157 HEY HEY, WHAT CAN I DO

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“Pardon me for asking,” I said, taking my jacket off, “but are you on the rag or something?”

Now she looked at me, the sourness in her face threatening to crumble into something else. “Or something.”

Was it the look in her eye, or just a good guess that made me think the “something” was the illustrious Mr. Z? “Don’t tell me.”

“If you don’t want me to, I won’t. But I could sure use some advice.” Her voice softened and she flicked ash into the plastic ashtray on her stomach. It had the name of the hotel embossed in it in white letters and discolored places along the edges where other cigarettes had burned too long.

“It’s Ziggy, isn’t it.”

“Yeah.”

I gave half a laugh. “And here I thought you’d be helping me with him, not the other way around.”

“You’re not jealous? Please say you’re not.”

I did laugh. “No, I’m not. I mean, not really,” I amended, thinking about my thoughts of the other night. “Is that what’s been worrying you?”

“Partly.” She took a contemplative drag and the cigarette crackled spicily. “You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.” I realized there was a difference between jealousy and envy, and maybe the other night I envied them both a little. But looking at the bags under her eyes, I didn’t now. “So what’s the other part?”

“Oh,” she said with feigned nonchalance. “You know how he can be.”

I didn’t say anything and her face hardened and she looked at me.

“I’ve been avoiding you all day,” she said. “Not because of the jealousy thing, but because I kept hoping I could put off saying this.”

“Saying what?”

“I think I have to go home.”

“You mean leave the tour.”

She nodded.

“Because of him?”

She nodded again.

“I need more details, Car’. Help me out on this.”

“Oh, fuck,” she said as she started to cry. “It isn’t even that big a deal, you know, I mean, it isn’t like I’ve never done anything crazy or wild before. But it’s like the more I want him, the more scared I am.”

“Why.”

“Come on, Daron, you know what he’s like.”

“Master of mind games?” I leaned toward her but there wasn’t any way I could really comfort her without getting on her bed, and that seemed like a mistake right now.

“It’s like, oh, I don’t know, maybe I am even getting a little obsessed with him, like… ” She gave a little gurgle of frustration. “You’re like the one person I know who might understand this so I’m going to try to give you the explanation.”

“Okay.”

“Sex with him is very, very intense.”

“Yes, it is.” And what a strange thing it was to be able to say that out loud. Not that I had a huge basis for comparison, but still.

She went on in a shaky voice. “It’s like, he pushes me. He pushes my buttons. And I like it when he does that. At the time I get off on it, too, you know, the thrill of it, but later I feel ashamed and dirty, like how could I let him do that?”

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