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One of the things that sucks the most about things sucking is that the suck is contagious. Outer suckitude eats away at the walls holding back the inner suck.
At least, that’s how I explain the fight I had with Ziggy that night.
We finished off the pizzas, washed it down with beer, and then mutually decided if we were going to have call-backs the next day we shouldn’t do something like try to rehearse then. We’d played for hours already that day and it was not a good time to push ourselves. So we called it a night.
After we locked up the rehearsal space, Ziggy and I went back to the apartment, tired. But I was antsy because I was so upset inside about what Carynne had said. I wasn’t mad at her, but I was…well, there’s that word again…uncomfortable. But I thought I’d let it lie until the next day.
Instead I had the fight with Ziggy that I should have had with her. I unwittingly started it by saying, “Am I being too sensitive about this?”
“About…why we have to give Bradley another shot.”
“I already told you he was my favorite,” Ziggy said with a shrug as he stripped out of his clothes and tossed them into a stylish black and red clothes hamper built into the modular shelf/wardrobe/dresser unit.
“Do I think we’re being unfair? No. Do I think queers need to give queers some extra breaks to make up for the opposite effect? Yes.” He yawned and his ribs were visible under the sleek muscle of his torso as he stretched.
“If we were starting another band, a real band,” I said, sitting on the corner of the bed with all my clothes still on, “I’d grab him in a heartbeat. But maybe Carynne’s right. We need someone who can jump right out of the gate–”
“What do you mean, real band?” He lay across the bed next to me, stark naked, but you know Ziggy, always robed in his self-possession.
I should have heard the edge in his voice. Well, I mean I heard it, but I should have paid attention to it. “You know what I mean. If we were forming another actual group, a permanent group.”
He took my emphasis on meaning for a criticism and sneered. “Oh, since the previous one wasn’t very permanent, thanks to me?”
And I was too fucked up and sensitive right then to de-escalate. “Fucking well right.”
Remember the time when I said something really stupid and Sarah slapped me across the face? This was nothing like that. This was like a mountain lion pounced on me and clawed my head. He didn’t hit me exactly, it was more like a grab, I guess, and I didn’t try to hit him so much as I tried to wrestle him under control. Ultimately the struggle ended up with me on top of him, but him with some kind of a headlock on me, and both of us crying our eyes out.
Well, okay, maybe it was just me crying my eyes out at first, but when the headlock changed to a clinging hug, I’m pretty sure I’d gotten to him, too.
It took a minute before I could hear the words he was saying. “It’s okay.” He was repeating them over and over.
It’s not okay, I wanted to say, but I couldn’t really say anything right at that second and the fight had gone out of me—I didn’t want to argue. When I got my breath back enough to say something what I said was, “What the hell is wrong with me?”
“Nothing’s wrong with you.” His voice was right in my ear. That voice I tried to hear in my head all the time he was in India, that voice–there was not another one like it. “Although I think, maybe, we should lay off drinking for a while.”
I was about to say we had barely drunk anything that night when I realized that was exactly the kind of justification an alcoholic would give. Also that I couldn’t actually remember how much we had drunk but if we were acting like idiots maybe it was best to eliminate exterior reasons why. And I thought, yeah, okay, if I’m not an alcoholic I’ll stop without a problem, right? “Okay.”
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” he repeated, and I realized he was petting my hair, which was long enough that it felt like his strokes went a long way down my back. “You’ve got a life of trauma to get past.”
I snorted but didn’t raise my head. “You make it sound so dramatic.”
“The two of us trying to kill each other is pretty dramatic. Even if it was for just a second.” His lips brushed my ear. “But seriously.”
“Yeah. Okay. It felt like all the bullshit I haven’t had to experience lately suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks earlier.” By bullshit I meant homophobia but somehow it felt pretentious to say the word. Or like a jinx, maybe. I realized my fist was gripping the sheets and I tried to loosen my fingers. “You’d think Carynne would know better.”
“She does,” Ziggy murmured. “It just takes time.”
I started to cry again suddenly, which upset me even more. “What is happening to me?”
“Shhh. It’s all right. It’s okay.”
I realized then that what he meant was it was okay for me to be a mess like that. But I was still worried about the fact that I could be such a mess in the first place.
Eventually I felt calmer, though, and we ended up lying side by side looking at the ceiling and the diagonal stripes made by the street lights. His hand rested on my chest, that comforting weight as I breathed in and out. “You really think it’s that I’m…what…finally crying for all the times I couldn’t cry when people called me a sissy in the past?”
“Something like that.” He scooched closer. “All those years you survived it by telling yourself it wasn’t that bad. But now when you can see it happening to someone else it all comes back.”
I turned my head to look at him. “Somehow you didn’t get so traumatized, though.”
I opened my mouth to argue but there wasn’t any argument left in me. I just stared at him, unwilling to agree with such a harsh assessment of Remo but unable to really refute it either.
He brushed my hair out of my face, combed it back with his fingers.
“Do people mistake you for a woman all the time with it this long?”
“Not very often. Once in a while in, like, the checkout line at the convenience store. That doesn’t bother me.”
“Why’d you grow it so long?”
“Too lazy to cut it?” I said, half as a joke. Then I added softly, “I like it long. I always wanted it to be longer when I was a kid and couldn’t get away with it.”
“Because Digger would get on your case?”
“Yeah. Now that I think about it, the thing that bothered him the most was that people thought I was a girl. But people thought that when my hair was short, too, sometimes. You know, little old ladies in the grocery store or whatever, think anyone with big eyes and apple cheeks is a girl. I never took it personally.”
“You were a beautiful boy, and they think anyone beautiful must be a girl,” Ziggy said.
“I was not beautiful.”
He snorted in disbelief. “Think what you want. I guess I should let you keep growing it, then.”
“I want to cut it.” He raked his fingers through it again. “Well, maybe not cut it. Maybe just style it.”
I caught his hand and kissed it. “Maybe after tomorrow.”
He kissed me on the eyebrow. “I think I scratched you.”
“Did you? Does that mean I shouldn’t apologize for breaking my vow of non-violence?”
“Pretty sure it’s my turn to apologize,” he whispered, and kissed my forehead again. “I’m a little sensitive about some things, too.”
“It’s okay,” I told him. “It’s okay. We’re going to lay off drinking for a while, remember?”
“Right.” He nodded.
I had a sudden chill of panic, though, and he felt or saw it go through me.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Just realized I broke another promise to myself,” I said. The flash of panic left nausea in its wake as usual. “Damn.”
“What was it?”
I decided to tell him. Honesty was the only way to get anywhere in this relationship. “I promised myself I’d tell you I loved you every day. But I think it’s been two days since I said it.”
His eyes misted suddenly and his teeth gritted and for half a second I was afraid I’d offended him somehow by saying that. But no. It was just everything was cutting us close to the bone that night. His voice was rough with held-back emotion. “You promised yourself that?”
“Promised to say it until it stopped being true,” I said, then added, “I love you.”
He kissed me softly then, a lingering touch of mouth against mouth. “Don’t beat yourself up about saying it when sometimes it’s more important to show it,” he said.
I got an idea for a song then, trying to tie the term show business to the idea of showing someone you loved them, but there was no way I was going to jump out of bed to write it down at that moment. Kissing him back was much more important.
(Okay so as mentioned above, the Kickstarter to raise the funds to do the next big paperback omnibus of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is live! This one will be chapters 389 through 584–books 6 and 7–and will run close to 400 pages. If we exceed the minimum goal by enough my hope is to have enough budget left over to invest in new audiobooks for volume 4, 5, and perhaps beyond. So go have a look at the rewards and hit me up any time with questions about it!
In other news, only a few of you have sent me some photos of who you picture when you think of Daron and Ziggy and the rest of the gang. Keep sending them in to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put together a “casting call” eh? It might be after the Kickstarter when I get to it, though, okay? -ctan)
(I’ll hear this song for the first time in an upcoming chapter but it was too good to pass up for this chapter title -d.)