We sat on the rock looking at the water for a longish time. The sun got hot to the point I took my jacket off. Like, summer hot. Ziggy stripped his T-shirt off and sunned himself, using his balled up jacket and shirt as a pillow.
I thought about his various managers arguing about how they didn’t want him browning up. Mills and his whole “he needs to be white to cross over” thing.
“That is deeply fucked up,” I said.
“Um, nothing.” I hadn’t meant to say that, or anything, out loud. “Business stuff.”
“Is that what’s going through your head?”
“That and a million other things.”
“You are officially stressed out, dear one.”
“Yeah, but.” The breeze felt warm on my face. “Is that a thing?”
“A thing? You mean, like a diagnosis?”
“I guess? I mean, everyone has stress.”
“And everyone has things that make them depressed, too. That doesn’t mean that depression isn’t a real thing. Stress is, too.”
I swallowed. “But what is it?”
“It’s a state you get into where your mind and body both quit working the way they should.” He opened one eye to look at me. “My shrink says it can keep you from healing the way you should, both physically and mentally.”
“Really. And of course it’s related to anxiety, and anxiety is linked to depression.”
“I still don’t understand that. Anxiety is hot and energetic and depression is cold and lethargic.” I looked at my two hands. “Then again, I guess right now I feel both those things, which just makes it weirder.”
“It’s hard.” He had said that a few times that afternoon.
“Is it weird that I want to be able to control how I feel?”
“Control? You mean with drugs?”
“I mean however. I wish I could turn it on and off or something. Sorry, that sounded really stupid.”
“No, it didn’t.” He sat up and put an arm around me. “Look. I’m pretty good at controlling my feelings, but it’s a lot of work and eventually you have to deal with the ones that you’ve been putting off. Drugs don’t really control them. They just make you not care for a while.”
“Does that include your meds?”
“Not really. As long as I’m still going to therapy. It’s kinda like aspirin won’t fix your broken ankle, but it will make it possible for you to get through a physical therapy session.”
I stared at my hand.
“When–” He stopped himself and started again. “–do you think we should go back to the house?”
“Soon, I guess.”
“Because I have to pee and I’m not sure mother nature would appreciate me taking a piss into the pond.”
“Like the bears and stuff don’t?”
“Are there bears here?”
“Probably? Or at least raccoons and stuff.”
“True.” He stood up and unzipped his jeans before I could say let’s go. I hadn’t really thought he’d do it, but I guess I forgot this was Ziggy. He held himself loosely in one hand while he aimed and gestured grandly with the other while he let loose. “Ta-daaaa!”
That cracked me up pretty good. Depression or no, it was pretty funny. “You’re a nut.”
“You know it,” he said, as he tucked himself back in. He picked up his shirt and shook it out. “Okay, let’s take bets on Claire’s reaction to seeing me. Does she freak, or what?”
I got to my feet. “Depends on her mood. If it suits her to ream us out, she’ll act like it’s an affront to her personal existence that we didn’t tell her in advance when you were showing up. Whereas if she decides she doesn’t want to give you the satisfaction of surprising her, she’ll pretend like it’s no big deal. Like she barely notices you.”
“I bet that’s what she’ll do. She won’t want to show that I’ve affected her that much,” he said.
We were both wrong, though. When we got back to the house, Claire was as well baked as a blueberry muffin. She was sitting on the back porch in the sun, singing to herself rather off key. Her voice was ragged. When she saw us come out of the woods she threw up her hands and shouted, “Ziggy! I do declare, get up here and give me a big kiss.”
Ziggy loped up to the porch, swept up her hand and planted a kiss on the back of it. “How are you, my dear?”
“Just peachy,” she said with a wide smile. Then her expression darkened. “You’re not going to take my medicine away, are you?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Ziggy said.
“Are you sure?” She eyed him suspiciously. “I always thought you were a pure-living, my-body-is-a-temple type.”
He crouched down to get on her level, still holding her hand and patting it gently. “I choose that for me. But I would never dictate that for you, especially since your current–ahem–regimen seems so beneficial for you.”
“You really mean that?” Her eyes were wide and a little bloodshot.
“I really do.”
She burst into tears. I hovered, wondering what to do. Ziggy hugged her awkwardly and I went around to her other side to rub her back.
Ziggy made eye contact with me and his expression was bemused. Second one of us to cry on his shoulder that day.
(I’m still a sucker for this kind of thing. Guitar both gentle and grand, a great vocal harmony, I don’t care if it’s a cliche, just give me a pair of headphones. -d)