(Happy US Thanksgiving, everyone who celebrates it! We’re offline today, cooking and eating, but we’ll get back online over the weekend! -ctan)
I don’t know what genius invented it, but let me say for the record that meatball pizza is awesome. Maybe it was a stroke of necessity: maybe one day a pizza guy was out of pepperoni and he thought, well, damn, maybe I should just slice up the meatballs I have for meatball subs, and put that on there? But I prefer to think it was a stroke of genius.
We got slices to go from the window on the street at the pizzeria and took a walk while eating them. The meatball was a little tricky to eat and walk with since it couldn’t be folded in half as easily as plain cheese, but it was worth the extra work.
It was early December, we were probably underdressed for walking around outside, but there was a little afternoon sun and no wind so we walked into a small park on the next block.
“I like her,” Ziggy said. Priss, he meant.
I decided not to ask if he thought it was weird she talked to me instead of him, because apparently he was fine with it. “So, personal trainer, dance instructor, vocal coach… all in New York?”
Ziggy shrugged. “And I’m supposed to start working with an acting coach, too. My new manager’s based in Manhattan.”
“You never told me who your new manager was.”
Ziggy was down to crust only now and he ripped a piece of it free with his teeth. “Man. It’s night and day compared to Digger. Okay, maybe a lot of the difference is that now I have this deal, maybe Digger would’ve been hiring all these people, too. But I dunno. I’ve got this entire agency behind me now, with a lot of professional services and expertise. It’s not just Digger and Janessa.”
“Janessa?” I’d never heard the name before.
“Digger’s secretary? You probably talked to her on the phone. Poor kid. He tells her he’ll teach her the ropes, like she’s some kind of protege, but all he wants is for her to answer the phones and deal with the mail. And the thing is, she could be a fashion model I swear. She’s like Naomi Campbell only actually pretty. But she kind of gave that up because she wasn’t getting anywhere and needed steady income.”
I wondered if the income with Digger was as steady as it should be. “Are you going to keep in touch with her?”
Ziggy gave me a sidelong look. “I hear that jealous tone in your voice.”
“Oh, be serious, I am not jealous of Digger’s office help. Even if I do feel sorry for her.”
“She’s a sweetheart and deserves better.” Ziggy shrugged.
We came out the other side of the park and started walking around the block to circle back toward the pizza place. He still hadn’t told me his manager’s name. I decided to let it drop. After all, I’m sure I could just ask Carynne and she’d know the guy’s name, phone number, and astrological sign.
So that left me wanting to bring up the thing I’d thought about bringing up earlier but hadn’t.
“Hey, um,” I said, like a dumbass.
Ziggy knew perfectly well that was my way of making a prelude to a statement that was possibly heavily laden with dumbassery.
“Um?” he prompted, when I didn’t go on after a second.
Here goes. “Are you going to be here for Christmas?”
“New York, I mean.”
I realized he had no idea why I would be asking. “Look. Remo’s whole… clan, me included, are planning to do Christmas Big-Apple-style.”
He looked down at his boots as we ambled. “You mean like skating at Rockefeller Center and shopping at Macy’s?”
“Um, I think he just meant here instead of LA,” I clarified. “Possibly because he’s figured out I don’t like LA much? I don’t know. That thought only just occurred to me. Anyway, the guys in Nomad, their families. Matthew’s here, too, and… You get the idea.” I couldn’t remember if he knew who Matthew was.
“Huh. Where are you staying?”
“I don’t know. Some place he picked. It’s Remo so I’m sure it’s not the Waldorf Astoria.” I suddenly wondered if it would be the Penta. I hoped not.
“Remo and I really don’t know each other,” Ziggy said, steering us wide of a homeless man leaning against a building.
“I’m inviting you,” I said. “Okay?”
“Will you be crushed if I don’t?”
I blinked. This conversation had moved to a level I don’t think Ziggy and I had communicated on before. Both of us were being so direct. “The point is if you come to Christmas, I won’t spend the entire holiday wishing you were there. If you don’t come, I will. That’s not the same thing as crushed, though.”
“You’re serious about that.”
“I’m apparently too sleep deprived to filter today.”
“You’d… take me to your family Christmas.”
“Yes.” Okay, maybe the filter was partly working, because I thought about telling him about bringing Jonathan to Thanksgiving last year but before it could come spilling out I stopped myself. “If you have to be in St. Barts or the South of France or Hollywood, I understand,” I said, leaving him an out if he felt he needed one. “But I had to ask.”
“I’ll check my schedule,” he said. “And you won’t freak out that your people are seeing us together?”
“Remo, the guys, they all know about me.”
“And me?” Oh, the skeptical eyebrow.
“Remo knows. The rest have made guesses.”
He came out and said it: “They wouldn’t find the whole fucking-a-bandmate thing a taboo?”
I came right back. “We’re not bandmates anymore, Ziggy.”
He stopped dead in his tracks. His lips parted and his mouth opened slowly and I realized that was his jaw going slack.
I wanted to reach up caress that jaw. Instead I made my voice gentle. “We’re not, remember?”
He frowned and started to walk again. “What… when did you do this processing? When did you…?” He shook his head.
I followed him, not sure if this was a fight or if it was a misunderstanding I could untangle before it escalated. “Was that not clear when I saw you in LA?”
He pulled his leather jacket down at the waist and then pulled his hands inside the sleeves. “LA proved we still work well together, I thought.”
We wrote a song, I wanted to say. You asked me to help you with a song and we wrote one and… “I didn’t think writing one song changed our… relationship status.”
“Do we have a relationship status?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
He blew a breath out through his nostrils, not looking at me. “Hate to say it, but… I asked you first.”
“Okay. Let’s see.” I stuck my hands into my pockets, taking a few moments to try to map the trajectory of my feelings and why I was going to answer yes. Getting the evidence together. I decided not to rehash the whole “helpless” time period, which included the end of the 1989 tour, the time he was in rehab, and most of while he’d been in India. Then there was the “try-to-forget” period, when I was in Japan and Australia and Spain, except I didn’t come close to actually forgetting. Then I came back…
“Not to be overly dramatic, but I feel kind of like I took a pretty big risk trying to talk to you with Mills and Digger hanging over you.” On the other side of Central Park from here, I thought, but didn’t say. “I had no idea how that was going to turn out. And then, that time I showed up to help you at your apartment, and I stayed for a couple of days?”
“I felt, or thought I felt, that we had something going.” This wasn’t the first time I’d said that.
“Uh huh. And then you felt I pulled the rug out from under you.”
“By kicking me out of my own band, yeah.”
“I did not kick–” He made a frustrated noise and stopped us from rehashing that argument. “So you’ve decided since were not in a band together anymore, it’s okay that we fuck.”
“I don’t recall kicking you out of bed any time recently.”
“So you’re saying what exactly?”
“That we’ve already got a relationship, don’t we?” Or was I just convenient to cry on, that time in LA, the warm body who happened to be nearest when you were missing your mother? Was I just convenient now? When I imagined Ziggy was loving, was he merely placating?
“Hm.” That wasn’t exactly affirming.
I tried to backtrack to the bedmates-but-not-bandmates question. “Certainly everyone we know knows,” I pressed.
“And you’re okay with that.”
“I don’t have much choice at this point.” We were wading into muddy waters but I forged ahead with the kind of bluntness that I thought had been helpful in our recent conversations. “They all know I’m in love with you.”
I didn’t expect him to look at me with such intensity then. His eyes were narrow, focused. Bitter? “Say that again.”
“They all know?”
His teeth were clenched. “The other half.”
I was silent a moment, wondering why he felt the need to bully me into saying it. “Zig. I love you and I’m in love with you.”
“Did your therapist tell you to say that?” He was angry.
So I was angry, too. “No, my therapist did not fucking tell me to say that.” What the fuck? “It’s not even the first time I’ve said it.” I pointed toward Central Park as if I could remind him of it.
He looked sideways, considering. “Hm. True.”
“Did you stop believing it or something?”
His jaw was set. “I need to think.” His face closed like a storefront bringing down a chainlink gate.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. I sighed. “About what?”
“Things.” He shook himself like a dog, waved a hand, forced a smile. “It’s all right. Don’t let my being moody ruin a beautiful afternoon.”
“Um, okay.” What happened next was we walked back to the pizzeria, and met Sarah, and ended up having another night on the town that was perfectly fine, everything was sort of storybook perfect on the surface.
But I felt like I was looking at a mask, not at Ziggy’s face. Even when we went back to his suite at the Carlyle, just the two of us, even when he invited me into bed, even when we were lying there afterward, it was like he wasn’t really there. He had retreated somewhere inside himself. I had the definite feeling it was my fault, but didn’t know how to ask about it without pushing him to retreat even deeper.
By the time we fell asleep, he hadn’t given me an answer about Christmas.
By the time I woke up, he had skipped town. Sudden meeting on the West Coast. Or so the note he left me read. He had checked out of the hotel and everything.
Maybe it was a sign of maturity that I didn’t freak out. I took a shower. I thought about the fact that one time when I had been really freaked out and overwhelmed I got on a plane to Los Angeles, too.
Huh. Was it really emergency business? Or was there someone in LA Ziggy really needed to see? I found myself unable to muster any jealousy. It was too soon to know whether I should feel jealous, or angry, or maybe even optimistic. Not enough information.
I told myself I could be patient. He hadn’t left the continent, right? I don’t know why it never really sank in before then, but while I had always known I had to work on my own shit, I had really not grasped that Ziggy had shit of his own to deal with. Maybe because I had been so blinded by my own problems. And maybe because Ziggy didn’t used to let me see so deeply into him.
I took the train back to Boston that afternoon. I slept most of the way. But while I was awake, I wrote a song about how vulnerability is scary as shit.