I woke up in the morning still in my clothes, and from the way my arm felt and the depth of the wrinkles from my sleeve on my face, it appeared I hadn’t moved all night. I put myself into a steamy shower on the theory that if it got wrinkles out of clothes, it might work on me, too. I felt lucky I hadn’t slept on my bad hand.
When I came out Flip was there with coffee and… some kind of custard? Maybe it was yogurt? I didn’t ask. I just ate it and then sat there staring into space while waiting for the coffee to kick in.
“Earth to Daron. Earth to Daron. A couple of us are going to go out sightseeing in about an hour if you want to…?”
I looked up at Flip and it took longer than usual for an answer to filter through. “Oh. What are the sights in Santiago, Chile?”
“Probably some more churches and religious statues?” Flip shrugged. “I figure the point is to go out and see what there is to be seen.”
“What’s Ziggy doing?”
“Not sure. A TV show and some other things? Keeping track of him isn’t my job.”
Keeping track of me was. “Um. I think maybe I should just hang out here and not tax myself.”
“Okay. You’ve got an hour to get bored and change your mind.” He left then, and I realized I had only had maybe a third of the coffee and perhaps I should finish it and then my brain would start to function.
I decided the best thing I could do was work out the kinks in my hand. So I sat by the window and methodically rubbed the thumb of my left hand into the alarmingly crunchy palm of my right.
While I was doing that I got to thinking. Where’s the line between a symbol and reality? A relationship is something in our minds, an idea. Stories and fantasies are ideas, too, but what makes them into something real? Can they ever truly be real?
I was staring at my hands, of course, during all this, which meant I was staring at the ring on my finger. Is that what the ring was? I’d taken an idea–a committed relationship with Ziggy–and turned it into a reality?
Except the ring was a symbol. It was still a symbol. It wasn’t like I could control the power of Middle Earth with it or something. There’s real, and then there’s really real.
Jonathan had been big on signs and symbols. I wondered what he’d make of this show. In South America they called him Ziggy Moondog, and at the peak of the show he and I stood at center stage with me in my black suit jacket outfit and him all in white, looking like we belonged on the top of a wedding cake.
I had a sudden, terrible thought. The show design had been Linn’s. What if Ziggy had thought I had taken it as a big hint? What if when I sprung the proposal and ring on him he thought, oh no, Daron thinks I’ve been hinting to him that I want this, and now I feel like I can’t turn him down?
I had that icicle-through-the-heart feeling, followed by an uncomfortable fizz of panic.
Don’t be stupid, I told myself. Isn’t it more likely that it actually WAS him hinting?
Well, but if that’s true, was it actually my idea to give him a ring or was I super-subtly manipulated into it?
Then I felt nauseous.
This is your brain on drugs, I told myself. Even though you’re not on any drugs at the moment.
I wondered how expensive it would be to call Jonathan, though. He was always good at talking this kind of thing through…
I decided the last thing I wanted Ziggy to see, though, was a massively expensive long-distance call to my ex. So instead I pretended I was talking to him. What would Jonathan say?
He’d say I was spinning my wheels and that none of it was true, and I should chill out. I should have a proper brunch before getting into deep relationship processing.
That’s the power of ideas and imagination right there. I felt better, almost like I’d actually talked to him.
I went out to find brunch.
(I complain a lot about how extremely bland and overproduced and awful pop music was in the US from 1988-1991 with a few exceptions, but I haven’t said much about how crucial that time period was for rap breaking out into the mainstream. Record companies were making millions on various rap acts they “took chances” on–as if they were somehow brave and righteous for exploiting rap the same way they exploited white artists–but they didn’t really understand it. I don’t know as much about it since I wasn’t in that world, but it looked to me like the record companies wanted to make the money but not “legitimize” rap. I’m sure that was for racist reasons, but look at how “legitimizing” punk and alternative meant sanitizing it and recycling it and making it toothless and safe. No corporation has solved this puzzle yet of how to take something from outside the “mainstream” and how to mainstream it without ruining it. Maybe that’s because corporations can’t. In the Internet age I think it’s possible that could change, because of the power of people to access things without a corporate power putting it into people’s reach. Um, this wasn’t supposed to be a rant about capitalism. I was supposed to just say, hey, enjoy this 1991 rap. There was a lot going on in rap at that time. -d)