81 LOSING MY RELIGION

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LOSING MY RELIGION

The next day we hit the road for Philly and I spent the two-plus hour bus ride sitting by myself, staring out the window or resting my head on my arms. Whenever Bart or Chris would ask me how I was doing I’d shrug and tell them I was resting my throat or I felt a little dizzy or something. And my throat was killing me. The words Strep Throat were mentioned several times and ignored.

But while I sat there with my silence pulled around me like a blanket, really I was thinking over last night and wondering if anything had really changed. For all his talk, Ziggy and I hadn’t made any “decisions,” and it seemed for now that our secret was intact. Ziggy ignored me. I gnawed on my calluses and played over in my mind things he’d said last night, and other nights. I could not decide for myself what my admission might have meant or how it changed anything. Maybe, I hoped, it would change the way he treated me, maybe he would take my feelings a little more seriously. But I feared that all it meant was I’d given him another opening to hurt me, another length of chain to jerk.

They checked us into our hotel first before taking us to sound check. John handed me a room key and explained that they were rooming me alone to try to keep anyone else from getting sick. “Your singer gets that sore throat and we’re fucked,” he said.

I refrained from telling him why this precaution was probably too late.

By the time we got to the hall, I felt exhaustion creeping up on me and I sat down in the front row to wait for our sound check. MNB went pretty quick, or so it seemed, as I dozed off in the middle. When I did go up the stairs to the stage, I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. Even the Ovation felt heavy on my shoulder, and the Strat was like a bag of bricks.

We had played halfway through “River” when I felt like my legs were going to give out on me. But I stuck it out, finished the sound check, and stumbled back into a seat, too worn out to walk all the way to our dressing room backstage.

John came over with a clipboard under his arm and I decided he was more camp counselor than cruise director. “Are you okay?”

I shook my head. “No, but I will be, I hope.”

“We can cancel you for tonight if you need to rest.”

“No. I… I ought to take a nap and then I’ll be fine.” I stood up. “I couldn’t sleep on the way here.”

John put a hand on my shoulder. “Well, if you want to, you can always crash for a while in the bus out back. Might be quieter there. But tell somebody where you are, okay? So we’re not searching for you all night.”

“Gotcha.”

He gave me a quick nod and walked away, his mind already on his next errand. Man, I wonder if they go to a special school for that, Planning Ahead 101, Coping and Multiple Priorities 202. I wondered how much he got paid and if I had remembered at some point to get his business card. Belle would have it.

I made my way slowly to the backstage area and sank onto a couch there.

Bart sat down next to me. “How are you feeling?”

I was getting sick of that question. “I’ll be fine. I want a nap.”

He chuckled. “This is weird. Usually Ziggy’s the one off by himself, but today he’s been hanging out with us and you’re the moody one.”

“I’m not moody,” I insisted. “Just ill.”

“Whatever you say, bwana.” But he looked at me sidelong. “We’re going to get some dinner. There’s supposed to be this great Indian food place around the corner. You coming?”

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