I paged Ziggy from home one night and then sat there without taking my eyes off the phone while fucking around with an instrumental I’d been working on.
Later I had a pretty good song worked out and the image of the white plastic cordless phone burned into my retina. I just about jumped out of my skin when it rang, though. I picked it up quickly. “Hello?”
I hung up. I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like I suddenly got angry and cut him off out of spite. It wasn’t like that.
It also wasn’t like I just hit the button by accident. It was more like I had a sudden crash of conflicting emotions and while all the words were fighting to get out of my brain, my fingers had their own idea of how to handle the situation.
I paged him again immediately, my heart beating with panic that I’d done something terrible.
The phone often made a quiet little click right before it rang, so quiet I think I was the only one who ever noticed it. I answered after the click but before the ring. “Hello?”
There was a momentary pause, then again, “Hey.” A bit more tentative this time.
“Sorry about that. I…I don’t know what I did there.”
“Are you all right?”
“I’m great. Everything’s great. Why do you ask?” I would say I was even less convincing-sounding than Han Solo was in that scene in Star Wars, you know the one where he blasts the communication panel?
Ziggy wasn’t fooled, anyway. “You just sound…” He trailed off without saying what I sounded like.
“Like an idiot? Freaked out? Very far away?” I supplied helpfully, my adrenaline spiking.
“Never mind. Forget I called. I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone–”
“Daron! Shut up for a second!”
I almost hung up again, then made myself count to ten. Why was I so upset? I was the one who called him. I made myself breathe in slowly. What the fuck is this? I thought. I’m supposed to be the calm one.
“It’s good to hear your voice,” he said. “Even if you sound kind of upset.”
“I’m not upset,” I said. Why? Why did I try to deny it? “I’m just…it’s late and it’s been awhile.”
“I’m sorry I’m not there.”
“Where are you? How was London?”
“I know. I passed through there on my way back from Spain.”
“I’m in New York again now, but I leave for LA on Tuesday,” he said with a sigh that made it sound like he felt about LA about like I do.
Except maybe I was happy about going to LA for two reasons now. “You know I’ll be there in a couple of days. For pre-tour rehearsals with Nomad.”
“Best news I’ve had all month. Staying at Remo’s?”
“Yeah.” The back of my throat had gone dry.
“We have to get together.”
“Get together,” I repeated. It sounded so distant. Like something you’d say to an old school acquaintance, but never intend to follow through on.
“Daron.” This time when he said my name I heard it more clearly, though. Like he was really trying to get through to me. “I know you’re going to be busy with them but carve out some time for me if you can?”
“You make it sound like we’re going to make an appointment for tea or something.”
“I’d rather bite you on the back of the neck to keep you still so I can fuck you harder,” he said.
Oh. Don’t ask me why, and don’t ask me how he knew, but that was the right thing to say. All the tangled crap in my head blew aside and everything was clear for a few moments. “Okay.” I took a deep breath and my chest stopped hurting. All of a sudden it was easy to say, “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.”
“Tell me about London?”
“I’ll tell you more when I see you. Things are stupid complicated right now. I’ll bore you with that later, though.”
I wanted to say Why, do we have something better to talk about right now? But instead I just said, “All right.” Another deep breath. “Sorry about that.”
“Turning into a freak case. I don’t know what got into me.”
“You’re more emotional than you give yourself credit for,” he said. “It’s okay.”
It’s not okay, I thought. It was not okay that I could get whacked in the head with a two-by-four I couldn’t even see coming. I mean, I’m the one who paged him, I wanted to talk to him, so why did I spaz out when he called?
“I’m just stupid,” I said. “I’m glad you called.”
“I’m half-tempted to tell you to come down here and fly with me if we both have to cross the country.”
“Are you on a private plane or something?”
“No. It’d just be nicer to be together. But I’m going nonstop between now and the flight and I don’t know how much you want to be photographed arriving at LAX with me.”
“You think there’ll be paparazzi there?”
“I think my flight info is being quote-unquote leaked to them.”
“Free and easy publicity.”
“You’re right. I would just as rather avoid that scene.”
“Promise me we’ll see each other in LA.”
“How busy will you be?”
“Busy. But I will tell everyone to go fuck themselves if necessary. I’m also not above giving them the slip if that’s what it takes. You know that.”
Part of me was thinking I’d go to the ends of the Earth for you, and part of me was thinking I could not picture myself skipping out of a Nomad rehearsal for any reason, especially not to fuck around with my on-again, off-again lover/muse/creative-partner.
I gave it a few seconds’ thought and tried to be practical. “Rehearsal’s not likely to run super-late. Those guys are not night owls like I am.”
“Where are you staying?”
“Not sure. Some hotel. I’ll let you know when I get there.”
“You have Remo’s number?”
“I do. I’ll leave it on his answering machine if you’re not there.”
There was a long pause where neither of us said anything. Then Ziggy asked, “Are you mad at me?”
“Probably,” I said. “When I don’t see you for a month, everything I feel about you hits me at the same time when I hear your voice. So I can’t tell what the fuck I’m feeling, only that there’s a lot of it.”
“That’s…really perceptive of you.”
“Not really. It’s kind of obvious, in fact.” Now that I’d had a couple of minutes to think about it. “But, you know. The system isn’t built to take that kind of stress from all directions. I don’t know how to handle it.”
“Write a song about it,” he said, and he wasn’t kidding.
“I already did,” I said, and neither was I.