I waltzed into soundcheck feeling pretty good from Vitamin F kicking in. “Who’s doing the very last lounge act of the tour?” I asked.
No one moved a muscle. I gave it another couple beats before I said, “Am I going to have to do it myself?”
“C’mon, Daron, you hardly ever do it,” Martin pointed out.
It occurred to my foggy brain that they expected me to have something up my sleeve for today. Huh. If I hadn’t been as drugged up and distracted as I had been for the past few weeks I probably would have thought of that myself.
“Okay,” I said, adjusting my mic down to my height because it was too high by about six inches, while racking my brain. What song could I do? What song should I do? “You guys want to hear the first song I ever wrote?”
“You mean we haven’t heard it already?” Remo asked. “I remember some pretty early ones. Like the one about the train.”
The only thing that kept my cheeks from getting red at the mention of that one was the “chill pill” as Ziggy had called it. The song itself wasn’t as embarrassing as the fact that at the time I had written it I had somehow thought that a song about a train that had a locomotive rhythm would be a cool, novel idea. I was mortified to learn not only was it not novel, it was pretty much a cliché. Later in music school I’d even find out there were songs in other languages and cultural styles that used the train that way. Pretty much every folk music from a country where there were trains, from India to France.
“Not the one about the train,” I said. Besides, I had quit playing that one after that and didn’t remember it. But some of my early ones, I played from time to time, and they were better ingrained. Some without words, some with. “Flip, swap me?” I handed him the Fender and slung on the Ovation.
I had practiced this one some when I had been trying to get used to playing with the pick after the accident. So it was still relatively fresh.
To mess with everyone, though, I played “Mary Had A Little Lamb” first, just the first couple of bars until they had burst out laughing. “Just kidding, just kidding, here’s the real song.”
“What’s it called?” Martin yelled from the drum riser.
“Doesn’t really have a title anymore,” I said. “I never found one I liked.”
The melody was a run of notes that had been inspired by a song on the radio at the time. Do you remember an instrumental piano song called “Music Box Dancer” by Frank Mills? I was so excited that an instrumental song was in the Top 40 that I used to imagine myself playing something similar, but with the guitar. There have not been a lot of all-instrumental Top 40 hits in my lifetime, you know. Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good,” “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy, not many other than movie theme songs.
So I plucked out this song which had a plucky melody but a minor mode, punctuated by little chords here and there. What’s funny about it is the song is actually kind of hard to play because I didn’t know how to play that well yet, so I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I approached from what I wanted it to sound like without the kind of intrinsic feel for what works on the guitar that I have now. And if I were writing the same thing at age 24 instead of age 11 I wouldn’t use the pick it all, I would do it finger style.
Except who knew if I was going to be able to play finger style again. The only thing keeping me from worrying about that was Vitamin F.
Kind of a precious, sad little song, I guess. Probably a little bit influenced by “Longer Than” by Dan Fogelberg, too. But I guess I was a kind of precious, sad little kid when I wrote it.
When I was done they were silent and I felt like I’d done something terrible, like broken all their hearts.
Or maybe time was moving extra slow for me, and they were just taking a breath as they watched Remo come toward me and hug me. They started clapping on the hug. Maybe I need to work on the ending, though. The song just kind of stops.
“You’re a gem, you know that?” Remo said. “How old were you? Ten? Eleven?”
I nodded at eleven and he let go of me.
We played through one of Nomad’s regular songs but I had put myself into a real autopilot daze by playing that song of mine. I’d sent myself deep into my own head.
Melissa even liked it. She gave me an unprompted hug when we came off stage.
So did Carynne. “Be careful where you point that thing.”
“The guitar, you mean?”
“Your music in general,” she said. “You doing all right?”
“Drugged to the gills and feeling mostly nothing,” I answered. Which didn’t directly answer the question but let her draw her own conclusions.
“For someone who’s feeling almost nothing you wouldn’t know it from the way you play.”
“Good?” Right? “Um, have you seen Ziggy?”
“He was watching from the seats.” She gestured toward the arena.
I found him in the men’s room, though, since he had no interest in hearing Happy Occident’s soundcheck.
“Let’s hide in the bus,” he suggested.
“That is an excellent idea.” I followed him through the corridors to the loading dock. The bus was parked outside. I barely felt the heat and humidity in the short walk from door to door. Inside it was dim and cool. For some reason I was dreading Ziggy asking me how I was feeling.
But he didn’t ask. He put a pillow on one of the long padded benches in the far back and patted it. I lay down and he pulled off my sneakers and socks and proceeded to rub my feet much the way he would rub my injured palm. Except this was my feet and there was no injury to work around.
I just about passed out. In fact, maybe I did pass out for a little while. Later, when I was awakened by him cracking the knuckles of my toes by tugging on them gently, I asked, “When’d you learn that?”
“Reflexology? Some girl in art school used it as an excuse to touch me,” he said. “Supposedly different points on the feet correspond to different parts of the body so you can massage someone’s feet instead of all of them.”
“Huh. I’d think if she wanted an excuse to touch you she would’ve gone for the whole-body massage. Right?”
“Well, she did eventually, but it took her a couple of weeks to work up to it, and meanwhile she was actually pretty good at the feet so I didn’t say no. Also the feet was more appropriate for while we were waiting around for class and such in public. When she finally suggested the full body treatment we went back to her room and the only massaging up there was a euphemism.”
I chuckled, imagining it. “You let her make the first move?”
“Yeah. Sometimes you just know pushing isn’t going to get you anywhere. Besides, if it had stayed just an awkward friendship with great foot rubs, I was okay with that.” He put my jacket over my feet and moved to sit by my head.
“Was it less awkward after you slept together?”
He rubbed my temples and I felt myself melting again. “Yes and no. Our interactions were less awkward because once I had the green light to sex I kind of ran the show. But she was still an inherently awkward person. So it took a lot of work on my part to make sure it all ran smoothly. A lot of work.”
I admit I was curious. Probably to an unhealthy degree but I couldn’t hear any alarm bells right then. “How’d you break up with her?”
“I left art school after that semester so I didn’t see her anymore.”
“You mean you told her you couldn’t see her because you were doing something else?”
“No, I mean I just never ran into her again.”
I tried to let that sink in, but nothing was sinking in through the haze. “You mean… you never called her? She never called you?”
“I never gave her my phone number.” His fingers were working my scalp like he was shampooing my hair in slow motion. “It wasn’t bad, I promise.”
“How do you know it wasn’t bad if you never called her?”
He bent down and kissed my forehead. “Don’t judge what you weren’t there to see,” he said softly. “Not everyone gets as attached as you.”
Or you, I thought, but didn’t say. Was he saying he got unattached because he had to? Knew it was for the best? I couldn’t really puzzle it out. “Is that an art school thing?”
“Sleeping around a lot? I guess. It wasn’t just me, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I guess that was what I was asking. “How many people have you slept with, anyway?”
“I haven’t counted. I keep a list, though. You can see it when we get back to New York.”
“You most assuredly can, dear one. Unless you decide you don’t want to. We twined our lives together, remember? I feel that means, at least from my end, I shouldn’t keep secrets from you.”
“Is it a secret if I don’t ask, though?”
“But you did ask.”
So I did.
(Some of you know that Daron’s birthday is this week. He’s still low key about it, of course, even more now that he’s nearing 50, but if you want to get him something… how about a dollar in the tip jar? Then we can celebrate with an extra chapter on Saturday. *grin* -ctan)
(P.S. RSS seems to have quit working again? Ping me RSS folks if you have/have not seen the latest chapter while we try to diagnose what changed this time!)