138 TEARS FOR FEARS

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TEARS FOR FEARS

In the men’s room I splashed my face and stood with my hands leaning on the sink, watching the water go down the drain. The numbness had changed to a tingling, and some of my old nausea came back, my mouth and eyes watering a little. I can’t believe he said that, were the words in my mind, but I believed it just fine; this was the kind of behavior I’d expected from Digger all along. The water sounded like the roll of a faraway drum as the stream fell into the uncovered drain of the metal sink. When I straightened up my hands shook and I pressed them together like prayer hands.

I’d been so hot to get back on the road. Ziggy had said it himself, I had wanted things to be the way they were, onstage and off, before things got weird between us. But just being on tour wasn’t enough to push us back in time. And I didn’t know how to go forward.

Ziggy came in then and gave me a head-cocked look before he went into a stall.

I thought of a good word for the way I was beginning to feel, now that I felt something rather than nothing. Unglued. The word was unglued.

I decided that right before a show was a sucky time to come unglued and I marched to the dressing room, sat down at a mirror with Ziggy’s makeup kit and decided to glue myself back together. It took several tries, but I eventually got a reasonable amount of liner under my eyes. I picked up his tube of hair gel, the words Alcohol Free! in neon orange letters on the side. I couldn’t imagine why there would be alcohol in hair gel in the first place and had a vague memory of the Michael Jackson/Pepsi conflagration. My own hair was too long to gel now, but I decided maybe it could do with a little taming anyway. I ran gel through the sides with my fingers and combed it smooth before tying it up in an elastic. My eyes looked huge now, with no loose strands to cover them and rimmed in black.

I sat with the Miller in my lap for the next hour while I waited for show time, running my hands over the rosewood fretboard and the silky finish, but there wasn’t anything I felt like playing. I felt better, more together, with the guitar in front of me though, like some big fucking wooden teddy bear.

We lined up at the top of the little half-flight of stairs that led out of the wings, Chris in front, then Bart, then me, and Ziggy last. “Break a leg” Chris said, because he always did, as the lights went down, and then he started moving.

We took our places. On the first chord, the lights would hit, and everything would be fine, I told myself. The waiting’s over, and now you can just be. But I didn’t convince myself, apparently, because as the lights came up and we started to play, I found myself doing the same thing I had the past few nights, staring out into the crowd where individual faces wouldn’t resolve, as if my eyes and my hands were from two different people. We opened with “Welcome,” a song which has a kind of upbeat chorus on the title, which makes it seem natural to open a concert with, but the verses are a lot of references to spiders and flies, and other sneaking suspicions.

And here came Ziggy, crawling toward me like said spider, on three limbs while one hand held the mic, the white shirt rippling as he bobbed his head and weaved snake-like, all the time toward me. I knew how stupid it would look if I ignored him, so I faced him, playing and watching his eyes, waiting for him to break off and go skipping back to the other side. But he didn’t, he held my gaze and kept coming, until he was climbing up my front, first a hand on my knee, then his shoulder rising up to the level of my waist and two fingers walking up my torso as he straightened up to full height. His voice dripped innuendo as he leaned in as if to kiss me and then, then, he slid back, a cat move, as the chorus hit again.

I felt like I was short of air even though my breaths were long and deep. Worse, I felt myself rushing the riff, and could feel Christian pumping the kick drum more emphatically, as if sending me the message, here! the beat is here! Get with the program asshole! I closed my eyes and concentrated on playing, on getting it right, which felt wrong, all wrong, to do with music I had written, like the song was some arduous thing I’d had to learn and practice and now could maybe give a recital of if I tried my best. This made me angry, that playing should be such a fucking chore, that songs that had come pouring out of me once should now be some kind of torture to get right.

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