The last three shows of the tour were bam-bam-bam, a weekend three-fer, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. San Diego, Costa Mesa, and San Francisco. (Well, Mountainview, technically.)
We rolled up the the San Diego Sports Arena at midday and I could see the crew was there but not the band, unless they had somewhere to hide the bus, which seemed doubtful since the venue was another one of those concrete places in the middle of a big parking lot.
Venue security stopped us in said parking lot, actually, and seemed to think it was necessary to make sure we weren’t some kind of interlopers, which seemed odd.
“Check with the promoter, he’s got my name,” Barrett said through the driver’s side window.
“He won’t be here for another couple of hours,” came the reply.
I leaned forward between the seats. “My dog tags are in the guitar case.” At least, I really hoped they were. I hadn’t checked to make sure.
The Ovation was strapped in the front seat. Barrett flipped the case open and stared for half a second until I reached forward and opened the hidden compartment under the neck. I pulled out a lanyard with three laminates on it and handed that over.
The guard handed them back. “Okay, and what about him?” He thumbed toward Ziggy.
“Jeezus Christmas, they’re both with me,” I said though I don’t know if the guy could really hear or see me from where he was standing. All I could see of him through Barrett’s window was a couple of buttons of his shirt and his hands.
“Whatever.” He then radio’d ahead to someone and waved us in the general direction of the loading dock.
The cold weather that had chased us all over the Northeast and Midwest had decided to show up there, too, and although it was sunny it was only in the low sixties. (If you were wondering why Ziggy and my all-night drive to places along the ocean hadn’t included a bout of skinny dipping, that’s a big reason why.)
Once we were inside I hooked up with George to make sure Barrett and Ziggy had adequate passes. And then I really just wanted to crawl into a hole to sleep for a week. I told myself I could do that next week, although that wasn’t true: I was going to do some kind of promo stuff for the solo album. Which reminded me I probably needed to talk to Carynne about it.
Instead I pulled Ziggy into the room that had been designated as Clarice and Fran’s, which I knew would be small and undisturbed until they got there.
I figured their arrival was probably imminent.
I pulled him into an armchair that was barely big enough for the two of us and held him. He didn’t protest.
Eventually I spoke. “Am I being stupid?”
“About the fact that the main resistance I seem to have to taking the gig is that I feel like I don’t have a choice.”
“What do you mean? Financially?”
“No, no. I mean it just feels inevitable. You always get what you want eventually and it’s usually because I get worn down into agreeing.”
“But if you agree then what’s the problem?”
“The problem is me getting worn down to nothing.”
“Oh.” He tucked his face into my neck and I could feel his breath as he talked. “Let me ask you something. Are you happy? Doing what you’re doing? I’m not trying to take any of that away. Touring with Nomad. Doing stuff with Jordan. Doing instrumental stuff. Are you happy?”
“Yes, but what?”
“But.” But something is annoyingly naggingly wrong with everything, I thought. That didn’t seem like a constructive thing to say, though. “You know I really want there to be a way forward for us.”
“And if I don’t take the gig? I guess that’s what I mean about feeling like I don’t have a choice.” The walls were cinderblock but they’d been painted a pastel blue-green. “What’s the other option?”
“Carry on as we have been, rendezvousing like ships in the night?” Ziggy said tentatively. “Until something better comes along?” I felt him stiffen suddenly and he jerked back to look at me. “That didn’t come out right! I mean for us. I didn’t mean—”
“Shush. It’s okay. I know that’s not what you meant.” I made calming motions, petting him, trying to calm myself at the same time. I wasn’t upset but there was a phantom pain, as if I knew how much it coul dhave hurt, would have hurt if we’d been in a different place emotionally. “If we’re going forward, no matter how we’re doing it, I’ve got to trust you, Ziggy. I’ve got to trust that no matter what flights you take, you’re always coming back, and you’re never replacing me.”
His eyes were very black and very deep. “Not even with Janessa?”
“You tell me, Zig. If I tell you I trust you will you push the envelope and see how much you can get away with? Does that just give you license to gut me when your priorities change?”
He sucked in a breath through his teeth. “No. I want to reward that trust. But…But I have to be honest about something.”
Did he really say that? “That’s all I’ve been asking for.” Right?
“Okay. Here goes.” He spoke slowly, tentatively. “I’m…saying this because it’s true. Not because…I’m trying to blackmail you emotionally.” He took another breath, then said, “Daron, it’s a lot easier… to… maintain my priorities…when you’re around.”
I nodded and petted his hair and made affirmative noises. “That’s not emotional blackmail,” I said, when words formed. “If it’s going to work, however it’s going to work, I need to know what you need.”
“You,” he whispered and then put a hand over his mouth. “Sorry, that was corny. I’m trying to be serious. I really think it’d work better if we were actually together in a day-to-day way, though. There. Your turn, now. What do you need?”
I chewed on that for a few seconds, fishing around for an answer that felt right and finding none. “I think I’m still figuring that out. And maybe that’s why I can’t figure out what to do.”
We were both silent for a while and then I said, “Driving through Southern California always makes me think of trying to beat Digger to Betty Ford.”
He settled against me again and nodded when I asked, “I told you about that, right?”
It felt good to talk without fear. Why wasn’t I afraid anymore? It was like I had just decided not to be. Like I didn’t like how the whole Janessa surprise had made me feel and I had somehow decided that instead of trying to make Ziggy change, I’d try changing myself. “When I drove out there, I thought I knew what I wanted. You were the only thing in my mind. If you’d asked me then what I needed, ‘you’ would’ve been the only answer.”
“But you would’ve been wrong,” he said gently. “That…wasn’t the time.”
He spoke like it was all so matter of fact: “No, because we would have fought and blamed each other about BNC and a million other things that weren’t actually our fault, and neither of us was grown-up enough to handle it.”
“And we are now?”
“That remains to be seen.” He shifted, preparing to stand up, and I could hear voices in the hallway. “This is an infantilizing business, sometimes.”
“When am I seeing you next?” I asked.
“Are you doing promo for the instrumental album in New York? Surely you are. I think we’re flying back tomorrow.” He stood and pulled me up with him. “Do you remember my address?”
“No, but I have your pager number.” I’d memorized it, in fact. “Hm. I guess I should get one of those.”
“It’d be useful, assuming you don’t lose it the way you lose your wallet,” he chided.
“I do not lose my wallet, I’m just separated from it sometimes.”
“Like you get separated from your hotel key and your–”
I shut him up with a kiss. A kiss that Fran and Clarice got to see because when they came in I didn’t pull away until they applauded.
(It’s October 1st! Today was supposed to be the last day of the Amazon reviews campaign but we’re getting so close I’m going to keep it going until October 10th, ok? Do you think we can get to 20 reviews on each book by then? Here’s how close we are:
Remember, the incentive is the Daron/Ziggy/Colin threesome scene. Email me your review and an age statement and I’ll email back the scene. But I’ll release the scene to the whole fandom [behind an age wall] if we can get to 20 reviews on each book! I know you guys can do it! -ctan)
(An utterly forgettable hit from Simple Minds from 1991…Sounding like U2-Lite instead of like themselves. -d)