763. Under the Bridge

I had enough on my mind that I forgot to feel crappy about being in New Jersey. For one thing, the Byrne Arena wasn’t that different from a million other venues like it, so it was easy to forget where we were. For another, we saw a lot of the New York crowd, which seemed a positive thing–then again, New Jersey’s best feature was that New York City was Right There. Apparently many folks did not heed Remo’s warnings about contagion and so at various points I got to say hello to Jordan, Jonathan, and Artie. Marvelle was there, too, because he was friendly with various folks–it’s a small world and it would be even smaller if I could keep track of how everyone knew each other.

Anyway, my Jersey angst seemed low. Maybe the more time passed since I’d lived there, the less stressed it would make me. I hoped that was the case.

The band was still recovering from everything. Not just the sickness but the strife. We played kind of choppy, like everyone was trying too hard to march in step instead of letting it flow. At least, that’s how it was until Remo blew the lyrics to “Safe Haven,” which is only one of Nomad’s best known songs. It’s got a ballad-y intro with deep heartfelt lyrics that start out quiet and work up to being belted out by the time the whole band comes in. Because the band plays fairly quietly in the intro part, that’s the section where you can really hear the audience singing.

He mixed up the verses. He skipped the second stanza and went right to the third, and I thought I’d spaced out and just missed the second, so I went into the transition there while Remo, having realized what he did because the audience was singing the right words, tried to backtrack, and half the band went one way and half went the other and he literally had to wave his arms at us like a drum major to bring us to a dead halt.

He was laughing and the audience was going nuts cheering. His face was bright red and so was mine but he was the one laughing so hard he could barely get out the words, “We’re going to try that one again.”

It’s an angsty song. About wanting to be there for someone you love, even if you can’t tell them how you feel. Sometimes when he sings it you can feel your heart breaking.

Not so much when we’re all cracking up like fools. But the crowd ate it up. The cheers were intense. Remo started it again and got the words right, half-laughing to himself at the end of each line, and they loved it. And we were all a lot looser after that, although that was almost the end of the main set.

The first person I saw when we came off the stage before the first encore was Antonio. He’s large and hard to miss. “Tony!” I gave him a sweaty hug.

Then I saw Ziggy. I know. How could I miss Ziggy? But he was in what I would call stealth mode, hair down, eyeliner light, in a plain black denim jacket and Converse high tops. And he had been hanging back, almost behind Tony. When Ziggy doesn’t want to be noticed, you won’t notice him.

I gave him a sweaty hug, too. “I thought you weren’t coming tonight.”

He smirked. “Did I say that?”

“Come to think of it, you did not.”

Flip grabbed me by the arm then and forced me to drink half a Gatorade–well, no, forced isn’t the right word because it was voluntary but you know what I mean–and I toweled off my face. When I handed the towel back both Ziggy and Tony were gone.

They were there after the encore, though, and Carynne said, as I was making sure I had a couple of things in my backpack, “Guess you don’t need a ride into the city tonight.”

“It would appear not. Are we having any meetings or anything like that tomorrow?”

“Not that I know of.”

“You coming to the show tomorrow?”

“Planning on it.”

“Great. I might need a ride back in time for soundcheck.”

She nodded and smiled. “I figured. See you tomorrow.”

So I escaped with Ziggy and Tony. Funny thing about the Meadowlands, which was what the general sports complex area where the arena was was called, it would only be a twenty minute drive from there to Ziggy’s apartment if there was no traffic. Zip right through the Lincoln Tunnel and then south on the West Side Highway.

But you know there is no real magic time when there is “no traffic” in the New York metro area. At any time road construction or an accident or just random spikes in volume can clog up the system. So it could be 45 minutes to an hour just reaching the tunnel approach if you’re not lucky. Normally traffic like that would make me gnash my teeth and hate the world.

But I was in a chauffeur-driven car with Ziggy so I didn’t care how long we were stuck in traffic. I’d showered and thrown on clothes before we got in the car so my hair was wet and my shirt was damp but Ziggy didn’t care. We were in a huge car–not a stretch limo but one of those ones that we called a “boat” because it seemed that big–and we were squished together in a space smaller than one average-sized person.

“I’m so tired,” I said.

“You’ve been sick and you don’t recover well on the road,” he said, hugging my ribs. “But tell me what that means.”

“What do you mean, what that means? What what means?”

“That you’re tired.”

“You said it better than I did,” I said. “It means I’ve been sick and still haven’t really recovered.”

“No, no,” Ziggy said, trying again. “When you say you’re tired, does that mean we shouldn’t have sex the second we get home? Or just that you shouldn’t be on top? Or that we should wait until morning? or what?”

“Um, I didn’t mean any of those things by it. I literally just meant I’m tired.”

“Oh.” He settled his ear against my chest. “Well, then it’s just as well I asked.”

“Asked what it meant?”

“Asked whether we should have sex when we get home, et cetera?”

“Oh. That. I’m too tired to decide.”

“Does that mean it’s up to me?”

“Yes. So are we having sex the second we get home?”

“If it’s up to me…I haven’t decided yet,” he said with a wicked grin. Then he lifted his head and looked at me quite solemnly. “I haven’t been sleeping well lately. So I’m tired, too.”

I nodded and he settled against me again. I wondered if we were going to talk all night like we sometimes did.

We were both asleep before we even reached the first toll booth.


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