Time both slows down and speeds up when you’re not doing a lot. When every day is the same, they seem to take forever, and yet because they leave little impression, thinking back on it you can’t tell how much time has gone by.
Which is another way to say I don’t know how long it was after Christmas when we got news of Jordan’s memorial service. Two weeks? Three? Those are my guesses.
Carynne and Bart both called on the same day. Bart said he was going to make the trip down from Boston for it. No church service or anything like that. Word was that his family had him buried somewhere in Pennsylvania. It had taken a while for his friends to get a memorial in the city together for him partly because they were trying to tie it to some kind of anti-drug charity and partly because, well, Jordan was the one who would have normally pulled something together like that.
“Are you going to come?” Bart asked.
I was on the phone in our motel room, freshly showered and still in my underwear, because I hadn’t yet figured out what I had that was clean enough to put on. Laundry was on the agenda. Ziggy was already at breakfast, probably picking apart a blueberry muffin while dishing with dishy Ricky. (Or maybe that was one of the days Ricky wasn’t there. But I probably wasn’t thinking about that.)
“Is it worth it for me to go all the way there just to come right back?”
“You don’t have any other business to do in the city?”
“Not right at the moment.” What I really needed to do was go back to Boston and check in with my various therapists, both physical and mental, but a trip there didn’t seem likely in the near future. “In fact I’m avoiding my voice coach.”
“I’m sure your voice is fine,” Bart said. “It’s not like you’re about to debut at the Met.”
He tried to talk me into going a couple of different ways. I remained unconvinced. I eventually got dressed and went down to the breakfast room at the motel. Ziggy was there reading the newspaper.
“Where’s Claire?” I asked him.
“She took a muffin back to her room,” he said. “You okay? You look down.”
I looked down at my high tops and back up at him. That was as close to a joke as I could get, so maybe he was right and I was a bit down. “They set a date for Jordan’s memorial.”
“Nothing like short notice…?” He sipped from a plain white institutional mug. “Although I guess it’s taken them long enough.”
I told him what Bart had told me about the charity and the family and so on. “Jeez. I wonder what’s happening with all the stuff in his loft.” I felt a shiver of ice water down my back as I thought about all the recordings. Jordan had tapes upon tapes upon tapes of musicians like me, performances and sessions that he had captured to use later, like paint he could spread on a musical canvas. All of that was probably going to be lost forever.
Yeah, no wonder I looked down.
Ziggy asked, “Will Carynne set up flights for both of us? Or…?”
I had a moment of brain freeze and I don’t mean the 7-11 Slurpee kind. What came out of my mouth was, “I don’t think I should go.”
Ziggy blinked at me, maybe having a moment of brain freeze of his own. “What? Why?”
It was obvious to me that leaving my mother on her own was not something that would/could/should happen. That it wasn’t obvious to him had created a communication gap that I couldn’t figure out how to cross. It made me somewhat annoyed with him. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
His eyebrow was the only warning that he was equally annoyed with me. “It’s ridiculous to expect you to attend the funeral of one of your closest friends in the music business?”
Friends? Jordan and I were friends? That wasn’t the right word at all, and it galled me that Ziggy got that wrong, too.
I wasn’t such an idiot that I didn’t realize that this argument was stupid, though. I decided to see what would happen if I disengaged. Sometimes the stupid arguments just die and go away if you don’t pursue them. I got myself some coffee and then sat down with him.
Neither of us said anything for a long time, and I couldn’t decide if that was good or bad. Figuring out whether a silence is cold or companionable is tricky business.
Eventually my cup was empty and I stood back up. “I’m going to go check on her.”
I still couldn’t tell, but I was starting to suspect we were both still upset, but if neither of us wanted to fight, well, that was good, right? Mature and stuff. And of course we were upset. Jordan being gone was upsetting. That was explanation enough for me of how dark and depressing those days are registered in my mind. That and a steady diet of dull food and even duller television were not good for my disposition, but then again a day where all we did was eat and watch TV was a day where there were no medical emergencies and so should be counted as a win.
The fight in fact waited several days to erupt again, when I was dropping him off at the airport so he could go to Jordan’s thing without me. Having–maybe–learned my lesson about having arguments with people while driving to the airport, I had waited to say anything until we were sitting at the curb at the terminal.
“Give my love to everyone,” I said.
He leaned across the seat to kiss me goodbye, once on the cheek, once on the lips. “You could still change your mind and come, you know. Fly out tomorrow morning. You can get there in time. Fly back tomorrow night.”
“That’ll be insanely expensive.”
“Like Jordan isn’t worth it?”
“I don’t think at this point Jordan knows how much we’re spending on him. Wouldn’t it be better if we want to honor his memory to put that money into the charity?” I was already putting a low four figures in via Carynne, who would present a check to the foundation for me. (I couldn’t remember the name of the charity then, and I sure as hell can’t remember it now.)
He huffed but didn’t get out of the car. “I guess I just can’t fathom that you aren’t going to be there. I know…” He trailed off with a sigh. “I know how important he was to you. You were important to him, too, you know.”
Yeah, go on and rake my already sore heart over those coals some more, why don’t you? “Zig.”
“I really thought you two were going to start a thing.”
“I thought for sure you were going to bone. You’re the only person I really ever saw Jordan lust after.”
I shook my head. “He had the hots for you, too. And Jordan and I did have a thing. We just poured it all into music instead of sex or whatever.” Ziggy still hadn’t gotten out of the car. No one seemed to be trying to make us move from the curb. I threw the hazard lights on. “He was a… a steward of my career. A shepherd. Yours, too.”
“Which is why I’m going! God, what am I going to do without him, Dar’? Who’s going to remake my international album for the US market now? Megastar trusted him. And I trusted him… I lie awake at night worrying about it. I can’t answer that question but I can at least go say a proper goodbye.”
“A proper goodbye… at an industry schmoozefest where you’ll probably meet the person who’ll replace him,” I said. Yeah, I could be a real cynic about the biz, couldn’t I?
“You sound like you don’t even want to be there. Like you’d rather be here in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing.”
That was it. I didn’t like shouting I such an enclosed space as a car, but I was so angry my voice came out quite loud. “You think I’m here because I like it? The only reason I’m in this godforsaken state in the first place is you, Ziggy! You! You’re the one who insisted we come here at the drop of a hat! And now that I’m putting my mother as a priority ahead of others, now you’re mad at me?”
“That isn’t… You would’ve…”
“No, I wouldn’t’ve. I would’ve sent Court ahead and I would’ve maybe swooped in at Christmas and tried to swoop back out again to do that concert with you. I would have kept my distance as much as possible. You know I had no interest in coming here.” I could almost imagine that world, that parallel universe, where we had never left Boston, except maybe to go to New York for the concert and the holidays. Where you know what we would have done? We would have hung out with Jordan, probably.
Jeezus. Maybe he would still be alive today if we’d been there.
Or maybe I was just torturing myself with thoughts like that.
Ziggy’s expression was dark and angry. “Okay. I know I had strong feelings about it. I’m not blind or stupid. I know not being there for my mother at the end colored my feelings. But the only person keeping you here right now is you.”
“She told me the thing she fears most is dying alone.”
We stared at each other. He opened his mouth to speak a couple of times but then shut it again. The communication gap had not been crossed.
“Fine. I’ll take a taxi back. Lest she expire in the hour you’re out to retrieve me.” He pressed the back of his hand to his forehead then swept out of the car and slammed the door behind him and stalked into the terminal.
I rolled down the automatic windows and waited for him to stalk right back, which he did, because he’d left his overnight bag on the back seat. He reached through the open window to retrieve the bag swith a small shrug and then came around to the driver’s side window.
I opened it.
He leaned down to kiss me behind the ear and take a deep breath of the scent of my hair. “I love you, you know,” he said. “And I’m just saying that to say it, not to shut you up or anything.”
Life is too short. That was the thought that went through my mind. “I love you, too. Tell everyone the truth. I’m really, really sorry I can’t be there.”
“Okay.” He squeezed my hand and I pulled him down for one more kiss and then off he went.
I drove straight to the Denny’s and drank coffee until I felt too ill to take another sip.
He can talk with Claire and not freeze. He can recognize an argument with Ziggy on the horizon, and manage it. Maybe not well, but it’s an enormous change. Most awesome fiction is about the process of transformation, and this is at root a Coming of Age story.