I went back to Boston for one more reset of my laundry and my psyche before I hit the road with Nomad again. On July 19th I flew from Logan to Miami to meet the entourage and who did I run into in the gate area waiting to board? Louis.
“Let me guess where you’re going,” he said, after we’d done the kind of manhug thing where you give each other a mutual backslap. “Aruba.”
“I don’t even know where Aruba is,” I replied with a laugh.
“Oh, Aruba’s great. Sheree and I took the kids there a couple years back.” We sat down together and he explained that the best thing about Aruba is because it’s part of the Netherlands it’s got all the plusses of being a tropical getaway with none of the minuses, i.e. it’s got top notch medical facilities and but not the crushing poverty that makes some of the other islands such a bummer.
I nervously checked through the window whether our plane was there–it was–and tried to remember if it was the right kind. I’ve told you about this before, right? Some models of plane have a closet or a compartment that’s the right size for a guitar to fit, and some airlines will let you carry a guitar on even though it’s bigger than the regulation bin. I was a lot less nervous about being able to beg my way into that coat closet when I had a ticket in first class, which this time thankfully I did. (Louis, too. I wondered who had booked the tickets.)
That didn’t mean I wasn’t a little anxious, though. The thing about the Ovation was that because it wasn’t a special signature model or a one-of-a-kind, it wouldn’t be a career-ending disaster if they put it in the hold and it got cracked or smashed to pieces. But, man, it would hurt.
It’s not just sentimentality, either, that this guitar had been with me every mile of my journey so far, though that’s certainly true. It’s also that the more an acoustic guitar is played, the better it ages, the more resonant the wood gets. If I had to move to the backup guitar, even though it was the same model, it wouldn’t be the same. The difference is subtle, though. To the audience, to everyone in the world except me, it wouldn’t sound detectably different. But I’d know. Same if it got broken and had to be repaired. I’d know.
I just didn’t want to have to go down that road. So I was anxious until the moment I saw them tuck the case into the compartment beside a garment bag. Then I sat down in a first class seat so wide it was like Captain Kirk’s chair in old Star Trek. I had the window and Louis was next to me. He flagged down a stewardess immediately and ordered two Jack Daniels, one for me.
I didn’t fight it. I also didn’t fight the fact that one has to drink one’s first class pre-flight drink quickly because they give it to you in a real glass which they take away for takeoff for safety reasons. By the time the rest of the plane was loaded, our glasses were empty.
I wasn’t a very good flight companion for Louis because I fell asleep before we even took off. Something about the engines humming always knocks me out. I woke up about an hour into the flight, though, when he elbowed me about what I wanted for dinner. The prospect of food woke me right up. They served us what was a pretty terrible “filet mignon” but as it turned out if you cut your roll in half and put the meat in there was a pretty good steak sandwich.
“So how’s the ex-wife and kids?” I asked at one point.
“Great. Growing up so fast, though. The eldest is already dating and I’m losing my mind.”
I couldn’t remember if his eldest was a son or daughter so I just said, “Oh really.”
“Really. It’s like…crap, I dunno.”
I nodded sympathetically. After all, “crap, I dunno” is my reaction to most situations in life.
“How ’bout you? How’s your…people?”
I had to smile at that. I didn’t know if Louis’s oldest kid was male or female but Louis didn’t even know if he could politely inquire after anyone in my family or my relationships without bringing up a possible sore subject. “Haven’t heard from Digger since he got the bum rush in SoCal,” I said happily. “And me and Ziggy are getting along again. And my sister’s got an internship at a record company in New York and is already plotting her takeover of the entire industry.”
“Well, good for her,” Louis said.
“Were you in town for the Fourth? We watched the esplanade fireworks from the roof of Bart’s new place. He bought a brownstone in Back Bay with Michelle.”
“They getting married anytime soon?”
“I dunno. I think they feel like they don’t need to, really.”
“If they don’t have kids they don’t really have to. There’s a lot of ways of making it work unmarried.”
My ears perked up. “Like you and Sheree are unmarried?”
“Exactly. We’re unmarried to each other. When we were actually married we wanted to kill each other all the time. The second we got divorced, though, it was clear we still wanted to be in each other’s lives. Just not as spouses. Not on an everyday basis.”
I confess I was intensely curious about how it worked between them. Did they still have sex? Was that what they couldn’t give up with each other? How much of it was the kids and how much of it was something about having a person who knew you that well–and who you knew that well–you just don’t want to give it up? Were they soulmates in some sense but that didn’t guarantee domestic happiness? “You met in a road crew, right?”
“Yep. Worked together for years before I got up the nerve to actually outright flirt with her. You know what it’s like for a woman in this business. Roadies ain’t couth. I figured anything innuendo-like I said to her she’d just brush off like a botfly, so I’d actually been really goody two shoes around her for a while before I started to get the hint she was interested. And the thing is we both held off, waiting to find out if it was for real or just a shtick, you know? Like was she actually flirting with me or just busting my balls, you know? We were each busting each other’s balls constantly for a while there.”
I stifled a chuckle.
“It was driving the rest of the crew crazy, I guess, and then one night it was a big party night for the whole crew and you know how it happens. We were glued together nonstop after that.”
“When’d you get married, though?”
“We set a date like a year away, year and a half actually, because we knew we had to do it in the winter when we wouldn’t be on the road. We worked side by side all the way up to the wedding. Then we got married and moved in together. That was the beginning of the end, but we stuck it out until she was pregnant with our second one and then we completely imploded.” He mimed a building collapsing, complete with sound-effect of falling rubble.
“You have three?”
“Yeah. Third one was technically born out of wedlock but who’s going to do the math to figure that out? It’s not like we have our divorce certificate hanging over the mantelpiece.” The flight attendant came around then to ask if we wanted more drinks. I switched to club soda and Louis did the same. “And with the kids she needed to stay put and I didn’t want to get off the road, so we were going to be apart a lot anyway, and in the end it just works better if I stay with them three or four times a year and that’s it.”
I had to ask. Had to. “And do you, like, each see other people?”
“Sheree tries to, but the guys who are interested in her are not the guys she’s interested in. I get to hear all about it, the complaints, the assumptions guys will make about a chubby suburban mom with three kids. They are not prepared for what a wildcat she is in bed and they usually don’t rise to the challenge.” He cleared his throat. “I get a piece of tail now and then but at my age I don’t really have the itch like I used to.”
Louis was in his mid-fifties far as I knew.
“What’ll you do if she meets the right guy, though?” I reached across him to take the cup of bubbly water from the flight attendant. “What if she wants to get married?”
Louis shrugged. “Never gonna happen. Unless there’s something weird like, I dunno, she goes to her mom’s funeral and meets an old high school boyfriend and re-imprints on him while she’s in a susceptible state of grief. But if that happened I’d just ride it out and wait for her to come to her senses. She’d be giving him the boot soon enough, I’m sure.”
I had been about to ask him some other thing about how their relationship worked but I got sidetracked by something else he said. “People do that?”
“Kick their second husbands out of bed?”
“No no, imprint while grieving.”
“Oh yeah, all the time. After funerals you get as many people pairing off as you do after weddings.”
“It hadn’t occurred to me people do that after weddings, too.”
He chuckled. “You dork. Of course they do. That’s practically what the whole bridesmaid/groomsmen thing is. A match-making service.”
Huh. Would I have known that if I were straight? “Did your bridesmaids and groomsmen pair off?”
“Well, it was kind of a rock and roll wedding so there was a lot of hooking up but no actual legit relationships,” he said with a shrug. “We were a little older, though, too, so it wasn’t like a half dozen fresh-faced twentysomethings right out of college, hot to pair up.”
Huh. I thought about Ziggy wearing his funeral drag in honor of his mother to his film premiere. Like Ziggy needed any more reasons to Velcro onto people. Janessa, Jennifer…
Me? Was he re-imprinting on me now while he was grieving and susceptible? That was an oh-wow thought.
And who would he imprint on in the six weeks I was gone? That was an oh-shit thought.
I’d probably get the answer to that question in a voice mail, knowing how communication between him and me went while on the road. We’d agreed to mutual calls/pages if an opportunity came up. I had a sudden worry that I ‘d forgotten the charger for my pager. Which I probably hadn’t. I told myself not to worry. If Flip didn’t have one already in his electronics kit he’d go out and get one for me.
In the third hour of the flight they came around one more time to ask if we wanted anything to drink. I got Jack and Coke and worked on convincing myself Ziggy was going to be fine while I was gone. He had Barrett and Priss. Jordan was on notice and would keep an eye on him. He would be busy with dance rehearsals and focused on success. Everything was going to be fine.
I repeated that to myself a lot as we were landing, and would again often in the coming weeks. Everything is going to be fine.
(Quick notes: we’re only $20 from triggering a Saturday chapter! I turned in a book on June 6 and since then I’ve been making hay on DGC, putting me a few weeks ahead for the first time in quite a while. Thanks everyone for all your support. And thank you everyone who sent me messages after Orlando. I still haven’t absorbed it. Remember we’re taking fanworks with any kind of Disney/Universal Studios setting or theme until July 4th in exchange for prizes & goodies. Art’s the only way I know to combat the darkness and hate. Details here: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/5473 -ctan)
(I had completely blocked out of my mind that this video has an entirely different brand of rampant heterosexuality from, say, David Lee Roth. -d)