I woke some time in the morning to find I was snuggled against Colin. No panic this time. He was deeply asleep and I didn’t have enough energy or neurotransmitters to panic at that point.
It did mean I lay there thinking for a while, though. About how Ziggy had said we should bring Colin on tour because I might need him. But how that had been before I’d proposed. About how I really had no one to blame other than myself that we hadn’t figured this out yet since I was obviously supposed to be the one to bring it up.
And then I told myself I had more important things to worry about than interpersonal crap, namely how was I going to make sure the next Star*Gaze show wasn’t as much of a disaster? But there really wasn’t anything I could do right this second about that…
So I ended up thinking about Jonathan. About how far from….myself…I felt at times in that relationship. And how that was ultimately what had made me feel trapped and like I had to get the fuck out. It was hard to be myself when I was being “Jonathan’s boyfriend.”
Ziggy and I had made a pledge, basically, to try to put our partnership above our individual wants and needs, but my feeling was that the reason a partnership with Ziggy would work was because with him I could be myself. And vice versa. We already knew each other’s major flaws and pitfalls. I didn’t have to try to pretend to be something I wasn’t.
And, to be honest, Ziggy was already a part of who I was. I had accepted that being in love with him was a big part of me. There’s a way in which proposing to him was my way of asking not if he was in love with me, too, but asking him to affirm that me being in love with him was… valid, I guess. And he did affirm that, as well as the fact he was in love with me, too. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of married couples out there who are not anywhere near as entwined in each other’s psyches as Zig and I were at that point. I suppose having kids together is the only other thing I can imagine that would entangle people’s selves and emotions and identities as much.
So, despite having barely interacted with Ziggy for the past two days except while we were on stage, I was feeling pretty good about me-and-Ziggy right then.
But Colin. I found myself unable to intellectualize what I had going on with Colin. Literally, as I was lying there, my thoughts on Colin were about this deep: Colin smells nice. It was like I couldn’t get beyond being a ball of hormones and urges about him.
Well, look how many years it took you to be able to think deeply and clearly about the Ziggy relationship, I told myself. I started out a bundle of hormonal urges about him, too.
Eventually the deep rhythm of Colin’s breathing lulled me back to sleep.
The next time I woke up was when Flip came in to brush his teeth and get dressed. “You can go back to your room if you want,” he said. “But Dessa You Know is starting downstairs.”
I swear that’s how it sounded when he said it, like a drag performer was about to go on stage. He meant desayuno: breakfast.
In Spain if we were conscious for breakfast that usually meant coffee and maybe bread and chocolate to keep the coffee from burning a hole in our stomachs. I was kind of expecting that in Latin America, too, but there were some more interesting choices. I’ll get to that in a minute.
First I extricated myself from Colin, who buried his head under a pillow and went back to sleep, then I went to my room. There was no day sheet under my door, which I found weird, except then I found it in the bathroom next to the toilet and realized Flip must have slept here and moved it from the floor by the door where it would usually be found since it was typically slipped under the door by Carynne or someone working for her. I washed and dressed and packed up my stuff so it’d be ready to go when it all had to be taken to the airport. Noon, according to the sheet. I knew from experience that noon could sneak up on me.
And then I went down to the scene of last night’s carousing. The lobby was mostly empty except for a two-person cleaning crew. In the restaurant there was no sign that last night it had been the scene of Arm-Wrestle-Mania. There was a buffet, and a hostess seating people. She showed me to a table where I sat only until they brought me coffee and then I went to check out the buffet. Some of it was familiar-looking American-style stuff like eggs, and some of it was similar but not the same like sausage that looked a lot spicier than usual breakfast sausage, and some of it was just baffling, like a large crock of what appeared to be chicken soup.
The chicken soup smelled amazing, actually. I ended up getting a bowl of that–maybe it was more of a stew than a soup–and eating it with a kind of thing that was, basically: imagine if an English muffin had been made with corn instead of flour.
I saw Bradley come to the host stand and waved him over. He sat down across from me, bleary-eyed. I then asked the waitress to bring another coffee cup.
“I didn’t know you spoke Spanish,” Brad said.
“‘Speak’ is a bit of an exaggeration. I learned just enough to feed myself and jam with other musicians,” I said.
“Oh, right, duh. When you were in Spain.” He gave one of those I-knew-that nods. He’d cut his hair–or Linn had ordered it cut–into almost a crew cut which I thought made him look smaller somehow, like a baby bird that just hatched and didn’t have full feathers yet. The blue accent in his was an all-over tinge rather than a streak, adding to the effect.
The coffee came and I let him commune with it for a while before starting to think I should say something before the silence got awkward.
He opened his eyes, though both hands were still wrapped around the cup. “I know. Pace myself.”
“I wasn’t going to criticize,” I said. “Just because I went to bed early doesn’t mean anyone else should.”
He shrugged. “It’s a fine line.”
I didn’t really know what he meant by that but maybe neither of us were sufficiently caffeinated to make total sense at that point. I think we agreed with each other anyway.
He went to the buffet and I stayed where I was even though I was done eating, because I didn’t have anywhere to rush off to and I felt it was polite not to leave a bandmate eating alone unless that was what they wanted. And I figure if that was what he wanted, he would have waved to me and then gone to his own table to begin with.
He came back with a plate of mostly chorizo and corn muffins and proceeded to stuff his face. While he was still eating he said, “Marvelle and I have an idea.”
“Yeah. For when we get to Brazil. He has a friend there, a drummer, and you know how ‘Parade’ opens with the big drum intro that’s got that Carnival feel?”
“What do you think about us bringing in a bunch of actual Carnival drummers?”
Intellectually I thought it was a fantastic idea. Emotionally I cringed at the thought of changing anything in a show that was on such shakey ground to begin with.
Maybe it’s me, I thought. Maybe you’re the only one who feels like it’s that shakey. Maybe it’s just you who’s shakey and everyone else is bored already and ready to stretch their wings.
I decided to stick to logistics. “Have you talked this over with Linn or Mickey?”
He shook his shorn head. “We thought maybe you could bring it up with Ziggy, who could bring it up with them.”
Right. Because if Ziggy wanted something it was likely to get done, whereas if I, as mere music director, wanted to make such a big change, they’d want to know why I was messing with it. Although thinking about lines of communication made me wonder. “Why are you telling me this instead of Marvelle?”
“I saw you first?” he chirped. But then he caved. “He thinks you like me and that you don’t like him.”
“I like Marvelle just fine,” I said, but it was only half-true. I was kind of wary from my lingering first impression of his attitude, even though he’d done and said everything right since. In fact my biggest worry had been that he and Brad wouldn’t get along, but while I’d been out on the road they’d grown tight. “Even if they go for the idea, though, how are we going to rehearse a group of drummers we don’t know?”
“We’re in Sao Paulo for like three days before the show,” he said, “plus a lot of the rhythms we’re using are traditional so they’ll know them already.”
“Huh.” It certainly sounded doable. Musically anyway. But I wondered if Linn was going to expect them to all put blue dye in their hair. “I’ll ask Ziggy what he thinks. If I ever see him, that is.”
I hadn’t really meant to say that but I guess my underlying thoughts have this way of coming out.
“You’ll see him on the plane,” Bradley said confidently.
We got our coffee refilled and I started to feel awake for real.
“So give me your honest opinion,” Bradley said.
Please don’t ask me about your hair, I thought.
“Do I have a chance with Colin?”
Oh, a much easier subject. Not. “It’s not impossible,” I said. “But didn’t you ask me this before?”
“I mean I really want to know if you think I should go for it or if it’s a long shot and he’ll shoot me down.”
No one else from the crew or band was near us but I glanced around to check. If we were going to have a frank conversation about who was going to hit on whom, the last thing we needed was someone catching just a fragment of the conversation and getting the wrong idea. Meanwhile in my own head an idea was brewing. If Colin was distracted with Bradley, it would make it easier for me to detach him from myself.
“You should go for it,” I said decisively.
Brad’s eyebrows flew upward. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Think about it. There’s no downside. I mean, what are the usual downsides? Rejection could happen, but you know Colin at least won’t freak out, bash you, or make your life miserable afterward.”
“Do I know that?”
“I’m pretty sure, anyway,” I said. “And likewise if he says yes he’s not, like, a total jerk in bed, either. He’s a very giving person.”
Bradley practically drooled into his coffee cup. “As if he wasn’t already the hottest thing on two legs.”
I blushed. Had I ever sat around and talked about how good a lover of mine was in bed? I couldn’t remember if I had.
“Any advice on how to approach him?”
“The direct approach is probably best. I’m not sure he really gets flirting.”
“I really can’t flirt,” Bradley said. “Or I haven’t figured out how yet. I mean, I kind of knew how to do it as a girl but it was one of the things I hated about being female.”
“Well, I haven’t figured it out yet either and I’ve always been like this.”
We both started to laugh at that. I hadn’t meant it exactly as a joke–I mean, it was true–but it struck us both funny at the same time.
When we calmed down, Brad went on. “So the direct approach worked for you?”
“Well, it would have, and if I’d had the balls to do it probably would’ve been better than what I did.”
“Which was what?”
“The indirect approach,” I said, without elaborating on what I meant by that. “It worked out eventually.”
“It makes sense to always bring him with you. I mean, that’s so much safer than going out cruising. And even if I wanted to take that risk, it’s just too dangerous for someone like me.”
I thought about Mitch and his notes about gay bars. “Well, honestly, I didn’t bring Colin along for that…” In my head I could hear Jonathan’s voice saying the words sex dispenser. “…so much as for about a dozen support functions. But yeah.”
In other words I’d finally come around to rationalizing that the “don’t fuck anyone on tour with you” rule really could only be applied reasonably to straight people because they had a lot more options. Your average straight guy rock band could wade hip deep through pussy all night long. The rest of us get just as horny, you know.
“So you think I should go for it.”
“Didn’t I just say that?”
“You did. I’m just trying to psych myself up to do it.” He let out a breath. “One step at a time. I figure I should get on his radar first before I make any big propositions.”
“You could always challenge him to an arm-wrestling match.”
“True. That’s a good idea. See if there’s a spark.” He nodded. “It’s so weird. Before transition I was mostly attracted to women and femme gay men. And now it’s like the straighter and more masculine they are, the more they crank my engine. The guys who are the least likely to be attracted to me in return, of course.”
I chuckled. “Those are the guys I was the most attracted to in high school. The guys who were mostly likely to beat me to a pulp behind the gym.”
“Huh, maybe it’s kind of normal then?”
“My therapist says transition is kind of like going through puberty all over again, so I guess I’m in my horny teenage boy phase or something.” The table wobbled rhythmically from Bradley’s sewing machine leg. I guess he was awake now, too. My own legs were starting to feel restless. Time to get moving.