Western Tennessee has milder winters than Boston does, but it’s not exactly tropical. The day I drove Courtney to the airport there was horizontal sleet freezing to the windshield. It did not make for a relaxing jaunt. A pickup truck passed us and sprayed gunk from its wheels.
“I hope the pilots have better visibility than I do,” I said, trying in vain to clear the windshield with washer fluid and only succeeding at tinging the shmutz on the glass blue.
“Here’s hoping they’ve got good de-icing here, or I could be stuck here for hours.”
“If your flight gets cancelled, just call and I’ll come back and get you.”
“Well, assuming the roads are still open.”
“True. Is it supposed to get worse or better?”
“No idea.” This was back in the days before we each carried a supercomputer in our pocket that we could watch the doppler radar on any time we wanted. She hunched down in the passenger seat.
“Just let me know, all right? I have my pager on, the battery is even charged. Page me when you land, all right?”
“You hate it when Remo acts like a dad to you. What makes you think anyone likes it when you act like that?” She sounded really chapped.
“I’m not acting like a dad.” I couldn’t take my eyes off the road for a second or my hands from the wheel. “If I was it would’ve been: page me when you get in or you’re grounded.”
“Yeah, right.” She rolled her eyes and clucked her tongue like a surly teen and for a second I thought she was doing it ironically. But no. She was actually acting like a surly teen. “And what if I don’t?”
“Then I’ll be worried about you and that will suck,” I said.
“Oh, so it’s emotional blackmail now?”
“What?” I was already white-knuckled, which just made it feel even more like the conversation had gone off the rails. “I’m just telling you how I’ll feel. Do what you want, Court. You’re an adult.”
“About time you started treating me like one.”
“Okay, stop. Just stop.” I had to pump the brakes gently to slow us down on the slick highway. “Is this still about how I didn’t totally understand that you expected me to give you a real job?”
“No, that’s a whole different thing,” she said, and again I couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic.
“Court, listen. If what you want is to be an independent adult–and I say this carefully because I don’t want you to think this is what I want you to do–then maybe going to work for your own brother isn’t the best idea.” Amazing. No snappy retort came to that. “Remember when you told me Carynne had offered to take you in at entry level at WTA and you told me you were mulling over that versus trying to get in on the ground floor in some record company? You want to know what I thought?”
Her reply was cautious. “You told me to keep my options open.”
“I didn’t tell you what I really thought at the time which was: Run. Run far away. Don’t get trapped into working for a company if that’s not really what you want to do because it will be hell.” We were coming up behind a semi with its hazard lights flashing.
“Yeah, so, you said keep my options open until I figure it out.”
“The thing is, if you work for me, will you feel like you can’t quit because of non-business reasons? That’s what I don’t want to happen. And I sure as hell don’t want every time I tell you I’m worried about you to get a lecture that I’m turning into the father figure that neither of us had?” Shit, the back end of our car fishtailed a little and I slowed down even more to put some space between us and the truck. If that thing jack-knifed I wanted a chance to avoid it. “Since when is it emotional blackmail to tell you how I feel? You know how long its taken me to–one–know how I feel about anything–and two–to tell anyone?”
She clucked her tongue again, but her tone softened. “I know. I know. I’m sorry. I guess I’m just out of deal after spending a week with these people.”
These people who happened to be our closest relatives. Yeah. “I don’t know why you let yourself get so sucked into all that. I just stayed out of it.”
Her tone sharpened right back up. “Let. Myself.”
“I know it’s hard, but–”
“You claim to be more functional emotionally now but, Daron, pretending to be dead from the knees up is not what I call emotionally functional.”
“Never mind. I just could have used a lot more support than I got from you this week, okay?”
“Support?” Another truck was too close behind us now and I put our own hazard lights on to try to give him a clue. “What do you mean, support?”
“You know perfectly well what I mean. Take my side in an argument for once, would you?”
“But why get into the argument in the first place? All Claire and Janine know how to do is pick fights. Why the fuck would I participate in that?”
“So you think you’re above it all. You’re immune.”
“Wasn’t that the whole point of growing up? Not to mention running away?”
“Oh, like running away was such a mature thing for us to have done. Well, I guess you technically had an excuse.”
“I would have taken any excuse to get out of there, though, Court. I was just lucky my escape was semi-approved.”
“Lucky and talented.”
“And you were both ballsy and smart enough to realize you just had to get the fuck out.” Shit, I suddenly realized we were at the airport exit and now I needed to get over. I hoped no one was being stupid and passing on the right because of the trucks being slow, because there was no way I would be able to see anything coming given how I was sandwiched in. “Court, listen. You did the right thing getting out of there. The mess Claire’s in now is just proof of that. Well, I mean, not the cancer part, but you know what I mean.”
She stewed on that for a minute while I got us onto the off-ramp, nearly put the car in a ditch but didn’t, and then got onto the access road. She finally said, “Yeah. I guess it’ll be good to get away for a little to clear my head.”
“Yeah. Look. You’re still super young. Four years ago I didn’t appreciate just how fucking young I was, but now I do.”
“You’re not doing a very good job of avoiding the dad vibe here, you know…”
“I know, but just, look. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that relationships can’t work if people don’t know what they want and can’t be honest about it with each other. I had to go through it with Jonathan and with Ziggy–okay, I’m still going through it with Ziggy–but I think that goes for anyone you love. Family, too.” Shit. I realized I’d actually gotten off one exit too soon. Hopefully that just meant we were now on the cargo road to the back of the airport. “I get that I’m apparently not being the brother you want me to be right now, but it’d help if you could tell me what you want. Besides wanting me to fight with people.”
“So you’ll fight with me, but not them?”
“I fight with you about stuff I actually care about. It’s not worth fighting with Claire about artificial sweetener or… or… whatever.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, and looked out the window in the gray storm and mist at what I hoped was a long, flat area of runway and not just a cow pasture or something. “I still don’t get why you’re pushing me away.”
“I’m not pushing you away! I would love for you to work for me. Hell, I’ve been supporting you for a couple of years already. At least then you’d earn your keep?”
She at least chuckled at that.
“Yeah, I’m stressed out and worried that it’s hard enough to make a living in the music industry for one person, and that trying to support two might be too much.” And never mind that Ziggy was technically worth enough right now to buy and sell the whole Marks family four or five times over, and Remo was worth ten times that much. I didn’t want to count on any of that. “Until I find out what the hell I’m actually doing for the next year to eighteen months, I won’t know what to tell you, either.”
“Yeah, I get that. I do.” She sighed. “I’m just feeling a little under-appreciated right now.”
“Okay, how’s this. I think it’s awesome, if slightly intimidating, that you studied the entertainment business and did an internship at a record company just so you could help me. It really, really had not occurred to me that I was worth that much. And you know I don’t mean monetary worth.”
“Yeah, if your monetary worth was higher, Digger might’ve stuck around,” she joked darkly and we both had a chuckle at that. “My God. He extorted the money out of Lili. I still can’t get over that.”
“I can’t either.” Unbrainwashing my oldest sister was going to have to be someone else’s job for sure. Meanwhile, yes, that was definitely the shape of a plane I saw through the sleet and freezing rain. Hallelujah. “Anyway, what I was trying to say was I just want you to be happy, Court. Having you on my side is one of the best things that’s happened and by far the best thing I’ve gotten out of the Marks family. I think your ideas are smart and you’re undoubtedly right about the… the… About how underrated the artist-audience connection is.” I wasn’t able to come up with the buzzwords about “direct monetization” right then. “And I am on your side in every way that matters. But look how stressed out all the fights this week have made you. I just think it’s a good thing I stayed out of it.”
She said nothing to that. Maybe there was a bit of a shrug. I’m not sure since I was looking at the signposts telling me to keep right to enter the airport.
Here’s the thing. I know I have a strong ability to fool myself. Sometimes it’s a self-preservation move. Sometimes the only way to get out of a bad situation is to ignore the building burning down around you. But I also know that if you ignore the flames too long, you get trapped. So how do you tell the difference between when you’re doing okay and when you’re pretending you’re doing okay? I really thought I hadn’t been strongly affected by all the conflict among my sisters and mother. I was downright smug that I hadn’t gotten sucked into their bullshit.
I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I was wrong.
Folks! We are coming up fast on DGC’s 9th anniversary!
Join me Thursday, November 1st for a long overdue online chat to kick off the anniversary month!
From 8pm – 9pm eastern Daron will chat in the chat room here on the DGC site! (It’s the blue “chat” tab on the far right if you’re on a desktop browser and the little speech bubble if you’re on mobile.)
From 9pm – 10pm eastern I will livestream, answer questions, read a little, tell stories… and maybe reveal some interesting surprises? URL forthcoming!
Check back in throughout the month for more special stuff, too. 🙂