Energy came back to me slowly and I got up to find Colin had already dismantled my rig and carefully stowed the guitars in their cases. He was working with Chris and Kevin on getting the drum kit apart. “Thanks, man,” I told him.
“No sweat,” he replied, handing me a cymbal stand. “You’re paying me, after all.”
I put on a dry shirt and my denim jacket and looked around for Carynne to find out what she thought of the show. I was hoping to hear some effusive praise, actually. But the only people I could see were the crew and Chris at the kit, and Bart with one elbow on the bar talking to the tall girl from the front row who’d been glued to him earlier. I went and got the water I’d been wanting and sat back down on my crate to wait.
The truck was mostly loaded and the bar cleared of patrons by the time I got up again and went into the men’s room. Three scuffed black doors demarked multiply painted stalls, facing three urinals and three sinks. A pretty big men’s room for such a small bar. Maybe they drink (and piss) more in the South. I went to the farthest urinal and began to unzip.
The sound of a whimper came from one of the stalls behind me, whether a sound of pain or pleasure was hard to tell. It might’ve been a woman’s voice. I took my piss, figuring if people couldn’t wait until they got home, it wasn’t really my business. The sound of motion, clothes rustling rhythmically, could be heard while I tinkled. I didn’t linger.
Now Bart and fan were nowhere to be seen and I wondered if it was perhaps the two of them in the men’s room. I joined the others sitting on the back of the truck and sharing a joint. Ziggy came out a little while later, in dry clothes and carrying his backpack of wet things. “Where’s Bizzy?” he said.
We shrugged. “Probably talking to the owner,” I said, realizing I should have looked for her in the office. Whatever.
She appeared some time after that, looking worn out and faded by the heat, her hair limp and her eyes closed. “Where’s Bart?” she asked.
“Went off with a groupie,” Chris said. “He said not to wait up for him.”
“Figures,” she said and motioned us to the van with a languid sweep of her arm.
Her tiredness sort of pervaded everybody and we kept quiet on the drive to the motel. This was a place with doors that opened to the outside, a yellow light outside each door surrounded by a small swarm of bugs. The doors were red on the outside and beige on the inside. After we were settled I knocked on Carynne’s door, feeling slightly hungry and still wanting to ask her about the show.
“I knew it was you,” she said, opening the door. She was wearing a bathrobe and her wet hair had the furrowed look of the just-combed. “Oh god.” She sat down on one bed, put her feet up and looked at the ceiling while she lit a clove cigarette.
“I thought you were quitting,” I said, sitting on the other bed.
“Yeah,” she replied, watching the smoke she blew.
“So how’d you know it was me at the door?”
She shrugged. “Maybe I was just hoping it would be you.”
“I wanted to ask your opinion on tonight’s show.”
“What did you think?”
She pursed her lips. “Seemed okay.”
“Compared to the other shows this tour?”
“It was hard to tell what was going on from the back.”
“Pardon me for asking,” I said, taking my jacket off, “but are you on the rag or something?”
Now she looked at me, the sourness in her face threatening to crumble into something else. “Or something.”
Was it the look in her eye, or just a good guess that made me think the “something” was the illustrious Mr. Z? “Don’t tell me.”
“If you don’t want me to, I won’t. But I could sure use some advice.” Her voice softened and she flicked ash into the plastic ashtray on her stomach. It had the name of the hotel embossed in it in white letters and discolored places along the edges where other cigarettes had burned too long.
“It’s Ziggy, isn’t it.”
I gave half a laugh. “And here I thought you’d be helping me with him, not the other way around.”
“You’re not jealous? Please say you’re not.”
I did laugh. “No, I’m not. I mean, not really,” I amended, thinking about my thoughts of the other night. “Is that what’s been worrying you?”
“Partly.” She took a contemplative drag and the cigarette crackled spicily. “You’re sure?”
“I’m sure.” I realized there was a difference between jealousy and envy, and maybe the other night I envied them both a little. But looking at the bags under her eyes, I didn’t now. “So what’s the other part?”
“Oh,” she said with feigned nonchalance. “You know how he can be.”
I didn’t say anything and her face hardened and she looked at me.
“I’ve been avoiding you all day,” she said. “Not because of the jealousy thing, but because I kept hoping I could put off saying this.”
“I think I have to go home.”
“You mean leave the tour.”
“Because of him?”
She nodded again.
“I need more details, Car’. Help me out on this.”
“Oh, fuck,” she said as she started to cry. “It isn’t even that big a deal, you know, I mean, it isn’t like I’ve never done anything crazy or wild before. But it’s like the more I want him, the more scared I am.”
“Come on, Daron, you know what he’s like.”
“Master of mind games?” I leaned toward her but there wasn’t any way I could really comfort her without getting on her bed, and that seemed like a mistake right now.
“It’s like, oh, I don’t know, maybe I am even getting a little obsessed with him, like… ” She gave a little gurgle of frustration. “You’re like the one person I know who might understand this so I’m going to try to give you the explanation.”
“Sex with him is very, very intense.”
“Yes, it is.” And what a strange thing it was to be able to say that out loud. Not that I had a huge basis for comparison, but still.
She went on in a shaky voice. “It’s like, he pushes me. He pushes my buttons. And I like it when he does that. At the time I get off on it, too, you know, the thrill of it, but later I feel ashamed and dirty, like how could I let him do that?”
I couldn’t quite imagine what she was talking about, but I figured she might tell me if I kept my mouth shut.
“He… it’s like he knows me somehow, knows the sick corners, and he gives me what’s there. So I’m totally obsessed with him for knowing me so well, totally wanting and needing that, and yet totally scared of it, too, totally scared of what he’s capable of talking me into.”
Nope, I couldn’t guess. I resorted to asking. “Like what?”
She crossed her arms over her chest and spoke with her chin down, the cigarette burning down between her fingers. “Like when he won’t use a condom, Daron. The first time I thought he was just teasing, you know, playing around with how far I’d let him go and the next thing I know, he’s inside and he just… Once we start, he’ll just keep going and going, even if I start to struggle like I want him to stop or pull out, he’ll just fuck and fuck and fuck until all my resistance breaks down and then I’m like somehow totally fucking grateful when he does pull out and comes all over me, instead.”
“Oh jeezus. What if he gets you pregnant?”
“I’m on the fucking pill, stupid. Don’t tell me you aren’t scared of AIDS though.”
I said nothing.
“Oh jeezus yourself, Daron! When was the last time you were tested?”
I said nothing.
“Oh fuck,” she said again and hid her eyes with the hand that was cigarette free. Then she took a long drag and sat up. “What would you do in my position? I don’t even know if it’s me he’s interested in, or if I’m just convenient. Like he’d do this to whoever was at hand. I’m like totally obsessed with him, though, too. That’s why I have to leave. I mean, what am I supposed to do, reason with him? Ignore him?”
I looked at my hands, at the calluses on my fingertips that looked yellower than the rest of my skin. “I’ve tried reasoning with him, and I’ve tried ignoring him. It can be done, Car’. If you want to keep up with him…”
“I don’t. I have a boyfriend, Daron. I don’t want a rock singer for a relationship anyway. I’m not looking to get anything out of this; I’m just looking to get out of it.”
“So why’d you start sleeping with him in the first place?”
She blew smoke in an exasperated stream. “Call me weak. Temptation. Oh come on, you know how he can be when he turns on the charm. Irresistible.”
“When, when did it start?”
She bit her lip in a guilty look. “The night after you and I did.”
“Do you think that’s why…?” Now for some reason I felt guilty, too. “Wait. Was that you two in the men’s room tonight?”
“Yes.” She didn’t blush or anything. “He won’t take no for an answer, or even a ‘not now.’ Not from me, anyway. Do you want more details or is that sordid enough for you?”
“He didn’t even come. He just got me off again and again like I was some kind of insatiable slut. No wonder I’m confused. I spend years fucking rock stars who think of nothing but their own squirt and kind of resenting them for it but using them anyway… you know? And along comes one who’s different…”
I held up my hands. “Stop. Don’t even try to unravel it. This is Ziggy’s specialty–making you think you’re the one who’s guilty, like he’s totally doing it for you, so you’ll come begging back to him.” I couldn’t, at that moment, remember just how he’d done the same to me, yet as I said it it sounded so fucking right.
“You want to know what’s sick? Here I am complaining to you about him, and just thinking about it’s making me horny.” She ground out the cigarette with a growl.
“Have you really, really tried to say ‘no’ to him?” I asked, a little timidly.
She put the ash tray down and crossed her arms. “Not exactly.”
“It’s… it’s hard to say no when I want him so much,” she said. “And I’m kind of afraid that if I do say no outright either he’ll stop completely and leave me high and dry, or maybe worse, that he won’t stop at all, and then we’re talking a really awkward situation if he actually rapes me. Which I don’t think he’d do. There’s too much at stake. But… fuck.”
“This is my fault,” I said. “He’s only paying so much attention to you because he’s not allowed to chase me anymore.”
“Whoa whoa,” she said, waving he hands. “Didn’t you just say that’s what he’s good at? Making you blame yourself?”
“This isn’t your fault, D, and it’s not mine, either. There’s only one answer. I’ve got to get away from him,” she said finally. “For my own sanity. I’ve got to get back to reality.”
Reality was dinner and a midnight blow job at a truck stop off the interstate. Yeah, I was worried about being shot up by rednecks, but I wasn’t. I would have rather found somebody like Mr. DC Townhouse, but you take what you can get.