Brace yourselves. The first thing that happened after Ziggy showed up was we had a fight.
I was trying another practice session with the guitar. It was well past dinner time and I should have eaten, but I hadn’t, and then I was startled by a knock on the door. I opened it and there he was, peering over the top of his sunglasses, his hair freshly spiked, wearing a seriously oversized white shirt as if it were a trench coat on top of T-shirt and jeans.
“Hi.” He grinned.
“Come here,” I said, and pulled him into the room, into a hug so fierce he lost his sunglasses and I lost my composure. I had thought maybe having a good cry earlier in the day would have used it up, but no.
He made palliative noises at me and stroked my back and eventually I stemmed the tide and looked at him. “Yeah, so. How are you?” I asked, totally innocent like I hadn’t just lost my shit, and he almost burst out laughing, but he held it in.
“Other than the fact my suitcase is still in the hallway and I think the door slammed on my Ray Bans, I’m great.” He turned away to retrieve his bag and the pieces of his sunglasses and then came fully into the space, looking around at it curiously. “Nice place.”
“Yeah, if you like living in a furniture catalog diorama.” I draped myself across the angular couch, with an expansive gesture.
“Good name for a band,” he said, in a way that was so familiar it made my heart ache like we’d been apart for months instead of days… Oh, wait. Yeah, Daron, except for a few exceptions here and there… It really had been months since we’d really been together-together.
“So how did you get here? Did you take a limo or something? I would’ve come to get you.”
He took off his jacket-like shirt and hung it on the back of a kitchen stool. “Dear one, don’t be silly. A car wasn’t that expensive.”
“I’m not being silly.” My hackles had started to prickle. “You could have at least told me how you were getting here.”
“So you could try to talk me into letting you come get me? Oh honestly. Can you imagine if Claire had passed while you were double-parked in the white zone at the airport? You’d never forgive me.”
He was being both serious and flippant at the same time. Don’t ask me why that rubbed me the wrong way. “Yes, I would.” I could hear my tone was mulish but that didn’t stop me.
“You don’t know that.”
“I do. Don’t you dare think that if I had to choose between you and my mother that I’d choose her over you.” Why was I accusing him? I don’t know.
He didn’t take it well. “Oh really? And that’s why you’ve been in Tennessee nonstop since Christmas? I think I could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.”
“Don’t be stupid. There’s no comparison. This a special circumstance and you know it!”
“Oh, I’m stupid now?”
“If you’re doubting how much I love you, yes! And you know I wouldn’t have even gotten sucked into this if it weren’t for you insisting we come down here in the first place!”
He drew himself up to his full height—which remember wasn’t much and was the same as my own height, but I was on a low couch and he was standing—and put his fists on his hips. “You know what? I am tired of you blaming me for the fact that you are wrapped up in a weird-ass death spiral with your mom!”
“What’s weird about it?”
“Daron! I get it! Claire having cancer sucks! And she’s going to die! But you’re like… obsessed with being there to hold her hand when she goes! And that’s weird because this was the woman who told you she wished you hadn’t been born!”
I got to my feet. “And you know what? I don’t care about that anymore! I’m over it! Just because you’re jealous that I connected with my mother at the end of her life and you never did doesn’t mean I’m ‘weird.’”
“Jealous—!” He drew back from me like I was on fire. “This is not about me and my mother. Even if that’s what pushed me to push you to get down here, that was six months ago, Daron! Half a year! Don’t tell me Courtney wouldn’t have convinced you to come with her at some point. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have eventually guilt tripped yourself into making the trip.” He gestured up and down me like the flames weren’t particularly flattering. “I never took you for an Oedipal type.”
“Projection,” I spat. Wow, fights are different after you’ve both been to therapy. You have even more weapons at your disposal. “What the hell are you here for if you think what I’m doing is so fucked up? What else do you expect me to do? What do you want me to do? Just…leave?”
He folded his arms and his voice came out a lot calmer than I expected. “I’m here because you asked me to come. You know that.”
“So you decided to come armed with a load of criticism over my choices?”
He sighed, and I could see his hackles going down. “No. No, I’m just frustrated and angry and I’m taking it out on you. What’s your excuse?”
“My excuse—?” I just stood there stunned, like I couldn’t even say the obvious.
He could. He put his palm against his forehead. “Right. Of course. Your mother’s dying.” He was not being sarcastic. “Shit. Look. I’m going to go out and come back in and let’s start this over, okay? I… We’re usually not so shitty at being partners.”
“That’s my fault,” I said suddenly. “It’s because we’re out of practice.”
A hint of a smile canted his lips. “You’re serious.”
“Don’t you think? Seems logical to me.”
Which made me think, well, gee, if Ziggy and I were going to live a life where we each went on tour for weeks or months at a time without each other, we were going to have to figure out how to stay in practice so it wasn’t demonic burning agony each time we got back together.
“Let’s try again?” He gestured like he was really going to go out and come back in again.
“Okay.” I reached for him somewhat tentatively, half afraid if we went out the door he’d disappear. “I really am ecstatic to see you, you know.”
“Likewise.” He slid his arms around me and I felt my spine relax. “I’m sorry. That was… I really didn’t expect to blow up like that.”
“Me either. I mean, you’re right. We have an excuse. Everyone’s really emotionally raw here right now. But I’m sorry anyway.”
“Likewise.” We had started to sway together slightly, as if there were some slow-dance music playing in one or both of our heads. And so I let myself get lost in that completely silent song.