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Bart and I had lunch together in the hotel restaurant, where a burger and fries was a little pricey, but tasty. After wolfing the burger down I sat eating my fries one at a time, munching them from one end to the other. Bart had a turkey club sandwich, with ketchup.

“You know,” I said as soon as we sat down. “I really feel okay today.” Especially now that the “meeting” was over.

“Why do you think that is?” he said in his curious and bright analytical voice.

“I don’t know. Car’ and I got drunk last night. Maybe I just needed to relax.”

“Maybe we should get you drunk before you go on stage tonight.”

I said “I don’t think…” even while I half-considered it.

“I’m kidding.” He pulled the toothpick out of one section of club sandwich and scrutinized it. “But you know, Digger’s right.”

“About what?”

He gave me a ‘don’t play dumb’ look. “It’s pretty flippin’ obvious that Ziggy’s practically chasing you off the stage. Think about it Daron, you used to do all kinds of shit with him and that was when you weren’t…” Again, the checking to see who was near us. We were surrounded by banquettes of potted plants, a few balding businessmen in brown suits scattered in the middle distance. “You know.”

“I know.”

“The damnable thing about it is, that was probably the best show we’ve done in a long time. Up until the part where you ran off, I mean. Did you see the review in the paper this morning?”

I shook my head. “I only woke up a couple of minutes before the meeting.”

“It doesn’t matter. You heard the crowd last night. It was a hot show, and I mean hot in the musical, not porno sense. Listen, the Ziggy thing aside, here’s something to think about. The idea of a stage persona, I mean. One of the ways people deal with fame is by creating a persona or role that they are on stage. Let the public fall in love with that. But then keep yourself to yourself.”

“Where did you hear that?” The fries were hot and salty.

“I think it’s something Sting said in an interview. Or maybe it was… no, I’m pretty sure it was him. But it makes sense doesn’t it?”

“I guess. But it sounds sort of dishonest. Isn’t that what prostitutes say too? And then bad stuff happens to ‘Lily Lace’ and not to Kathy Jones or whoever. I mean…” I caught myself looking into the distance, instead of at Bart. I focused on him. “I mean, the whole reason I get up there is because it is me, Bart. That’s the only time I can really be me.”

He digested that thought for a moment and then said “And you haven’t been yourself lately.”

“That’s just it. The real me has been kicked out of the digs by the me I’m trying to get away from. Does that make sense?”

“Well, it explains it, anyway. Do you think Car’s going to find you a shrink?”

“Fuck if I know. I don’t think this is the kind of thing they can just look up in a book–’Ah yes, I see here, Mr. Marks, you have pseudo-psycho-sexual personality disorder. Take this pill and call me in the morning.’”

He pulled another toothpick out and held it up to the light.

“What are you doing?”

“Checking for splinters. Who was it, some country singer last year, died in a hotel restaurant while on tour from choking on a sliver of the toothpick.”

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