Things I wouldn’t have realized if I hadn’t toured the country: Ohio borders Kentucky. I think of Ohio as the Midwest and Kentucky as the South. So if you’d told me they were the same distance apart as Minnesota and South Carolina I would have believed you. Instead, check it out, they’re adjacent. In fact we stayed at a hotel in Kentucky for the show in Cincinnati.
And then, thank the lord, we had a day off. That had been a three-fer and now we got a day off, two shows in the same venue, and then another day off (though it was a travel day).
I didn’t realize how much of my free time was usually spent noodling around with a guitar until I wasn’t supposed to do that anymore. It’s not my favorite thing to just sit and write lyrics–too often they sound stupid once I work them with a riff or melody–but I didn’t really have another instrument I could turn to. I suppose I could have had a little Casiotone battery-operated keyboard, but I wasn’t desperate. Just bored.
And as it turned out, on the days when I didn’t take Vitamin F, I wasn’t as relaxed, and so I didn’t sleep as much. Otherwise I think I would have spent both off days unconscious. They say sleep is the best thing for healing, but I was restless. According to the information in my room, there was a game room and a library off the lobby.
That was why I was down in the lobby of the Bavarian-themed mountain resort where we were staying when some kind of kerfuffle happened between Remo and some groupies and Mel.
As usual, I missed how it started, but the raised voices got my attention, and instead of running in the opposite direction like a sensible person would have, I stuck my nose in to see what was going on.
The first thing I made out clearly was a woman’s indignant voice–“I don’t deserve to be treated this way”–and Mel’s heated reply, “Well, I sure as hell don’t!”
“You think you’re better than me?” The woman was tall, with even taller hair. “You’re not better because the condom broke, honey.”
Mel’s gasp was so sharp I wondered if she was having a heart attack or something. It gave Remo and chance to get a word in edgewise. “Shayla, I’m sorry, but if you’re gonna make a scene–”
“Remo, don’t you start–”
“You’re going to have to leave.”
Mel had recovered enough to say, “If you talk trash, you’ll be treated like trash.”
“Says the knocked up stripper!” said the tall woman and Remo moved to put himself directly between them. At the same moment a suited hotel security guy came over and asked if he could be of assistance.
“Shayla here was just leaving,” Remo said, a warning look in his eyes, as in, you’ll be tossed out by security if you don’t go quietly now.
“Fine. Call me when you’re done robbing the cradle. Or better yet, don’t.” She marched out and I realized a lot of the height was the heels on her shoes. They rapped sharply against the floor as she walked directly out.
Remo turned to console Mel but she was having none of it, still hissing and spitting like an angry cat. Oh yeah, Ford was strapped to her at the time, and when Mom is upset, so is baby.
“That was totally uncalled for,” Remo tried to say, about Shayla I’m sure, but Mel thought he was saying it about Mel herself and it got worse from there.
I’m not even sure how it ended up that Mel and I were in the elevator going upstairs without Remo after that. It wasn’t like he said I should or asked me to, or like I particularly wanted to babysit at that moment. But I guess my own instinct kind of took over and when she fled the scene I went with her.
“You look like you could use a drink,” I said to her as we got off on our floor.
“Not while I’m breastfeeding.”
“I was thinking hot cocoa would be more like this place’s style. Surely they have Swiss Miss or something, right?” I mentioned the place was Bavarian-style, right? Like heavy cheesy style. (It was Wisconsin, of course it was cheesy.) “Come on.”
We went into the suite she was sharing with Remo and I called room service while she got Ford calmed down. And calming Ford down had the effect of calming her down, at least temporarily. She put him down for a nap then and the little guy conked right out. I was envious.
And then Mel burst into tears and I ended up patting her on the back like you would a baby because I didn’t really know what else to do. She seemed to appreciate it. I then answered the door–room service–and brought her the hot cocoa. They had brought it in a thermal serving pot with two mugs. I gave her hers first and then I poured a little for myself because holding something warm made my hand feel better. I took off the splint and held the mug and said, “You know Remo wasn’t trying to criticize you, right?”
“I don’t know anymore. Remo can be a helluva lot more judgmental than I ever expected.”
Well, that was probably true. “But I don’t think he was made at you. He was mad at that woman for showing up and for being a bitch to you. Pardon my french.”
She snorted. “I think you’re allowed to use the word bitch when a woman says…the kinds of things she said.”
“She’s just jealous.”
“Well, yeah, exactly. Doesn’t make it hurt any less. And I know it’s hard for him to tell all his girlfriends all over the country ‘not this time honey, I’m married now,’ but…” She trailed off and shrugged.
“But he does. At least he does, right?”
“He does. But what about someday when he gets tired of saying it?”
“How about worrying about someday then and worrying about now, now?”
“It’s not like I didn’t know what I was signing up for. I met him at a strip joint while he was on tour. I saw him several times over the course of a couple of years. I knew if he was calling me up to tell me he was coming through town he was probably doing that in other cities, too.” She sighed. “I’m not that much younger than him!”
“She was just trying to say any nasty thing she could think of.”
“And Ford is not a ‘condom accident!'”
No, but it’s what I’d name a queercore band if I ever started one, I thought. “Not unless you treat him like one.”
“God, who would do that.”
My own mother, for one, but let’s not talk about her. I poured her some fresh hot chocolate from the pot.
“I should be able to handle this better,” she said, her lip quivering like she might start the waterworks again. “This has made me into such a freak case and I don’t want Ford growing up with a freak case for a mother.”
“It’s okay, Mel.”
“It’s not okay! You’re being so nice to me when I don’t deserve it–I know I don’t after the way I treated you–but no one else in the band will even talk to me anymore!”
I hadn’t realized it had gotten that bad. I tried to make it not about her. “They’ve each got their own dramas to deal with. And stop with the ‘I don’t deserve it.'”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“We had this part of the conversation before. Stick it out until you get back to LA, and then get into therapy. Together and separately if necessary?”
“Until then, be nice to yourself when no one else will be. I say this as a person who regularly beats myself up about stuff.” I sipped my cocoa and then wrapped my hand around the warm mug again. “I have to remember to ask more hotels for hot cocoa.”
“It is a good idea,” she admitted. Then, gingerly: “So, how is your hand doing?”
“It’s fine,” I said. “Well, as fine as can be expected. My doctor said it’s healing well.”
“That’s good. Does it…” She looked into her mug instead of at me. “Does it hurt?”
“Not currently, no. When it does, it’s because the muscles cramp up. I take a pill for that.” I felt like trying to sugarcoat it for her would be too obvious and she’d think I was just lying to make her feel better. Best to just tell it like it is. “And the pill keeps me from drinking, too, which I’m starting to think is a good thing at least for a little while.”
She yawned. “This hot milk is making me want a nap. While the baby’s asleep is the only chance I get to nap, too.”
I recognized a cue to leave when I heard one. “I’ve been meaning to go do that myself.” I set my mug down and turned to go.
Before I could get out the door, though, Mel hugged me. I hugged back. I could feel how lonely she was like cold deep in my bones. It’s one of the weirdest things about tour life. You’re constantly surrounded by people and it’s hard to get time by yourself, and yet you’re lonely.
I went back to my room, failed to sleep, and ended up racking up some very large phone bills talking to a long list of people just for the hell of it.
Evening time rolled around. Someone knocked on my door and I opened it expecting Remo and maybe an apology. Nope, it was Jam and a dinner invitation.