I spent most of our day off in bed. Tread came to see me and I asked him to play through Windfall with me while I worked out some lyrics that meshed with the fragment Ziggy had left me.
The song was coming out sweet, that much I knew.
Room service, and this time I was awake for it.
Of Ziggy all I saw was that at some point during the night/morning he’d come in, showered and changed his clothes. I didn’t ask anyone else if they’d seen him.
A brief interruption of a nap for maid service. Bart and Christian checked up on me in the middle of the afternoon. My throat was swollen and I felt tired. They went off to a museum. More room service. I stood in a hot shower for a long time, not thinking about anything. When I got out, I wrote in the steam on the mirror: Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami. The four cities we had left to go. I’d gotten the itinerary from Tread. Tomorrow we’d drive to Philly and play a show. The following morning, drive to DC and play a show, then into the buses and drive all night to Atlanta, get there the next day and play a show that night. We got to sleep there that night, spend the next day traveling, and then sleep in Miami one night before the closing date.
There was a knock on the bathroom door. “Daron?” Ziggy’s voice.
“Just seeing if it was you.”
No, it’s Speed Racer, I almost said. But my throat hurt and I wasn’t sure how he’d take it. I sat on the john and wondered if he’d be gone when I came out. I took my time shaving the three (four?) days sparse growth off my chin, brushed my teeth, wrung out my hair. When I ran out of things to do, I wrapped a towel around my waist and resolved to get back in bed.
He was still there, lounging on top of the covers on the other bed, eyes shadowed as he looked up at me. “How are you feeling?”
I put on a clean T-shirt and got into my bed. “Tired. Sore throat. But I’ll live.” I tossed the damp towel on the floor. “Thanks for, you know, getting me away from that reporter before I fell over, literally.”
He made a little shrug, like I embarrassed him by mentioning it. His eyes tracked back to the television and he didn’t say anything more.
We watched several minutes of an action movie, a rather compelling car and motorcycle chase that ended in explosions. I forgot for a while that there was any weirdness between us.
Then he said, “Do you want me?”
I stared at him. “What? Do you mean, now?”
He sat self-consciously still. “I mean, do-you-want-me.”
“Why are you asking me?”
He shook his head. “Because I want to know.”
You know already, I thought. You know damn well how much I want you, because if I didn’t you couldn’t play these games. My heart was beating faster. “I think you know.”
He slid onto the rug by the side of my bed. “Then I want to hear the answer from you. Do you want me?”
“Ziggy, I’m sick…”
“No. No, I don’t…” I made myself say, but my voice sounded false even to my ears.
He smiled as he crawled over me and lay down next to me. “Why do you say that?”
“Because I don’t want you… toying with me. Because I don’t like it when we don’t get along.”
He slid under the covers next to me and I could feel the cloth of his jeans against my bare legs. “Well, you’re right we could get along better.”
“I never know when you’re being serious or not.”
His hands traveled over my skin and I felt less ill while he touched me. “Let me tell you one thing,” he said as he slipped a hand under my shirt. “I’m always serious.”
“But you’re not…”
“Shh.” His fingers found my nipples and sent goosebumps down my back. “We seem to be getting along just fine, now.”
I didn’t answer. I wanted him to keep going, to keep talking, to keep touching me. He rolled me onto my stomach, peeled my shirt off, and kneaded my back while he apologized. “I know I’ve been kind of bitchy lately.”
“Well, I haven’t been a saint either,” I admitted.
He pushed out of his own clothes then and lay down on top of me, an insistent hardness against the end of my spine. “We have to make some decisions, you know,” he said, his breath tickling my ear and making me stiffen under him. “We need to think.” He lifted himself up on one arm and his other hand slid between my legs, until he had me, literally, by the balls. His whisper was sharp. “Do you want me?”
He licked his hand, and the next thing I felt was more of that insistent flesh, knocking on my back door. “There are some things we need to decide.”
“Like what,” I said weakly. When I closed my eyes I saw the strobe of my illness flashing behind my eyelids.
“Like…” he paused to lick his hand again, this time wetting the way. “Like what to do–” he paused again while he pushed my legs apart with his and positioned himself. “Hmm. Are you sure you want me?”
I balled my hands into fists. “Yes, okay? Yes. No cute answers, no answering a question with a question anymore. Just, yes.”
He thrust into me and I forgot about being sick. My entire body shuddered and then the tension seemed to go out of my muscles. He went slowly, and with each stroke I drew a long, deep breath.
“As I was saying.” He held me by the shoulders and pulled himself up and down as the length of him sank and withdrew in a steady rhythm. “We have some decisions to make. Like what we’re going to tell the others when they find out. Bart’s already suspicious, you know.”
I know, I thought, but I couldn’t say anything. This was like a strange dream, his disembodied voice continuing on, saying things I was terrified to hear.
“If you want to keep a secret, sometimes it’s best to know just what that secret is,” he went on. “Or if there’s something close to the truth that you can give away without giving it all away.”
What he said seemed to make sense but I still couldn’t think of what to reply.
“Think about it, Daron. What would we tell them?”
His rhythm was beginning to speed up and my heart was racing, my mind a roar of panic as he began to recite the possibilities:
“We’ve only done it once, maybe twice?
“You seduced me, corrupted me?
“Or: I seduced you?
“How about: we’ve been lovers all along and assumed they already knew?
“Maybe: We’ve been waiting for them to join us?”
I struggled under him to lift my head so I could speak. “Stop it.”
“Oh, no, you don’t want me to stop, do you?” He thrust into me harder and I sucked in my breath. It felt good, more than good, but I couldn’t listen to any more. He kept going. “What is it that bothers you more, the thought that we’re lovers, or the thought that maybe we aren’t?”
I pressed my face into the pillow then but he held my arms so I couldn’t cover my ears.
“Come on, tell me, lover. That’s what I am, isn’t it? Or would you prefer a different word? Definitely not boyfriend, huh? Boyfriends go to the movies together and give each other pecks on the cheek in public.” He slowed his motion down some but now it was jerky. “How about fuck toy? Too juvenile, too disposable. Groupies are fuck toys. Fuck buddy? Too casual for two people who practically live together. Significant Other? Oh, please. Paramour? Ugh, just a pretentious word for the word I started with, lover.
“So tell, me, Daron. You decide. Am I your lover or am I just… convenient?”
I could not move. He pulled my head up by the hair. “Well?”
At some point during his tirade I’d begun to cry and I wished I hadn’t. I could almost hear Digger’s voice: sissy boy. But there were tears of rage mixed with the hurt and shame.
“What am I, Daron?” he demanded.
“Why…” I began, but he cut me off.
“Uh uh. You said no more answering a question with a question. Am I your lover?” And he held himself still for a moment, while he waited. “Answer me.”
I felt my stomach clutch, but there was only one answer I could give. “Yes,” I hissed.
He thrust once more. “And are you mine?”
“Yes.” My eyes were closed but my vision flashed red and black. He began to fuck me again in earnest now but I barely felt it in the daze that followed the admission, a strange weightlessness, dizziness, as the words echoed in my head: yes, lover, yes, lover… and confusion swirled around me as I could not decide if this made everything better, or everything worse.