Digger came back into town the next day. When I walked into the lobby of the Copley Square hotel, he was already sitting there with a bunch of papers spread out on a low table. I wasn’t sure, but I thought he was wearing the same thing he had been the day he’d come to the door at the Allston house. Maybe the clothes just looked the same.
What ensued was a mind-numbing two hours of financial details but at the end of it, I had to admit, I was impressed. He had even made projections based on potential sales and income and had ideas for how that money could be spent. “I want you to start thinking about buying a house,” he said, “to give you collateral and make your assets less liquid. If, of course, these sales figures bear out.”
That put me outside the realm of known reality, alright. Maybe I was aiming low, but the only thing I could imagine was buying the Allston house from our landlord to get him off our backs. Digger laughed when I told him my idea and said we should each buy a house, so hey, why not buy the neighbors’ houses, too? It was looking like, well, like maybe Digger knew his stuff.
That night he took us all out to dinner again, to a fancy, dimly-lit Newbury Street bistro called Masa’s. I’ve never been a very adventurous eater, but they had a way of making things like “raspberry-chipotle slaw” pretty darn tasty. I decided I could get used to it. Our waitress seemed extremely gushy for such an upscale place–I figured out why when she brought the manager over at the end of the meal and they asked us to autograph a menu. In the dim light I hadn’t noticed the framed autographed pictures of Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band on the walls.
I did notice Ziggy giving her something, probably his phone number.
Somehow Digger and I ended up alone in the bar of the hotel, a dark polished wood kind of place, with pseudo-nautical decor. “We’ll celebrate,” Digger said as he motioned for a waiter.
“Celebrate what? Haven’t we already done that?”
“Hey, kiddo,” he cocked his head to the side, “does your thumb hurt?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Great, let’s celebrate that.” He ordered two glasses of a long-named Scotch–one of the ones Remo liked, I think, but the twelve-year, not the eighteen year. “It’s time we started putting some hair on your chest.”
I let that one go by without an answer. But I was thinking, shit, didn’t you start doing that when I was eleven years old? I did not fidget in the armchair.
The waiter brought the booze in elegantly delicate glasses, which seemed contrary to my notions of how hard liquor should be consumed. Digger waved his under his nose and I did the same: the deceptively sweet maple-syrupy smell hit me as it had that evening in LA on Remo’s porch. But tonight I wasn’t working my nerve up for anything. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing here. Digger’s eyes were on me as I took a sip and his eyebrows dipped in disappointment when I didn’t choke or make a face. “The eighteen-year was better,” I said.
“What do you mean,” he said quickly, four words that were often a prelude to an outburst of anger.
I gave a little cough. “Jeez, lighten up, Digger, I’m kidding.” Though I wasn’t. I gave him the reaction he wanted: “This stuff’s vile. A guy I was in a band with in Providence was always drinking it–couldn’t get me near the stuff.”
Half a crooked-smile twisted his face. “Bah, you just haven’t had enough of it, yet.”
“Fine, we can take care of that.” I swirled half the glass into my mouth and swallowed. My throat felt like fire, a feeling that spread across my back and into my fingers and settled in the pit of my stomach.
“That’s my boy,” he said.
If we got drunk together tonight, it wouldn’t be the first time. We sipped a while in silence, and I thought about the ‘old days.’ We always had beer back then, and Jack Daniels or Jim Beam, though they never let me have any of the hard stuff. “Did you and Remo used to drink Scotch?”
“What?” he said, like he was far away.
“In New Jersey, we used to drink with Remo. Were you guys drinking good whiskey?”
He snorted. “Not at Maddie’s we weren’t. Wasn’t anything worth drinking there, you know. Coors or Bud. We kept the good stuff to ourselves, when you weren’t tagging along.”
“Oh.” He made it sound like I was a pain in the ass. Maybe I was, but he’s the one that got me out of bed at night to go out with him. I told myself I had no reason to be angry at him. I sipped my Scotch. But I felt myself getting familiar with that feeling again, that feeling like it was my job to keep us both happy, smiling, veering away from anything that might make him mad.
I swigged the rest of the booze down. I put the glass down with as much of a thunk as I dared, and stood up with a feigned sigh of satisfaction. “Thanks,” I said, before he could say anything. “For the nightcap. See you tomorrow?”
“Uh, yeah…” he leaned forward as if to stand and then sank back down into the armchair. “That’s right.” We exchanged little nods as if they meant something.
I walked into the lobby, not looking back at him drinking alone.