A Broken Heart can be as Serious as a Broken Bone
There are so many things I want to write about today... Actually, this is the one day that I wish I was working instead. I am paid by appointment, and there will be no income for cancelled appointments! I just borrowed money to get an apartment~ So, it is vital that I have a steady income right now. However, I have learned~ When life knocks you down with this much force, don't fight it... Take this moment to reassess and appreciate the necessary time off. A broken heart can be as serious as a broken bone.
Let me start with this story... Jimmy was a random stranger I met in a bar out in Reading, PA. I had just played a featured set at the open mic there, where my friend Matthew Bailey hosts.
Matt and I met on occasion when he visited Philly to play city open mics. A tall, strong black man in his twenties; I would not have imagined him to be such an innocent and unconditionally optimistic soul upon first seeing him. However, he caught my attention by playing an original he wrote for a friend who committed suicide, "What a Drag". His words touched me. They drew a picture of a person gone that I could still meet. They explained his pain in being unable to make his friend understand that there is healing in music that might have saved him...
I understand... because music has saved my life many times.
...Back to Reading- upon finishing our set, my partner broke away to visit with an old friend, who was also dealing with a personal tragedy... My suggestion to go play this gig was largely in part to create an opportunity for this meeting.
In the meanwhile, I knew that my presence would impede their communication- and Matt was still performing... So, I struck up conversations with the local patrons. The first one I wanted to meet was a large biker with long dreaded hair. He had a very distinctive look that left me dying to ask a silly question, "Would you be offended if I asked if you've ever dressed as a Klingon?"
He laughed uncontrollably, "I'm a Star Wars, not Trek kind of guy."
We exchanged words over our mutual taste for Sci-fi. His name was Tommy. He complimented my set and offered to buy me a shot... "It's the least I can do," he said. Reluctantly, I agreed- feeling like liquid courage would help me socialize with strangers.
Feeling a little more brave after, I asked if he would let me put an Echo Victory sticker on his chest for a picture, "You know, like how they have hot chicks wear t-shirts with brands across their boobs? This is my reverse gender exploitation! I'm going to post tough dudes marked with my brand!"
He was into it. He thought it was so funny- that when his other biker friends came in, he introduced me and they let me do the same with their riding vests... This is how I met Jimmy, Amber, and Ty.
Suddenly, I couldn't help but notice that Matt works in a very different world from Philly... I grew up in a small central PA town, much like that area, without many minorities mingling. Some part of me felt a little concern for whether this group of bikers was open minded and friendly to everyone- or just cute girls.
I told myself to put my prejudice out of my mind and remain in the conversation. I learned that Amber is a nurse... Having worked in a hospital and nursing homes, I was quick to tell her how much I admire the work nurses do!
She was shy.
I invited her to my aMUSEment even party, "I know it's far, but it's really an awesome experience! -and we do it about twice a year, if you can't make this one... There will be more."
As I continued getting to know Tommy- a former marine... who rebelled from having his head shaved weekly by growing long dreads... and Ty, a tattoo artist who showed me his amazing work on his smart phone... I could overhear Jimmy talking to Amber, softly, privately. He was explaining to her that I was being so overly friendly because I was a performer, "It's a good thing."
Although I did not address what I had eavesdropped, it stuck to me.
Too often I am bombarded by "friends" who tell me how I look at any given moment... frequently accompanied by a strange reenactment. This never ceases to make me uncomfortable. However, what I heard Jimmy say opened my mind... That thing that I was trying to force myself to practice, to learn; how to meet strangers, acknowledge why they are special in their own rights, and enjoy the fleeting moments we share... I was obviously doing it right!
...By then Jimmy had offered to buy me a drink, "Alcohol or non- it doesn't matter, my wife's not drinking 'cause she rides her own bike." He smiled with pride.
I looked out at the table where my partner and his friend were still deep in conversation, half wishing I could check in with him first to be sure he wasn't waiting for me to ask to leave... "I'll have what you're having," I smiled.
Amber giggled, "Oh, now he'll definitely wear your sticker!"
We drank our rum and cokes, telling jokes... Until the topic started to get very racial- I think I may have likely been the instigator. That was when I realized, although Matt had given the mic to Tommy now, he was sitting away from the crowd.
I wandered over to him, "What's up? These guys are funny!" I whispered, "Can you tell me that guy's name? I keep forgetting."
Matt looked at me blankly, "I don't know him."
Somehow I closed the gap between where Matt and the crowd were sitting enough to hear Ty say, "Okay, you can come back. We're done telling racist jokes. Really, we're not like that..."
I smiled, "How does every black joke start?"
Before I could go for the punchline I knew, Matt chimed in, "No offence, BUT~"
Everyone chuckled and chatted... and I felt good, really good. Jimmy was talking about what crew he biked with and how they wouldn't let anyone "mess with" Matt. He really made me feel like... It had been ME being a small person, presuming I could classify his character according to his appearance and profession. Somewhere in the pain of growing up, I had picked up my own prejudice... Believing I could tell anything about the quality of a person based upon what pictures they decided to ink into their skin or where they pierced a hole... But in only a couple short hours, Jimmy both showed me a side of myself I longed to meet, as well as a side of Caucasian men in his social subsection that were modern and just trying to live good lives.
...I have followed their posts on Facebook... I have commented encouragement when Amber has posted about the challenges of being a nurse... Only today did I realize that the reason there have suddenly been so many more posts with Jimmy's name tagged is because he passed away last week, five days short of his 31st birthday.
I do not know the details of his death.
........................Strange- How fragile life is. How suddenly it ends for some people who are appreciating it... While people like me complain about wanting to commit suicide.
Last year, around this time, a good friend lost her teenage son to suicide. I remember seeing her post announcing it... I recall feeling guilty that my immediate, unconscious response was pure jealousy. A teenager figured it out! How hard can it be? Why am I stuck in this life? This body? ...This beautiful body.
I have avoided speaking out about those feelings because I was still working past them. However, having lost my partner yesterday- to complications I will leave between he and I -I will remind myself again and again; what a good friend of mine told me during one of our disagreements, "It could be worse. He could be dead."
I have been working hard to find a reason to want to live- even without him in my life -to release him from the unintended burden he has been carrying- to give me purpose. Perhaps it was not possible to prove I had found it until I could live alone, not for anyone but myself...
I do not know what the future holds, but I not ruling anything out anymore. Anything is possible.
Jimmy, Amber, and their families are in my prayers... People who touched me- the way that I want my music and writing to touch others.