Of all the parts of the country I’d been in, Texas was the strangest-feeling yet. We were due to stay three nights in a motel on the edge of Austin, the first night to sleep off the drive, the second night after the Spring Weekend concert at University of Texas, and the third night after the show in San Antonio which was maybe two hours drive from there.
My whole feeling about Texas was that beady-eyed, big-hatted men were watching me through binoculars with shotguns in their laps. Austin was supposed to be a funky town, college-y, artsy, yadda yadda, but where we were staying outside of town was utterly suburban. After the let-it-all-hang-out attitude of New Orleans, I didn’t feel confident about anything here, not even how to read the cultural signals that might have led me to a few moments relief and blind bliss in the hands (or mouth) of a stranger.
Most of what I remember of Texas is the numbing act, me and Ziggy avoiding each other, and when we couldn’t avoid each other, the false smiles, the forced camaraderie, even the act on stage, the pretend enthusiasm for one another’s moves and mime-like mugging and grimacing.
That first night in Austin, I rushed from the stage after the last tune, drenched from the oven-like heat and drained from the huge, pumped, frat-boy crowd, and puked twice and then cried with my head against the cool porcelain of the toilet backstage.
Christian declared it heatstroke, made me drink half a Gatorade, and I made it back up there to fake my way through a rote encore.
Back at the hotel, Chris’s big-brother mode continued, and the two of us sat up in the hotel lobby drinking vending machine sodas and talking until almost morning. The upshot of this was I felt marginally better and Christian felt I was maybe a little more cracked than he had previously given me credit for. (“But a talented motherfucker,” as he put it, “and that gets you a lot of slack in my book.”)
The next afternoon I learned something that surprised me, which was that Kevin was a kickass harmonica player. We sat by the pool with a guitar and harmonica and Bart on the hand drums playing the blues until we were sunburned.
San Antonio had a more civilized venue, an air-conditioned music hall. I remembered to drink plenty of water and my stomach behaved. But the show was more of me playing the part and stumbling around, waiting for it to be over.
That night, while not sleeping and listening to the sound of the motel breathing and the whisk of cars on the highway, the night before we hit the road for Colorado, something began to sink in. Waiting for it to be over.
The tour had four more dates, but they were distant, and spread out over the course of almost ten days: Boulder, San Francisco, Eugene, and Seattle. There were 1200 miles between Boulder and San Francisco, and about a thousand between Boulder and here. Days and days of driving and being trapped with him and waiting for it to be over.
I must have made some noise of frustration or despair because Bart said from the other bed, “Are you okay?”
“I can’t keep this up.”
He knew what I was talking about–every one of us did. If the fakery wasn’t fucking obvious to the audience that was only because they believed in the dream world illusion we took on. “So talk to him, have a fight, or something. If you do nothing it won’t change.”
“It won’t work though.” I sat up, holding my head in the dark. “I’ve tried. I can’t talk to him or fight with him. Because he’s like not real. It’s like we’re not even speaking the same language. It’s like we can’t even keep track of what’s wrong, it’s so wrong.”
“Well, fuck. I can’t stand it anymore, either.”
I heard cloth rustling and his voice moving. He clicked on the light by the window and was pulling on a pair of shorts.
“What are you doing?”
He didn’t answer but he put his glasses on and went out the door.
“Oh fuck.” Then I was looking for my jeans and putting them on and trying to follow him.
When I got out into the hall, he was standing in front of Ziggy’s door with his hands on his hips, looking at his own bare feet.
“Did you knock?”
He looked at me and I could see that he hadn’t.
“What are you waiting for?”
“I’m trying to think of what I’m going to say,” he said, holding one arm by the elbow and frowning.
“See what I mean?” I said, my eyelids feeling heavy. “You see?”
“Shit,” he agreed, and we went back to bed.