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Ziggy: This is My Story (And I’m Sticking to It)
He has no idea.
He really doesn’t.
He’s so used to fading into the background that he has no clue how beautiful he is. Daron, I mean. He had no concept of himself as attractive.
This puzzles me. At first I thought it was an act, false modesty. But as I got to know him I began to realize, he not only doesn’t think of himself as attractive, he doesn’t even really have a good sense of what he looks like to others. This is a guy who will walk around all day with his shirt buttoned wrong and never look in a mirror to figure out he’s still got stage glitter in his hair from the show the night before.
This really hits home when are in Arizona to film the “Why the Sky” video. We’re in the make-up trailer, and he’s getting his face done while I’m getting my hair done, in adjacent chairs. And he is arguing with the stylist.
I come to the poor woman’s rescue. “Dar’, just let her do her job.”
“But I don’t want to look done up for this.”
“That’s the point. She’s going to put make-up on you so that no one can tell it’s there.”
“Then what’s the point of it?”
The stylist and I exchange looks, and I think of what to say. “That’s the thing. Because of the lights and the way the camera works, you’ll look all washed out and weird if they don’t put something on you.”
He looks at me like he thinks I’m kidding, and I see him go through a thought process. I am seeing this all too often, weighing whether to believe me or not.
He decides to believe me this time. “Okay.”
The guy trimming my hair pokes me with his thumb. “What about you? Want me to change anything?”
“Yes,” I say. “Change everything.”
* * * *
I’ve been trying to figure out when I started to lose him or if maybe I never had him at all. Thinking back, it’s more likely the latter. He doesn’t even remember the first time we met.
It was a party on the Cape, with a bonfire on the beach, and he was sitting on a log playing guitar with Bart, but Bart was only playing half the time, and chatting up some girl the other half of the time.
OK, I’ll admit, I was chatting up a girl myself, a different girl from the one who’d brought me to the party in the first place, who had gone off with some preppie guy supposedly to try to score more drugs. I wasn’t much interested in drugs then and I was pretty sure it wasn’t drugs they were scoring anyway. It ended up with a bunch of couples all making out around the fire, except for him, just playing the guitar and sometimes singing softly to himself.
In case you’ve never tried it, sex on the beach is actually pretty hazardous unless you like abrasion and sand in places it really shouldn’t go. So I didn’t stay down there long. The girl and I went up to the house and found an unoccupied bed, but in my ears it was like I could still hear him.
I figured I’d never see him again. I forgot the girl’s name immediately, but I didn’t forget his.
Sometimes I want him so much, I think maybe it’s more than I’ve ever wanted anyone in my entire life.
* * * *
He’s standing on a butte in Arizona, with a hot dry wind blowing his hair back and the sunset painting the whole landscape with umber and gold, staring at his shoe. He has no idea how much the camera loves him. He isn’t even aware that the camera is on. He’s in his own little world and I really wonder what he’s thinking about.
I hope he’s thinking about me, but he’s probably thinking about music.
Some days, I feel like my one goal in life is to get his attention.
Lately, though, when I get it, it’s usually for the wrong reason. That night, we’re back at the hotel where they’ve put us and the crew. It’s nothing special, but the suite is spacious and some of the tech crew have gone out and brought back booze, and we’re sitting around shooting the shit. Daron’s got a guitar in his lap but he’s not playing at the moment, just lying there, staring at the ceiling, slumped on the couch. But the conversation flows around him.
It eventually turns to the usual subjects, which is to say, women, and as the all-male crew gets drunker, we end up talking about sexual exploits. One of the camera crew tells a hilarious story about losing his virginity to an older woman, which for some reason rubs me the wrong way, and the next thing you know I’m being challenged to tell my own.
“How old were you? Was she older, too?” the guy says.
“Yeah, she was older. I was fourteen,” I say.
“Fourteen!” Bart sounds surprised.
“Why, how old were you?”
Bart is pretty hard to shock, and I realize his exclamation wasn’t shock at all but something else when his apple cheeks redden. “Oh, it’s just, I was fourteen, too.”
Camera guy shakes his head. “That’s why you guys are the rock stars, I guess.”
Bart shrugs. “She was sixteen, does that count as an older woman? We were in an all state high school band together.”
“Two years? Eh, maybe. At that age, everyone out of high school is ancient,” I say.
“So how old was she?” Camera guy asks.
I realize that I have no idea. “Old.”
“Like, old old? Or just old.”
“I dunno, like twenty five maybe?”
“Holy crap, talk about robbing the cradle…!”
“Well, I lied and told her I was eighteen.” My turn to shrug. “Maybe she was only like 22, 23. Hard to say. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal.” What had mattered most to me was that she was old enough to decide for herself what she wanted.
“Did she believe you?” one of the other video guys asks.
“I guess so. Like I said, we didn’t make a big deal out of the age thing. She didn’t even know I was a virgin.”
“You think I wanted her to think I was an eighteen year old and still a virgin?” I shake my head. “Besides, if she knew she was my first, it could get complicated. I was just in it for the sex.”
Nods all around. I don’t even have to get into the whole thing about how I thought it was better to lie about my age to get laid than to pressure girls my own age into doing something they weren’t ready to do.
Daron leaves the room before anyone can get around to asking him about his first time, mumbling something about jet lag and a headache.
I go into his room a little later and hand him a bottle of Gatorade I bought out of the machine by the lobby. “It’s the altitude and the dryness, or so they tell me,” I say. “This’ll help. Drink it.” He does what I say.
If only he always would.
* * * *
Okay, while we’re on the subject of first times, I have a kind of confession to make.
I really fucked up my first time with him.
Not that I regret it, don’t get me wrong. That was some of the best sex I’ve ever had, with anyone, of any gender or age. He’d probably say the same.
But it’s complicated. He actually is the first guy I went all the way with. But I played that up too much maybe, and so if I ever tell him the whole truth, it’ll come out like a lie. I let him think I was a lot less experienced than I was and now that he’s figuring that out… he’s slow on the uptake, you know, but he’s not stupid.
I played “doctor” with friends when I was a kid, both boys and girls. I jerked my best friend off when we were twelve, at a sleepover (and then he was too chicken to do me back).
I’ve watched a lot of gay porn. And I know I’ve got a reputation now as reckless. But I wasn’t so reckless that I ran out and tried to suck or get sucked in a Times Square theater on my eighteenth birthday. The word about AIDS was just starting to spread then. Or I should say, the fear about AIDS. It made me not just steer clear of sex with men. I steered clear of gay men’s culture as a whole. I didn’t really start looking into it until after Daron and I got going.
And then I’m not even sure why I did, other than Boston had a pretty vibrant gay men’s scene then. Bookstores, clubs, bars, gay-owned cafes, newspapers. I started soaking it up; it was like discovering a new cuisine.
But like I said, I don’t know why I bothered. He may be gay, but he’s not culturally gay, if you know what I mean. I guess it’s like the difference between being Israeli and Jewish or something. He’s homosexual, but he doesn’t fit any mold of “gay man” out there.
And of course I live to break the molds. But he’s pretty much texbook “straight-acting, straight-seeming.” It’s hard to tell how much of that is he’s suppressing something, and how much is just that his cultural role models are so different. His role models are people like Eddie Van Halen. And Remo Cutler.
I dont know why I ever thought it could work with me and a guy like that.
* * * *
Arizona is another planet. Mars, maybe, since everything is all rocky and desert-like and reddish.
After I put Daron to bed with his glass of water, I went out the back way from the hotel to see what there was to be seen. I got in a cab and started asking questions–cabbies always know where the hot places are. He dropped me off at a nightclub with loud music and a line outside.
I didn’t get into much trouble. No one recognized me with the new hair, and the number of people who tried to speak Spanish to me told me I didn’t look here the way I do back in Boston.
In Boston, I read as “ethnic” when I’m not just plain passing for white. “Ethnic” could be Greek or Italian, I’ve learned, whereas in New York I’m more often mistaken for Puerto Rican, or mestizo. No one knows what the fuck I am.
And I like it that way.
I came back to the hotel around four in the morning, having had my dick sucked (badly, but can’t be choosy all the time… and she was pretty) and having lost a few hours to some pill in combination with some drink(s).
Here’s where I’m supposed to say I would rather have spent the night with him, right? Except that would be a lie. I like my fun. But I wouldn’t mind spending the NEXT night with him, you know?
* * * *
“There’s no hope for this. We’re just going to stick you in sunglasses.”
The stylist’s voice is too loud in my ears. My head feels tender to the touch. Even I can see in the mirror my eyes are bloodshot to hell, though. They’ve already tried industrial-strength Visine and it was all I could do to keep from screaming when they put it in. “Fine.”
The director is wringing his hands. I mean, literally like grabbing himself. “Oh, if only we’d done those lip sync shots yesterday,” he is saying, pretty much to himself. Like what he’s thinking is ack, rock stars, why did it have to be rock stars? Get used to it, buddy.
“We’ve still got tomorrow,” Daron points out.
“True.” The director takes a clipboard from the skinny female PA standing next to him and looks it over. Daron takes it from HIM and scribbles something on it and hands it back. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“I want some sunglasses anyway,” I announce. “The sun here is fucking killer.”
Another PA, this one male and in need of a shave, hands me a pair. I put them on and slink out of the trailer, waiting for the Tylenol to kick in.
Daron comes up to me a little while later, with a bottle of Gatorade. “This’ll help,” he says. “Drink it.”
“My head hurts,” I say. “I mean, like, hurts.”
He looks at me like he has no idea what I mean, but then I think maybe he does, because he reaches out and runs his fingers very very very gently through my hair.
It feels good. I lean toward him.
He presses his fingers against my scalp, both hands now. We’re sitting on a low rock wall at the edge of the parking lot, and the sun is lethally bright, but he’s massaging my head. I see him do these little exercises all the time with his fingers, like he’s playing invisible pianos, and it gives him such a light touch.
I want him to touch me like that all over, but I’ll settle for this right now. My jaw relaxes. Time stops moving, but his fingers don’t.
And then someone is calling us to get in a Jeep to head up to the butte again, and he pulls away before I can say thank you.
* * * *
That night, no shenanigans, because we’re going to shoot at sunrise. It’ll be our final day of filming, and he and me and Bart decide to stay up all night instead of trying to sleep for like 4 hours before the wake-up call.
The two of them are playing guitars, and then after a while Bart switches to a little Indian drum someone picked up as a souvenir along the way. And I start singing along, not like singing singing, you know, just kind of joining in.
There’s no audience here, not even the rest of the crew, just the three of us. Even Christian’s asleep already.
Daron starts up the riff of a song we worked on with Jordan, one of the ones we didn’t end up putting on the record, one that didn’t really quite come together, but which goes around and around and around now, and I’m making up lyrics as we go, about flowers and rocks and clouds, and dancing and love and, like, kittens and stuff.
When we wind down, Bart’s laughing, and Daron has a goofy, self-deprecating grin on his face, and all I want to do is kiss him.
No really, just kiss him. Which would lead to me wanting other things, but I’m not kissing him so let’s not go there.
The moment passes, and he starts playing something else, something I don’t know, but he only has to wind around it twice maybe before I start to make a melody on top, quiet and sweet. He’s picking individual strings, and it reminds me of a music box, and I hum and la-la-la a counter-melody.
Bart falls asleep with the drum in his lap, and Daron and I just keep going along. And the next thing I know he’s singing with me, harmonizing, this song with no words at all, but the melody is as clear as words in my head, and his too, I guess.
Can’t be explained in words, maybe. What that’s like. Making music with somebody like that, with no idea where it’s going, just in the moment.
Okay. I suppose it’s like sex in that way.
We aren’t even looking at each other, and we don’t have to be. When our eyes do finally meet, we bring the song to an end.
There are no words. We have nothing to say to each other that isn’t hurtful. So we don’t say anything. By telepathic agreement, we say nothing. He slips the guitar into the case, and then sits in the silence.
Or almost silence. Bart snorts in his sleep and breaks the spell.
“Maybe that’s a good idea after all,” Daron says.
He goes to bed alone. I stay up and write lyrics to the song, wondering if I’m even going to have the guts to show them to him later, or if that’s just going to be one more thing we’ll fight about.
Not that I’ll give in, of course.
I finish the song and the wakeup call is going to come in under an hour. I take a shower and lie in bed damp, watching TV. The Candlelight video comes on and I watch it, the golden light and screaming people and his fingers crawling up the neck of his guitar… I can’t even remember which city we were in when they filmed the footage. San Diego?
If it was San Diego, I suddenly realize, then it was before. Before him and me. Before I knew what his mouth tasted like.
His mouth, but not his sweat. There’s a moment in the video where we’re pressed so close together, I get his hair in my mouth.
I can’t wait to get the taste of Christmas out of my mouth. We’ll be on the road soon. And you know how tours are. Things happen. I fell into his arms once. Maybe this time he’ll fall into mine.