We walked back up to the Orpheum to find our stuff long since loaded out and a couple of caterers and stage hands cleaning up the mess. Carynne told me everyone was probably at a party on Landsdowne Street, upstairs from one of the clubs. Another Mike Fink thing.
“Don’t you live over there?” she’d asked.
“No, I moved in with a bunch of guys in Allston.”
“‘The Headbanger Ghetto,'” she said without irony. “Well, come on, let’s go.”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to a party, but what the heck, I could ride that far in a cab. I might even make the last outbound T from Kenmore. But I changed my mind in the car. What would I do at home? Sit around, climb the walls, feel sorry for myself? At Mike Fink’s party I could get drunk or, at the very least, tire myself out enough to sleep tonight instead of lying awake replaying bad moments from the show.
The party was loud, something with distorted raucous guitars pumping out of a hastily setup PA, and crowded with people trying to talk over the sound of it, all echoing off the concrete walls of the industrial space. The backstage party had migrated to the new place and grown by three or four times. Some guys wore suits, others sported the uniform of music industry types: jeans with a T-shirt and suit jacket. The room was crowded with people, women in holiday gaud, musicians in anything and everything. I saw Christian’s hat in the crowd.
I wondered if the gear was back in the Chinatown loft, or if it was sitting in the van outside somewhere. Then I decided it wasn’t my problem, not right now, anyway. I got myself a beer from a garbage can filled with ice and bottles and settled into a blank space of wall to drink it and lean my back against something solid. Carynne gave me a little wave and weaved into the crowd.
Now that I was here, I felt a little sleepy. Maybe the Percocet. Or maybe I was just tired. My thumb hadn’t bothered me for hours. I held the bottle in my right, just in case. I had a few more of the formula conversations like before, only louder this time. Curious, that most of them didn’t even try to tell me their names. Why, so they wouldn’t feel hurt when I didn’t remember them later? Or because it really didn’t matter? The one who did say her name more than once, in a longer-than-usual variation of the exchange, I realized was trying to hit on me.
I thought about Carynne’s question about whether I was gay or bi, and about Carynne’s former interest in me. What would happen if I went along with this woman (whose name I had forgotten despite its multiple repetitions) and we… did something? Would the so-called grapevine make something of it? I couldn’t see myself doing it, but I considered the act hypothetically. What was she looking for? Would she be upset if I forgot her name later? Would she expect me to see her again? How did Ziggy know these things, or did he? I got so deep into wondering that I missed most of what she said and she got a suspicious look in her eye. “What?” I said, holding a hand to my ear to be polite.
“It’s too loud to talk in here,” she said into my ear. “You want to go downstairs?”
“I, uh…” What… my ride’s here? I’m waiting for somebody? Have to talk to somebody first? “Gotta go to the men’s room.”
I pushed away from her before she could say anything. So began the next line of wondering, was that more rude or less rude than telling her I wasn’t interested? Was she used to being treated like that? Did she often hit on musicians? I picked another beer out of the barrel as I went toward the actual men’s room. What if I’d kissed her there, in front of everyone? My stomach clutched as I imagined what Ziggy’s reaction to seeing that could be. Oh, man.
I should have stopped that train of thought. But the barrel of thoughts had started rolling and I began calculating the days since I’d last gotten laid. No, you don’t want to know, I almost said aloud to myself.
I felt like I’d been cheated out of something by the way the show had fallen apart, like I was still holding my breath, waiting for that moment when I could lose myself, forget myself, a moment which never came. A moment which, I realized, never came anymore when Ziggy and I had sex, either. Not since New York.
I pushed open the door to find Chris and two guys in Ska Ka Doodle suits clustered around the counter of the sinks. I was already mustering up the words for an apology for missing load out when Chris waved me over. “You want some?” is all he said. They were cutting apart a few inches of brightly colored paper with the tiny scissors of a Swiss Army knife.
I would have felt like a rube if I’d said “What is it?” so I made the assumption it was blotter acid. If there was some other drug that came like that, I didn’t know what it was. “I think I’m too tired.”
“Take some for later,” he said, wrapping the rest of the paper up carefully into a small square of tin foil. Then he put the tin foil into a tiny Zip-Loc bag. He handed the bundle to me and I stashed it in my inside jacket pocket. They each took a small piece and put it into their mouths. “I probably won’t be home tonight,” he said to me as the three of them went out into the party.
I finished my beer leaning against the counter and left the empty next to the sink. The woman had probably given up on me by now, I thought, but I used the facilities, washed my hands, and pushed my fingers through my hair in the mirror, to kill a little more time.
I was about to leave the room when Ziggy came in, his face flushed and his hair a little slick with sweat, like he’d come straight from the stage. He was smiling, but alone, until he saw me, and his eyebrows came down like the wings of a hungry hawk. “What the fuck is the matter with you?”
“Merry Christmas, Zig, having a good time?” I said, not quite as convincingly as I might have.
He shoved me by the shoulder and stood in my face. “I’m serious. People are talking about you and it isn’t in a good way. And where the fuck have you been?”
“Goddammit, Daron, you are seriously fucked up, you know that?”
“Yeah, I know that,” I said, my fake calm giving way to a singing tension in my spine. “You should, too, since you’re the one who fucked me up.”
“Sure, blame it on me, Mister Secret Bullshit Man…”
I must have made myself some promises that I’d never try to hit him again, but if I had, I forgot them all. I slapped him across the face with my right hand and it felt good. I just opened my palm and laid it right across his mouth. He didn’t hit back, just stood there, slack-jawed while I took the opportunity to get a word in. “No. No more. Either you quit yanking my fucking chain, and we figure this thing out, or as of tonight it is over, do you understand me? Done.”
His tongue moved inside his open mouth until he unfroze enough to speak. His voice came out hoarse and shakey. “What… what’s done?”
“You, me, the band, everything. You think I enjoyed thirty minutes of pure hell tonight, huh, Mister Singer? You think I…”
“Whoa, whoa.” He regained his voice and came down to Earth. “Daron, calm down, Jesus, man.”
I closed my mouth but I wasn’t any calmer.
He went on. “Okay, alright, let’s get into perspective. I’m sorry I yelled at you. But you know, I really do depend on you when we’re up there, man. I mean, fuck, you weren’t like this in Florida, even sick as a dog.”
“I know.” Why did that have to be the truth? Why couldn’t he tell me some ridiculous outright lie so I could scream at him, hit him again, anything. The anger was there, under my skin, and I couldn’t let it go.
“What was I supposed to do?” he went on. “We were losing the crowd, and I was running out of tricks. I kept hoping you’d, you know, snap out of it.”
“Yeah, well…” I breathed out through my teeth and I felt the anger flare like I’d blown on a coal. What had Carynne said, get it all out on the open? Something told me the men’s room wasn’t the place to do that, no matter how bad I wanted to stick it to him. “I think we should talk about this later.”
He clenched his jaw and fists in frustration like oh-come-on, but he didn’t push it. His eyes went back and forth across my face. “Alright.” Now he put a hand to the red place on his cheek, never taking his eyes from mine.
I’m sorry I hit you, I thought, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak the words. Not when it was a lie. Maybe later I’d be sorry. I could always tell him tomorrow. Now go find yourself some wet little groupie. I couldn’t say that either. After a moment, he turned away and left me alone.