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