I sat there with my arms folded on my knees and my head stuck in them for a few minutes, while the champagne mixed with post-stage shakes made me light-headed and my blood feel race-y.
When I looked up, everyone had drifted away from me, but the laughter of people in the hallway and muffled sound of drums and hum from the stage crowded my ears. People were saying “good show” in industry voices and I didn’t believe them.
I got a dry shirt out of my bag and then sat there wanting to put it on but suddenly not wanting to take off the one I was wearing. I forced myself to change anyway and decided to leave my jeans as they were. I put on a sweat shirt, too, the black one with the Tower logo that had been Michelle’s until she shrunk it in the wash. I wished she was here while at the same time I was glad she hadn’t seen the debacle that was the show. I wished I’d left the cast on, so at least I wouldn’t have to make up an excuse to everyone.
Yeah, yeah, it was the thumb, that’s the ticket. I felt like I wanted to cry but I was damned if I was going to with all these people around. The champagne churned in my stomach and I forced myself to get up and see what there was to eat. In the catering area people were clustered thick near the bartender but thin at the other tables. I soon saw why–everything but the garnishes had been picked clean. A slender hand reached out of the crowd for a rose-shaped radish. The rest of Carynne disentangled herself from the knot of people and came to stand next to me.
“You hungry?” she said.
“Great vegetarian Vietnamese place three blocks from here.”
“I’ll race you there,” I said, although we went back to the green room to get my coat and stuff, and I made sure the Fender was stowed with the rest of our gear before I took off. Let someone else oversee load out. Let me be the one to disappear for a change.
Carynne and I walked arm in arm into Chinatown and for some reason I didn’t mind her hanging on me. She huddled her face against my sleeve when the wind gusted and shrieked when I spun us around to walk backward into the wind. Soon we were inside, taking off our coats while I wondered if the velvet Buddhas on the walls were the Vietnamese equivalent of velvet Elvises.
“Jeezus, I’ve been eating in Chinatown a lot.” I told her where we were rehearsing and she agreed we couldn’t have picked a place more convenient to late night food. We ordered huge bowls of rice porridge and fried vegetable rolls and drinks made of crushed ice and fruit.
If Bart normally waited until after we had ordered to say anything serious, Carynne waited until we both had some food in our stomachs and I had my mouth full. “You said you wanted to talk about something. Finally getting in gear on your tour idea?”
I nodded and chewed down the strips of fried tofu in my mouth. The stuff was weird but good. “Did I tell you the whole saga?”
“You said something on the phone a few months ago. About not getting tour support?”
“BNC want us to wait. Until new album. Until new contract. Etc. I don’t want to.”
“You don’t have to, you know. Tour support is a joke anyway–it’s another way for the record company to spend your own money.”
“Yeah, I know. So say we do it ourselves. We’ll need an agent to do the bookings and I need a road manager.”
“You want Waldo’s num–?”
“Interested?” I asked, before she could say more.
“Me? You want me?” Her eyebrows went high.
“I’d rather have you than Waldo. Would you do it? And will you?”
“Shit, you’ve gotten direct in your old age.”
I blushed, feeling the champagne, the painkiller, and the hot soup all at once. “Learned it from you.”
She bit her lip in apology. “I can’t give you a definite right now, but I can tell you yeah, I’m totally interested. I mean, you know I can road manage already. But you don’t have an agent?”
“I’ve shopped around a little, but you know how I am with managers.”
She rolled her eyes. “Remind me I have something else to ask you. But anyway, listen. Ultimately I think that’s what I want to do.”
“Work at an agency. I sure as hell am not going to work for Waldo, and working for Fink is okay, but it’s just a stepping stone. Let me try to book the tour–I’ll road manage, too. You want to do this on a shoestring, you’ll never find an agency who’ll work within your limits. But I can do it.”
I laughed a little. Here I’d wanted to talk to her to see if I could convince her to do it, and here she was trying to convince me.
“There’s one catch, though, it’s all a matter of timing and how things are with the Weasel.”
“Do you mean Mike Fink?”
She laughed and slurped her drink through a straw. “Yes, Mis-ter Fink. And speaking of misters, what’s the scoop with the guy in the suit?”
I remembered her look from earlier when Digger had introduced himself. How much to tell her? Oh, fuck, if she was going to work for us it was better she know everything. “Don’t spread this around, please, whatever you do…”
She held up one hand in the Girl Scout pledge and made hurrying motions with the other.
“He’s my father. He and Remo were old friends when I was growing up. He left my mom a few years ago and just showed up on my doorstep. We hired him to get some financial stuff in order for us. He works for WTA.”
“No shit. Why don’t you just hire him? WTA’ll give you all the support you could want.” She looked more amazed than amused. “What does Remo think of it?”
“Shit, you know, I haven’t told him yet. It’s a pretty recent development.” I couldn’t remember now what else I might have said to her about my parents in the past. “For a while there I never thought I’d see him again. But he caught up with me through his connections after reading the Spin article.” I took a few more bites of my soup, figuring that was the end of that portion of conversation. Wrong.
Carynne was pursing her lips like she was tasting something she couldn’t quite identify. “Will he be traveling with us?”
“You. Theoretically us, if I take the job.”
“No, I don’t think so. I mean, he’s doing mostly financial planning or what have you. He might want to come to a few gigs… I don’t know.”
She nodded like she was satisfied and we ate in silence for a little while. A wave of drowsiness from the Percocet made me shiver. Then she put down her spoon and said, in a different tone of voice, “So, how have you been?”
I shrugged. “Other than a sprained thumb, fine.”
She raised one eyebrow at me. “Grapevine says otherwise.”
“What?” I felt a little dizzy suddenly, and put my hands flat on the table. “What grapevine?”
She gave me an oh-please, don’t be so naive look. “Okay. Here’s the rumor: Ziggy made a pass at you and you tried to kill him.”
“What!” I wanted to stand up, or hit the table, or something. “Who on Earth did you hear that from?”
“I’ll tell you if you tell me what really happened.”
“Why? So you can tell it to someone else?”
She pinned me with a narrow-eyed look. “You didn’t really mean to say that.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry.” And I was. “That’s my paranoia talking before my brain. But I don’t know what I can tell you, really.”
“Daron.” She put a hand on top of mine. “If I’m going to be on the road with you, it might be helpful to know what to expect. But beyond that, shit, boy, I think you could use some help.”
“Is it that obvious?”
“What, that you’re a fucking basket case? To put it mildly, yes.”
“Alright, fuck, where should I start this? How about I back up a little. Car, what do you really know about me?”
She ticked things off on her fingers. “Guitar prodigy, on stage by the time you were a teenager, got a lucky break with Remo, been on the cover of some major magazines already. That’s what I know. There’s a lot more that I suspect. But don’t make me play this game, because you won’t like it.”
“Alright, I’ll be…” My mile-a-minute brain almost said “straight,” didn’t, but laughed at the joke before supplying the word “…honest. Ziggy and I have been sleeping together since the summer festival gig in Los Angeles. I… it was… I don’t know, it just kind of happened.” I watched her face carefully, but she showed no signs of surprise, skepticism, nor weirdness. “While we were on the road things seemed okay, but now that we’ve been here, we just can’t…” I waved my hands, lacking words to describe the situation. “We get into fights all the time. And yeah, one of them got physical and I ended up with a hurt thumb. Stupid. It’s been kind of a truce since then. But I’m afraid we’ve lost our stage chemistry.”
She was nodding her head slowly, as if to a faraway hip hop beat. After a few, she said “That’s a mess, Daron.”
“No lie, bwana.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
“Yeah, do. What are you going to do to fix it, make up, get things cool between you again?”
“I haven’t the slightest.” I was looking down into my empty bowl now. “I mean, it seems best if we just lay off each other. Don’t you think?”
She snorted. “Not if the result is a show like the one you had tonight.”
“Oh fuck, was it that obvious?” I asked again.
“No, no,” she said quickly, suddenly placating. “It was a good show. Don’t be all het up about that. I bet Mills loved it. But to someone whose seen you before, I mean you you, it was definitely an off night.”
“It sucked,” I said, and felt better for admitting it aloud. “I never want to do a show like that again.”
“Then you gotta work things out with him, Dar’. Figure it out. Because if you leave it as is, it’s going to get worse. And it isn’t him I’m worried about.”
“What do you mean?” Those four words sounded entirely different coming from my mouth than from Digger’s.
“I mean you. I’m worried about you. I see a lot of casualties, so to speak, in this business. Burn out, and worse. And fuck it all, man, I don’t want to see it with you because of some jerk who can’t keep his pecker in his pants or whatever.”
“I…” I looked into her face and she was the most serious I’d ever seen her. “I don’t know what to say. Thanks, I guess?”
“Can I ask you another question?”
“Are you gay or bi?”
“Neither,” I said quickly, because that sounded better than “I don’t know” and I’d promised myself I wouldn’t say that anymore. I tried to laugh but the chuckle came out choked. “I think I have a thing for singers,” I said finally.
“Well,” she said, as she waved for the check. “It’s nice to know you keep your options open.”