I pride myself on being honest. I feel like I worked hard to stop lying to myself and to undo the damage of people lying to me all the time, so if I lie to someone else I consider it really bad.
So I’m very not proud of the lie I told in Cleveland. One particular one. Except that what I said was true, if misleading.
I should just tell you what happened, eh?
Melissa and I arrived at the hotel shortly after lunchtime. I was frankly a little surprised to find us in the same downtown hotel where Moondog Three had stayed two years ago. Remo usually preferred the suburban places which were cheaper and where there was more room to park a bus. But come to think of it he’d put the band at the Kimberly (or the Benjamin or whichever that was) in Manhattan, too. Maybe he was trying to impress Mel or recapture that honeymoon feeling.
The lobby call wasn’t until three, so I found myself in the bar drinking a club soda with a lime in it and chatting with Martin. We were at a high table in a corner, sitting against the wall on a brown leather banquette that ran the length of one wall.
“Well, hello,” Martin said at one point.
I’d already been sitting there for a while so I looked up to see who he was talking to/about. Two women with tall hair were sitting a couple of tables away but looking in our direction. Upon eye contact they made their move, and carried their drinks over to our table.
“Care to join us, ladies?” Martin asked, giving me a glance.
I was too busy realizing that the women looked familiar to engage in telepathy with Martin. “Oh, hey,” I said, by way of letting them know I recognized them without saying much else.
“Hey, Daron,” the shorter one said. And then she told me her name and for the sake of the story I should just make one up except I didn’t remember it then, and I don’t remember it now. And this whole thing is supposed to be about honesty. Let’s call her Mary so that I don’t have to keep saying “the shorter one” over and over, though, okay? “Mary, remember me?”
“I certainly do,” I said, truthfully, because even if I didn’t remember her name I definitely remembered her in a very specific way. “Both of you.”
They giggled at that and Martin goggled at it. “Daron, this is a side of you I haven’t seen before. A threesome?”
“Foursome,” I said, blushing scarlet but keeping that cool I’d learned from… I have no idea who I learned it from. I’ll figure that out later.
The taller one, let’s call her Sue, smiled at Martin in a shy yet lascivious way. “He had a tall skinny friend with him that time, too.”
It dawned on me suddenly that the two of them had come to this hotel bar today hoping to run into me again. I kept up my smooth-bullshit tone. “So, how’ve you gals been? It’s been two years.”
Mary bumped Sue with her shoulder and bit her lip as if she was telling her, see, I told you he’d remember, and said, “Pretty good.”
They were both drinking club soda, too. “Can I buy you ladies a drink?” Martin asked, which I supposed was one of the traditional moves in the courtship ritual. Remember, I’d missed this part last time.
Sue agreed readily. “It’s past noon. I could go for something stronger.”
Martin flagged the waitress and ordered Sue a cosmo and a beer for himself, then asked the other two of us if we wanted anything.
“Oh, no thanks,” Mary chirped. “I’m trying to cut down.”
“Same,” I said with a wave. I clinked my glass against hers. “Besides. We’re enjoying such a fine vintage.”
She laughed and put a hand on my arm in that way that people do when they’re attracted to you and you say something funny and charming, or at least something they want you to think they found funny and charming. Then she pulled it back suddenly, having felt the hard edge of the splint. “Oh my goodness, what did you do to yourself?”
“Oh, uh, had a bit of an accident,” I said.
Martin wouldn’t let me leave it at that of course. He went on to tell the story of my grand heroism and self-sacrifice on behalf of my godson. I probably don’t have to tell you I was kind of uncomfortable to have it described as grand heroism, but I get that he was making it a good story to impress the womenfolk. The result was two pairs of puppy-dog eyes glued to me.
“One of the reasons I’m not drinking,” I said. “The medication I’m taking to help this get better doesn’t mix with alcohol.”
“Yeah, wow. Must be tough on a party animal like you,” Sue said. Right. I recall using a lot of bourbon as social lubricant my last time here.
“I’m cutting back the partying in general,” I said. “Not just the drinking.”
“Oh?” Mary’s little “oh” was already laced with disappointment. She knew what I meant.
Here’s the lie that was actually the truth, though. I just didn’t tell them the whole truth–I told them such a tiny tip of the iceberg that I counted it as lying. “Yeah, I’m seeing somebody now.”
If I thought that was going to provoke anger or jealousy, I was wrong. What I got was a very similar “aww” to the story about me saving Ford from the kitchen knife.
“You are so sweet,” Mary said, and patted me on the arm again.
“I, on the other hand, am blissfully unattached,” Martin said.
Sue was ready to take that bait. “Can you get us on the list for tonight?” She wasn’t just talking about the guest list for backstage.
“Both of you?”
Sue and Mary exchanged glances and Sue said, “Yeah, both of us.”
“I’m sure I can swing that,” Martin said with a grin.
I slipped out of the booth. “I’m going to hit the restroom before the bus comes.”
Mary slipped into my place and Sue flanked Martin on the other side of the banquette.
I went to a payphone and paged Ziggy. I left him voice mail. “I know I’ve only been gone for five hours but I miss you already.”