Have you ever shut your ears in desperation, clamoring for peace, only to find your sense of being with self, encroached upon by the noises of shovel beetles? As I stood with my nine year old son, Jack holding his hand in stoic silence starring at the unending waves of traffic crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a winter night, wave after wave of memories kept hitting us hard. This was the place, where it had all started twelve years back. Russell and I had met in New York City for the first time and what had followed since then was a roller coaster ride of a life time.
The exuberance of our youths, the addictive energy and enterprise of New York City, the music of the East River and our dreams of co-creating something meaningful during our lives had brought me and Russell together for a bond of a lifetime. At least that it was what it seemed like back then. When you have the universe blessing you with divine energy to unite you and the love of your life, you start believing in miracles. What was it if not a miracle? Russell and I were more than just two different human beings. We had two very different approaches to life.
The first time that I had met Russell was during a live concert in New York. Not really an aficionado of jazz music, I had nevertheless relented my consent to my colleagues at the bank where I worked. Not exactly a person who liked to socialize and go out, it was just an experience for me and it was supposed to come to a legitimate conclusion that evening with the downing of the curtains at the end of the concert. The music, my colleagues that had accompanied me to the performance and all those people that I could hear as we were about to walk out of the hall was indeed memorable. At least those in my network that had a serious sense of jazz music that evening were in awe of this entire troupe of musicians.
Call it my ignorance of jazz or even better my passion for number crunching, I had found nothing extraordinary. Anyways I had this sense of aversion for rock stars, pop singers and jazz musicians. Their vivid sense of imagination, passion for imageries and over the top flamboyance never interested me. Although young and single, I was usually the one to find solace and peace in the arms of my mother and in the comfort of my bed. I was a simpleton with simple dreams and simple thoughts. I had no taste for art then and jazz music or men for that matter were not my cup of tea. Call it the greatest irony of my life if you should but my gang somehow coerced me into meeting the musicians after the concert.
They were a troupe of 12 men led by someone that was supposed to be the lead and the face of the group. My colleagues were far too excited and happy at getting the opportunity to meet these musicians back stage in the green room. While I was getting late and certainly wanted to get back to my place at the earliest, my gang of girls had literally ushered me into doing a group photo sessions with whom they termed as the new superstars of New York City. While I found all the men in the troupe to be regulars before the shutterbugs and posed with an air of professionalism, I was happy to be lurking at the back. One of these young men though had noticed my sense of discomfort or rather displeasure in dealing with such photo operations. At the end of it all, Russell, that man with blond hair and blue eyes had asked for my particulars of the work that I did, the place where I lived and of course my name.
That evening gave way to a coffee date and that in turn set the ball rolling for regular drop-offs to my place, until one day my mother enquired about him. Russell was invited to dinner and by the time we were sitting by the mantel piece after food; I was convinced that Russell was the one. He had still not said a word, but I had heard him loud and clear. While mom was not convinced of my future with a budding jazz musician, both I and Russell nevertheless had decided to tie the knot.
A year later we had decided to exchange sacred vows in the presence of God and had decided to move out of New York City to Florida, Miami in search of Russell’s dream of producing music. Even when Russell was still working to cut his second album, Jack happened. While Russell was still at his quest for his magnum opus, his kind of music that would one day usher him into the list of all-time greats, I was content playing mommy, here in Florida.
Having left my banking career sometime back and having settled down as a home maker, Russell’s madness for music though not mine was still my constant companion. Even as I ran busy doing errands of domestic chores, Russell though always with me was somehow living in a different world. Passion for jazz had given way to obsession, a young prodigy had given way to a genius in the making but the chords of his saxophone were yet to give way to material success. The clear skies above us and the cries of Jack throughout long nights that had once kept both of us awake had given way to a distance between us. I was still the same and Russell though the same musician that I had known was not the husband that I had married not long back. What had been brewing beneath the surface came to the forefront on the day Jack had to enroll in school and Russell who had developed a rather irritable temper, collapsed midway to the school.
The medic on a home visit to examine Russell had a rather tense face with eye brows joined in anxiety, when he asked me some sharp questions. While the pattern of his questions had failed to give me any serious concerns, what he said next pulled the rug beneath my feet. Russell had been taking cocaine on and off. My worst fears came true when two weeks later I stumbled upon drugs in our restroom. I had no option but to walk on broken pieces of glass. With Jack merely having started attending kindergarten school and me without a job for years then, the last thing I wanted was medical and psychological counsel for anti-drug relief and rehabilitation from The Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association. The world around me tumbled down like a pack of cards.
In between frequent visits to the rehabilitation center, I often travel to New York on official assignments. Russell, the man that was destined to make it big in jazz music and had once urged me to keep dancing till the music had stopped, was now a pale shadow of the man I had first seen and then known. Or must I say Russell was the man that I had probably never known? Was I wrong in believing in Russell’s abilities far too much than he himself ever did? Was I wrong to walk out of my comfort zone, job and New York City that had given me so much positive energy and blessings since childhood? I do not hear a thing now. The music has stopped playing.
As a mother of a kid with dreams in his eyes, I aspire to live every day. But as a mother of a kid with questions in his mind about our frequent visits to the rehabilitation center, I am prompted to question my wisdom, if not that of Russell’s. When children in the neighborhood play with their dads, Jack has nothing but questions to latch on to. When his teachers at school have conversations on grades and call me up to explain the need for parental care, Jack looks at me with questions that I can possibly never answer. On visits to the medic and during conversations with psychological counselors, Russell sits still, aloof and ignorant of the harmony that he, Jack and I could have created had we been together. Drug rehabilitation is not just expensive financially, but also socially. There are costs that are never written on the books, but are borne by loved ones. There are questions that are never asked but silent sobs. There are no words exchanged, but echoes of melancholy past. Yes the past is always melancholy because there is no way that anyone can ever turn the clock back.
Russell tries to speak some times. He knows what he is missing and the damage that he has done, especially when I take Jack along to see him. The remorse is apparently visible in his eyes. He tries to hug Jack tight in his arms but the effects of cocaine addiction and the results of his misadventures tell a tale that no one apart from Jack and me would want to listen to and only I can understand. Medics have told me to be patient and hope for resurgence in behavioral health.
Standing close to the East River, Jack and I gaze at the sky above and the bustling city that surrounds us. At times I feel like closing my ears to all that I can hear, only to be reminded by a warm hug from Jack that I am a mother. Somewhere far across the azure sky there is hope. It may not be visible at the moment but hope does exist. I am a believer. In fact both Jack and I are believers.