(A quick note: order any T-shirt or omnibus book before December 1st and I’ll include a DGC notebook with the order, free! *AND* did I forget to mention that swag sales count toward bonus posts? Yup. Buy a shirt for $20, and $20 goes into the tip jar automatically! Check out the swag post for quantities and the “buy it now” buttons. -ctan)
If Ziggy and I had that phone argument a couple of years earlier, it would have been automatic that we wouldn’t have spoken to each other for a while—days, weeks, months. But this was not the nineteen-fucking-eighties. I did not slink away with my tail between my legs. I did take a couple of minutes to think about what he’d said, though, before I tried calling back.
Or, more precisely, I thought about what *I* had said, since that’s what he’d told me to do. I didn’t have to be a genius to realize he was hurt. He was hurt, or at least was hurting right now… because I didn’t go to Jordan’s memorial? Apparently.
I decided the best course of action before I called him back would be to prepare an apology, even if I still wasn’t totally sure what I was apologizing for. Maybe I should be sure.
I got my notebook, flipped to the first blank page, and drew a line down the middle. On the left side of the line I wrote everything I could remember he had said, and on the right I wrote everything I could remember that I had said, and then I looked it over for clues.
And remembered that he had implied he’d slept with Sarah. Which didn’t even make sense because Sarah was a lesbian… except that I knew from first-hand experience that even those of us pretty far at one end of the Kinsey scale are not necessarily all the way at the farthest extreme of it. Come to think of it, there was a song on Sarah’s folk album that was about a vegetarian eating bacon once in a while. I hadn’t taken it for a metaphor on first listen but maybe I should have.
Hang on, hang on, hang on, some little voice in my head was saying. Sarah wouldn’t do that to you. Not if she knew it would fuck you up if Ziggy did anything with her.
But did she know that? What had Ziggy told her? And remember, she was really angry at you…
Yeah, she and Ziggy were both really angry at me for not being there. That didn’t mean I deserved some kind of retaliation. I’d learned at least that much in therapy. Just because someone is angry at you doesn’t automatically make it your fault that they lash out at you. It doesn’t make it your job to take what they dish out. It doesn’t make you responsible for their feelings.
I mean, okay, maybe if you went out of your way to provoke them. But you know the kind of things I talked about in therapy was stuff like Digger and Claire blowing their tops and then blaming me. “You made mommy very angry. Apologize.” And of course I’d apologize because I was a child and that was what they were teaching me…
I suddenly wasn’t sure if apologizing to Ziggy was the right thing to do. That’s the legacy of toxic parenting right there. It leaches into everything, poisoning it.
And that thought was dangerously close to the whole “I’m too fucked up to be loved” thing that I thought I had gotten past. Dammit.
I decided I better call him back before I dug myself a deeper hole. I tried his apartment and got his machine. I hung up and called back. When I got the machine a second time I left a message. “Hey, it’s me. I’m sorry. If you’re there, pick up? If you’re not there, I’m paging you now. Please call me back.”
I paged him, then, and tried to decide whether it would be out of line for me to call Sarah’s apartment. I had to flip through my notebook to find the page with her current number on it.
Man, there were a lot of half-baked song ideas in that book. I felt immediately guilty that I’d let so many of them die on the vine, which is what they were–dead–because so much time had passed I couldn’t figure out what they were even about.
I called Sarah’s number, let it ring several times, and it started to feel like it was going to ring forever.
That’s how Ziggy had felt when he’d called me. And like it would be awful if I didn’t pick up.
Was he there and punishing me by not picking up? Or was I just twisting in the wind all on my own?
Paranoia felt sickeningly familiar. Paranoia and isolation went hand in hand.
I knew I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole.
I didn’t have the kind of therapist–or the kind of relationship with my therapist–where I could crisis-call her in the middle of the night. If I had been in AA or one of those rehab programs, I’d have a sponsor I could call if I felt tempted to take a drink. The only thing I was being tempted by right then was drinking my own toxic Kool-Aid, but the principle was the same.
Actually, a drink would have been tempting right then.
I decided Christian was the closest thing to an AA sponsor I had, so I tried calling him. No answer. Well, it had been worth a try. Colin? No answer. I left a message on the house phone in Allston that was probably rambling and pathetic, but hopefully not panic-inducing. I didn’t want to freak anyone out just because I was freaking out, you know?
And that’s why I stopped calling people and leaving messages before I got to Carynne or Courtney or Jonathan or Bart. (Bart was in the city anyway, probably in a hotel.)
One of the suggestions my therapist had given me at one point was this: when I felt I was mis-communicating with Ziggy, write him a letter. Write him a letter and try to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper. I tried. I did. But right then I couldn’t get past “Dear Ziggy.” I went around and around in circles trying to figure out the chicken-and-egg situation of whose fault it was that I was writing the letter in the first place, and so I couldn’t figure out where to start.
I was back in the water tank, metaphorically speaking, and it felt imperative that I talk to someone before I ended up back in one of those situations, literally.
I realized I had two possible options right then. Two real-life breathing humans within my reach. Ricky, the overnight desk clerk, and Claire, my mother.
I put my jeans on and went out the door.
(Going full on power ballad classic rock for this one. Cake’s “Never There” didn’t come out until 1998… -d)