I had drifted off, almost asleep, when the phone rang. I couldn’t think of a clever way to answer so I just said “Yellow.”
“Daron, it’s Remo.”
“Ha! You weren’t who I was expecting a call from.”
“Well, and you aren’t who I’m trying to reach. I’m calling to wish your sister congratulations.”
“She’s out with Colin and Christian.” By now they were undoubtedly in line for either beer or ice cream. “And Claire’s asleep. Resting up for the big day tomorrow.”
“Tell her not to try to tough it out if it’s too hot.”
“Like she’d listen to me? But don’t worry about that. Emerson’s graduation is indoors.”
“That’s good. I was picturing a football stadium or outdoor quad or something like that.”
“Emerson’s not that big. And it’s mostly theater people so they have an in with the Wang Center.”
“Which is kind of like Lincoln Center?”
“I guess? I’m not sure I know what Lincoln Center is like.” Before the conversation could devolve into us comparing venues all around the country that we knew, though, my call-waiting beeped. “Hang on a sec.”
I clicked the receiver “Yellow.”
“Hey, what’s up?” It was Ziggy.
“I’m in Allston. I—“
“I know. I called your home number.”
“Right. Look, I’m on another call but let me hang it up and then I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere.”
He chuckled and I clicked away from him. “Reem?”
“I’m here. But why don’t you go take that. Tell your sister I said great job and ask her what she wants for graduation.”
“Just send money,” I said as a joke, but after I hung up I realized he probably took what I said seriously. Oh well. “Zig? You there?”
“I’m here,” he said, with another of those little chuckles, like he was extra amused with me. “Everyone survived the trip?”
“Yes, so far. Tomorrow is the actual ceremony, which I expect to be long and dull, then another big reception type thingie, and then we go out to dinner. Unless someone’s stamina lags, of course.”
“Where you going to dinner?”
“Court made us a reservation somewhere. I’m not sure where. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.”
That chuckle again. “It’s your stamina, not Claire’s, I worry about. Did Colin wear you out?”
“Ha.” The call waiting beep sounded again. “Hang on. That’s a call coming in.” I clicked away. “Yellow.”
“Daron! Glad I caught you.” Artie. “And yeah, I stopped by the office after going to see a band who just really, honestly, had a lot of buzz around them but they just weren’t any good. And I thought why am I wasting my time with these jokers when I have talents in my list already I should be cultivating. Even if you’re a year or two away from getting back on the horse that’d still be faster than waiting for these guys to mature enough to be signable. And that’s if they don’t break up, overdose, settle down, or sign elsewhere in the meantime.”
“So I thought what the hey, let’s check in on the biggest untapped talent on the roster. Especially since I heard you were back in Boston.”
There’d been no good moment to get a word in edgewise. “I haven’t even been here 24 hours! How—“
“Your mom doing okay? Or should I not ask that.”
“She’s… hanging on. But I mean overall no, the news about her isn’t good, but she’s still here and she’s here to see my little sister graduate.”
“You should let me know if your sister’s looking for a job. I hear she turned the PR department at RCA upside down.”
“Did she? She never really talked about it to me.”
“Apparently no one told Courtney that most of what interns do is fetch coffee and file loose papers around the office. She was rewriting press releases within five minutes of walking in.”
“Yeah, that sounds like my sister.”
“But enough about her. How are you, Daron? It’s you I’m calling to catch up with.”
“Oh. I’m good. I guess.” I was sitting on the side of y bed, my feet on the floor, the phone tucked on my shoulder. I looked at the scar on my hand. “I’m in a holding pattern. I know it. I’m just circling around and not going anywhere.”
“Well, that’s understandable, between your health stuff and your mom’s.”
Was it? Was it actually understandable? I felt like I didn’t understand it, even though I had fought to make it this way. Some part of me had dug in my heels and refused to take a step forward. And I couldn’t even really tell you why. “I guess.”
“It won’t be this way forever. The lawsuits logjam will eventually break up. It can be hard to feel inspired to work on new songs when you don’t even know where they’ll go.”
“I feel like we’ve had this conversation before…”
“I’ll probably just keep saying that until you get going again. The thing about a holding pattern, you know, you have to come in for a landing eventually or you’ll just run out of fuel and crash.”
“Oh.” Shit. I had just used it as a metaphor out of habit but I hadn’t thought of it that way. There felt like a big truth in what Artie said. Fear of crashing and burning could turn into a self-fulfilled prophecy. “Yeah, I see what you’re saying. But I don’t know if I’m even on the right airplane, if you know what I mean? I’m just scared, Artie. I went through a lot of dark stuff in my own head on that last tour. I’m not ready to go through that again.”
“Isn’t the goal, then, to make sure you don’t have to go down that mental road just because you’re on the road? Think about what you need to keep you sane. Some guys can’t hack the spotlight or the constant travel or being away from their families. I never got that feeling about you. If anything, I would’ve said you were a guy who needed to play, get on stage, to stay sane.”
“Maybe I’m not the guy I was.”
“Maybe you need to figure out who you are now, and who you’re going to be.”
“Artie, do I owe you a record or something?”
“No, you don’t. There’s no rush. But you’re on my mind.”
I heard the sound that meant my other call—Ziggy, who I’d forgotten I hadn’t hung up with—dropped. Shit. “I, um, I appreciate that, Artie. There’s just too much I don’t know about what’s going to happen.”
“I know. I went through a long illness with my dad. I wasn’t even his primary caretaker and it took a lot out of me, took a toll on my marriage. We’re all humans in this business. That’s what you can never lose sight of. Money is there to serve people not the other way around.”
That was one of the wisest things I could remember hearing in a long time. “Speaking of people, I gotta go.”
“Keep in touch.”
I half wanted to call Remo back and ask him, is Artie like that with everyone or just me? I wasn’t even under contract but he still acted like I was on his roster. I suppose technically I was since if I did any instrumental work that’s where it would go first. If Star*Gaze had taken off—or if he’d wanted it—it’d be a Wenco project.
But it hadn’t and it didn’t and I lay there trying to figure out who I was right then and who I wanted to be.
I tried calling Ziggy back and got his answering machine again. Had he not been calling me from his place? I left an apology and then I paged him.
And then I started thinking. Those little chuckles, the way he was laughing to himself.
Something was up. I wondered whether I should call him on it, whatever it was. I could decide when I got him on the phone, though. So I decided not to worry myself.
I fell asleep in my clothes before he ever called back.