It was just me, Chris, and Courtney from the Allston house, and we picked up Bart in the van. Carynne and Bradley were getting back to the city on their own schedule–in fact maybe they’d already left a day or two earlier. I don’t remember. It was a Sunday night so there wasn’t much traffic and we grabbed dinner at the deli in Vernon.
Connecticut was long as usual despite the lack of traffic. I had some weird flashbacks in the van while we were on I-84. I thought about asking Chris, who was driving, if he remembered much about the partying we’d done while Nomad had passed through the area a few months before and then decided that was not the best topic for conversation. I didn’t want to seem to be callously disregarding his sobriety nor rubbing his face in it, by talking about how hard I’d hit the bottle that time. But something about that dark stretch of road reminded me of how far out on the edge I’d gone.
Do you remember the first time you got really really drunk? I tried to remember if my fourteenth birthday had been the first time or just the time that stood out the most in my mind, given what had happened. Remember that was the whole scene with me and Digger trying to sneak back into the house, Claire ambushing us, Digger belting me, and me puking my guts out in the back yard.
It probably wasn’t the first time. It also wasn’t the last, although there were times in the past when I’d stayed away from booze purely because I was afraid if I lost my inhibitions I’d fuck up and out myself. It was nice not to have that hanging over me like an axe all the time. I still worried about being out–or being outed–once in a while but not with the same soul-crushing fear I used to have.
It was after midnight when we crossed into Yonkers and my head was still in a kind of weird place. Well, I’d be seeing Ziggy soon and getting some sleep, which was probably the cure for what ailed me. Court got dropped off first, then me all the way downtown at Ziggy’s, and then Chris and Bart drove off to the same hotel they’d been in before. (In fact I don’t think they even checked out while we were gone.)
I could see a light was on in Ziggy’s apartment even though it was two in the morning and I wondered if he was waiting up for me. I had a key to his place–on the ring with the keys to the rehearsal space– and I let myself into the foyer. I didn’t have a key to his mailbox but there wouldn’t have been mail on a Sunday anyway. The anticipation of seeing him surged like the juicy bite of an apple and I took the stairs two at a time instead of waiting for the elevator. At the apartment door I set down the guitar and my bag and then looked for the right key.
The key turned in the lock but when I pushed on the door, it didn’t budge. I tried turning it the other way, thinking maybe he had accidentally left it unlocked and I’d just locked it? But no, that didn’t get better.
I was about to knock when his voice came from the other side of the door. “Who’s there?”
Silence. Then, right up close to the door: “I thought you were coming back Monday.”
“We start rehearsing again Monday. Which is tomorrow.”
“Give me one sec. One sec.”
Okay, what the hell was going on in there? I could hear Ziggy’s voice, low and urgent, as if he were talking on the phone, but I couldn’t make out the words.
A few minutes later the elevator door opened and Barrett stepped out, wearing mismatched sweats slightly too small for him. “Good morning,” he said with an oh-what-now expression on his face. He knocked on the door. “Ziggy, I’m here.”
I heard the deadbolt release and then Ziggy pulled the door open a few inches. His eyes were sunken and he was disheveled. “Um. She won’t leave,” he whispered urgently.
Barrett pushed past him into the apartment. I followed a bit more slowly, Ziggy and I looking at each other warily but neither of us wanting to start something in front of Barrett, perhaps.
There was a female figure mostly naked half buried in the bedcovers. Barrett was attempting to get her to sit up of her own accord.
“For fuck’s sake, Ziggy,” she said, having barely moved. “You said I could sleep it off.”
“You can, honey,” Barrett said. “After we get some vitamins and fluids into you, all right?”
“Are you a doctor?” She tried to raise her head and seemed unable to.
“Yes, I am,” Barrett said without batting an eyelash. “Come on, now. Up you get.”
“Oh fuck you,” she said when she finally sat up and focused on him. “I know you.”
“Yes, you do. Come on now, it’s for your own good.”
“Do I have to?” She looked somewhat familiar to me, but maybe it was just that her look was familiar: wrecked hair, raccoon eyes, stung lips.
“Yes. Come on.” Barrett was unwavering. I was impressed. In under five minutes he had her wrapped in one of Ziggy’s many bathrobes and on the way out the door.
Ziggy threw the deadbolt after their exit and then leaned his head against the door. “I…I can explain. Are you angry?”
“Should I be?” I felt like I was vibrating at four times the normal rate but it wasn’t anger exactly so much as a heightened sense of being ready for a disaster. Which I guess meant I wasn’t sure if this was one or not. “I’m a little freaked out,” I admitted. “I mean, am I supposed to learn her name and her relationship to you or are you going to tell me it was just a one-night stand or what?” Like where was she on the scale from nameless to Janessa, you know?
He began stripping the bed, which was nice of him, I suppose, given that he had to pull off the entire mattress pad to get rid of an obvious wet spot. “I picked her up tonight at Limelight. You know how Jordan likes to hand out X like it’s Tic Tacs.”
“That’s where I’ve seen her before.” It wasn’t my imagination she’d looked familiar. “Jordan’s loft.”
“Yeah. She’s been flirting with me for like a year.” He put all the sheets and pillow cases into a heap by the window and then dug out fresh ones from the closet. “Bringing her back here seemed harmless. It totally did not occur to me that you were showing up tonight. When you said see you Monday I took it to really mean I would not see you until Monday.”
I helped him get the fitted sheet onto the corners, which was kind of a bitch actually but we managed it, and then he sat down as if too tired to do the pillow cases, too. “I can only blame myself, though.”
I sat down next to him. “Um, I think I’m not really processing this.”
“You seem kind of cold and distant and that freaks me out,” he said, turning to look at me, his eyes looking extremely glossy, perhaps with emotion.
“I…” What was I supposed to say to that. I love you? No, this definitely was too much of a powder keg situation to say something that volatile. “You know it takes me a while to figure out how I feel about anything.”
“Talk me through how you’re feeling then?”
“Before I came up the stairs the only thing I could think about was seeing you again. So now that’s not going the way I imagined, everything’s topsy turvy.” I made myself reach for his hand and was surprised to find it damp, almost clammy. “Emotional shocks make me shut down,” I said, remembering something I’d figured out back in therapy. “My parents…being as mercurial as they were…never knowing if they were going to be ecstatic or rage-filled or what…I learned to just shut down. I’m not doing it to shut you out. I’m just fucked up this way.”
“That’s perfectly sensible, actually,” Ziggy said softly, and squeezed my fingers. “I’m going to have a shower.”
He got in the shower and washed the scent of her off him. The entire time he was in there I kept thinking I should leave except…why? It felt almost like something I was supposed to do, which once I started thinking of it like a cliché in a song I not only was sure I should NOT do it, I started picking it apart. What was the point in leaving at a time like this? To make him feel as shitty as I did? To just get out of his face? To pretend tonight didn’t happen and start again? Plus, where would I go? Wander the streets of the city in the wee hours? That didn’t seem wise or helpful to either of us. Sit in the hallway by myself with my thoughts? Check on Barrett upstairs? Go to the rehearsal space? Why?
But I felt weird about getting in the bed, even with the clean sheets and the freshly cleaned Ziggy. He put the rest of the bedding all back together and then sat on the edge again, waiting for me.
“I’m going to sleep on the love seat in the office,” I declared after a while of chewing on the words in my head.
“You don’t have to do that,” he said quickly.
“I do. I need to just…” I made my hands into blinders on either side of my face. “Have some space to myself for a bit. While I get my head together. I’m not pushing you away, Zig. I promise. And I’m not running away. I’ll be right in there.” I pointed to the door as if to prove how close I’d be. “Okay?”
He looked small and miserable, like a kitten caught in the rain. “Okay.”
I took a blanket and a pillow and went into what would have been the actual bedroom in the apartment if Ziggy had been a normal person and which was nominally an office now. The loveseat wasn’t large, but since I slept in a ball anyway, I fit on it just fine.
I thought I was going to obsess for hours lying there but I surprised myself by passing out relatively quickly.
The sound of a garbage truck woke me around seven and I realized I’d rolled over so my back was sticking out from under the blanket. I flipped myself back the other way and saw Ziggy was curled up on the floor in a puddle of blankets next to the loveseat.
I added my blanket to his and curled up with him. The floor wasn’t comfortable, but neither was figuring out how to deal with my feelings. You just make do with what you’ve got sometimes.
A special note from Cecilia:
Folks, I just wanted to make a general plea about comments to all readers and commenters here. If there’s a theme of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles it’s that everyone has a right to self-expression and that self-acceptance is key to that journey for every person.
One thing that makes Daron’s own journey toward self-acceptance the most difficult is the judgmental attitudes of the people around him, ranging from the bigoted ignorance of his father to the well-meaning but misguided “advice” he sometimes receives, all the way to the damaging assumptions made by others in society that can lead to things like anti-gay laws and institutionalized discrimination.
I think we all resonate to some degree with Daron’s struggle for self-acceptance and this is one reason why the comments section of DGC is, and should be, a place where people should be able to feel free to be themselves. I’m mentioning this now because sometimes we may express the very same judgmental attitudes that made Daron’s journey so difficult, and I would like NOT to make our readers’ journeys that difficult.
In short, be wary of drawing generalizations about what’s good or bad about people. Don’t assume before you comment that everyone here is like you, or like what you expect. It’s been a while since I did a demographic poll of readers, but the last one proved we not only have great variation in age (from teens to 70s), we’re everywhere along the Kinsey scale, we’re all over the gender spectrum, and many of us practice non-standard relationship and lifestyle practices including D/s, polyamory, multi-parent child-rearing, etc. We also encompass a large number of spiritual and religious practices, political ideologies, ethnicities, and nationalities. And every single one of you is welcome here. (I myself am a polyamorous BDSM-practicing bisexual half-Asian with mild gender issues, but who’s counting.)
I value every comment because I know it’s easier to just sit back and passively consume. You’re deeply invested in Daron’s journey and that means a tremendous amount to me. I appreciate so much when people comment, and I know you speak straight from the heart because that’s how much this story means to you. That means people’s passions come out in their comments. But please do think before you passionately rant or rail against a situation, or a lifestyle, or a “type of person,” or anything, because you may be making the very next reader to see your comment think that they need to go back into the closet. And that’s the opposite of what we’re about here. Please do try to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and be gentle with each other.
I do not think it’s a “mere” coincidence that at the point in Daron’s story–when he’s grappling with the most complex emotional realities of his life–that we’ve been seeing the most emotional, personal, and passionate comments from readers of the past six years. This story brings up a lot of stuff. Please recognize that we’re all going through stuff.
Daron has his flaws, his incompatible needs, his blind spots. We all do. We each bring our own biases, shaped by our experiences, to the table. No one, including me, is perfect and avoids insulting or hurting others 100% of the time. What I ask is that we please listen to each other and be welcoming to each other’s ideas, even if ultimately we disagree. Honor the theme of the story, of creating spaces where self-acceptance can happen, by keeping the comments section a judgment-free* zone.
*And by judgment-free I mean of course to include the usual judgments and discriminations like homophobia, racism, and sexism, which are already prohibited by the site Terms and Conditions, but I do also mean transphobia, bi-phobia, misogyny, etc. as well as judging people for life choices, religion, you name it. OK?