I didn’t see much. I heard shouting and glass breaking like beer bottles were being thrown. I splashed my face in the sink and wiped it with a towel because I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Two other guys came out of the stalls to stand next to me by the sinks, listening to the sounds of the chaos coming through the door. One of them was Ernie/Raid. The other was a guy not much taller than me, with a shaved head and thick eyeliner all the way around his eyes, probably one of the homocore guys. They both looked terrified. “Oh fuck I’m on probation already,” Ernie said, and the other one looked too scared to speak. Something about his stricken look reminded me of that guy we’d rescued from Megaton.
I was still too drunk to be terrified, but I was not too drunk to hear that some of the shouts were things like “Fucking faggots!”
Now, it’s true, people in brawls might shout that at their opponents with zero actual relevance to the sexuality of anyone involved, but when a guy burst through the door with his fists raised and said “Any of you fucking queers want a piece of me?” I took it as highly specific.
I also took it highly personally.
I also didn’t have any inhibitions or common sense right at that moment. I might have said “yeah” before I launched myself at him, or I might have just launched myself at him.
I knocked the guy into the wall, and when he ended up on the floor under me, Mr. Raccoon Eyes raised himself in my esteem by joining in, kicking him with his combat boots.
The door opened and I hoped if it was more queer bashers that Ernie would lend a hand.
It wasn’t more queer bashers. It was Colin and Carynne come to collect me. To get us the fuck out of there.
I have a vague memory of being squished in the back of Christian’s van with a bunch of people and listening to them talking over each other about how the riot started. I could piece together this much from all the voices competing for space in my ears: Apparently Billy Mastiff’s girlfriend–whose name I can’t remember, I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, and I’m sorry I’m a horrible human being for always forgetting the names of girlfriends and wives when I only forget the names of their men ninety percent of the time, trust me my sister’s been on my case about it forever–apparently didn’t appreciate that so many of her man’s ex- homocore/queercore friends had showed up to try to raise money for him. Maybe she was homophobic, maybe she worried he liked some dick on the side, maybe she knew and was jealous of his exes, we can only speculate…
Anyway, she definitely baited the queers in the audience with comments from the stage–and maybe even with a song about bashing?–and people responded totally reasonably in my estimation by throwing beer at her and the next thing you know: riot.
My memory of that ride home and who was in the van and what happened after we got home is vague, though, because of drinking too much.
What I do remember with brutal clarity is waking up the next morning under Colin’s arm. In Colin’s bed.
Under Colin’s other arm was Marilyn. And that was when the panic set in.
In my head I was thinking the words don’t freak out, don’t freak out over and over but the only reason you do that is because you’re already freaking out, you know?
Colin opened one eye, suddenly vigilant. I guess he could feel how tense I got or my hyperventilation or something. “You gonna puke?”
I shook my head but then I thought maybe I should act like I was, because it would be a great excuse to bolt out of there and lock myself in the bathroom. I sat up quickly and then put my head in my hands. Maybe I wasn’t faking it? Nope, not nausea, but every other sensation of illness you can imagine. Not as bad as the bonecrushing hangover of MDMA but none of me felt good right at that moment, compounded by whatever emotional whirlwind was flipping over apple carts all over my insides.
“Here. Here’s a little water.”
Colin was putting a plastic bottle into my hands. I concentrated on doing what he said. I took a sip. I took a deep breath. I took another sip. I made myself breathe. I opened my eyes.
Marilyn was sitting up a few feet away, cross-legged. Her hair was a rat’s nest, her eyeliner epic, making her look closer to forty than thirty. Then I realized it wasn’t just eyeliner. She had a black eye. I stared at it. “She has a black eye,” I announced to the general air.
“So do you,” Colin said, with a little smile. “Got about the same way, I think.”
“I do?” I felt my face with my hands then I looked down at my hands. I didn’t appear to have any hand injuries this time, thank goodness.
“Yeah, you’re a matched set.”
The panic which had been starting to ebb surged back. “I gotta go.” I tried to stumble my way to the bathroom, ended up holding onto the knob of the door to Colin’s closet because I had forgotten how to get out of the room, and then I just collapsed in a fit of…hysteria? That’s not the right word. What’s the word for it when you’d be crying except you’re already too drained and exhausted so you just kind of sit there breathing hard and wanting to die?
The thing is Colin learned a lot of his caretaking ways from Marilyn to begin with, so it wasn’t like they were going to just let me lie there like a fish that leaped out of a bowl onto the carpet. Colin walked me to the bathroom and I even brushed my teeth, and looked at the shiner next to my right eye, and then the two of them helped me to my own bed, where I sat with my feet on the floor, with them on either side of me holding my hands until I could get some words out.
The first one was, of course, “Sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?” Col’ asked.
“Sorry about that. About freaking out.” I was trying to breathe slowly now. “Can I ask what happened last night?”
“Oh, jeez,” Colin said, understanding dawning. “If you’re worried we had a drunken threesome, no.”
“You’re still wearing all your clothes,” Marilyn pointed out gently.
“Okay, but why were we all in there together?”
“You seemed more comfortable there?” Colin said tentatively.
“You didn’t want to be alone,” Colin added. “And I wanted to be able to keep an eye on you. And my bed’s big enough for three. I didn’t realize it would be an issue.”
“You guys have been so comfortable with each other for a while now,” Marilyn said. “Is it me?”
“It’s not you.” Was that true? I tried to speak my mind, unfiltered, and it came out: “Colin. I’m just not comfortable with how comfortable we’ve been lately.” Colin and I then looked at each other like we were each trying to figure out what I meant by that. “I mean…I was more comfortable when we weren’t that…this…comfo—I don’t know what the hell I’m trying to say.”
Marilyn patted me on the knee. “I do. You’re trying to say you want to set some boundaries. Do you want me to go?”
“No. No, I’m cool with it now. It was just a shock at first.” I held her hand again so she wouldn’t think I was just saying that. “Marilyn, you’re awesome. And I mean that.”
“But a fright to wake up with,” she said with a throaty laugh, frizzing her already wild hair with her free hand. “I wonder how the rest of our refugee camp is doing.”
“The guys from Providence crashed in the living room,” Colin explained. “All the gear’s still at the venue. We hope.”
“Ah.” Thinking about concrete stuff like gear helped ground me, too. How weird to realize I didn’t have a guitar there. Almost weirder than all the other things that were making me feel weird already. “Anyway, yeah. I guess I attacked a guy in the men’s room?”
“Self-defense to hear Raid tell it.”
“Don’t tell me he’s asleep in the weight room, too.”
Colin chuckled. “Nope. He helped us make our getaway and then made his own.”
Marilyn sighed. “The bitch of it all is that the papers are just going to say there was a riot and people will say of course, because it was a punk show, and we’ll have to fight that stigma all over again.”
Colin shook his head. “I’m used to that stigma. At least this time there was a reason for it. Nice work, Daron.”
I felt suddenly nauseous and I don’t think it was because I was hungover. It was because I suddenly remembered I’d promised myself not to use violence. “Oh shit,” I said. Colin pulled the waste basket toward me. I told him what was making me ill, though.
He petted my hair which was more soothing than it had any right to be. “Self-defense,” he repeated. “I’m not even kidding. In fact you were defending two other people, too.”
“And how weird is it that’s the second time you rescued that kid,” Marilyn said.
“Wait. What kid?” Did she mean Ernie or Raccoon Eyes?
“Cain,” Colin said. “Remember him? Megaton’s extra bass player. He came back to Boston with Miracle Mile and then ended up in this queer punk band from Providence.”
“He’s in the living room?”
This is too much, I thought. Then I said it. “This is too much for me to handle. I just…can’t handle anything right now.”
“It’s still early,” Marilyn said. “Maybe you should get a couple more hours of sleep.”
That was an excellent idea. I implemented it as quickly as I could after they left. I kicked my jeans off and pulled the covers over my head. Maybe when I woke up the next time the world would make sense.
As I was drifting off to sleep I figured out what the word was I was trying to find but my brains had been so roughed up that I didn’t even realize I was missing it. Casual. I wasn’t comfortable with me and Colin being too casual. What I meant by that, though, we’d have to figure out later.
(P.S. My laptop was in the shop most of the past week so I’m behind on email and comments. Me being without computer is like Daron being without guitar. Yeah, weird. Meanwhile–!!!–up to $24 already in the tip jar and it’s only Tuesday! You guys rock. -ctan)