By Lynn Biederstadt
Chapter 10: "THE ROAD COMES HOME"
Just after six, the loft’s freight elevator rumbled to life. The freight gate clanked open. The key turned in the front door lock. A familiar voice sang out from the doorway. “McGill, you here? The husband is home!”
She ran to him; threw herself into his long, lean embrace. She was crazy-glad to see him, from the tip of his dyed-sandy head to the knees of his artistically-torn jeans to his neon green Chuck Taylors. His arms were laden with travel bag, flowers, champagne, a Japanese animé doll. More than all those things, he’d brought her himself—exactly what she needed after the madness she’d been exposed to.
“My God, what are you doing here?”
“Problem with the Tokyo venue. I’ve got 36 hours before I’ve got to head back,” he said. “I figured I wouldn’t wait for you to miss another plane.”
They wasted no time. They were in bed before they’d gotten much past hello. Being with Ty was as passionate as it had always been, and as frenetic. Ty was a fighter plane in bed; he rattled headboards. But he was known territory, this man who had been at the center of her life for so long: his smells, his rhythms, the sound of him, even the rasp of his fret-hand calluses. She knew the set of every muscle and the lie of every hair. For the first time in a week, she knew exactly where she was. The road had come home.
The heavy breathing was barely past when the door buzzer started. Car horns barked from the street. The word had already gotten around that Ty Florey was back in town. And now he belonged to everybody. They got up, got dressed. Idyllic interlude over.
At one club after another, velvet ropes parted for them like automatic doors in a supermarket. Paparazzi flashes left afterburns in their eyes. Cristal and autographs flowed. Ty’s entourage grew like a virus, bigger by the minute. The conversation, like the music, was deafening. But Ty was there and she was there, and she remembered how good it could be.
His energy was fun. It always was—for the first few hours. Ty had always been as much about the celebrity as about the music; a hugely magnetic and likeable guy who loved the attention that came with who he was.
His reputation had always been an open invitation to “let’s party”, and he’d earned every second of it. He was a free soul, fearless and open to every kind of experience. He lived with nothing held back; no filters, no restraint or self-denial. He wanted, he took. He thought, he said. He felt, he acted. He swallowed life whole. With Ty, you hung on or you fell away. He’d toughed-out a brutal business and a very public rehab for meth addiction, and he’d wound up bigger than life. A total package that had made him the man-crush of pretty much every twenty-something straight guy in fifteen countries.
She remembered how things had been, early in their relationship, when love was new. It was all-consuming, even then, but different. They were rarely apart, even for an hour. He’d taught her the art of performing…how to let your audience know you were having fun… how to use your body to drive up the groove… how to seem to wring everything out of yourself, and still hold something in reserve. They’d sung together in the shower. He’d sung to her in bed. They’d slow-danced naked on the roof of their apartment building on cool summer nights. That was when it was all-wonderful between them. That was when it was still fun.
Here, now, in the club, the fun was more style than substance. It didn’t take long in the too-bright lights and shouted conversations before McGill started to feel like wallpaper. She tried to tell him about the book going to the top ten. He didn’t hear her. Or didn’t care to. Going solo in the midst of company was the eventual reality of every famous musicians wife: There was always someone who wanted a minute of his time, a piece of his life; always an act that wanted him to sit in for a number or two, always an autograph to sign, a back to slap, an old pal to be greeted or a new one to be made.
Early in their relationship, she’d hated his absences. Later, she’d been resigned to them. Now, she preferred them. The anything-you-want-anything-goes atmosphere of celebrity, the kowtowing laughter, the endless jokes, the pointless, über-extroverted conversations: She found them exhausting. How many rock stars did it take to screw in a light bulb? One to hold the light bulb and know that the world would revolve around him.
As good as it was to have him here, she couldn’t evade the truth of it: Ty hadn’t come back for her, not really. Not once in the hours they’d been together had he asked about herself, her thoughts, her work, her feelings. Fact was, he’d been homesick. He had come back for the photo-op, the familiar turf, and a little sexual home-cookin’. That was what passed for love between them these days.
It took ten minutes to tear him from his conversation. “Ty, could we go home? Just us?”
He looked at her as if she were speaking a foreign language. ”It’s only one o’clock,” he said. Translation: They’d only been partying for five hours; he wasn't spent yet. He threw his arm around her and went back to his conversation: Ty’s version of a problem solved.
She waited another hour, waited until he’d stepped away to talk with a record industry exec at the next table, to free herself. She asked Ty’s assistant Manny to tell her husband that she’d gone home, and slipped out a side door. It was an exit unnoticed and unremarked; the paparazzi were on the lookout for him, not her.
She could have taken their limo. Didn’t want it. The dozing city was a relief after the overheated club, late-April-cool, soothing and quiet in the pink streetlamp twilight. Cabs and limos slowed for her, looking for off-meter fares. But she needed exactly what the night had given her. She oriented herself crosstown, and set out on the mile-plus walk back to the loft.
Her feet found a tempo on the empty sidewalk, and her thoughts fell into pace with it. She had made the bestseller list this week, to public acclaim and a reaction from her husband as nonexistent as if she had dropped her words into the Hudson River the moment they were born. The more time she spent with Ty—the parties, the interviews, the sessions, the tours—the more alone she felt, as if a gaping space had opened up between some invisible-desirable and the person she was. She knew it was her own fault, this inability to accept what he offered her. Standing back from the richness of his life was insanity of a sort. But at least it was an insanity that belonged to no one but herself.
It was three a.m. when she let herself into the silent loft. Three-ten when she tucked herself into the huge bed. Alone.
Not thunder—husband. She woke to find Ty buzzing through their closets like a wasp against glass. Her suitcase lay open on the far end of the mattress, festooned with clothes. He wasn't finding what he was looking for. He was getting pissed about it.
“What are you doing, Ty? Why are you packing my bag?”
“Because you’re coming with me. Tokyo venue is still fucked up. Could be a week, now, maybe two before they get it straightened out. We can go spend some time… Maui, maybe. It’ll be good.”
She should have known this was coming. This what he always did, and it always came out of nowhere. He made decisions. He never asked; he told her, expecting that she would drop everything. Every time she’d gotten comfortable, thinking that maybe for once they were headed in the right direction, their relationship always turned down the rocky road of control.
“Ty, I can’t. I’m working.” Reflexively, she looked to the nightstand. Her notebook was missing. She panicked. “Ty…where’s my notebook?”
It was on the bed, thrown down among the disorder of his packing. “You mean this?” He took that object that was the most intimate, personal, treasured part of herself; held it out the window. “Aren’t you done playing with your imaginary friends?”
She got up and wrapped the sheet around her. She tried to stay passive. When he was in his mood, any response stronger than a murmur would only make this worse. The least show of temper would come back at her a hundredfold. And her notebook would end up on the pavement, twelve stories down.
“Stop. Please. Give me the notebook. Please? You know I can’t go anywhere. I’m in the middle of interviews.” That was a lie. Technically, the St. Amelia’s article was finished—but Ty wouldn’t know that.
“You don’t interview people: You stalk them.”
“What’s the urgency here, Ty?”
“I’m the urgency. Me. Those interview people will wait. I’m here. I’m real—not on paper. You’ve got a husband who wants you with him…what is so fucking important about writing something nobody wants to read?”
Predictable Ty. Every insecurity, every doubt, every confidence: She could count on him to twist it, distort it, and play it back louder. And now she was angry. “Oh that’s right. Arena rock is the secret to world peace. How could I have forgotten?”
He stepped into her. She could feel his breath on her face. She waited for the blow that would follow it. “Is your life with me so bad? Is it?”
“I’ll tell you, you’re not making it any better right now.”
“McGill, I flew all the way from Japan to be with you. And this is what I get. It’s always the same excuses; always the same damned thing.” He threw her notebook into her bag and threw the bag against the wall. Clothes flew everywhere. Her notebook landed in a mangled heap on top. “Tell you what: Fuck this. Stay here. I don’t want you with me. Getting away from you will be the best thing I could do for myself.”
“That’s what you always say, and it never means anything. Let me ask you, McGill, do you think this marriage is working? Because I sure as hell don’t.” He snatched up his travel bag and stormed out of the loft.
She heard the freight elevator gates close in the hall. Ty’s harangue still rang against the walls. She found her notebook; smoothed its pages apologetically as if smoothing a ruffled temper. Ladies and gentlemen, for one night only, the real Mister and Mrs. Ty Forey. Paradise Fail.
As much as she wanted to feel awful about it, there was definitely good news/bad news happening here. Bad news: Her marriage was still a trainwreck. Nothing different there. Good news: She’d gotten through Ty’s departure without a black eye to remember him by. Better still, his steamrolling temper had cut her a clear path to go wherever the work invited her, without fear of interruption or distraction. And she knew exactly where that would be.
She was going back upstate. To where a story still wanted telling. Right about now, compared with real life, even insanity was looking pretty good.
Missouri-based writer Lynn Biederstadt, who blogs at Sky Diaries, is the author of two published novels. MyStoryLives began serializing THE SPIRITKEEPER on March 8th.