I was still sitting there with my bag unzipped and a guitar case open when I realized another Melissa and Remo argument was in progress right outside the door.
“You don’t understand what it’s like,” she was saying. “I have to be with him all the time.”
“He needs someone with him, but Mel, there’s no law that a mother has to be chained to her child. I thought you’d be happy I took some responsibility as a dad.”
“I am. I do. Look, this isn’t about me biting your head off.”
“Well good, because there’s nothing I’d like better than to be a good husband to you, not just Ford’s father. But that’s a little hard to do when you’re so fixated on being Mother Melissa every moment of every day.”
“I’m his source of food. I can’t be away from him for more than an hour or he’ll grow up feeling deprived!”
They moved as they argued until they were framed by the doorway.
“Mel.” He took hold of her arms, her elbows, so it looked like they were about to begin some formal dance. “My love.”
I tried to act like I wasn’t listening, but they didn’t seem to even notice I was there.
“I know it’s hard,” he said. “We knew it’d be challenging when we decided to get married.”
She punched him in the chest. Hard. “Don’t you dare play that card, Remo Cutler!”
“What card?” He pulled her closer, I think partly out of passion and partly to keep from getting whacked again.
“The ‘decided to get married’ card. You know who decided to get married? You. Not us. You.”
Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Isn’t that what’s going through your mind, too, right now?
She was still going on. “You’re the one who flew me to New York City, put me up in a million dollar suite, bought me a rock the size of Texas, and then popped the question in public.” From the tone of her voice I think she would’ve kicked him in the balls if he hadn’t been holding her against him.
Remo’s voice was ghostly, like his chest had been gutted with a knife and he was using his last breath to speak. “You said yes.”
“Fuck you!” she said, but instead of pushing him away she collapsed into tears, clinging onto him.
He rocked her like they were having a last slow dance at prom, moving just enough to feel it. “Listen. I’ll see you again in a week. Tour ends in two months. In September all three of us will be together.”
“But if I come to LA you know how it’ll be.”
“And if I come here you know how that’ll be.”
“At least here my family can help out.”
“Your radioactive family that you were just saying last week you didn’t want him to grow up around? Mel, this time when you come west we’ll work on finding a nanny and getting you a break. We’ll learn how to be a family. I love you. I love our child. I love everything about it. I didn’t pop the damn question because I wanted a babymaker or because of guilt. I did it because I saw a future for us. A future I wanted. Can you blame me for trying to grab it?”
“Asshole,” she said, but affectionately. And she’d stopped crying. She kissed him and hugged him around the neck. He leaned back as he hugged her and lifted her clear off her feet.
“I’ll see you in New York,” he said, setting her back down. “Can you hold it together until then?”
“I’ll have to.” She sighed. “A week seems like forever, but forever seems too much.”
That was a song lyric right there. Country blues. I slowly reached for my notebook, still trying not to draw attention to myself. Got it. Wrote it down.
I know almost all pop songs are about love, but what’s the percentage of songs about falling in love versus songs about broken hearts? And how many are about both?
After that thought, though, I sat there thinking about my own parents, and the train wreck of their relationship, and the failed affair with Remo or love triangle whatever that had been, about how pregnancy had forced them into marriage and derailed my mother’s musical career, about how they hated each other and yet somehow managed to have enough moments of reconciliation and/or passion to have four kids over the course of ten years…
I really, really did not want to think about all that. Really. But once I started I couldn’t really stop. What I really wanted to do was talk to Ziggy.
The van was out back. I zipped up my bag and a moment later Flip took it and the guitar case.
I went to the payphone to call Ziggy and didn’t reach him. I paged him instead with the number “666.”
In the van all was quiet. We didn’t even have the radio on. I’m pretty sure everyone had heard the argument since they’d had it in the hallway right outside the green room and no one wanted to get on Remo’s last nerve.
Remo took a flask out of his jacket pocket. He took a long swig. He handed the flask to Flip who took a swig, too. Flip then turned around to the rest of us and handed it to Jam but he looked right at me, asking me with his eyes if I was going to drink.
I shook my head. One swallow of bourbon wasn’t going to do anything good, or anything bad, depending on your point of view, and so why take the chance? None for me thanks, but I made my denial silent so it wouldn’t seem weird. The flask came to me last since I was all the way in the back and no one was facing my direction when I passed it forward again.
I then lay down on the back seat of the van and had some of the worst flashbacks ever of lying down in the back of our family station wagon during hellish family vacations. For about two hours I tortured myself. I couldn’t even really remember specific arguments between Digger and Claire all that well–there were so many–but that didn’t stop me from obsessing over it anyway. I could not get my brain out of that mode, could not think about anything else.
Probably about two hours later I passed out.
It was not quite three in the morning when I crawled into bed in a hotel in Nashville with most of my clothes on, sober but groggy from having dozed off an hour or two before, and too exhausted to do more than kick my jeans off and pull a pillow over my head. My first trip to “Music City” would start soon enough.