154. White Room

I returned to the hotel dazed and sleepy. The colors and lights of the lobby seemed too bright while the sounds of clerks on the phone and the elevators dinging seemed muffled and distant. In the hallway to my room the seams in the carpet interested me more than the pattern and I decided I was tired.

The suite was dark and empty, the bed squarely made. I took off my boots and jeans and sat on the couch by the phone, not quite ready to lie down in the bedroom yet. I pulled the Ovation out of its case and played for a bit, my mind looping on a sexual rhythm and a trance of no thought, just the notes through my fingers like water. The trance lasted until my thumb began to ache and I was putting the guitar to bed when I heard the door lock engage and Carynne’s high-pitched giggle.

Ziggy opened the door with a very drunk Carynne draped over one of his shoulders like a fringed cape. “Oh, hey, Daron,” he said like he hadn’t expected to see me but was now trying to act like he had. “Whoa…” He boosted her up a little and she tilted toward me and waved, her eyes half-closed. “I, uh, I think I better get her to her room.”

I nodded. The door swung shut on the sound of the two of them giggling now, as they went back out into the hall to go down a few doors. I switched on the TV. After two videos and a slew of commercials had gone by, I decided it was unlikely Ziggy was coming right back. I killed the set and went to lie down.

Being as tired as I was, with so little sleep, I would have thought I’d go out like a light. But the quiet and calm I’d found with the Ovation in my hands mere minutes ago was gone, and voices chattered around in my head, keeping me awake like someone trying to talk to me.

I was trying to tell myself not to worry about Carynne; she was a big girl and could take care of herself. If even half the things she’d said about her escapades on previous tours were true, then a drunken night with the Z wouldn’t bother her, and that’s assuming they did anything but just pass out. But did it bother me?

The more I tried not to think about it, the more I thought. My overtired muscles no longer wanted to lie comfortably and I turned over, listening to the sounds around me as if they might distract me from the voice in my head. The sound of the city outside was like the rushing sound inside an airplane, but quieter. What makes a city sound like that from rooms in high rise hotels? The occasional slow surf-breaking sound of a car going down the avenue, the HVAC hum in the building’s bones…

But there’s another sound, a background whisper, like the hiss of an amp left on. I started to write a lyric in my head. The sound of alleys and buildings sliding past each other, like continents on the move. I could also hear the muffled sounds of a banjo–the Beverly Hillbillies in reruns on a television in some other room, another insomniac trying to numb his brain. I couldn’t tell if he was above me or below me.

The sheets were soft and the pillow firm as I slid from side to side searching for sleepiness. The mini-bar refrigerator kicked on and added its trickle and buzz to the soundtrack. I found myself wondering the stupidest things, like if she’d do the same things for him as she had for me, and if he made the same faces when he came with a woman as with me. The banjo was jangly like my nerves and I wished I was unconscious–a good thing probably that none of our crew was into recreational sleeping pills because I’d have been popping them like M&Ms.

That’s what killed Hendrix, you know. Not insomnia, taking too many pills for the insomnia.

The word insomnia has too peaceful a sound to it, like a monk’s chant–in-som-ni-yah. I tried to remember the name of the guy Carynne had brought to my birthday party and couldn’t.

The refrigerator shut off with a stalled-engine stutter. A car alarm complained in the distance. The unlocated television switched to “I Love Lucy” and I wished I wasn’t alone.


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