799. Pandora’s Box

I could have probably titled these chronicles “Things I Know Now that I Didn’t Know Then.” Sure, most of what I’ve learned is things about myself–and relationships. But then there are the simple things like, oh, if you nearly pass out incoherent chances are you should’ve gone to the ER.

As it turns out, I was fine, but if it happened now probably a lot of people would have advocated for me seeing a doctor. Back then, they asked if I was okay, I said yes, and that was the end of it.

The trucks and crew and other buses left and ours stayed. We didn’t get rolling until almost three in the morning, waiting for Remo to come back from taking Claire home. It was far to her place, I gather. Most people didn’t let the bus’s lack of movement stop them from settling into their bunks to sleep.

I should have tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I sat at one of the small tables in the front of the bus and ended up writing a somewhat incoherent set of notes trying to get my thoughts in order and failing.

Court didn’t sleep either. She sat nearby, reading a book and glacing nervously at me from time to time.

“I’m not going to keel over,” I finally said, flipping my notebook shut in an annoyed fashion.

“You’re sure? What happened?” She moved closer to me so we could keep our voices down. “You came in the one minute I went to the restroom.”

“I wondered where you were.” I ran my knuckles under my chin. I’d shaved the day before that and it felt raw there, like I’d accidentally taken off a layer of skin. “She was…so Claire it was like Claire turned up to the max.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, like, if our mother’s a real person I’ve never had a glimpse of it, only the act she puts on.”

“Did she say something terrible to you?”

“No.” I tried to think how to describe it. “It was like she acted so nicey-nice it was not real. It was a hundred percent fake.” I stood up and put myself in her choirgirl posture, pretended the pole holding up the cafe table was Remo, and mimed kissing it on the cheek and flirting the way she had. Then I play slapped Courtney on the arm as if she were me, parroting what Claire had been saying.

Court’s eyes were extremely wide. “You imitate her scarily well.”

I sat back down. “That’s what it was like.”

“That was, like, a pro level impression of her.” She shivered. “I see what you mean, though. She’s always like that at first, though, you know? It takes a while for her to loosen up and show her real self.”

“Uh huh, which would be when she’d let how much she hates me show. I guess I prefer the fake front.” I shivered, too. “Then she said something about the show being magnificent, and I have to assume that was fake, too, I guess.”

“Daron.” Court was looking down instead of at me. At her hands. “She cried during the show.”

“And what does that mean? Good, bad? Seeing Remo again was probably a pretty emotional experience.”

She made a resigned noise but there was an edge of exasperation in it. “If it’s the show you’re thinking about, let’s just say she was really impressed. I’m sure of that.”

“Okay.” That made me feel a wee bit better and I don’t even know why. “What happened with her and Remo after I got the ice pick to the brain?”

She sighed. “I’m not sure exactly. Do you remember me and Flip moving you?”

“Vaguely. All I really remember is the feeling that my skull was cracking.” I put my hands over my eyes. “I’m just curious what she said to convince Remo to drive three hours out of the way.”

“I don’t know.” She sighed. “I’m sorry again for surprising you, but it all came about kind of suddenly. You know, I thought I was just going to drop by and visit her for an hour or two. But as we were talking it was clear to me she was really curious about what you’re like now, and she’d never seen Nomad play. She’s never even seen your videos or theirs.”

“Didn’t you say her new husband was a rock-and-roll-hating evangelist?”

“Well, what’s funny is he’s apparently okay with appropriately patriotic good ol’ boy music, which means country mostly but Nomad apparently counts. You know, the devil’s music makes people take their clothes off and glorifies drugs–punk, metal, rap, R&B–but everything else is all right.”

“Heh. Yeah, skimpy bikini music we ain’t,” I said, putting my hands down and looking at her again.

“So the next thing I know she’s getting permission from her husband to go see the show.”


“That’s how these old-timey patriarchal religious marriages work.”

“That blows my mind.”

“You can see why I had to get the fuck out of here.”

“And she likes it?” My mother, who wouldn’t let Digger tell her the time of day much less what to wear or where she could go. I could not imagine it. “Is she happy?”

“Well, she quit smoking, which was good for her, even if she did gain thirty pounds.”

“I thought she actually looked…better. With the extra weight, I mean. Which is heresy, I know–”

Court snorted. “I agree with you. Maybe being with a man she doesn’t have to starve herself for is what makes her happiest of all.”

“So you think she’s happy?”

“I think she’s convinced herself that she’s happy,” Court said. “I sure as hell am not going to try to mess that up for her.”

“Other than by bringing her to the show.”

“She decided she wanted to go.” Court looked at her hands again. “Might be the only chance she gets. Who knows. She was conflicted about it. You know, seeing her old lover again? Was that a good idea? The son who hated her?”

“She hated me first!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, cowboy, this isn’t a competition.” She looked me in the eye then. “I’m just saying, it wasn’t easy for her to take that step. I’m not saying you don’t have a right to feel the way you do, just trying to look at it from her point of view. It was a pretty fraught situation for her, too.”

“You’re saying the Roman arena was scary for the lions, too.”

“Well, it probably was.”

I suppose she was right. The bus door opened then and Remo came up the steps looking tired and a little disheveled. He said something to the driver–who was sitting on the banquette behind the driver’s seat–and then came toward us while the driver got in place.

“You all right now?” he said to me.


“He telling the truth?” he asked Court.

“Far as I can tell,” she said. “Thanks for taking Mom home. I–”

She didn’t get to say anything more as Melissa came bursting out of her bottom-level bunk. “Remo Evan Cutler!”

“Mel, don’t you start–”

“Don’t start! How dare you! What the fuck did all the promises you made me yesterday and the day before that and the day before that about how these old flames don’t mean anything to you and they’re in the past and not to worry about the women throwing their bras on stage or shaking their boobs at you in the lobbies or hanging around the stage door!”

Stage door? I thought. Such a Broadway term. Funny what sticks in your mind. The bus began to move.

“Mel, this was not like that.”

“You just abandoned all of us to go fuck some gal who knew you when!”

Courtney jumped to her feet. “Excuse me! That was my mother!”

Mel’s eyes were kinda crazy but her voice got deadly calm. “That is exactly what I am talking about. Remo, that is the last straw. The very last straw. Your surrogate son’s actual mother? No wonder you couldn’t stop yourself.” She turned back to the bunk and pulled out Ford in a baby basket (there’s a name for those things, isn’t there? baby basket doesn’t sound quite right–it’s something like that, though).

“Melissa, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Remo tried.

“The hell I don’t. Let me off of this bus. That’s it.” Her pitch was starting to rise again. “I can’t take it anymore and it’s cruel and unusual punishment to force me to watch you carry on like you do!”

“Mel, it’s three in the morning and we’re in the middle of nowhere.” Remo tried to be reasonable. “We’re not letting you off. Now come in back so I can explain.”

“You can explain it to the judge when I serve the divorce papers.”

Oh shit. Oh shit shit shit. I covered my eyes with my hands and waited for the headache to hit.

(I *was* going to pick a song by Toto for a chapter in Kansas [see what I did there?] but this one’s been staring me in the face from the list of 1991 hits for a very long time. I didn’t remember the video at all. When I saw it and heard the lyrics I knew this had to be the song for this chapter. -d)

Note from ctan: Any of you who like heterosexual rockstar romance and wouldn’t mind helping out with a few quick clicks? Add yourself to the “Thunderclap” announcement campaign for my January 31st release Hard Rhythm. On that day everyone who has connected to the campaign will simultaneously tweet or post a message saying the book is live. Costs no money and would help me a lot: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/51269-spread-the-beat-of-hard-rhythm


  • steve says:

    I’m sorry, I know this will be difficult and painful for people and introduce additional unwanted complications and all, but …

    Mel’s got to go. No more Mel.

    • Mark Treble says:

      1. Remo made a huge mistake in driving Claire home. She got there somehow on her own. He should have just handed her the broomstick.

      2. A possible outcome is divorce and a nasty custody fight that Remo wins. He’ll then write and record, but for live performances it will be Daron’s band. With Daron pulled in two directions.

      3. In September I started a new thread in DGC Discussions entitled “Mel.”

    • daron says:

      I’d go one further and say moms and tours don’t mix but I am obviously biased.

  • Iain says:

    Well, that was an argument that started high in the stupidsphere and went even higher. That said, this has always sounded like a marriage that shouldn’t have happened.

    Did Remo marry Melissa because he cared for her or because he thought this was the best chance to have a family life that he sort of wanted? And if Melissa felt that way about his life and career, did she marry him only because she felt she should because of the baby?

    In any event, as long as Nomad is touring, Melissa won’t be around him long enough to settle and feel secure, if she ever would. And clearly, the fact that this is Nomad’s last tour for a while doesn’t signify. And at some point, Remo’s patience with reassuring her is going to evaporate.

    • daron says:

      I keep coming back to the fact that she hid the pregnancy from him until she was almost ready to pop. She wasn’t going to tell him at all and then something made her break down at the last minute.

  • s says:

    Oh, Mel. This whole situation is screwy. They clearly didn’t have a strong foundation, since she didn’t even tell him she was pregnant until she was about to pop, and she has never felt any security emotionally with Remo. Now she’s had 6+ hours to stew while Remo was out driving his ex-lover home. And honestly, I couldn’t have been the only one wondering if Remo would have sex with her while they were gone (less so after what Court said, but still). I don’t think this relationship ever had much of a chance, really, but maybe she’ll listen later when she’s no longer seething.

    Also, I totally bristled when Court said permission.

    • chris says:

      Yes to bristling on permission! Also, is Daron going to think that relationships are doomed by touring? Although I hate to agree with Mel in any shape or fashion, WTF Remo….part with a few dollars and send her home in a cab if you have…or send a roadie.

    • daron says:

      Uh, to be clear about the math, we were waiting more like 3 hours total, not 3 hours each direction on the driving Claire home thing. But that’s still a lot of time to lie around stewing.

  • Amber says:

    Melissa’s giving me a headache.

    And yay to finally being caught up on reading again.

  • G says:

    What is Claire’s life, anyway? She needed permission to go to the concert, but it is perfectly cool to have an ex-lover drop her off at home? I just don’t get her whole existence right now.

    I agree with everyone who said that Mel and Remo’s marriage wasn’t rooted in a firm foundation. I’ve been just hoping they would make it through the tour without stuff just blowing all the way up. Well, almost made it. She was always just too insecure in her place in Remo’s life and heart – she knows she could have very easily remained one of the women she screams about him seeing all the time. I think she shot herself in the foot multiple times during this tour. I’ve gone from cold to lukewarm with her, but ultimately she messes her own case up.

    Too much of her angst is tied up with you (even though this bit is a roundabout connection), Daron, and that’s unfortunate because I can see you feeling just a tiny bit guilty for the crap that’s gone down with her during this tour. If you do, make sure it’s really tiny because that woman has some stuff of her own to wade through; it’s not your issue.

    Finally, WTF, Remo? His wife can’t stand him spending five minutes alone with Daron yet it is okay to drive Claire home? On what planet would that be okay? By now he should be just biding his time until it’s time to go home with that crazy lady, not inviting more trouble. Yes, that’s what roadies are for. Or cabs. Or buses. Or Courtney. Or hitchhiking. Any of the above could’ve gotten Claire home.

    • daron says:

      I think the culture shock Mel’s going through boils down to the fact that when she was in a relationship with Remo before, when he saw her it was all about her. He would be escaping from the tour to take her out, or making her feel special by seeing her when he would pass through town, etc. and she got to know him on that one-on-one basis without ever having to see or put up with all the connections and relationships he has to other people in his band and in his life as a whole. Now that she’s part of that life she’s constantly being confronted with the fact she’s not the only important connection. The thing is she really is extremely special to Remo, a relationship really not like any other he’s ever had or ever will, but she can’t seem to see past her own insecurities to realize that for herself. Sigh.

  • Bonnie Sinnock says:

    That explanation was helpful, Daron, cause I was all like what’s up with her?

    • daron says:

      I think people are never prepared for the culture shock bc no one expects it really. On this side of the stage we live in a really different world (and we can easily forget that ourselves).

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