770. Pleasure and Pain

I ended up seeing Sarah’s doctor, because that was faster and a better idea than sitting around in some New York City emergency room waiting to be seen for a non-emergency. He confirmed I probably had a concussion and said the main thing to do was to avoid things that might aggravate it, including hitting my head on anything else, vigorous physical activity, brights lights, and loud noise.

Ha. I could probably avoid hitting my head if necessary. Lights and noise…well, we’d have to see. The only cure was wait for my bruised brain to heal itself.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention, Sarah showed up to grab us from Priss’s. She hugged me very very carefully.

“I hate being the sick one,” I said.

“Maybe it’s just your turn,” she replied. “Let’s go somewhere dark and quiet for dinner.”

She wasn’t kidding. She took us to a Japanese restaurant where the light was very dim and there was very soft plinky koto music in the background. We had a private room enclosed by sliding screens and the waitresses tiptoed in and out in their socks. I ate a lot of soft tofu under the theory it was good for my soft head and also because I could eat that with a spoon. I couldn’t handle chopsticks with my cast on.

We drank tea instead of sake. Even without the influence of booze, though, I had a moment when I felt again like I’d slipped into a parallel universe, only instead of the past, this was a future where me and Ziggy and Sarah were on tour together in Japan.

“We’ll have to hide our tattoos,” I said aloud.

“What?” Sarah said.

“Uh, if we ever go to Japan. To the bath houses.”

“They have gay bath houses in Japan?” She put a mock scandalized look on her face.

“No no, regular hot springs places. It’s a thing.” I put my casted hand over the tattoo on my arm. “Tattoos are a yakuza thing. They freak people out there.”

“Wow. I want to get a big back piece done.” She put her hands on her shoulders. “Phoenix wings.”

“Cooool,” Ziggy said. “It’s funny. I’ve thought about doing wings, but I thought of something I want more.”

“I had a vision once that you had angel wings tattooed on, and we filmed a video where a pair of hands tore your shirt to expose them.”

“You had a vision?” Sarah asked with a chuckle.

But Ziggy was serious. “Whose hands?”

“Mine, probably. But possibly your own, reaching around yourself like this.” I hugged myself as best I could with the cast on.

“When was this?”

“Years ago.” Long before we’d ever talked about or thought about getting tattooed. “I didn’t know you thought about getting wings on your back.”

“Back when I was too broke to actually do it,” he said.

“What did you decide you want more?”

“I’m still not sure about it so I don’t want to tell you yet,” he said, in that Ziggy way that I now accepted as fact and not an intentional tease.

We were going to skip the get-together at Jordan’s if I wasn’t feeling well, but after dinner I felt fine so we went back to the apartment to change clothes and go back out.

And I had one of those moments where I couldn’t speak for a minute, not because my brain was bruised but because my heart was at some earlier time. Ziggy was putting on his eyeliner. He set the pencil down and moved on to some other thing–gelling his hair, whatever–and I picked up the pencil and held it in my hand but my tongue was frozen and my heart started to hammer. I wanted to ask him to do mine, which was a totally usual thing, and yet all of a sudden I was paralyzed like my jaw was glued shut.

How does this work? How does being together work? What am I supposed to do? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m wrong about everything?

So I just stood there, dry-eyed and blinking and stricken, wondering if I was going to start hyperventilating or what.

Ziggy looked at me. “Do you not want to go?”

Words. Use them. Go on. “Do I look anxious?”

“You do. We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”

He was trying to guess why I was anxious and it was a good guess which made me feel better and worse at the same time. I swallowed. “I want to. I just…” I thought about it. Maybe I actually was anxious because I was sick, injured, and stressed out, but anxiety was like a flood, it ran into every nook and cranny whether it was meant to or not. I held up the eyeliner pencil. “I’ll feel better if you do it.”

Sympathy made his spine suddenly sinuous, his head dipping toward me and his hand on mine, taking the pencil gently. “You know you don’t have to work too hard to impress Jordan’s crowd.”

“I know.” I couldn’t really explain that wasn’t the issue. The issue was my own damn head deciding on the weirdest things to freak out about.

“Let me do your hair, too, then? I love this new wet-look gel. It’ll look even better in your hair than mine.”


He made me sit and used some kind of goop to tame my hair and ironically make it look wild at the same time. He lined my eyes and tried to talk me into a smudge of dark purple lipstick. I said no to that.

The funny thing is, about an hour into the shindig at Jordan’s, I kissed him so hard I ended up with a smudge of dark purple lipstick anyway. But at least it was there for a good reason.


  • s says:

    When you froze, my mind went to the time in Montreal (I think) where you were getting ready to go out and starting to panic and Ziggy told you he wasn’t afraid of being vulnerable with you anymore. If you did the same thing, it’s no wonder you couldn’t speak. *hugs*

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