The next day I had a total meltdown. Maybe you saw it coming. I didn’t. (Do I ever?)
It was an off day. We were in some generic highway hotel of some kind, a Best Western, maybe? In the middle of basically nowhere. If we’d been in a city I would’ve gone walking when the restlessness came on, but that wasn’t the case. I was avoiding Jam just cuz, which meant avoiding the gym since he liked to go there, and avoiding Flip because they were hanging around together that day. Which was fine, you know, if they got along it was no skin off my nose. I was avoiding the Mazel brothers because if either of them was on an off day bender I didn’t want to know about it. Martin had hooked up with some girl already that he knew in town.
Understand. I like some quiet time to myself. But I was too restless to enjoy quiet time by myself.
When I first moved to the Fenway, before we signed with CR, before me and Bart got together with Ziggy, I used to sometimes walk across the park from my neighborhood (which was all archaic five and six story apartment buildings) to the edge of Back Bay to the Tower Records. Tower was open until midnight and if you went in there at eleven o’clock at night it was full of people browsing. Whether they were paging through the book section, wandering the aisles, listening at listening stations, scoping each other out, or what, didn’t matter.
I know now what I was looking for wasn’t a new CD or record but the life I wanted to live, the person I wanted to be. The other people floating through were also loners and dreamers and alternative lifestyle seekers. Today if Tower were still standing you’d call the people meandering through at 11:30 at night “hipsters” and “creatives.”
Maybe it was something about being in Kansas and feeling like I didn’t belong there–maybe some subliminal message from the Wizard of Oz and gay iconography had sunk into my brain–or maybe it was just being trapped in a place that’s no place (i.e. a Best Western on the edge of a highway) reminding me of my childhood, or maybe I was just at the end of my rope.
I really, really wanted a drink. An alcoholic drink. And that scared me, because I didn’t think I’d ever really wanted one that badly before. I decided it was reverse psychology at work: since I was really really not supposed to drink at all because it might react badly with Vitamin F, therefore I wanted it more than ever. Me being stir crazy probably had nothing to do with that at all, but at the time it felt good to have an explanation.
I wandered around the hotel. Hotels always have curious back corners and service areas. In this one I took a service elevator from the third floor and ended up in an unused kitchen–for banquets only, I guess?–where I found a table covered with dozens of miniature paint cans, shiny new, each with a tiny plastic statue of a cow inside, glued to the bottom. Art…?
My wanderings eventually took me down various hallways of rooms. Did you know that even in a really generic-looking hotel the art and carpeting are sometimes different from floor to floor? That’s how restless I was: I was looking at hotel art.
I was definitely not looking for a fight. Running into some drama was the last thing I wanted. But I guess Remo and Melissa were having so much of it at that point that it was hard to find a point where they were together when there wasn’t the potential for a fight.
I ran into them in a hallway when they were on their way from Remo’s room somewhere. To eat, the pool, somewhere. Doesn’t matter.
Shit. I’m now having a mental block about what their argument was over. Hang on. It’ll come to me.
Okay, maybe it won’t come to me. Maybe that means it doesn’t matter what they said. What matters is I ended up back in my room punching the numbers 9-1-1 into Ziggy’s pager inbox and then getting into the closet with a blanket.
Don’t read too much symbolism into the closet. It just seemed like a good idea to be somewhere dark and quiet and small for a while.
Of course that meant when the phone rang I had to extricate myself from the closet, knocked over the iron board in the process, and scraped my shin on the door. Maybe that’s why when I answered my adrenaline was spiking and my hands were shaking. I was wearing the splint but they were both shaking.
It was Carynne. “Hey. Are you okay?”
“Areyou sure? Because you sound–”
“You’re right. I’m lying. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me.”
“How about you back up and tell me what’s been going on?”
So I tried to compose myself and figure out what to tell her about paint cans and Kansas and whatever else but what came out was, “I’m freaking out and I don’t know why.”
“Are you on any kind of drugs?”
“No. Took a Flexeril yesterday. No drinking. I’m jittery as hell and I haven’t even had caffeine today.”
“Maybe you should try some and see if it helps? Hang on, I’m paging your doctor.”
“I don’t think this is a doctor-type problem,” I said. I was now lying down between the two double beds in my room with the phone cradled to my ear. “I’m just going stir crazy and I can’t figure out why.”
“Does there have to be a why?”
“Doesn’t there? How can I make it stop otherwise?”
“Do you really think if you can figure out what’s bothering you that’ll make you feel better?”
She was silent a moment, which I took to mean she wanted to say no but didn’t want to seem negative. Or something like that. She settled on, “Okay, how about you tell me what’s bothering you, then.”
And I guess I was basically startled into saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” And then I burst into tears. Because what a fucking horrible thing to say. Or think. Or feel.
“Honeybunch, listen, I’m in Boston right now. I can’t get there until tomorrow. Is Remo there?”
“No, Remo is not fucking here. He’s ass deep in mama drama anyway and I sure as hell don’t want him knowing I feel this way.”
I missed whatever else she might have said for a little bit then, because I cried myself into a coughing fit and it took a while to calm down and listen again.
“Do you really mean that?” she asked.
“That you don’t want to…” she trailed off. “You weren’t very specific.”
I sat up and forced myself to take deep breaths. “I don’t even know. I just… I hate everything right now.”
“You don’t really mean that.”
“Don’t I?” I pulled my hair with my good hand–I think just to feel something real, something that I could sense and evaluate in a way that I couldn’t with emotional pain.
“How’s your hand?”
“My hand is my hand. It’s holding up fine.” In fact I held it up to look at it and wiggled my fingers at myself. It didn’t feel right but it didn’t hurt.
“But it’s not fun.”
“No. Not really.” The performances were fine but I didn’t have much memory of them because I was in a Flexeril fog during them.
“And if there’s drama with Remo, that’s not fun either.”
“And you can’t do a lot of the other things you might do for fun because you’re babying your injury.”
“So is your problem that everything sucks or that you can’t figure out why everything sucks? Because it sounds to me like maybe the problem isn’t with you. Maybe everything actually does suck at the moment.”
That was about the most sensible thing I could imagine her saying. It sank right into my brain like an ice pick into Jell-o. “Oh.”
“Five more dates, Daron. Can you do it? Because you have the absolute perfect reason why you might want to come home early and start physical therapy.”
“No,” I said immediately.
“Can you imagine how that would look? It’d be like I quit Nomad for Ziggy.”
“No,” I said more firmly. “No. I’ve got to try to keep my commitment. I’ve got to, or I won’t live with myself.”
“Okay. Given that self-loathing is half your problem I don’t want to suggest anything to make it worse. But can we back up a little?”
I picked out a red extension that had come loose when I’d grabbed my hair. “Back up to what?”
“To you feeling like the world’s ending. Checklist. What’s on it?”
“Did you eat today?”
“I did.” Although it was getting to be time to eat again, I realized. That was the problem with off days.
“Are you hydrated?”
“Well, I haven’t done anything to dehydrate me today really…”
“Daron, it’s August and you’re in Kansas. When was the last time you remember drinking something?”
With breakfast. Hm. “Okay, okay. Hang on.” I dug one of the Flip-stashed bottles of Gatorade out of the side pocket of my duffel. I drank half of it in one go. “There. I just had a half a bottle of Gatorade.”
“Good start. How’ve you been sleeping?”
“For shit mostly.”
“Okay, well, at least it’s only another week. When was the last time you got off?”
“Don’t you brush this off, D.”
“I really haven’t been interested.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
I sighed. I know. Ziggy had brought it up many times, but when I heard I from him it was harder to separate from our various interpersonal issues. Hearing Carynne bring it up this cut and dried forced me to look at it from another angle. “I’m trying out being faithful.”
“I mean, of course Ziggy. But does that mean you can’t jerk off?”
“That’s one of the things I shouldn’t do with my hand.”
“I thought you were ambidextrous.”
“This is the one thing where my left feels wrong.”
We sat there in silence for a while, contemplating that. It’s the little things the bring you low sometimes, you know?
She started to speak first. “Okay. Last thing on the list. Have you talked to Ziggy?”
“Just paged him a little while ago.” A feeling of sneaking suspicion crept up the back of my shoulders. “He didn’t tell you to call me?”
“No, I was calling you just to check up on some stuff.”
“Oh, crap, I wonder if he’s trying to call me back?” I climbed up onto the bed. “My message light is blinking.”
“I’ll call you back in an hour after I check on the Flexeril side effects, okay?”
“Okay. I’m a lot calmer now, anyway, C. I’ll go see if that was him.”
We hung up and I retrieved the message, which was a voice mail. It was from Ziggy.
“Hey. I’m at a film festival in Portland. What’s going on? I want to hear your voice. I need to hear your voice. Take down this number. I’m at a hotel.” He rattled off a number and I literally talked back to the voice mail as if he could hear me telling him to slow down and hang on while I grabbed a pen. “I miss you. I want to come back here sometime together. Call me. Okay, Daron? You’re making me worried.”
I hit the number to replay the message four more times, just to listen to him, which was calming, before I actually dialed the number.
He picked up on the first ring. “Hello?”
“Oh good. You okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. I was feeling a little miserable and sorry for myself but Carynne cheered me up.” Okay, so that wasn’t exactly how it went, but close enough. I was ready to forget that I’d had that momentary lapse. I quoted Han Solo at him but I don’t think he got the quote. “We’re all fine here now. How are you?”
“Tired and I miss you.”
“Same.” I lay down on the bed with the phone on top of my ear. “Sometimes when I haven’t seen you in a while everything seems less real somehow.”
“And here I thought it was when we’re together we’re living a fantasy,” he quipped. “What’s that song from the early eighties? By the guy in the leopard print suit.”
“Aldo Nova, ‘Fantasy,'” I told him. “I think the suit was only in that one video.”
“Whatever happened to that guy?”
“I don’t know. I think he’s Canadian,” I said, as if that explained why we didn’t know.
“Hey, do they have MTV where you are?”
“Not sure, why?”
“Turn it on. I’ll do the same.”
“Okay.” I flipped on the TV and poked through the channels and lo and behold there was MTV.
And that’s how I passed the next hour running up a large phone bill, saying mostly nothing but lying on my bed watching TV, while Ziggy watched the same thing and made occaisional comments. It was a weird way to feel connected when we were half a continent apart (I never did find out if he was in Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon) but it was the best we could do.
(Another hit from 1991. This one I liked. -d)