After we’d had our fill of Chinese take-out and said our good nights, Ziggy and I went back downstairs to his apartment and I recounted the lawyer meeting to him in greater detail.
“And you really told them all you want is for the money you’re owed to come your way and for Digger to disappear?”
“Yeah. Why, should I have asked for something else?” We were still in our clothes lounging on the bed with books, but neither of us was reading.
“No no, I’m just curious is all,” he said. “Some people would want damages.”
“Or to inflict punishment, like Sarah’s mom.” I told him what the lawyers had told us. “They said if all she wanted was the money back, she wouldn’t be going to criminal court. They also told me it was kind of a miracle that she found a prosecutor willing to go after him. They must really think he’s a crook.”
“Perhaps he crossed the wrong people in LA,” Ziggy said with a bit of relish. “The FOBD Club grows.”
“Speaking of which, they wondered if you knew how to get in touch with Galani Gilliman.”
Ziggy chuckled evilly, which I took to mean yes. “Cheer up, dear one. I thought the legal troubles were a quagmire but it sounds like if the main obstacle can be beaten, it’ll be smooth sailing. The main obstacle being your diseased testicle of a father.”
I snorted. “Is that what we’re calling him now?”
“Call him whatever you like. I’m still not over how he gaslighted me, lied, lied by omission, and preyed on my insecurities.” He snuggled up next to me. “He had a way of figuring out what I wanted to hear and then saying it, making it sound like he could make it happen.”
“Is Barrett different?” I asked. I mean, I knew he was, but I wanted to understand how.
“With Barrett, well, maybe sometimes he says what I want to hear, but he can actually make the things happen. Sure, he ‘manages’ me sometimes by assuaging my ego or keeping my insecurities in check, but… it’s different.”
“It helps that he seems trustworthy.”
“It helps that he’s not a slime, you mean.” Ziggy laughed evilly again. “Oh, I’m looking forward to seeing Digger get his comeuppance. His day in court.”
“Well, to hear the lawyers tell it, they’d like to stay out of court and settle everything beforehand. But I guess they can’t do that with a criminal case?”
“I know something you don’t, though,” he said. “Something I heard from Sarah this morning.”
“You saw Sarah this morning?”
“Me on my way into Priss’s and her on her way out.” He rubbed his hand over my suddenly tight chest. “Her mother’s lawyer is filing in civil court, too. They might offer to drop the criminal case if he settles out of court.”
“Okay, but there are two problems with that,” I said. “One is how is he going to settle if he doesn’t have the money to pay her back? Two, the criminal case isn’t hers to drop anymore, right? It’s the state going after him. How’s that going to work?”
“Dunno. You did say the government prefers embezzlement to be settled rather than having to prosecute it. So maybe they’d let it drop if the victims lose interest in pursuing it.”
“Ugh.” The whole thing reeked of the kind of backdoor dealing that Digger himself loved.
“Stop stressing over it,” he said again, kissing me on the temple and stroking my hair, trying to get me to relax. “He’s made his bed and now he’s going to have to lie in it.”
“Ha. And you made this bed and now you have to lie in it,” I said, rolling on top of him and pinning him. He grinned gleefully as I ground my hips against him.
Then he tipped his head back, offering his bare neck to me, and I latch on and gave him a hickey so hard it made him squirm under me and make the most delightful noises.
Making delightful noises together in bed was not a substitute for making delightful noise on a stage together, but it was important and good and I felt much better about life afterward.
Then I remembered I hadn’t told him about my other meeting. While we were naked and sticky and languid seemed a good time to bring it up. “Artie told me they want another instrumental album out of me today.”
Ziggy was in the crook of my arm. “You make it sound like they’re squeezing it out of you like toothpaste.”
“I guess I kind of feel like it, just a little,” I said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed making Tracks. They say it sold twice as well as expected, and by the end of the year it might even go gold. They want a followup ready for sale by Christmas.”
“That’s great, though, isn’t it?”
“If I can’t play?”
He was silent.
“If there’s going to be a followup, I need to put it in their hands ASAP.” I swallowed. “If it’s going to reach the retailers by November 1, it needs to be on press by the end of the summer at the latest.”
“And who knows how long it’s going to take me to get back into playing shape? Or if I even will be able to play like I used to.”
I felt his hands clutch me like we were plunging down a rollercoaster. No wait, those were my hands clutching his. My eyes were squeezed shut.
“Daron,” he said again. “Listen to me.”
“You’re scared. You’re terrified. I know that.”
I swallowed again.
“But what you’re scared of is the unknown. You don’t know if you’ll play again, or how your playing is, because you haven’t even tried.”
“I know that.”
“So what are you waiting for? Wouldn’t it be better to be afraid of something you know than something you don’t? Maybe you pick up the guitar and you find out you can’t play. At least then you’d know.”
I tried to swallow again but the lump in my throat was too large. “I’m not sure that would be better.”
“Because you’re afraid.” He nuzzled my ear, trying to get me to relax again, but I was rigid with trepidation. “You think I don’t know what it’s like to be paralyzed with self doubt?”
That made me turn and look at him. He was lit only by the streetlights and the small reading light on the night stand. “You? Self-doubt? Ziggy, you’re the most self-confident person I’ve ever met.”
He shook his head. “I’m not. I have deep doubts all the time. But you don’t know it because my way of dealing with them is to just get a running start and leap right over them. You, though. You were actually the most self-confident artist I’ve ever known. At least when it comes to your talent. You never doubted that part of yourself. Ever. Until now.”
My heart was flipping out in my chest. “Yeah, and?”
“And? That isn’t enough?”
“I-I mean… and now what? Then what? How am I supposed to deal with that?”
I’d spat out the question rhetorically. But you know Ziggy. He had an answer for it:
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. You haven’t been dealing with it. And now the industry is throwing all this stuff at you and you can’t handle it because you don’t even know if you can pick up a guitar.” He took a long slow breath, maybe to make sure he didn’t sound angry. I took the breath with him, instinctively. “Let’s put it this way. I don’t think the only reason you’ve been hiding out in Tennessee is because you really like getting high with your mom.”
(Okay, here’s the incredibly goofy, kinda dumb original long-form video of “2 Legit 2 Quit” in which MC Hammer seems to think he’s one-upping Michael Jackson…?? But the best use of this song, and dance routine, was in a mashup just a couple of years ago at the AMAs, so here’s that video, too. -d)