Ziggy and I didn’t try again during the rehearsing.
Personally I felt fine the next day as long as I didn’t think about what had happened. He did not bring it up and I was not seized with the urge to scream again. I kept my distance and he kept his.
Essentially, we went back to play acting that the only thing we cared about was the band, the songs, rehearsal–the things we’d actually argue about.
On March 1st the producer Mills wanted, a pretty hip late-twenties guy named Jordan Travers, arrived in Boston. He’d produced a slew of other acts for BNC, some rock, some pop, even one or two R&B albums, which I thought was both cool and strange at the same time.
By then we had fourteen songs to choose from, some better than others. He came to the studio straight from the airport with his bags. We were taking a break when he arrived so we heard him coming up the stairs. He had the same leather BNC jacket as me, skinny wrap-around shades, and more hair in his goatee than he had on the rest of his almost-shaved head. Thank god. If he’d been another middle-aged suit I think I would have had a nervous breakdown right there.
He waved from the doorway like he was waiting to be invited in. We invited him in, gave him the quick tour of the fridge, video games, sound console, and then ran down names.
“You sure about these names?” he asked, as he jotted them into a day planner. “Some bands all have different nicknames they insist on in person,” he explained. “I’m happy to call you whatever you want.”
“These are already our nicknames,” Chris explained back, and we got down to work.
I had to struggle to forget Jordan was there. If I thought I was too self-conscious before, the feeling was ten times worse knowing he was standing there listening. At least Jordan seemed like a relaxed kind of guy, more like us than like Mills. He strolled back and forth and sat in the window looking out at the traffic while we ran through a bunch of tunes. He said nothing for hours. I spent all of Wonderland and Intensive Care sitting on a crate with my head bent and my eyes shut. He didn’t say anything until we took a break for dinner.
He was a rice noodle man, meaning we took him to Chau Chow, the el cheapo Chinese place around the corner–I mean, every place in Chinatown is pretty cheap, but some are cheaper than others. This place had more the atmosphere of a diner than an ethnic restaurant, which is to say none. Red vinyl banquettes, green formica tables, and a bevy of white-shirted waiters who sat at a round table in the back and waved you toward a booth or table when you walked in instead of standing up. They were always the same waiters, no matter what time of day we went in.
We knew from eating there often that if you wanted a glass of water, it was better to ask the younger guy with the glasses. With the older guy who always looked unhappy about something, each person at the table would have to ask individually for water and then he always brought the glasses sort of suspiciously three-quarter full. Some nights it didn’t matter who you asked, you could get twenty pots of tea and still never get a glass of water. But the food was awesome. Somehow, sometime, someone had gotten me to try the chow fun noodles with beef brisket and I’d gotten sort of attached to the huge white rice noodles covered in blobs of beef fat and soft meat. Every time I ordered it the waiter, no matter which one it was, would double check that was what I really wanted. Jordan Travers dittoed me on the order and after the waiter was gone Chris shook his head.
“I don’t know how you guys can eat that stuff.” He’d ordered chicken and vegetables on rice and a Diet Coke. Christian was not what I’d call overweight. But he was not only the tallest of us four, he was also the only one with any bulk. He was always complaining about how I seemed to be able to pack away as much food as I could without ever getting paunchy. The typical exchange went something like this:
Chris: Jeezus, how can you eat all that? You must have a hollow leg/tapeworm/bucket in the back…
Me: Can’t talk, eating.
Chris: I mean, jeezus, where does it all go? If I ate like that I’d look like Chaka Khan/Jabba the Hut.
Bart: He’s making up for not eating yesterday.
Me: Forgot to.
Chris: Here, take mine. Maybe I can transfer some of this beer gut to you.
Me: Give me your beer instead.
Tonight’s exchange though, being performed for Jordan Travers’s benefit went sort of like this. After the opening comment, Jordan, who was downright skinny, said, “I really need a lot of calories or I get burned out. I eat instead of sleeping.”
Chris came back with “Is that like smoking instead of eating?”
Jordan shrugged. “Mills tells me you’re all non-smokers.”
Chris held up his hand boy-scout-pledge-wise. “I quit. Can’t say about these three babes in the woods.”
“Just never started,” Bart and I said in unison. Ziggy didn’t say anything, but put a hand to his delicate throat and cleared it with a high pitched “ahem.”
“But seriously,” Chris said, bringing the subject back to food. “You’ll be amazed at what these little twerps can pack away. I mean, use McDonalds as a baseline measure, okay? Your average adult is supposed to eat, what, a Big Mac, large fries, and a large soft drink, right? Now, you figure that includes men and women, young and old. So factor in that Daron here’s twenty…”
“Twenty one!” Bart said emphatically and grinning like a fool. I don’t know who I was more embarrassed for, him or me.
“…one,” Chris corrected and went on. “And possibly still growing, and so say you make that two Big Macs.”
“Quarter pounders with cheese,” Ziggy said. “You’re the only one who likes the Big Mac.”
“Whatever. So this little guy orders three Quarter Pounders, a large fry, an apple pie, and a large drink.”
“But he never finishes the drink, you know,” Bart put in.
I began to feel downright silly with everyone talking a mile a minute about my eating habits.
“I always get to finish his Coke,” Bart explained to Jordan, “so I only order a medium.”
“ANYWAY,” Chris said with a smoothing motion of his hand like he was planing off wood, “The point is, he takes in like twice what a normal-sized person does, and he’s not even the size of a normal person, and yet, look at him, he’s a stick. What do you weigh, now, ninety eight pounds or something?”
“That’s because he burns off all his calories worrying,” Ziggy said.
I stood up. “Taking a leak,” I announced.
“Probably purging,” Chris called after me as I rounded the table of waiters to the little back hallway that housed the restrooms.
Chau Chow’s restrooms are phone booth sized and cleaner than anything you’ll find in Manhattan, which isn’t saying much, I know. I didn’t really have to piss, but I did anyway now that I’d bothered to go back there. And then there wasn’t much to do while waiting what I hoped was a long enough time that the subject of conversation would have switched to someone else. I looked at myself in the mirror. If I took my hair out of the pony tail it hung to the middle of my shoulder blades in the back but there were still parts of the front that didn’t stay in the bunch, and I was constantly sticking them behind my ears. I wondered how Digger had looked at my age. Other than the bits of my chin that I shaved every other day I felt like I looked essentially the same as I had when I was fifteen or sixteen. I cracked my knuckles. It wasn’t like being in here alone was any better really than being out there with them. I didn’t like the scrutiny either way.
The other thing we like about Chau Chow is how fucking fast it is. You don’t really have a relaxing meal the food comes so fast. The other four were already digging in to hot plates of food when I sat back down.
For the record, I am five-foot-four and weigh one hundred and twenty pounds.