I woke up with one of those hangovers that feels like a railroad spike through the eye socket, but I didn’t much care because I had an armful of warm, sleepy Ziggy under the covers with me and I was too out of it to really remember where we were or what year it was or anything. Maybe it’s stupid, but it was moments like that, where I couldn’t remember there was anything to be anxious about, and his skin smelled familiar and everything felt right about having him cuddled up with me, that made me think there was something worth fighting for there–something I was thirsty for, something I needed–even if once I came to my senses we’d start fighting again.
But right then I didn’t come to my senses. I dozed despite the headache.
When I woke up the next time, Ziggy was blowing me. No, I didn’t mind. Even if when I came each pulse of release felt like a sledgehammer was driving the railroad spike deeper into my skull. I pulled him up into a spunky kiss, and he twined my fingers with his around his own cock and came quickly after that. I don’t have a jizz-eating fetish or anything but it was hot when he put a finger into my mouth and I put one of mine into his.
My hair was still damp from the previous shower but that didn’t stop me from getting in with him. Since we’d both come, it wasn’t like having shower sex, but there was a fair bit of mutual soaping. I just liked touching him. He liked touching me. My brain was operating on a very simplistic level right then, and this seemed irrefutably good.
I was reminded a little of Orlando and the wordless physical intimacy we’d had, not because Ziggy and I couldn’t speak, though, but because we didn’t seem to have to right then.
We got dried off side by side. I was reminded suddenly of a bathroom on the tour. It must have been Toronto? I felt a wave of shame pass through me when I thought about how long it had taken me to get my head out of my ass and realize how I felt about him. And then a second wave when I thought about how that was almost two years ago. Well, okay, year and a half. Still.
Ziggy finger-combed my wet hair as if he knew my head hurt–though at that point it was more that the thoughts were painful than the hangover. I think. I pressed his hand to my cheek and closed my eyes. His thumb made gentle tracks under my eyes even though I wasn’t crying. I remembered those days when he couldn’t speak because his throat was too ripped up. I remembered him touching me like this.
I put jeans on but hadn’t managed to find a shirt yet when I tried a sip of last night’s cold coffee. It was terrible. I poured it out and rinsed the pot and started a fresh one.
Ziggy liked his with sugar but no cream. I poured three sugar packets into one of the cups. Into the other I put the creamer and the last packet of sugar. Then I went to look in the hallway to see if a maid was anywhere nearby. Nope. She was way at the other end of the hall. I took the Do Not Disturb sign in hoping she’d come bring fresh coffee supplies and clean sheets.
I dug around in my suitcase for a shirt while Ziggy got into the clothes he’d discarded when he’d climbed into bed with me: a slim black turtleneck, a paisley-patterned vest, black jeans and sharp-toed boots. Hanging over the back of the desk chair was a n ankle-length, black-on-black brocade pattern coat.
We ended up sitting side by side on the clean side of the bed, waiting for the coffee to finish dripping.
“Does anyone know you as well as I do?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Not even Remo?”
“Not even close,” I said. “Remo knew me better than anyone when I was, like, thirteen. He knows me pretty well. But not, you know.”
“Not like a lover.”
“Yeah.” I turned and looked at him, looked at the curve of his cheek, the rich brown of his eyes framed by dark lashes, the perfectly pleasing shape of his lips. “So who knows you better than me?”
“Nobody,” he said. “Don’t even bring up Jennifer Carstens.”
I shrugged and demurred. “It’s okay, you know. She went to rehab with you. She went to India with you–”
“She’s never lived with me and she’s never been interested in understanding me, either.”
“I’ve never lived with you either.”
“We lived in a tour bus.”
“Well, okay, if you count that.”
“Which I do.”
Touring together, I thought to myself, probably counted for more than just living together, actually. It was living and working and traveling together all at once. And performing.
Thinking about performing got me thinking about whether we’d ever perform together again. Which finally got my brain around to thinking about work and the coming year and Ziggy’s contract and all that.
“What’s next?” I asked.
I had meant what’s next for the relationship but maybe that was too ambitious. “Dinner,” he answered. “You never said what time.”
I was very slow on the uptake. “Wait. I thought you said you weren’t going to.”
“I’m not. But you still have to go, don’t you?”
“Yes.” I checked the time. It was almost three in the afternoon. “Dinner’s not until seven.”
“That gives us plenty of time to talk.”
I nodded. “Should I order room service? When was the last time you ate? Or should we go out?”
“I think it’s best if we stay in.” He dug the room service menu out of the desk drawer and we looked at it together. “You feel up to eating?”
“If nothing else they’ll bring us better coffee.” I poured what had brewed into the mugs and made do with stirring them with the weak little red straw provided. “I could probably choke down a bowl of chicken soup.”
“That they’ve got.” He picked up the phone and placed an order. I brought him his coffee. We sat sipping in silence for a little bit, him in the desk chair, me on the corner of the bed.
“So, what have they got planned for you this year?” I finally asked, because one of us had to get this ball rolling some time.
“Still a bit up in the air. Recording a new album at some point. Before that maybe cut another dance-mixable single, though, and maybe another movie theme song.”
I nodded. I couldn’t help it: some part inside me cringed at “dance-mixable.” Not that I didn’t like dance music. I loved it, for dancing. I loved what Jordan did with remixes and I had a collection of 12-inch singles at home of extended versions of pop and R&B songs. But I still had this idea in my mind that a step upward or outward into the world of pure pop, pure manufactured “hit” material, was a step away from art, from artistic integrity, from musicality and the creative spark that drove me.
But what drove me and what drove Ziggy could be totally different things. I don’t know why it took me so long to see it so starkly. “Are you hitting the road at all?”
“Not until there’s an album to support.”
“Makes sense.” I took a deep breath.
“If I go into the studio in April…” he began, but trailed off.
“Going to work with Jordan?” I asked.
“I like him,” I said.
We had ground to a trickle again. Small sentences, small words.
I suddenly remembered last night’s phone conversation. I set my coffee cup down. “I love you,” I said.
He put his cup down and brought his face very close to mine, so close I could see the darker ring of color around the warm brown of his irises. “I love you, too.” And he kissed me, because I guess that’s just what you do at a moment like that.
And then he asked, “On a totally unrelated subject: Will you come in the studio with me and Jordan?”
“I’ll be on the road with Nomad in April.”
He shoved himself away from me then, pushing me back a little where I was sitting but he was the one who flew to the window and looked down at the alley.
“And we still never resolved what it would mean for me to play with you now, anyway,” I added.
His back was to me, his shoulders tilted miserably.
He didn’t move.
“Seriously. What do you want from me? You know it would kill me to turn into some kind of parody of myself.”
He turned and looked. “Kill you?”
“If they rebrand you as ‘Ziggy and the Moondogs’ and they want me to put on a moon suit or something? Yes.”
“It won’t be like that.”
“You’re taking dancing lessons,” I pointed out.
“So you’ll take a gig with Nomad but you wouldn’t take a gig with Madonna if she offered it? Because she dances?”
“It’s not the dancing per se and you know it. It’s because I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand on a stage and play ‘Candlelight’ for union scale like some hired flack.”
“Ah.” He closed his eyes and I saw him swallow. “Okay. I admit I really didn’t think that through.”
“That they’re going to want you to do the old hits?”
“And what that would be like for you.” He opened his eyes. “I admit it, okay? How many times are you going to make me apologize for making a shitty decision?”
How the hell was I supposed to answer a question like that? “I don’t know, Zig, I guess however many times it takes until I stop feeling like shit over it, too?”
He sat down in the desk chair, looking defeated. I didn’t feel like I’d won anything, though.
Room service distracted us for a while. They rolled a little table in, and I sat on the corner of the bed, and we fell back into silence, into cooperating together, pouring each other fresh coffee and sharing napkins.
When he spoke again he asked a question that was similar to the last one, but not quite the same. “Do you think you’ll ever get over it?”
“I hope so,” I said. “The fact that the supposed windfall from the deal hasn’t even come through isn’t really helping my acceptance of it, though.”
He cocked his head. “What do you mean?”
“The money, Zig. We haven’t gotten a dime of it yet.”
He put his spoon down and a haunted look crossed his face. “In other words, I may have made an even shittier decision than I realized.”
“You did say you were afraid it was a deal with the devil.”
“Fuck.” He hid his face in his hands.
I went and rubbed a circle between his shoulder blades, because that’s what you do when someone you love is hurting. “Try not to worry about it.”
He looked up at me, confused. “Try not to worry? About the thing driving a wedge between you and me?”
“I meant the money, try not to worry about the money. I’ll rake in a decent take from the Nomad tour. Songwriting royalties. I’ll be okay. At some point they’ll iron it all out.”
“And then you can just go back to resenting me like before.”
“I don’t resent you.” I shook my head. “Do you really still not understand why I can’t just cave over this?”
He took my hand in both of his. “No, I get it. I just… There has to be a way.”
“A way to what?”
“To figure something out between us. Musically, I mean.”
I knelt down next to the chair he was sitting in. “Maybe the best thing would be not to push too hard.”
He kissed the calloused tips of my fingers. “I just can’t stand the thought that we’ll never perform together again.”
Whoa. Okay, that felt like a railroad spike to the heart. He was being as blunt now as I had been on the phone, I guess. I mustered an answer though. “Never say never, Zig. Never say never.”
“It’s not like you to resort to a cliche.”
“I can’t stand the thought we’ll never perform together again, either, all right?”
He squeezed my fingers and I knew that round of arguing was over. We had come to a kind of agreement, after all, admitting we both felt the same about something, and that made it a good stopping place. One that let both of us have a little hope.
He left after that, though not before we made plans of a sort: we had both been invited to a VIP New Year’s Eve party at Limelight and we both planned to be there. So at least there was that to look forward to.
Then it was time for me to put on my best smile to go meet the mother of Remo’s child.