862. A Face in the Crowd

No one had to go to the hospital this show. I considered that a win. A couple of people took hits off the oxygen tanks at various points. I could almost hear the wheels in Carynne’s mind turning as she added that to her mental contract rider for future shows above 3,000 feet of elevation or whatever.

The band also stayed together. Another win. I mean, we did what we were supposed to, which shouldn’t seem exceptional. But you know what I mean.

Ziggy was incandescent. The crowd was even more frenzied than the previous show. Whatever Ziggy’s marketing team were doing publicity-wise was working, I guess. A star ascendant. He must’ve sung “Into the Night” on some national television show yesterday because more people knew the words than the show before.

I wrote that song. I kept forgetting that. It was in the inventory of songs I’d left with Jordan, and he’d wangled it into Ziggy’s hands. I never asked whose idea that had been, I just knew Mills wouldn’t have approved if he’d been asked in advance. He wasn’t asked. I vaguely wondered how much money would eventually end up in my bank account from songwriting royalties if the song went gold in a foreign country. Was that like a hundred bucks? A thousand? Ten thousand? I had no idea.

We were late going out for an encore because I needed a couple of minutes worth of oxygen before I was cleared to go back onstage. The chanting and cheering for us to come back was loud and intense in a way I wasn’t used to. Audiences in the U.S. are often too jaded or laid back to really demand an encore, even when they love you. It’s pretty much de rigeur and they know it. But I guess the longer we made them wait, the more the Colombian crowd felt they needed to prove their devotion or something.

As if I didn’t have enough stage adrenaline running through me already, plus oxygen. The sound when we took the stage was like the roar of a rocket taking off. The chance of me getting winded during the an encore like that was already high. In the thin air it was pretty much a guarantee. If it had been a Moondog 3 show–or even a Nomad show–I would have just sat on the edge of the riser and trusted everyone to stay together. But given the issue we’d had in the previous show I felt like staying on my feet–and staying visible–was important.

Although, thinking about it now, was it really that I wanted to make sure everyone could see me, or was it that I wanted to be able to see them?

I don’t remember if I described how the last number in the encore was an unspecified length and the idea behind the performance was it turned into a huge on-stage dance party. The song was called “Right Right” and it had one of those endings that the band could just go around and around on forever. In rehearsal it had come across really corny, mostly because in rehearsal the dancers weren’t very good at pretending to be spontaneous. But with the entire audience going nuts, it worked. They danced and screamed like they never wanted it to end, but they knew it was going to.

I couldn’t go on forever, though, even if I really liked the solo I was laying down on top of the groove. Now that I knew that lightheadedness was likely lack of oxygen and not just end-of-show euphoria, when I started to feel like my head was a balloon pulling me this way and that so it was hard to stay on my feet, I gave the signal to the band to wrap it up. Now they really had to watch me, because it was one of those endings where everyone went bananas. Watching me was the only way to all end together.

I made it, though. I didn’t even have to dive straight for the oxygen tank after we took our final bows. I gave it a few minutes. I put a dry shirt on first.

Oxygen plus post-show high–plus what else was in my system already–was a potent mix. My hand didn’t hurt at all, neither did my head or my lungs or any of the other parts of me that weren’t working right. I watched the people around me to-ing and fro-ing while I was rooted to the spot where the medics had set up a few chairs next to the tank.

If I thought my head felt like a balloon before, being attached to an air tank by a hose only increased the feeling, even though I was better oxygenated. I was just floating there feeling like I might fly away if I weren’t tethered there.

I realized my eyes were raking back and forth across the people backstage searching for Ziggy.

I took the mask off and started to wander away. One of the medics tried to stop me. I’m pretty sure he said I needed to sit there five more minutes. I told him in Spanish that I was fine and he let me go.

No one was paying any attention to me as I floated toward the indoor green room inside the stadium. I don’t remember asking anyone where he was. I feel like I just followed my nose. I found a party going on. He didn’t seem to be there so I figured he had to be prettying himself up to join the throng.

Or more likely Bernard prettying him up.

Yep, I eventually tracked the two of them down, not in the main green room but in a small restroom they’d commandeered off the beaten path. Bernard looked at me and gasped in horror.

“What, am I white as a sheet again?” I asked.

“Darling, you look a mess. Give me one minute and I’ll get to work on you.”

“I don’t nee–”

“Daron,” Ziggy said, meeting my eyes in the mirror. He was sitting in a folding chair with Bernard standing behind him. “Let Bernard fix your hair and come with me to meet and greet some people.”

“No,” I said. I climbed onto his lap, straddling him, and sank my fingers into his newly done hair. I set about wrecking his lipstick with a kiss that was better than oxygen, though it left us both breathless. When I opened my eyes, Bernard had discreetly disappeared and Ziggy’s fingers were entangled in my shirt.

“Why do you want me to come with you to meet and greet people?” I asked.

“Because I’d rather be with you than without you,” he said. “And that’s what I have to do.”

I thought about his answer while kissing him again. I thought long and hard.

Heh. I said long and hard.

“Go do your meeting and your greeting.” I didn’t want to let him go, but I also didn’t want to hide there forever, which felt like the other option if I didn’t propose something better. Which I tried. “But beg off as soon as you can. I want you in my bed tonight.”

“You feeling better?”

“If I don’t see you, I’ll feel worse.”

He gave me a serious look. “You’re sure.”

“Physically, mentally, I’m a wreck, and if I don’t want to be an emotional wreck, too, I fucking need to see you.” It felt odd to hear the words come out of my mouth because until I said them I hadn’t known it with such clarity.

“You’re high,” he said, an indulgent smirk on his face.

“Yes. Which is why I can say that and not repress it for whatever fucking reason.” At that moment I couldn’t really remember why repression was a thing. “Does that mean you have to turn me away like some kind of gasoline-flavored red wine?”

He allowed the puzzlement to show in his eyes. “Like…what?”

“You know. The other night on the mountaintop. I don’t know what you said to the waiter but–”

“Oh, that.” He laughed. “No. Me going drug-free doesn’t have to mean Daron-free.”

“Good. Because I’d much rather be addicted to you than anything else.” I kissed him one more time and then told Bernard he could come back in. I was in such a good mood then, in fact, that I let Bernard fix me up and I even went with Ziggy to the party. I went sailing through it on winds of post-show high, and when I felt the edges of the crash coming on, I gave Tony a sign and he got us out of there.

(Guys, I was going to ask for a favor today, but I can’t even remember what it is. Just heard about Tom Petty. A true American original. ctan and I just want you to enjoy some of his music today. That’s the best favor you can do for us and yourselves. -d)


  • G says:

    Slowly but surely, I’m seeing what I want to see. Get your man, Daron. For both of your sakes!

  • s says:

    Ok this sounds like Ziggy thinks Daron wants him to stay away. Wtf, Ziggy? Why would you even think that? Do you even know him? We wants you beyond all sense or reason (told ya you should’ve said the words instead of just thinking them, D).

    Tom Petty. I was walking around Harry Potter world in Hollywood yesterday when I heard the news. My heart is broken again. Even more so on the heels of what happened in Vegas. I don’t understand this world we live in. :'(

  • sanders says:

    I can’t think about Tom Petty not being here. I’m sure it will hurt like hell in a few days or the next time one of his songs comes around on my music player, and I’ll break. Right now, though, it just doesn’t penetrate past being horrified over the situation in Puerto Rico and then starting yesterday with my mom telling me about Las Vegas (so many shades of the way she came in to wake me and tell me about the twin towers). We are steadily losing any sense of safety alongside the people who gave us hope and escape from that, and I don’t know how to think about it. I don’t know how to feel it.

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