By the time dinner was over, I had pages from two numbers that looked familiar. One I was fairly sure was Jordan’s, and the other was also a New York number. I knew midnight wasn’t too late to call Jordan so I did, from Barrett’s kitchen phone after Ziggy and I made a token attempt at helping with the dishes.
He picked up right away and yes, it was Jordan’s number. “Hey,” he said. “You know Thanksgiving is this Thursday.”
“Funny you should mention that.” I burped as punctuation.
He laughed. “Do you have plans? You and Ziggy?”
“We don’t. We’ve been hiding from the world and so no one’s tried to invite us.”
“Be here at four p.m.”
I remembered Jonathan fretting over what wine to bring. “Should we bring a bottle of wine?”
“I thought you were laying off alcohol? Or is that only the hard stuff.”
“Um, I haven’t really felt like drinking, honestly.”
“Well, unless California turned you into a wine snob, no, you don’t have to bring a bottle of wine. If you want to do the host gift thing, what I could really use is napkin rings. I’m trying to be all Martha Stewart, of course.”
“Martha Stewart is about the last person I would expect you to be like, Trav.”
“Hey, I appreciate anyone with a highly developed aesthetic sense. But I meant it more in a, you know, trying to do a big meal with all the bells and whistles.”
“Bells and whistles we can bring.”
He laughed again while I held the receiver to my chest. “Jordan wants to know if we want to go to his place for actual Thanksgiving.”
Ziggy was drying each fork that had come out of the dishwasher with a hand towel individually before placing it in the silverware drawer. “Who else will be there?”
“I don’t know.” I put the handset to my ear again. “Zig wants to know who’ll be there.”
“Not sure yet. I just got this idea today. I was supposed to be in Monserrat this week but between the Freddie news and other stuff going on, it’s not happening. So.”
So might as well see who else was in the city and wanted to come to a fancy dinner. “He doesn’t know who else, yet,” I said. “Besides us.”
“Does that mean you want to go?” Ziggy looked skeptical.
“You’re usually trying to get out of social engagements, that’s all.”
“Yeah, but this is okay.”
He smiled and kissed me on the cheek. “Okay.”
I blushed as it dawned on me that Jordan had just heard that whole conversation. “Okay,” I said. “Count us in.” Not that Jordan didn’t know me well enough already. But anyway.
I hung up before I could say anything stupid and called the other number.
Which turned out to be Matthew. “Hey, are you in town for a while?” he asked.
“Until at least Friday,” I said. “How about you?”
“You want to grab a… coffee? Or lunch?”
I’d heard his slight hesitation. “Or a drink? It’s okay, Matthew, I’m not in AA. You can mention alcohol to me.”
“I wasn’t sure.”
“Yeah, let’s get together so I can catch you up on what’s actually going on with me in some detail.”
We figured out a place in the East Village for tomorrow and then I got off the phone. Barrett and Carynne were sitting in the living room, finishing the bottle of wine.
I went back to the phone, called my therapist and left a voice mail that went something like this: “Hey, Lynne, it’s Daron. I’m in the city–New York, I mean–because Freddie Mercury died and this friend of mine… If I try to explain this message will get really long and that’s not what I’m calling about. The point is I’m here for a couple more days and I’m invited to a Thanksgiving thing and you know how it is. I’m calling to double-check if I should be avoiding alcohol? Or not? We haven’t really talked about it in a while. Here’s my pager number.”
Then I went back to the living room. Carynne was holding the empty bottle in one hand and her forehead with the other. “Ugh. I’m going to be feeling it at the office tomorrow.”
Barrett was in his stocking feet, wearing a mock turtleneck and track pants, his legs up on an ottoman. “I’m not going in for the rest of the week,” he said.
“You’re not?” She seemed surprised.
“It’s the holiday week. No one gets anything done this week. I have some paperwork to take care of but I don’t have to go in for that.” He yawned.
“Shit. Maybe I shouldn’t go in, either.” Carynne set the bottle on the coffee table. “You’re right. There’s not a lot going on right now. Especially with you two both playing hermit.” She quickly added: “Not that that’s bad or anything.”
Ziggy chuckled. “Everyone’s trying so hard to convince us downtime is a good thing.”
“The last time you had downtime you got into all kinds of trouble,” Barrett reminded him.
“That’s because Daron wasn’t here to keep me busy,” he said. “Are we doing nothing again tomorrow, dear one?”
“I’m having coffee with Matthew but other than my exercises that is all that is on the agenda.”
Ziggy stood and stretched. “Excellent. Add sex to the to-do list and that’s a full day. Unless you’d like to knock that off the list right now.”
I wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him close. “No sense in waiting.”
“Thought so. Good night, to you both. Barrett, thanks for a lovely meal.” Ziggy kissed his fingers and waved as I herded him out the door.
I don’t know about you, but after I’ve eaten a large amount and have a full stomach sometimes fucking isn’t the most comfortable idea. But you know me and Ziggy, neither of us is fixated on one specific way to “have sex.” (If you must know: Ziggy intertwined our legs with us lying side-by-side and we did dick on dick until he finished us both with his hand.)
The next day there was a page back from Lynne and we talked. We didn’t have a long conversation because she was on her way out of town for Thanksgiving, but she said, “Did something happen?”
“Happen? Like what?” I was standing by the kitchen phone in Ziggy’s apartment. I have no idea where she was.
“Like did you binge drink? Or wake up with no memory of where you were? Or something like that?”
“Oh, god no. Someone asked me if I wanted wine with dinner and I said no, but then I kind of wondered if it would matter if I said yes.”
I think she was trying not to laugh. “That is very… forward-thinking of you. But based on the evidence and your current lack of craving I would say you were not an alcoholic in the strict sense while you were on tour, and you are not now.”
“In a strict sense. But in a loose sense?”
“Daron, it seems pretty likely to me you were using booze–and later pills–to self-medicate a high-stress situation, and once you removed yourself from the stress, you removed any need for it.”
“Oh. You…never said it so bluntly like that before.”
“Well, we kind of got onto other topics and I always meant to bring this back up if you did, but you didn’t, until now.”
“Gotcha. Um, well, then I guess it’s okay to have a glass of wine or a beer at a dinner party.”
“Unless the reason you’re having it is because you’re too stressed out not to. I seem to recall social situations can cause you some strain.”
“Um, I think I’m okay.”
“Good, because I have to run. I’ll see you when we both get back.”
“Right.” I guess I could have met Matthew for a drink after all.