“Can I borrow your phone?” Sarah said to Ziggy after we were done with vocal exercises. I was feeling very calm afterward. So calm it was like being stoned.
So calm that I sat there, zoned out, listening to Sarah call her mother. She stood in the kitchen, leaning against the wall, holding the phone to her ear, while Ziggy bustled around her making tea.
“Yeah, no one’s picking up at that room. Could I leave a message?” she said sweetly to some receptionist.
Five minutes later she called again and did it again. She repeated the process over and over–maybe ten times in all–until she got the same receptionist a second time. Then she cackled with glee. “I am such an evil bitch.”
Ziggy handed her a mug. “What was that all about?”
“My mother’s going to eventually give up waiting around at my apartment and go back to her hotel and have an absolute heart attack that she missed all these messages from me.” She put the handset back with a lip-bitey grin. “‘Oh no, my little girl needed me!’ And then she’ll be literally nauseous with guilt. And then she’ll never admit that where she was all that time was stalking me, waiting for me to come home so she could accuse me of slumming.”
“You are an evil bitch,” Ziggy said with a nod of appreciation.
“I learned from the best.” Sarah took a sip of her tea. “Her.”
“If she accuses you of slumming–”
“And catting around, being ‘loose,’ ruining my reputation–”
“Sleeping with the likes of us,” Ziggy said with a sly tone in his voice. “All of which are true. Why can’t you just say, yes, mother, that’s what I was doing, deal with it?”
“You can take the mom out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the mom. Oh, I know who I should call.” She picked up the phone again.
Ziggy brought me a cup of tea. I was sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter. I held it between my hands and the warmth felt good on my scarred palm. I listened with half an ear while I started my hand exercises–the ones that didn’t need a rubber band. Aha. Sarah was talking to Barrett. The conversation was brief and then she hung up again.
“Thank goodness he’s on my side.”
“I’m sure he knew you were with us,” Ziggy said. “I’m sure Tony kept him up to date.”
I piped up: “Tony’s good people.”
“Since when do you use the term ‘good people?’” Ziggy asked.
“Since when do you analyze every word I say?”
“Since forever, dear one.” Ziggy took my hand in his and massaged it. My shoulder, which I hadn’t realized was so tense, relaxed.
“You two are the cutest,” Sarah said. “Life is so much better when you’re getting along than when you’re not.”
“True.” Ziggy kissed me on the cheek and handed me a rubber band.
“So what’s next?” she asked. “European tou–?”
Ziggy made a shushing motion. “We’re on break. No work talk.”
Sarah’s sharply tweezed eyebrow notched in skepticism. “Seriously? You?”
“Us,” I said. “I think the idea was we should take a break while only one of us was a complete physical and emotional wreck instead of waiting until it was both of us.”
“You must be going crazy, though,” she said to Ziggy.
He sipped his tea. “Yeah, maybe a little. All the sex makes up for it, though.”
That made me snort tea into my nose. The funny thing was we weren’t even having that much sex, relatively speaking, but what we had been having in our Boston sublet was good and stress-free. Quality more than quantity, I guess. The dynamic with Ziggy was so completely different from Jonathan that I barely even worried about the kinds of things that ate away at me in Los Angeles.
“When are you going back?”
He and I answered simultaneously, “Tomorrow.”
“You should come up and visit us,” he added. “You’re off the road for the winter, right?”
“Right. And I should spend the next couple of months writing new material, but…” She sighed heavily, holding onto her elbows.
“Bu-u-u-u-t?” Ziggy shepherded her into the stool next to mine and poured more tea into our mugs. It was the licorice-y stuff that’s good for your throat.
She sat and let her hair–which was more of a strawberry blond than red at the moment–hang in her face. “But it’s hard to motivate myself when I know the second I get into the studio they’re going to throw most of it out.”
“Are you working with Jordan?” Ziggy asked.
“Yes, and I love him, but you know how he is. He’ll say, which do you want, a hit or a dud?”
I had heard him use those exact words, not to me directly but to one of the bands he’d pulled me in to work with.
“Well, the ideal thing is he takes the song of your heart and makes it into a hit,” Ziggy said.
I know we’d said we weren’t going to talk about work, but here I was, talking about work: “The ideal thing isn’t always what happens, though. And sometimes the changes they want make it no longer the song of your heart.”
“But not every song,” Ziggy said. “That’s why albums have ten songs on them. So everyone gets something they want.”
I tried to concentrate on moving my fingers inside the stretched shape of the rubber band. I swore I would not talk about how dissatisfied I was with Ziggy’s album. I realized I hadn’t heard an update in a long time though, possibly because we’d been avoiding talking about it. “Did Mills ever get off his ass and schedule a US release date for yours?”
Ziggy bared his teeth. “I thought we weren’t going to talk about work.”
Which meant no. Shit. I didn’t know whose career prospects I should worry more about right then, his or mine.
Sarah deftly changed the subject. “You know who I haven’t seen much of lately? Carynne. What’s she up to?”
“Oooh, let’s call her right now,” Ziggy said. “You have no excuse, Sar’. You and she are both in New York more than not and she works for your manager.”
“Yeah, yeah, go on, call her. She’s a sweetheart.”
Ziggy went to the phone. I pushed my teacup toward Sarah so she could drink it. “You and she are a lot alike.”
“You think? Except for the part about how much she likes dick and dislikes performing so much that she won’t even do karaoke unless extremely drunk?”
“Just because you’re opposite in some ways doesn’t mean you aren’t both, sorta…” I waved me good hand in her direction while I searched for the word.
“Skinny white chicks with red hair and attitude,” she finished for me.
“That wasn’t what I was going to–”
“It’s okay, D. It’s a type. She and I both play to it.”
I had to let that absorb for a minute. “Yeah, okay, I guess maybe that was what I was trying to figure out. But you’re drastically different underneath, is that what you’re saying?”
“If you like.”
“But wait. Type. I mean, you’re saying you picked out your stereotype off a shelf, sort of?”
“Pretty much. The only person I know who didn’t is Ziggy here.”
Ziggy was hanging up the phone. “I didn’t what?”
“Fit yourself into any kind of mold or type.”
“Well, I used to be standard art school goth,” he pointed out. “Back in the day.”
She chuckled. “You shed your skins like a snake, though. The rest of us hang onto them longer.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “What’s my type then?”
Ziggy laughed out loud. “God, Daron, didn’t we just have this conversation? You’re from the exact mold that all these grunge kiddies from Seattle are trying to fit into. You’re that guy.”
I didn’t feel there was anything exact about that, but–huh–something settled over me like a thick blanket. Not quite a thought, not quite a feeling. “Is that bad?”
Now they both laughed. “It’s not bad,” Sarah assured me. “It’s just you.”
(Had to do a throwback Eighties clip for today… -d)