word it. “I guess I should be clear about what I’m asking for.”
“I don’t want to lose you.”
“That’s not very clear, Zig. I’m not leaving the planet and neither are you, right?” Eh, Mr. Contemplated Suicide? That was the closest I came to bringing it up.
“Right.” His mouth still sagged unhappily.
“So what don’t you like about the guitar player you’ve got now? Serious question.”
“The guy Mills picked? It’s like I said. He’s not you.”
“What’s his name?”
I didn’t know the name. “Have you recorded with him yet?”
“No. Just some rehearsals.”
“You sounded pretty good together on the radio,” I said casually, but I had him in my arms and it was hard to play off the fact that I gripped him tighter when I said it.
“This is stupid,” Ziggy said, pressing his forehead against mine and looking into my eyes. “I want you to play with me and you want to play with me. And the reason you won’t is because…?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“I’m brainstorming,” I said. “I’m still hurt about how it all went down? Because I don’t want to be anywhere near John Mills and BNC ever again? Because you’ll make my life a living hell and then we’ll both be miserable?”
“Maybe what I need, though, is someone who will listen to me instead of Mills,” Ziggy said.
“So fire him and let Jordan Travers recommend you someone. Meanwhile, see previous point about you driving me, and therefore both of us, insane.”
“Why would I do that?”
“It’s not why, it’s how. We’ve been over this.”
He closed his eyes and sighed, and I hadn’t won the argument but he at least retreated from it for a while.
“Let’s lie down for a while,” I suggested.
We got half-undressed and got in bed, and he snuggled bonelessly against me. “That was a very… humane idea,” he said. “Lying down, I mean.”
“Beds were an excellent invention. It seemed wise to take advantage of having one.”
“You are so weird.”
In the morning he told me he had to leave for a photo shoot in St. Maarten. He also told me that the song we’d written wasn’t the song he needed help with. And he told me he’d be back in a week.
I kissed him goodbye when Tony came to pick him up. After he left I called Cadmon Molina.
“You know Joe Alvarez?”
“Guitarist from Van Nuys? Yeah, decent chops, keeps clean. Why, you looking to hire him?”
“No, I was wondering if you could use him for anything.”
“Are you his agent now or something?”
“Nothing like that. I just… think he’ll be looking for work soon.”
There you have it. If you’re reading this, Joey Alv, now you know the truth. Zig was going to fire you anyway. I’m glad Molina hooked you up with those guys from Detroit.