(As promised, I’ve taken inventory of the T-shirts remaining, by the way. See the swag post. Every order before December 1st will get a bonus red DGC notebook! -ctan)
The night clerk’s name was Ricky, by the way, and he was still in high school, but he only did a half day and then a couple days a week went to a vocational-technical school, which somehow translated to him having a few nights a week to work at the motel. He worked some days, too, and always seemed happy to chat with me or Ziggy or both of us. I got the feeling he didn’t get too many interesting people to talk to.
Claire’s digestive tract wasn’t improving much, but the sedative/painkiller they’d given her helped to shut it down. So she wasn’t eating much, but then at least she wasn’t evacuating her system so much, either.
We still ended up in the ER a couple nights later because dehydration had made her fever spike. Sound familiar? I called Flip from the payphone at the hospital.
“She’s probably built a lot like you,” Flip said. “When you think about it, half your genetics come from her, right? So you know what to do. Take care of her like you would yourself.”
I made a mental note to buy a case of Gatorade. “Hey. Did you hear about Jordan Travers?”
“Yeah. Fucking shame. I know you knew him. I’m sorry.”
“Did you hear any details? I’m kind of out of the loop here.”
“I didn’t hear anything other than overdose. He’d been clean for years and years, you know? No idea why he started again.”
“Does there have to be a reason?”
“No, of course not. But you know, your tolerance goes down when you don’t do a drug for a long time. Maybe he thought he could handle a higher dose than he actually could. Or maybe it was stronger stuff.”
“It was just so… unexpected.”
“If he didn’t leave a suicide note or anything then it was probably just as much of a surprise to him.”
My stomach turned to ice. “Oh god, that sounds awful.”
“Oh, D. That’s not what I meant. I’m sure he didn’t feel a thing. He probably never knew anything was wrong.”
I supposed I preferred the thought that he slid peacefully into death rather than him dying while panicking about how stupid he’d been, but just thinking about it made me want to hyperventilate. “I still can’t get used to the idea that he’s gone. We’re so isolated here, it’s like stuff that happens other places isn’t real.”
“I’ve got to run, but call me in the morning if you need anything else, all right? Meanwhile I’ll do some checking around.”
“Thanks.” It was probably high time I got back to Claire’s bedside anyway, if the sound that was reaching my ears was any indication.
The payphone was in the waiting room but it was really more of a waiting area–only separated from the ward by a curtain. And Claire was only separated from the rest of the ward by another curtain. In her delirium, she had started to sing.
Her throat was dry and her voice cracked and sounded entirely wrong, but Ziggy joined in quietly singing with her. It was some Broadway show tune I didn’t know. No one came to shush them so I guess it was okay. ,m
She cried a little bit after that. Ziggy held her hand and tried to tell her everything would be all right, but of course we knew everything wasn’t going to be all right, was it? I gathered that she was upset about losing her voice, and then she was upset at being upset, and it all boiled down to the fact that dying sucks.
She fell asleep after that, and while Ziggy and I watched the bag of IV saline gradually empty into her vein, we talked about what we should do.
“Part of me says if we’re going to move her out of the hotel, we should move her to Boston,” Ziggy said. “Or New York. We could even put her into an assisted living place, you know? So you wouldn’t have to be the one trying to take care of her every minute.”
“Wouldn’t that be overkill?”
“Would it? Do you think it’s going to get better or worse from here?”
“I have no idea.” I really didn’t. I had been doing the thing of trying not to be the one to talk to her doctors, but now that Remo was out of the loop, Claire had been pushing me in that direction. I really didn’t understand why me instead of talking to them herself. It was more of the enforced helplessness thing, I guess.
We didn’t come to any conclusions and Ziggy went off to investigate the snack bar while I stayed there with her still asleep. She woke up, though, and asked for some ice, which they’d given us in a cup. It was a way to get some water into her without being in danger of spilling it.
She sucked on the ice and said to me, “Tell me again how you and Ziggy got together?”
“Which part of the story do you want to hear? It’s kind of a long one.”
“I’ve heard the part about the park a couple of times but not about the proposal or your wedding.”
“It was my idea, I guess.”
“Having rings and a… what do you call it. They call it a ‘commitment ceremony’ these days.”
“Did you do it in a church?”
“Oh, god no. I mean, there are some super liberal clergy people in Boston who would do it if we were into that, but we’re still…” How could I explain this? “We didn’t want our relationship to negatively impact Ziggy’s image.” Wow, that made it sound like we had thought about it a lot more beforehand than we did. “So having, like, a big public ceremony or putting it in the paper or something was right out.”
She made a pouty face at that.
“I had him come to St. Louis while I was on tour with Remo. It was a surprise.” To both of us, actually, but I didn’t say that. “He’d been hinting for a while. We did the exchange of rings and promises right inside a jewelry store. We didn’t tell anyone that’s where we were going.” Never mind that I hadn’t been sure that was what I was going to do until that day. “We were in the middle of a tornado warning and a massive thunderstorm. It was very dramatic.”
“Your boy is very dramatic. It suits.”
I chuckled. “He said yes, obviously. And as soon as we got back to the entourage, Courtney, who was on that trip–”
“This was that tour? The time I saw you?”
“Not that long ago, then.”
“No. It’s still kind of a new thing to us.” I couldn’t help looking at the ring on my hand. “Courtney saw the rings right away though, and next thing you know we had a kind of receiving line in the lobby of the hotel and we had our reception on the tour bus.”
“Was this the same tour bus where you had the accident with the knife?”
Was it? No, that was a different bus. I was pretty sure, anyway. They kind of blur together after a while. I decided it didn’t matter. “No, a different one.”
“I do wonder how they’re doing.”
“Remo and Mel and Ford, you mean?”
“You could call him, you know.”
She shook her head. She looked pale and puffy and hospitalized. “That ship has sailed out of port again, I’m afraid. No, it’s for the best that I not speak with him again.”
Well, that made one of us, since I needed to speak with him to try to get some medical details figured out and also to talk about getting us out of the motel.
“Where is Ziggy?” she asked, as if only just noticing he wasn’t around.
“I think he went to find out of the coffee in the snack bar is drinkable or not,” I said. He had been gone for a while.
“Tell me something.” She rested her knuckles against her chin. “Do your rings mean the usual things? To have and to hold, and all that?”
“Um, I’m not sure it’s exactly the same, but–”
Her gaze darkened. “I mean, is he allowed to cheat on you or not.”
“If it’s allowed, then it’s not cheating, right?”
“There are rules, if that’s what you’re asking.” I was not about to tell my mother that it was fine with me if Ziggy had orgies with his backup dancers.
“Listen. He needs you. He clearly loves you very much. But he’s the type who sees a list of rules of what not to do as a ‘To Do’ list, you know.”
“I’m serious. I wish you both the best, but you–”
“I’m well aware of Ziggy’s tendencies,” I insisted.
“Are you aware he’s been chatting up that boy at the front desk? He’s not even eighteen yet. That is a kind of trouble we truly do not need.”
“There’s no rule against chatting.” My blood pressure was truly rising the more she talked, though.
And then Ziggy came back.
I of course didn’t mention the conversation I’d just had. After we got back to the hotel in the middle of the morning, after they cleared Claire to leave and after we had stopped at the grocery store where Janine worked to pick up a dozen bottles of Gatorade (Janine was not there), and after Ziggy and I were back in our room, I decide to broach the subject.
“So, you never told me,” I said, as I got undressed, “what’s ‘dishy’ mean? Is that like, talkative? Isn’t dishing like gossiping?”
Ziggy had pulled the curtains shut so we could try to get some sleep in the middle of the day, having been up all night at the ER. He turned to me, still illuminated from behind by the winter sun coming through a crack where he couldn’t quite get them to overlap.
“Dishy means hot, dear one,” he said.
I decided to drop the subject right then and there. Ostrich, meet sand.