The next day we left Chile for Argentina on a nighttime flight. Ziggy, exhausted, settled himself into a seat beside me but was asleep before we even took off. I considered snuggling up with him, but then thought that might be weird what with him being out cold.
I buckled a seatbelt on him instead and tucked some pillows around him.
I had a sudden deja vu. Is it deja vu, though, if you eventually remember that it actually happened? I’d buckled him in one other time. Was it in the tour bus? It was. Our first time touring in a bus, when we’d been opening for MNB. Most of what I remembered of that tour was the constant worry about what was going to happen with us getting signed or not. Wenco wasn’t that interested except for Artie’s personal general interest in me, and BNC was hot to trot but not budging on some of the contractual demands I had.
I broke out in a sudden sweat. Deja vu all over again. That situation was a million years ago but here I was doing almost the exact same thing. On tenterhooks about whether Star*Gaze was getting signed and hanging on every moment I could steal with Ziggy.
What. The. Fuck. How could I have come so far and yet nothing had changed at all? Okay, okay, I know a lot had changed, but in that moment I had the kind of panic that leads animals to gnaw their own limbs off to get out of traps. It’s never going to change.
In fact, given what I’d been through, I felt then like what a ballsy-ass punk I’d been, negotiating contract terms with Mills. I was a fucking teenager playing phone tag with a guy who could destroy my career with the flick of his wrist, and I was making demands? Who the fuck did I think I was? No wonder things were so fucked up. I had no business doing what I did then. I just hadn’t yet realized how powerless and ridiculous I had been. Mills had probably chortled himself silly every time he got a voice mail from me. W.C. Fields voice: Can you believe this punk kid? Ho ho ho. Well, I’ll humor him. I’ll string him along.
Maybe I had no business being there at all. Maybe the injuries, the trauma, the heartbreak, maybe I wasn’t cut out to do this. Maybe it was all a lot more dangerous and difficult than I was able to handle. Other people seemed to sail through with no troubles–Remo–but other people weren’t as fucked up as I was. Remo had a chummy relationship with his A&R rep–Artie–but that made sense. They were both straight, white, middle-aged guys with the same taste in music and clothes.
I didn’t have anyone like me.
Okay, okay, I know that’s not true–what about Jordan, for example?–but at that moment I felt very, very alone. And very unprepared to cope with anything else that might go wrong.
There was a kind of perverse pleasure in feeling like I had figured everything out, finally. It all made sense. The thing that was wrong was that I didn’t belong there at all. I was in the wrong place, taking up a slot that a more resilient musician without so many hangups should have had.
That’s how you know I was out of my mind, right? All the doubts that had been nagging at me for months and months about this gig solidified into an absolute certainty. It wasn’t just that everything seemed wrong–it actually was.
I felt relieved to have realized it, and the relief felt as sweet as that first sip of bourbon. For a moment. And then I began to wonder what I should try to do about it.
Carynne caught me as the plane’s movement nearly jostled me off my feet. She was not a large woman, you might recall, but she was larger than me. “Hey. You all right?”
“Ummm…” That’s complicated, I wanted to say, but didn’t.
“You’ve been just standing there, staring at him.”
“Oh. Um. Just, you know.” Pretend like the reason I was frozen in place there was I just wuvved him so much?
She patted my shoulder condescendingly. “Come on. Everyone needs to be buckled in for takeoff, which is going to be within a minute, I think.”
She sat me down in a lounge recliner across the way from Ziggy, and buckled me in before settling herself into another.
I spent the next hour trying to strategize how to hide my existential crisis from everyone. The more I thought about it, though, the more it seemed to me like maybe everyone already knew I didn’t belong there. They were really good at humoring me, though.
I mean, look, Flip was even preparing to take over my part in the show if necessary. They were all waiting for me to figure it out. I was the “boss,” they couldn’t fire me, only Ziggy could do that, but that had to be why Linn was so upset and angry at me now. She was the only one with the balls (pardon the expression) to call me on it, but she was powerless to actually do anything. A feeling I knew well. I respected her a bit more at that moment.
And that had to be a big piece of why Ziggy was avoiding me. Ziggy was as much a champion at avoiding conflict if he wanted to as I was. He could pretend there was no problem if I was out of sight, out of mind.
Besides, he had me exactly where he wanted me. Playing for him, working for him, but not making any demands of him.
If I kept going like that I was going to gnaw my arm off. The second we got to ten thousand feet and the seatbelt sign went off, I went down to the main cabin, found one of our dedicated stewardesses toward the back, got two nips of whiskey from her, hid one in my jacket pocket and downed the other.
And then I buckled myself into another seat and waited to pass out, but it didn’t happen. A half hour later I drank the other nip and started to calm down, finally.
Wow, you’re totally ridiculous, I thought, once I was feeling calmer. Totally, totally ridiculous.
Which was true. But then I thought, wait, what are the chances that the sensible, rational thought was the one I had while drunk, as opposed to the ones that consumed me when I was sober? Seemed likely it was the other way around, right?
It’s really difficult to see with any clarity when your head is very firmly up your own ass.