DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME
The press conference was over but I was thirsty and jittery and my face still felt hot, like I’d gotten sunburned from the bright TV camera lights. I went into the men’s room and splashed my face with water. I slid the elastic out of my hair and let the uncut strands fall over my face. My hands were shaking. “God I hate this,” I said to no one in particular.
“Hate what?” Ziggy was behind me.
At another moment maybe I would have told him, or I would have showed him how queasy I felt. But this was the first time he’d deigned to speak to me in days. “Nothing,” I said, standing up straight and brushing the hair off my damp cheeks.
He looked past me at his own reflection in the mirror. “We don’t have to stick around, you know.”
He sounded like he was in one of his reasonable moods. “I know.” I looked at him in the mirror. He wasn’t laughing at me or taunting me. He looked… serious.
“Come on.” He reached for my arm but didn’t touch it. “You look like you need to get out of here.”
I half wished he had touched my arm so I could have shrugged him off, the way he had me the other night. But it was too late. He seemed genuinely concerned about me, and I wanted the weird tension between us to go away. “I’ll be okay,” I told him.
“Sure you will. Come with me.”
I hesitated a moment more before I followed him back into the club. He steered me away from the reception room and up a winding flight of stairs. We emerged in a dark room full of floating projections of light and a quietly insistent beat. People swayed to it, ignoring us.
“Let’s go dancing,” Ziggy said in my ear.
“No, downstairs.” We went through that room and down another stairway to the main floor. There was a band on the stage, between numbers. Three female singers, two guitars, bass and drums… something about the singers and the bass player made me guess they were a funk band.
I was almost right. They were that kind of mix of funk, R&B and aggressive guitar that reminded me of Hendrix and George Clinton all at once. They launched into a cover of a Parliament tune. Ziggy’s head bobbed in front of me as he led us into the thick of the dance floor.
I wasn’t really in the mood to dance, but the music was good, the beat was strong, and what the fuck. Maybe dancing was the best way to change the mood I was in. I contented myself with watching the band for a while but found myself moving anyway. I don’t dance much, and maybe I should do it more, because it shuts my brain off. At first, I always feel dumb and self-conscious, but then, if the band is good, something happens that gets the whole crowd moving and no one gives a damn anymore.
The band was good. They grooved and rocked, the crowd rocked and grooved, and some time way later when the lead singer said they were doing their last song I woke up and wondered what this band’s name was. I looked at Ziggy, shifting from foot to foot next to me, his focus on the stage and his shoulders swinging with the music. Then he caught me looking and closed his eyes.
Fire and ice ran down my spine as I watched him rock his hips. As the song ended he opened his eyes and said something I couldn’t hear above the crowd applause and whistles. He took my hand and led me toward the side.
In the archway of a cloister he spoke into my ear, because that was the only way to hear him over the thumping house music that came on when the band was done, “Feel better now?” His warm, damp body touched mine as he leaned in.
I nodded. People were jostling us as they went through the archway.
“Just how much better?” One of his hands traveled up my stomach and I shivered and reached to stop it. And then his mouth was wet on my ear and, my mind a roar of panic, I shoved him away. At that moment I wasn’t even thinking like I’d been in the men’s room, wanting to pay him back for shrugging me off; this was sudden terror and knee jerk reaction.
He knocked against some other people and they stared at us. His face twisted in anger and he glared at me.
“Ziggy…” There was no way he could hear me. I took a step forward. Was Jonathan or someone watching us even now from the balcony? “You have to understand…” I could hardly hear myself.
He took one step back, his face a mask of sudden condescension, and turned and sank into the crowd.
“Ziggy!” Before I could think of what to do, I pushed after him, no idea where he was going or what he might do when he got there. I almost caught up to him in a crowded doorway, but he slipped between two couples and ran down a dark hallway. I followed more slowly, feeling my way in the dark, and heard an exit door open, saw the light from the street spill in and his shadow go out.
By the time I was out the door myself, I couldn’t see him anywhere. Rain was pouring out here, and I pressed myself back under the overhang of the door as best I could. The door had locked behind me.
Ziggy was gone. He must have jumped right into a cab as he flew out the door. I shivered and let myself sink down to the wet pavement, trying to sort out how I felt. But I couldn’t think straight. The flush of discomfort I’d felt before in the press conference, the shock and confusion over his behavior, the longing, anger, loneliness, betrayal, and other emotions too complicated to name were whirling together in my head. I wanted him and I didn’t. I had no idea why he acted the way he did, or even why I felt the way I did. I put my head on my knees and concentrated on the rain dripping down my hair, the way the rain tickled my scalp and ran down my neck, the way it washed over my face and hid the fact that I was a such a wreck. The air was cold and after a while I felt numb. Numb was preferable to angry, preferable to confused, preferable to hurt.
I took a taxi to the hotel and wondered if someone would bring my coat back. I comforted myself with the thought that Belle, Ms. Super-Competent, would have it.
My room was dark and empty. I took my wet clothes off in the bathroom and toweled myself dry, laid the soggy bills from my pocket onto the counter. When I sat down on the bed I noticed the guitar case was on the little table at the end of the room. I walked closer and saw a cream-colored piece of hotel stationery on top of the case.
It was a note from Ziggy. It read:
Came up with lyrics for that piece you played for J. in the bus. Main part goes like this:
the moment when truths are spoken
the time when lies are revealed
is the moment I see my reflection
in the eyes of the heart I have killed
I would have thought he left this hours ago, before dinner even, except for that one word: sorry. Other than that, I didn’t know what to think.
YOU ARE READING
Daron's Guitar Chronicles: Vols 1-3General Fiction
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles tells the story of Daron Marks, a young gay guitar player, from about the time he is eighteen onward. He arrives at RIMCon (Rhode Island Musical Conservatory) in the mid-1980s, desperate to leave behind a dysfunctional fami...