Digger’s advice to prevent a hangover was to always drink a glass of water before going to bed. I didn’t really believe him, because he often had a hangover anyway. However I always drank a glass just in case it helped. My theory was that if it did help at all, it was that the extra water got you up to pee sooner, before you could stew too long in the poisons. But that was just one of my personal beliefs, no facts to back it up.
Another one of my personal beliefs was that four months of ignoring each other while working together every day shouldn’t have had the same effect as having not seen one another at all. But as I said, my beliefs could be wrong. Ziggy and I were familiar strangers standing in that room together.
“Happy Birthday,” he said while I took a glass from the cabinet and filled it from the tap. It was a McDonald’s glass with Ronald the Clown on it that one of us must have got free at some point.
“Thanks,” I said for lack of a better thing to say. I drained the glass and put it in the sink. I started upstairs and he followed me all the way into my room. “Were you…?” I’d meant to say something about a cab, but didn’t.
He shrugged. “Just wanted to know how you’re doing, that’s all. I mean, with us working every night and, you know.”
“So? How are you?”
If I thought I was relaxed, I was wrong. Suddenly I felt brittle like glass, like if I moved I might shatter. “I… I’m…” I felt a little drunk, too, but it wasn’t until his fingers touched my chin that I felt dizzy. I hadn’t realized I was looking down until he tilted my face up.
He wasn’t doing his sultry, seductive brown eyes thing. Instead, he looked at me, slightly smiling, like he had just remembered a cute story. “Hey.”
“Hey,” I said back, like the word meant something. “I’m not sure…”
He took his hand back and stood still while he waited for whatever I was going to say.
“I’m not sure… what I was going to say.” I felt foolish. The birthday boy knows what he wants, does he?
Ziggy shrugged his shoulders. “I know things haven’t exactly been great between us lately. I’ve been kind of a jerk. But I was hoping maybe I could make it up to you, if you’d let me.”
I closed the bedroom door, which I suppose was my version of an answer. Would I have done it if I weren’t still buzzed, defenses down and blood racing? I don’t know. I took his hand and tucked his fingers behind the button fly of my jeans while I kissed him. It felt good, like a good drink of cold beer, traveling down from my mouth into my gut. Something in my belly tightened at how much I had missed this.
We slipped down onto the mattress and he loosened my fly, then yanked my jeans and shorts down to the middle of my thighs. Before I could sit up to take them off the rest of the way, his hands were at my chest while his mouth lapped at my bare parts. I had missed him and it almost hurt to be there with him then, like putting a hand that’s half-frozen into hot water. My breath came in shuddery shakes.
But no matter how good he was, no matter how close he brought me to the top, there wasn’t a moment when I forgot who we were and what we were doing. I told myself that was okay, that this was just like the rehearsals before everyone knows their parts, awkward, self-conscious. When the show goes live it won’t be like that. But that lead me to thinking about the Christmas show and how bad that had been, and how if this wasn’t the real thing for me and Ziggy right now, what was it?
I chased myself around thoughts like those until I came. Then there was a mercifully blank moment, where all thought ceased and little black explosions popped in front of my eyes.
And then I was right back to reality, gasping for air.
He was stroking himself through his jeans, kneeling on the bed in front of me. His chin was wet. “Are you okay?” he asked. “You look kind of… stressed out.”
“I’m okay,” I managed to say, thinking I should feel proud that I’d had an anxiety attack there but hidden it. I was still breathing fast.
“What’s the matter?”
I wanted to deny anything was the matter, but something surely was. Every time I swallowed it felt like tears were about to leak out of my eyes. “It didn’t used to be like this,” I said, my voice sounding like it came from the other side of a river of static and blood roaring in my ears. “I didn’t used to… What is wrong with me?”
“Hey, hey.” His hand was warm on mine.
“I don’t know,” I said, to no one in particular, as my hands began to shake. I pressed them together and that only increased the feeling like my head was going to explode.
“Maybe I should go.” He held up his hands.
I felt like shivering even though I wasn’t cold. For some reason now the thing I wanted to do most in the world was scream at him to get out. Get out, leave me alone! But I thought I heard Christian’s heavy step against his floor/my ceiling, and Lars and his girlfriend laughed noisily down the hall. Still, in my mind I could almost see myself, like a movie, my mouth open and my jaw aching from screaming: Get out. Instead I stuck the heels of my hands into my eyes, pressing at the wetness there.
He was taking the hint and standing up slowly. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine.” My voice sounded small and enclosed in my arms. Get out!
“Really, it’s okay with me,” he said as he stood at the door.
“Yeah, okay,” I said.
If I were a space alien listening in on the conversation I’m sure I would have thought the word “okay” meant something like “horribly fucked up.” But then he was gone, and I lay back too exhausted to think anymore. I went to sleep with something loud and wordless in my headphones.
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