103 OUR HOUSE

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OUR HOUSE

The doorbell woke me up a few hours later and I knew Digger was back. Everyone in the band had a key to the house and wouldn’t have rung it. I started changing my clothes, then remembered I’d put these on clean before I fell asleep. The hair on the back of my head was still damp, like I hadn’t moved since I lay down. The sky was dark outside the window.

When I came down the stairs I was suddenly hyper aware of the graffiti in the stairwell, the pile of Colin’s dirty laundry at the bottom of the steps, the fact that most of our furniture had come off the street or from Salvation Army. No one expects their parents to see them live like this, I think. Not that I really gave a flying fuck what Digger thought of the place. And yet.

Digger had traded his tie and overcoat for a plain gray sweatshirt. He looked a little more like I’d expect that way, even though he’d worn a tie every day to work when he worked in my grandfather’s shoe store. God, I thought, I wonder what happened to the store? After my grandfather had died, Digger had been managing the place. For all I knew, Claire was doing the job now, though I couldn’t picture it. I also couldn’t picture myself asking about it. He was sitting with Christian in the living room and they each had a beer in hand.

“How’s the hand?” Chris said as soon as he saw me. Bart’s head peeked out of the kitchen to hear the answer.

I sat down in the broken recliner (it was permanently reclined–the footrest had stopped retracting before we acquired it). “Hurts. I gotta eat before I can take another horse pill.”

“So, let’s eat.” Digger looked pretty relaxed and happy. “You kids pick a place yet?”

Ziggy and Michelle came out of the kitchen and Michelle said “I think we’re thinking the North End.”

Digger insisted on driving, so all six of us piled into his Taurus while Chris and Michelle gave directions. We didn’t have an accident and the intensity of navigation in Boston kept us from discussing anything else for the duration of the trip. The North End is to Boston what Little Italy is to Manhattan. After shows Bart and I often visited a bakery here that was open all night, but I’d yet to eat in a North End restaurant.

After much driving around the edges we parked the car in a pay lot and walked up a brick-lined street into a neighborhood of narrow alleyways and streets strung with tri-color tinsel in the shapes of Christmas bells, stars, and curlicues. We went up and down two streets of bistros, bakeries, and restaurants before Digger pronounced our quest over and led us into a place paneled in dark wood, with red leather banquettes. A waitress with tall frosted hair brought us to a round table in a corner and left us with two steaming baskets of fresh-from-the-oven bread.

Okay, so I’d always heard the expression “breaking bread” and knew it stood for “making peace.” What I hadn’t known was how literally true it was. As soon as we started in on the bread, everyone relaxed and started to chat. The bread had a crisp crust but was melt-in-your-mouth light inside. We’d eaten all of it before I’d read half the menu. Digger didn’t open his–he’d picked what he wanted from the menu in the window. He also picked a wine and asked the waitress to bring us more bread. The trip had become like some weird family outing, only if it had actually been our family he and Claire would have fought about where to park the car, wouldn’t have agreed on a restaurant, and I would have already tried to slip away from them to pretend I was with some other family.

The conversation ranged from MTV to MNB to Charlie Sheen, and I had to admit I was impressed. Digger talked like he knew the entertainment industry and his opinions didn’t sound dumb. He’d seen more movies than I had and seemed well informed about music biz dirt. The osso bucco and gnocchi left us groaning stuffed, but he ordered a round of tiramisu with six spoons and coffee, and after I was done dumping sugar into mine everyone sat back, full, talked out, and tired.

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