I don’t remember buying the CD and I don’t remember leaving the store. I have a vague memory that before we left we got recognized by someone on the staff, but managed to escape before it could turn into anything. Maybe Michelle promised we’d be back or something.
Mostly I remember trying not to cry in public, but tears are the only thing that can break through a dam in my throat like that. I don’t actually remember when I started. I think some parts of my brain just shut down for a while. Emotional overload or whatever you want to call it will do that, I guess.
The three of them took me back to the apartment and stayed with me. At the time I thought it was really thoughtful for them to be so supportive. It didn’t occur to me until later that they were worried I’d do something like run off and hide in a water tank. I didn’t feel like that. I didn’t want to run away. Not from them, anyway. If I wanted to run away from anything right then it was the pain itself, because stark truths always fucking hurt.
Some time in the wee hours Bart and Michelle went home. I was curled up on the couch in the fetal position, too exhausted to cry anymore. Ziggy came and put a blanket over me. “Do you want to stay here or can I convince you to come get in the bed?”
“Um.” Some ragged thoughts bumped against each other in my head, but didn’t form anything like a plan of action or a decision. “Uh.”
“Because I am not looking forward to sleeping on the floor here.”
Oh. The realization that me being upset was upsetting him, too, seeped in. “Sorry. Just–”
He squished one buttcheek onto the couch with me and brushed a hand over my hair. “No need to apologize. But I think you’ll thank me later if you let me put you in bed.”
“Yeah, all right.” I tried to sit up and bumped my cheek against his. He’d been leaning down to kiss me at the same time.
Ziggy steered me into the bathroom and I saw the sense in brushing my teeth and stuff while I was in there. I had a moment of feeling sheepish and ashamed of how emotional I’d gotten. It felt very obvious when I was doing something as mundane as brushing my teeth that my emotional outburst was kind of ridiculous.
I said as much to Ziggy after we got in bed. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Freaking out on you like that. I don’t know what came over me.”
“Well, I do.” He fussed with getting the covers over us the way he liked them. “Life goals and aspirations are a pretty big deal, you know.”
“But nothing. We’ve been over this, Daron. It’s okay to have a feeling.”
That did sound very familiar. “Is this the thing where if I bottle up my feelings for too long, they explode?”
He made a sound in the dark like he was trying not to laugh. “What do you think?”
“The fact I said it is probably a hint, isn’t it.”
“You could ask your shrink if you want to be sure.”
“I think I know what I’ll be talking to her about this week.”
In the morning I was still emotionally raw, but before I was really fully awake Ziggy asked me to make love to him and I did. To say we both felt better afterwards is probably an understatement.
It wasn’t until later that day (or maybe the next) that I got a sense of how insecure he had started to feel while I was out of it. We were making dinner. He was slicing up sausages and browning them in a pan while I boiled the water for pasta and simmered the sauce. I was talking on the phone to Jonathan at the same time.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I joke-whined.
“What, that the anthem of a generation was released while you were on the road?”
He laughed. “In hindsight, something had to break through sometime. Now of course there’s a rush on to sign all the copycat bands.”
“You mean all the bands that already sound like that, but which they were ignoring when they thought the guitar was dead, alternative was dead, rebellion in rock was dead, et cetera?”
“Yes, dear, exactly that.”
I added salt to the pasta water. The kitchen had come equipped with a pot with a colander built in, so when you were done boiling the pasta, instead of pouring it out into the sink, you pulled it out of the water. I wasn’t really sure that made that much of a difference, but whatever. “They really had me believing it, you know.”
“I’m sure they believed it themselves. Corporate execs always want to believe they know the market and can predict the trends. Never mind that they’re actually the people the furthest from what any actual music-buying consumer might want.”
“In hindsight it’s obvious that the next big thing after the artifice of the eighties was going to be authenticity itself.”
“I guess? The thing is, though, seventies punk was all about authenticity, too, right?”
“Well, almost fetishistically so among some adherents,” Jonathan said, in that Ivy League way of his, “but whatever seed of ‘true punk’ there was in the British working class or the surf and skate punks of LA, it was almost instantly packaged and sold as fashion. Hell, the Sex Pistols own manager was a clothing designer and owned a boutique. And you know that in an instant there were quote-unquote skate punks in Greenwich, Connecticut, wearing two-hundred dollar surf shorts as their form of teen rebellion.”
“You’re saying that punk’s all-consuming obsession against the sell-out was because everyone sold out.”
“Exactly. But that was the tail end of the baby boom. Now you’ve got a whole generation of media-savvy nihilists who were born after rock and roll.”
“They’re calling us Generation X. But if we’re the post-punk generation, why are we named after a punk band from the seventies?”
“Well, the term was around for a while, but there was a bestselling novel earlier this year that used the term to refer to the post-Boomers and it stuck.”
“Do I detect a little envy?”
“Maybe just a little,” Jonathan admitted. “I wonder what Billy Idol thinks of it.”
“Probably loves it if his royalty checks suddenly got fatter.”
“Sheesh. Everyone’s a sell-out,” Jonathan joked.
Ziggy nudged me. “Watch the sausages while I grate some cheese?”
“Sure. Set the timer on the ziti, though.”
Jonathan chuckled. “You guys are cute.”
“Zig, J. says we’re cute.”
Ziggy looked up from the cheese grater with a sneer. “We are. Disgustingly so.”
“I better go,” I told Jonathan. “We’re 12 minutes from dinner.”
“Of course. Call me anytime you’re in town or having an existential crisis.”
“Ha.” I put the phone back in its cradle.
“Did you talk to Carynne today?” Ziggy asked, as I nudged the sausage slices around in the pan with a wooden spoon.
“Briefly. She’s reassured I’m not about to dive off the deep end.”
He glanced up from the cheese. “You’re not, right?”
“I think I’m fine now.”
“Good. So Jonathan thinks this is the future, hm?”
“What’s the future?”
“Flannel and dirty jeans that make you look like you just changed the oil on your uncle’s car.” He wrinkled his nose. “No pretense. No pretension,” I should say.
“Yeah, I guess?” I could hear the edge in this voice but I hadn’t caught on to what was upsetting him yet.
Maybe it’s just that I was so upset last night, and this is the rebound, I thought. I tried to ready myself to be the sane one for a while if Ziggy needed the support.
He didn’t say anything more at that moment, just thinned his lips in a tight line. He finished with the cheese and moved to tossing cherry tomatoes in a bowl with chunks of cucumber and drizzling it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I drained the pasta and he scraped the sausages into the sauce. We moved everything to the dining table and sat down to eat. I kept a watch on him through all of it, waiting for him to give me a hint of which way he was going to go.
It was a good ten or fifteen minutes later, after we had food in us, that he picked up where he left off. He set his fork down, wiped his lips on his napkin, and let out a breath through his nostrils before declaring, “Like I’m a dinosaur or something.”
Oh, Zig, no.
(Submitted without comment. -d)