Jordan threw a Concussion Party for me. I’m not kidding. I don’t know who told him what was going on but what we found when we got to his place was ambient techno burbling in the background from a new surround-sound speaker system he’d recently installed and ambient lighting low.
The first person I saw after walking in the door was Bradley, looking very doe-eyed, clutching a beer and standing at the edge of the kitchen counter. Before I could get to him, though, Marvelle intercepted me. I swung my left hand toward him and he, like Artie, didn’t blink, just locked fingers with me thumb-wrestling-style and clapped me on the back of the shoulder with his other hand. “Gonna bubblewrap you, man. Make a Daron-shaped foam cut out and put you in an Anvil case.”
“Yeah, well.” I shrugged.
A moment later I repeated the handshake with Bradley and got the almost identical clap on the back– except Bradley was an inch shorter than me instead of several inches taller so it felt different. “I didn’t see you the other night. Did you make it to the show?”
“Yeah, I was there,” he said, nodding earnestly.
“Been rehearsing?” Oh stop it, Daron, don’t be a boss right now, I told myself, but it was too late, I’d already asked.
“Oh yeah. Both of us.” By then Marvelle had moved on to greeting Ziggy, who was several steps behind me. “I mean, Marvelle and me and the tape.”
“Cool.” I held up my cast. “Occurs to me I should probably grab a copy of that tape and work on making sure I can play everything I need to in case this thing doesn’t come off by then.”
“Could that happen?”
“I don’t know. I’ll know more in a week, I guess. At least the stomach flu’s over with?” I shrugged. “You trying to grow a beard?”
He reddened slightly and rubbed his hair, which was tooth-brush short. “Uh…”
“Because yours looks about like mine. I’ve never been able to get more than a few scraggly hairs to hang off my chin.” Which was the truth. “Though I haven’t really tried in a while.” Also the truth.
“Really. Reem says try again when I turn twenty-five. Or maybe I’m stuck with a baby face until I go wrinkly.” I shrugged again. I wanted to ask if the sprout of facial hair meant he was on hormones but that seemed both rude and nosy. (On the other hand, asking Carynne if she knew the details was probably also rude and nosy, just in a different way.)
“Huh. That’s…reassuring, I guess?” He sounded unsure. “I mean, it doesn’t exactly bode well for my attempt, but it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one.”
That made me chuckle. “I always feel better when I find out I’m not the only one of anything. And it seems like I never am–I only think I am.”
Ziggy came and hung his arms over our shoulders. “Where’s our host?”
Bradley looked around. “He was here a second ago. Bathroom, maybe?”
Sarah came in shortly after we did. All in all there were about fifteen people there, and it took me until we’d been there an hour or so to figure out that Jordan’s guest list that night consisted entirely of people I already knew. Most of them I knew pretty well like Carynne and Tony and my own sister, and some I’d only known in passing up to that point like Linn and Barrett’s assistant June. I asked Jordan whether he’d done that on purpose or if it was a coincidence.
He was showing me the control center of his new sound setup at the time, adjusting the ambient mix so it sounded like the ocean waves were coming from the direction of Sarah’s uptown and the seagulls were flying in from Wall Street. “You mean, is it a coincidence we know so many of the same people?”
“Trav, this seems a bit beyond coincidence.”
He was wearing wraparound shades on the top of his head because the light was too dim to wear them on his face, I guess. His eyes roamed the guests scattered around the loft. “Yeah, it’s a very you-and-Ziggy guest list tonight. Wanted to keep it small. A couple of folks you don’t know from the club crowd might drop by later, though.”
“Cool.” If I didn’t get dizzy or have a headache I’d probably still be there.
“So, what’s the latest with Star*Gaze?”
“We’ve got some interest but no commitment yet. Carynne’s trying to get me to take a BNC offer seriously by telling me Mills isn’t involved, but I think I’d rather gnaw my own arm off with my teeth than sign there.”
Jordan nodded almost imperceptibly and said drily, “Gee, Daron, tell me how you really feel.”
“Do you think I’m being silly?”
He gave one of those slight shrugs. “You know I won’t mince words with you, if you don’t want me to.”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want an answer.”
The nod again. “Truth is I don’t know if any other place would be better or worse. There aren’t good record companies and bad record companies. There are good people and slimes at all the major labels.”
“So I’m being silly.”
“It’s not silly to avoid your abusive ex.” Again the shrug. “I’m just saying going with another company is no guarantee you won’t run into someone just like Mills.”
“They can’t all be slimes.”
“Of course they’re not, but no matter how nice they are, their job and your job are still not the same. Your best interests and their best interests won’t always coincide.”
“Artie at Wenco seems to have really done right by Nomad all these years.”
“True. But I’m sure there are acts he’s signed who would tell a different story.”
“I find it hard to believe Artie could be an incompetent, vindictive shit.”
“Well, that’s because he isn’t. But there are sharks and fuckups at Wenco, too. That’s all I’m saying.”
Sensible. I would mull on that. “Okay, enough about me. What have you been working on lately?”
He chuckled. “Been busy. Doing everything from industrial to retro disco.”
“Both of which would make my ears bleed right now.”
“And we’re definitely trying to avoid that.” He pinched his fingers together in the universal sign for toking. “You off drugs entirely right now?”
“For a while, yeah. Don’t want to make anything worse.”
Very reasonable. So was catching up with people in a social atmosphere that wasn’t on a show day. Court had a couple of stories to tell about her internship, which was wrapping up later in the month. Sarah and I traded road stories for a while. I moved through space with Ziggy beside me some of the time, in separate orbits some of the time, and that gave me the luxury to watch him from across the room. At one point I thought about a much more exclusive party that had happened here, about what had happened on that couch right over there, and I went and kissed him just because I could.
The people I didn’t know arrived just about when Ziggy and I had decided we should leave soon. I had to head to Massachusetts the next day and we were tired. The new crowd had come straight from Limelight or the Pyramid Club or somewhere fabulous, the scent of fake fog and cigarette smoke clinging to their glittery clothes. There were four or five of them, all quite queer, and they flocked around Jordan like exotic birds around an imperturbable hippo.
“We brought you something!” one of them enthused, pulling an LP or 12-inch out of a large tote bag. “Finally got these. Had to bring you yours right away.”
Jordan took it and admired it. “Whose mouth is this? Dodge’s?”
“Of course, because he’s got the biggest one,” one of the others answered, provoking laughs.
I got closer to have a look as Trav held it up for me to see. The cover photo was a closeup of a pair of lips.
“Very Rocky Horror,” he told them. “Intentional, I suppose?”
“Naturally, Trav, naturally,” came the reply.
“Where is Dodge anyway?” Jordan handed me the record.
“Went home early. Wasn’t feeling up to it.”
“Too bad. Daron, I was wondering if you knew him. He’s a RIMCon alum.”
I had just flipped the cover over to read the track list–it was a 12-inch with four remixes of the same song–when he said that. And I realized who I was seeing in the center of the group photo on the back.
Roger. He’d finally become the disco diva he’d been suppressing at school.
I would stop there and save the rest for next chapter except I honestly do try not to do the real dick move cliffhangers. Only when I have to, you know. So let’s unpack this a little while the shock is as fresh in your minds as it was in mine: Jordan obviously didn’t know that Roger and I knew each other, which meant Roger hadn’t told him. Which meant either Roger kept it to himself or maybe he just never put two and two together to realize Jordan Travers had produced a bunch of my work. Maybe Roger didn’t even know what I was doing or had done. Which made me really curious to know whether he knew or not. Except he wasn’t here, so I couldn’t ask him.
There, no cliffhanger. Because I’m saving the real bombshell for next chapter.
(I’m back from Japan! It was totally amazing. Yes, I saw Queen+Adam Lambert at Budokan while I was there. Talk about a bucket list item. I’ll be catching up on email and phone messages slowly over the next week or two. I still owe you guys the “cast DGC” post and a Ziggy POV piece to certain folks in thanks. Both are in the works! -ctan)