I’m not sure if Martin and Flip took it on themselves or if they were assigned to talk me down. When we got to the hotel in Indianapolis at four in the morning I was off the bus like a shot, but I didn’t make it to the elevator before they caught up with me.
“Dude, did you have dinner?” Flip was asking.
“For fuck’s sake, Flip, I…” Fuck. “I had some yogurt,” I said weakly.
“We’re ordering a pizza to your room. Come on.”
I was emotional and fragile and acting like a five-year-old so it should come as no surprise that the thought of pizza (even if it was crappy 24-hour Domino’s) brightened me up a bit.
I still felt prickly with self-consciousness as we sat down in my room to wait for it. I was in the chair in the corner of the room, Flip sat on the bed closest to me, and Martin stretched out on the one further away. I tried to be adult about things. I did. “So is it me, or was that…I guess what I’m trying to ask is, was that my fault?”
“I didn’t hear exactly how it started,” Flip said.
“He picked a fight and bit my head off. ‘You should know, Daron.’ And then it took a while but it eventually got around to him admitting he was pissed off that I took off after the show at the Garden.”
Flip rubbed his hands together slowly. “Not assigning blame here, but you did kind of disappear a little suddenly that night.”
I really wasn’t ready to discuss Ziggy with Flip and Martin. But I didn’t really have a choice. “The thing is I think what bothered him most wasn’t how I disappeared but who with.”
“Who were you with?” Martin asked.
“My on-again off-again former lead singer,” I said. “I don’t always think clearly when he’s involved.”
“This is a guy you’re, like, involved-involved with?” Flip asked.
That was a perfect way to put it. “Yeah.” Involved-involved. “I don’t like to talk about it.”
Martin surprised me, saying, “Daron’s been stuck on him for a long time. No apologies, Dar’. We all know how much he means to you.”
“I tried to get him to come to Christmas dinner,” I said, almost more to myself than to them. “I’m not sure Remo approves.”
“And that’s the real problem, isn’t it? I don’t need, or want, his fucking approval for what happens with me and Ziggy, but that’s the second time Remo’s chewed me out for seeing him.”
Flip shrugged. “You normally have better judgment, though. I mean, you didn’t even take your wallet.”
“Oh, yeah.” I had forgotten that part.
Martin tried to look serious. “It just made him worried is all. I mean, regardless whether it makes any sense or not, Daron, Remo worries about you. And it seems like whenever Ziggy comes into the picture, you do have a tendency to…act a little stupid.”
“Okay, you know what doesn’t make sense though? When I actually missed a show because of that stupid bullshit in Wisconsin he wasn’t even angry. But here, where I didn’t even miss any of my responsibilities, he’s ripshit.” I teared up suddenly and they both looked at each other in alarm, like they weren’t ready for that. I wiped frantically at my eyes. “Why?”
Flip put on his bet armchair psychologist voice. “Well, it’s like we were saying the other day. You know I think that this whole thing with Melissa and the baby has…”
“Warped his mind?” Martin filled in helpfully.
“…changed the way Remo Cutler thinks about his relationships,” Flip finished.
“I think it’s just made him jumpy as shit,” Martin said. “Not that I can blame him exactly. Remind me never to procreate.”
He and Flip both shook their heads and I think they were both thinking about Clapton’s kid. You can have all the fame in the world, all the money and acclaim and status, and it still won’t protect you from a tragedy like that.
“So what should I do?” I felt a knot in my stomach. “He’s never treated me like this before. Never.”
Martin’s ears pricked up. “Treated you like what?”
“Like a nutcase.” I realized that wasn’t clear. “I mean, like he’s a nutcase. Digger, okay, sure, he had all kinds of hidden agendas and reasons to jerk my chain. But I’m…I’m…” I started to hyperventilate.
Flip was in front of me with his hands on the sides of my shoulders. “I think it’ll make sense if you talk it out with him. When you’re both a little calmer.”
“I am calm,” I said, swallowing hard. Okay, that was a ridiculous thing to say, but if you wish hard enough it’ll come true, right? “We’ve never had a fight like that before. Never.”
Martin thought it over, as if trying to come up with a counter-example. He couldn’t think of one. “You might be right. I mean, the closest you came to this was that little thing you had during rehearsal.”
“Oh, you mean when he was trying to insist I use a pick instead of my fingers?”
“Yeah. Now that I think about it, he sounded exactly like my father telling me to wear a seatbelt,” Martin said.
“Were you wearing your seatbelt?” Flip asked.
“I was! Which is why it made no sense. But anywa.,” Martin said, “remind me, when did he chew you out about going out before?”
“One night in LA, I came in a little late and Melissa was actually awake with the baby when I came in. But he bit my head off about waking the baby.”
Flip shook his head. “I really thought he’d calm down once we got on the road.”
“Well, but now he hasn’t seen them in a couple of weeks and that’s making him anxious,” Martin pointed out.
“Okay, but you know what? If Remo needs an emotional punching bag because he’s having separation anxiety, I cannot be it.” I put my hands over my eyes. They felt puffy. “I should quit before–”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, nobody is quitting. We’re going to fix it way before that happens,” Flip said, waving his hands like a referee. “But throw him a bone. Say you didn’t mean to worry him when you took off in New York, even though it was totally 100% within your rights to take off, and promise him you’ll always tell me when you’re going to disappear–even if you’re within the venue.”
“Okay.” My cheeks burned with chagrin then. “That was a rookie mistake today and I should have known better than to fall asleep in a store room. But can we figure out what he wants from me, please? Am I the only one confused about the whole band leader business?”
They looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Yes.”
“Because of Japan?”
They seemed to be deciding which of them would talk. Martin took the initiative. “Yes. That was the tightest our set has ever been. And it’s because you took over.”
“I did not ‘take over.'”
“You pretty much directed the whole show, Daron,” Flip said. “It seemed really… natural? Maybe that’s the problem. It seemed so natural that nobody talked about it.”
“I think Remo’s making a lot of assumptions about what I’m doing here,” I said.
“What are you doing here?” Martin asked. “Since I’ve probably got some assumptions I could clear out, too.”
I took a deep breath and thought about how to answer that question. “I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do. But.”
“But…” Flip made a rolling motion with his hand.
“But it’s not the only thing I want to do. And I’m not sure Remo realizes that. No–he realizes it, he just doesn’t accept it.”
“Would joining us as a permanent, full-time member be such a bad thing?” Martin asked.
If I’d run away from home and moved to Los Angeles with them a million years ago, that’s how it would be now, wouldn’t it? I would have never met Bart, never met Ziggy…
I tried to imagine losing my virginity under Remo’s roof and shuddered hard. I closed my eyes. He would have been all supportive, and I would have still been a freak case about it.
I imagined making some terrible choices. I could be dead now if some of those things had come to pass. A child falls out a window because he doesn’t see the danger.
You’re alive, you’re an adult, and just because the music business has jerked you around every possible way doesn’t mean you’re trapped, I told myself. But what I said was, “I just can’t make that kind of commitment to Nomad. And he always backs off from asking it because if I come right out and say ‘no’ it’ll break his heart.”
I sat there in silence for a while, working up the nerve to say the conversation was done. Now that I wasn’t in a panic anymore I was starting to feel sleepy and I wanted them to leave. I’d been having so much trouble sleeping that I wanted to grab the chance while I could.
But then the pizza arrived and that officially closed the subject. We devoured it and then they said good night–or good morning, actually–and I went to bed.
But then I lay there thinking. My relationship with Remo wasn’t really like my paternal relationship with Digger at all. It was turning out to be a lot more like my relationship with Jonathan. You know what I mean.
You can both want the best for each other, and it can be really good at times, but it can still be wrong for both of you.