Ziggy stands in the wings backstage at the Refugee Club, a narrow shadow. He lights a cigarette, shielding the flame with his hand to protect the darkness. In the full house beyond the curtain, Ziggy counts dozens of reflections of himself. Boys or girls, hair cut spiky with spaghetti-o colored dye-jobs, all waiting for him. He exhales a lungful of smoke. Every night there’s more of them, but it’s not enough, not yet.1983, Los Angeles
"Ziggy.” Asia Heyes, the Spider’s bass player calls him from the doorway to the basement dressing room the band shares. “Weird’s real sick."
“No he’s not.” Ziggy says, turning.
“Yeah, Zig, he is. He’s not gonna be able to play the show tonight. He should be--”
"He should be shootin’ the hell up, Asia. He’s the guitar player, and this isn’t fuckin’ Charity’s Place back in Ann Arbor anymore. It’s the Refugee Club where somebody important could be listening.” Ziggy moves farther backstage, past Asia, down the rickety stairs. He smells it, bitter on the air before he hits the bottom step. Then he hears Weird choking.
Asia is right behind Ziggy, protesting. “He’s almost clean. Don’t fuck it up for him.”
Ziggy doesn’t answer. Instead of going down the short hallway to the bathroom, he heads into the dressing room. Weird’s guitar case is propped against the broken down leather couch that sags in one corner. Tucked inside, along with the instrument are Weird’s works, just like Ziggy knew they would be. He grabs the pouch and steps around Asia to cross the hall. Without knocking, Ziggy opens the bathroom door.
It’s a re-modeled storage closet, too small for three people. Gilli, their drummer, hovers, worry lining his pretty face.
Weird’s on the floor, back against the wall, arm draped around the toilet seat, like it’s his best friend. In the buzzing fluorescent light, his skin is the color of spoiled milk. His face is covered in a thin sheen of sweat, long red-blond hair stuck down with it. He wipes a hand over his beard, looks up at Ziggy through slitted eyes and grins. “Hey Stardust, you gonna hold my hair while I puke some more?”
“Are you’re gonna? I mean, you are gonna be okay, aren’t you?” Gilli’s face turns even paler as he squeezes himself against the sink to let Ziggy all the way in.
“Oh sure.” Weird groans, sucks in some of the sour air. “Yeah, I’m great.” Then he looks up at Ziggy again. “Gimme my damn smack.”
“No.” Gilli gasps. “No, Weird.”
Weird stares hard at Ziggy. “Gimme m’ works, Stardust. Neither one of them will.”
Ziggy nods. He hands the pouch over and turns away.
Asia is leaning against the hand railing of the stairs, shaking his head as Ziggy exits the bathroom. “So let him go back to killin’ himself, and you don’t even care, do you?”
“You think he can play clean, Asia?” Ziggy says. “You wanna take that away from him?”
“That’s bullshit. You don’t really think that.” Asia laughs. “You get what you want, and that’s all that matters.”
Ziggy looks into Asia’s eyes, rust/green, and takes a breath. All he ever gets from Asia anymore is anger and disappointment. Ziggy won't apologize for telling the truth. He reaches up to brush a stray lock of wavy ginger hair back from his face, but Asia flinches.
“Whatever you wanna think.” Ziggy says softly. “It’s done. Get ready for the show.”
He goes back upstairs without waiting for Asia’s answer.
Asia shakes it off. He moves to stand in the doorway. “Wait, Weird. I can play your shit tonight and Zig can play bass.”
Weird is up, unsteadily leaning against the sink, already cooking his shit, Gilli looking on, stricken. Weird snickers. “How you think he’s gonna do that? Faggot can’t even walk and chew gum.”
“I don’t care.” Asia knows he’s pleading. He wants to knock the smack out of Weird's hand, shake him. Don't make Ziggy right, he wants to say. But he goes back to begging instead. “We can do it.”
“Asia, look, Stardust’s a bastard, but he’s right.” Weird says. His hands don’t shake at all when he pulls the plunger back on his syringe to suck the liquefied drug up. “You think that bein’ a junkie’s ruinin’ my life, right? That I'm tryin' to kill myself? See, no, because it’s all I am, Asia. No junk, no music. I'm not giving that up.”
Weird is tying a piece of tubing around his upper arm. He looks from Asia to Gilli. “You guys got shit to do before we go on, right?”
Not really, Asia thinks, but feels himself give in. He turns away and Gilli follows him.
Ziggy returns to the shadows behind curtain. Weird will come through. He always does. No matter what his condition, he lives for the moment the lights hit the stage almost as much as Ziggy himself. Onstage, they always speak the same language.
Ziggy pauses before he lights another cigarette. Asia and Gilli come up from the dressing room to go out back. Ziggy stays hidden. He knows Asia needs his space. Once the stage door swings closed, he pulls his lighter out. Disappointment, anger, Ziggy thinks again. But it was all right if Asia didn't understand. As long as he didn't leave.
Ziggy takes a long drag on his fresh cigarette and pushes off from the wall. He sees the small slim form of Sammy appear from the other side of the curtain. She locates him by the glow of ash. He gives her a wide smile. “Are you my fifteen minute warning?”
She tilts her head up to kiss him and he feels the sticky exchange of their lip gloss. Her hands are at the zipper of his jeans. Ziggy is still thinking of Asia when she slides her hands inside.