In the morning I woke up in Bart’s room–actually it wasn’t morning, it was just past noon, and Bart was elsewhere and Chris was blow drying his hair in the bathroom. My body felt as hot and wrinkly as the clothes I had slept in. In fact, I had slept with my card key in the back pocket of my jeans. Carynne had designated today as a laundry day in the schedule and it was just as well. The suite had been made up, cleaned and straightened; there was no way to tell if Ziggy had slept there or not. He was not there now.
In the shower I tried to think about what I’d say to him when I saw him again. I tried to imagine apologizing, but I couldn’t really think of what I’d be apologizing for, exactly.
I tried to imagine him apologizing, crawling on the shag carpet toward me like the way he did on stage, admitting his crimes and begging forgiveness while the city of New Orleans glittered and shone in the window behind me…
The crew of two and Chris decided to go ahead to the venue and set up. Bart asked if I wanted to go into the Quarter to get lunch. I decided to stay in and have room service. Another black staff member, in a chef-type jacket, arrived some time later with food on a rolling table. I’ll say one thing about the food–even for room service and me being in a bad mood, the gumbo was so good I didn’t think I’d ever be able to order it at Denny’s again. I was playing with the garnish and looking out the window at the river when Bart came back.
“Uh oh,” he said when he saw me staring out the window.
“No sign of him yet,” I answered, to confirm his suspicions. “You don’t think we should actually worry, do you?”
“No use worrying about what we can’t change.” He ate the pickle I had left on the room service tray. “Did you call Mills yet?”
I hadn’t. I went to the phone by the bed and dialed–it had been a while since I’d been the one to call him, but I still had the number memorized. When it rang several times I opened the day book to check that today was a weekday. Then a male voice I didn’t know picked up and cheerfully confirmed I’d reached the right office. Mills came on a few moments later.
The conversation went about like this:
“Daron, my favorite moondog! How are you.”
“I was wondering when we were going to hear from you. It’s been what, a week since we’ve had any word.”
“Yeah, Digger was calling in every day for a while there.” Snapping his fingers. “But I guess he’s back in New York now, isn’t he. Sounded like the Northeast went well. It’s too early to see a sales spike if there is one but, hoo, radio play has been through the roof.”
“I don’t know if you’ve heard yet but ‘Why The Sky’ is going to be like number 15 or 13 or something on the MTV countdown.” Yelling to someone else. “Cheryl! What number—-? Ah never mind. Anyway, how’s the South? Any problems?”
“No, not really.”
“Where are you now? Georgia?”
“Ah, Jazz Fest City. You’ll like it there. But it’s corrupt as hell, you know, old money, that sort of thing. Hey listen, I’m kind of in the middle of something here. Did you need something? Is there something Cheryl can help you with?”
“Uh, no, just checking in.”
“Great. Fantastic. Plans are in the works for the summer dates already. Have a great time in Georgia. Call Cheryl if you need anything.”
“Yeah, okay, bye.”
I didn’t remember anyone named Cheryl in his office. I filled Bart in on the side of the conversation he couldn’t hear, then called Digger and had to leave him a message. “Was there anyone else I was supposed to call?”
“Yeah, call Michelle and tell her I miss her.”
“Are you joking?” I got up and began picking through my bag, looking for the right shirt to wear later, tossing out flyers and other crap I’d picked up at previous shows. “I mean, I know you’re joking, but about which part?”
He stretched out on the bed watching me dig through my stuff. “Of course I don’t mean for you to call her.”
“But do you miss her?”
“Of course I do.”
“You make it sound like missing her’s an obligation.”
“I don’t mean it that way,” but he looked at the ceiling when he said it. “I wouldn’t still be with her after all these years if there wasn’t something there. And no, I don’t miss her less now than I did when we’d first met.”
“That’s cool. I was just, I don’t know, wondering if everything was okay.”
“Why, because you’re a general worry wart, or was there something specific?” He pursed his lips at me. “And don’t wear your Bigger Thomas shirt tonight. I’m already wearing mine.”
“Okay, jeez. I’ll quit beating around the bush. Does Michelle know… I mean, how does she handle you sleeping around?”
“Oh, is that what’s bothering you.” He sat up and laughed a little.
I held up a black T-shirt with bright red letters that said “Cartoon Factory,” a Boston band we’d played with a few times. He shook his head and went on while I dug for another shirt. “You don’t have to keep it a secret, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I’m not worried.” I pulled out a blue shirt with black leopard spots on it—-Ziggy’s. I held it up tentatively for his approval.
He rolled his eyes and he looked at me like I was crazy. “She knows.”
I tossed the shirt over my shoulder and rummaged deeper into my duffel bag. “Does she sleep with other guys while you’re gone?”
He gave a half-shrug that could have been I-don’t-know or It-doesn’t-matter. “She could if she wanted to. She hasn’t yet, though.”
“She’d tell you?” I had another black shirt in my hands, balled between them as I looked at his face.
“Yeah. And I tell her. Not the gory details of course. It doesn’t make sense to do it any other way. It’d be like, I don’t know, if I worked in a bakery and she tried to get me to promise not to eat any cookies at work.”
“Cookies,” I repeated.
I held up the shirt. I couldn’t remember what band it had come from. It read “It’s Only Fun When Someone Loses An Eye.”