The thing about being drugged to the gills all the time is that it’s not easy to actually to maintain the “all the time” part. (I should know.) And the crash or hangover that hits in the inevitable gaps is not pretty.
So it’s a good thing I talked to Claire about me going to New York the night before she crashed. When she was high she was magnanimous. She even said she’d be willing to “entertain a visit from a former suitor”–meaning Remo–“if the gentleman were willing to spend the time and expense” to haul his ass back to Tennessee. No, I don’t know why sometimes she talked like she was in a 19th century period drama. Claire contained multitudes, I guess. Maybe it was her Scarlett O’Hara impression and in her mind the bungalow was a plantation.
The next morning saw the ugly, uncouth side of her as she cursed her way through difficult morning ablutions. The other three had made themselves scarce so I was the only one helping her out. She needed a half-shower (from the shoulders down) and I figured out we could just barely fit two stacked milk crates in the stall so she could sit and do it herself if she took her time.
While she was sitting there with several towels wrapped around her afterward, I made tea and toast. There was a container in the fridge labeled in Flip’s familiar Sharpie all-caps hand: “HASH BUTTER.” Hash buttered toast with cinnamon and sugar for her, and regular buttered toast for me. (They had left about half a stick unadulterated for me and Ziggy.)
She emerged from the shower still cocooned in the towels and shuffled over to the kitchen table to eat. After a few bites and sips she seemed to feel better. The hot water of the shower had reddened her skin, making her look less sallow, and she looked up at me with clear eyes. “Do you know what the best thing about you and your friends is?”
“Um, no. What?”
“You don’t give a hoot.” She nodded like she had made an excellent point.
I clearly didn’t get whatever that point was. “Uh, okay. Thanks, I guess?”
“I mean, I see why. When you’re not accepted by society to begin with, why care about society’s rules?”
“Oh, I see what you mean. We don’t give a fuck about what people think.”
“Exactly. Well, I mean, Ziggy cares what people think but that’s different. Whereas your motorcycle gang outlaw friends–” She waved a hand toward the RV parked outside. “They’re so nice. I didn’t expect them to be so nice.”
“They are nice.”
“I hope they’re this nice to their own mothers.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s where they got the practice,” I said. “But they’re not in a biker gang, you know?”
“Sure they are.” She got testy then, taking a small but savage bite of her toast. “Don’t think I’m so naïve, Daron Marks. I see the tattoos, you know. They deal drugs and I’ve heard them talking about the other bikers they’re going to meet up with. Everyone knows the Hell’s Angels were roadies for the Rolling Stones.”
Oh, man. Claire had taken Altamont and somehow extrapolated that to Flip and other roadies all being in outlaw biker gangs. There was no way I was going to convince her otherwise. And really, did it matter? It didn’t matter. I hopped back in the conversation to something we could agree on. “They are nice.”
“Did you tell me last night you’re leaving me with them?”
I poured myself some more tea and tried to keep my voice as neutral as possible. “Yes. For a week. Then they’re going to go off on a road trip and I’ll come back.”
“And your godfather?”
That goosed me into a stronger reaction. “Remo’s not my godfather..?”
“He may as well be,” she said like that changed things. “Far as I’m concerned he is.”
Right. Claire’s version of the universe was all that mattered. My brain was stuck in a loop, now, though, trying to reconcile her just declaring he was my godfather with how, for years while I was growing up, I had to sneak out to see him. I mean, obviously as a kid I was missing a huge-huge piece of that picture. My impression, after all, was that Remo and Digger were best buddies and that Claire disapproved of Remo’s existence. I’d had no clue she and Remo had a “history” together.
Come to think of it, my impression was also that Claire disapproved of my and Digger’s existence, too, though. Now we all disapproved of Digger so I guess that put us all in the same boat…?
My head hurt. “Remo said he’ll try to come visit.” I emphasized the word visit so she wouldn’t think he was going to come and stay.
She pouted a bit and let the subject drop.
Ziggy and I left the next day. As we were packing the rental car for the trip to the airport, Claire came shuffling onto the carport slab in her bathrobe and slippers. She and Ziggy kissed goodbye like Europeans or gay men in the Village–on each cheek–and then she came over and hugged me. She was high but I didn’t think that meant she was any less herself. Maybe she was even more so.
“You’ll see your sister there? In the city?” she asked, mid-hug.
“I think so.”
“Tell her I would really appreciate a v-v–” She broke into a sudden sob. “Oh, I’m sorry. Do I seem sorry? Tell her I’m sorry.”
“I’ll tell her,” I assured her, though I wasn’t exactly clear on what I was supposed to say she was sorry about. Sorry is one of those weasel words that means a lot of different things, but you’ll never get hold of it and straighten it out. The more you try the more it’ll twist away.
Sorry, Mom. It was the best I could do.
(Btw, Journey with Arnel Pineda as lead singer are awesome. Go see them if you get a chance. -d)