Authors: Naima DaCosta
Hayley glossed over in her mind those strange minutes when she had awakened to that disturbing music.. telling herself it was mostly her imagination. She looked up from her food and smiled him a mouthful of eggs which made him laugh..a bit woodenly, she thought. when she had finished eating he spoke up. "Hayley.. I'm having a wonderful time with you but I'm afraid I'm getting behind in my work. I'm sure you have your own work to take care of too.."
Despite his reasonable words, Hayley's heart, by now so attuned to his every mood and whim, shot out pangs of alarm. she forced herself to remain calm on the surface.
"Of course, We'll adjourn for the day and I can come back sometime late in the evening"
Jack shook his head "No that won't work for me. I'm going to have to be working around the clock for a few days- at least. until I get certain things done."
She looked him straight in the eye, "You don't have to bullshit me Jack, You're worried about what I said last night and now you're trying to avoid discussing it" her heart hurt but honesty was more important right now. He said as gently as he could "It's not good Haley.. I know something bad will happen if you stay here."
Hayley flashed her intense brown eyes at him, "Can't you let me decide for myself what's good for me? or are you afraid of me?"
Jacks face was grim, "Maybe I am afraid of you...or maybe I'm afraid of what kind of effect we might have on each other... whichever it is I know in my heart that you need to go away right now today for a while at least. She looked at him, crumbling slightly, "Don't you see what this means to me? to us? I know you can feel the same beauty I feel in our embrace."
Jack agreed "Of course I can, that's what makes this so dangerous..It would be so much easier if you weren't so dead set on this career of yours."
Hayley looked at him, "Are you telling me you'll let me stay if I give up my career, all my hopes and dreams?" Jack shook his head, "No, obviously I couldn't ask that.. but I can't watch you go down that road without hating my self for every sling and arrow I can't protect you from, and there will be so many"
Hayley was sick of his sob stories, "Look Jack, I don't scare easily.. what's so terrible that you can't trust me to protect myself?"
Jack resigned himself to having to share things he had no desire to share with anyone:
"Hayley, you and I both know you have plenty of talent and drive you can be successful- if you can handle all the bullshit in this business. You could also be great- if you can put all your soul into your work consistently. If you can do both of these things it thanklessly for long enough you may finally produce something truly and tenaciously irresistible. If you can produce that miracle once, you're truly blessed. But that's not enough. you have to do it again and again. Without gratitude. With indifference and even annoyance when you try to convince people this blessed thing you've created is worth disturbing business as usual over. You'll hate everyone, you'll want to kill anyone who refuses to listen- you'll want to beg and plead them to listen, you will hate your self for begging because it only makes people hate you for making them feel guilty. you will try to present it with humble reverence, but you will feel that everyone thinks your sincerity is a joke. You'll have to tone down your passion and learn to be blase and devious, traits which will undermine the purity of your own love for your work. you'll feel queasy. You'll feel like a beggar with a priceless artifact he cannot sell... because no one will even look at him to see what he's holding. You'll say 'here take this gaudy, worthless trinket from me, I know it's worth nothing but can you please give me enough for something to eat?'And you will have no takers. after untold numbers of well wishers and broken promises. You will have had enough tiny successes to suddenly find your self in the midst of strangers with shiny faces and greedy hands who'll offer you laughable sums to take away your finest work representing years of your love..your dedication and suffering. and you will sell...as little as you can. simply to survive, in the hopes of writing better ones before you burn out. and you will burn out, not once but again and again. and you'll keep writing though you know your work is only a pale shadow of your once bright promise. it may be years between these burnouts before you recover any measure of your true strength. Eventually you will slowly, shyly allow yourself to believe in the beauty of your muse again- because it is your only true friend and you feel bold once more and hope will start to well up again... but it will never be the same as before because you will know that you'll fall again from grace. One day, one of your children- not your best, but not your worst either will finally be the one that clutches at a collective nerve and for once manages to hold on... if you manage to get it heard by that magical number of people it takes for it to burn it's way into the collective memory. It will be divorced finally and properly from that prison of painful solitude in which it was incubated. It will stand on it's own as your ambassador of goodwill, as your loving child telling everyone it meets what a great parent you were to it. You will be called a success, a major player a true artist. and it will be terrible joke to you. you will hate more, not less. You will use your success not as a bridge to re-unite yourself to the world as you once hoped but as buffer to keep maintain and strengthen your distance. To keep alive that last precious bit of humanity left inside which vapid smiles and empty congratulations from an endless stream of thoughtless well-wishers can kill every bit as quickly as rejection once did, and then one day another young Hayley Parker will come your way and they will say, 'I love you'- and you will know it's true but you won't be able to love them back no matter how much they deserve it. Then you will know why I'm telling you to leave this place... now."
Hayley understood now. The musicians life had destroyed Jack's hope, but she stood tall, knowing that it would not destroy hers.
"Jack, I still feel like this isn't quite the end yet.. I know you're going to tell me not to wait- but I will anyway, no matter what you say."
Jack said nothing as she walked through the door and off into the cold January morning. Hayley went home. She worked and she wrote and she cried and she waited.
It had been 2 weeks since Jack last called her. Hayley was so lonely that she called up Michael from work so they could meet afterward for a drink. They sat in a dingy little afterhours joint above a pool hall, where alcoholics and industry people could drink till dawn. Michael knew why she was here, and he flirted with her as usual to try to cheer her up, but after a couple of drinks her glumness started to wear on him so he let the subject turn to what they were both thinking about anyway.
"How come jack is the way he is?" Hayley sensed Michael freeze up after she had spoke,. and then he began to ramble about the old days on the road. Mostly funny stories that had nothing to do with what she really wanted to know.
Hayley didn't really care to hear any more old stories but she let Michael reminisce through two more whiskeys. He was getting a drunk now and his mood turned uncharacteristically dark all of the sudden.
"They said that last tour is what broke him... that was a total lie, nothing broke him- the record company just threw him in the garbage is all," Michael said.
Hayley's ears perked up because it finally felt that maybe Michael would share something important with her. Most of Michaels stories had been about ridiculous and/or obscene things that happened to the band on the road or various women that he and Jack had supposedly fought over.
"Why?" Hayley wondered out loud, her brown eyes burning for truth, "and how come noone knows that?"
"Well, when they didn't get a hit out of him right away they just kept him on the road and wouldn't let him record anymore."
Hayley suddenly understood why Jack was so obsessed with hits, and so contemptuous of what he called "songwriting for the sake of songwriting."
Michael went on "He had signed an exclusive contract for 5 albums so there was nothing he could do. He and I and the other boys toured until every bit of the money the company spent on him was recouped... He had saved up all his daily expense money so he had a little nest egg to fall back on while he figured out what to do next.. until the record company found out about it and sued him for it."
"Oh No," Haley felt her stomach churn.
"They won because he couldn't prove he had paid back all of the money. The record company cooked the books. Then later they sued him for breach of contract when he refused to tour anymore."
"Holy shit" she said, it sounded like a nightmare, "is that what broke him?"
Michael looked surprised, "Didn't you hear me before? Nothing broke him"
"Then why did he disappear for so long?"
Haley almost didn't want to know the rest.
Michael's face was angry, "Well he was still legally bound to his contract for a couple more years even though they weren't supporting him any more.. but that's not the worst part," Michael paused for a moment and drained his glass, "the worst part was that they technically owned all of his publishing still...not only from his album, but for every single song he wrote in those years when they wouldn't let him record. He put everything he had his tender young heart.. all of his hopes and dreams into those songs and they took them all away from him.."
"why would they do that? What did they gain?" Haley thought it seemed so pointless and evil, "Why didn't they ever release that material, or try to sell it back to him later when he could have paid?"
Michael looked down at his tired hands gripping his glass of booze "you know...I think they probably will sell those songs... but not until he dies.
"But that would mean..." Hayley said horrified.
"He'll never get the satisfaction of knowing if those songs he loved were as good as we all thought they were then- he'll never get to know how much the world might have been able to share that feeling."
"It's enough to make a grown man cry" he said self mockingly, wiping the wetness from his misty eyes. "surely he must still know them, did he have any copies? did he ever try to re-record them?...even just for himself?"
Michael smiled grimly, "you better believe he had copies- do you know what he did? he burned them. every last one. If you know what's good for you, and him don't ever mention this to him and whatever you do, don't ask him to play any of them for you. He probably won't speak to you again if you try to bring it up."
Hayley remembered that melancholic little piece of music he had played when he didn't think she was listening, she knew it inside and out, just from hearing that one time. It's twists and turns and it's beautifully resolved cadences. From some reason she felt like that was some tiny piece of glory leftover from that terrible time, or maybe his lament for it.
”He was so proud when he got that record contract all on his own, no manager, no lawyer.. he had come up from nowhere with nothing and proved that raw talent and guts could still win." Michael sighed and motioned to the waitress for another drink. "Their knife was in his back before he ever knew it.. until he finally felt them twist it...right through his heart"
The next night Hayley was laying in bed when she got finally got a text from Jack.
“Come over. now,” was all it said.
Hayley teased her hair, threw on a simple dress and called a cab, in minutes she was out the door. It was a weird and terrible feeling she felt as she arrived to find Jack in a black mood, brooding with a bottle at his piano. He was listening to an early John Coltrane record. Her youthful cheer seemed to irritate rather than amuse him as before.
Jack asked Hayley questions she had already answered before, as if they were meeting for the first time and he barely listened to her answers. He was focusing on the music instead, humming along to parts of saxophone solos he liked particularly. When she tried to change to subjects she knew they had discussed with pleasure before he simply ignored her.
Hayley was worried, wondering how drunk he was. She had never really seen him drunk, though she had watched him open new bottles and finish them in the same evening. He never slurred and always moved with the same self control, though he did swagger slightly more in the midst of such excesses. He suddenly started talking about his old touring days and her ears perked up in alarm.
Thinking of her conversation with Michael, Hayley felt sick inside. She had never heard him speak directly about that time in his life, only alluding to it in offhand remarks about most rock stars being nothing but stoned puppets or stadium tours being the biggest con game this side of organized religion.
"I played 247 shows in one year and they said I still owed them..those motherfuckers.."
Hayley assumed he meant the record company he had been signed to once upon a time. He rambled on "they killed my career...stole my songs..made me a has been at 28" He had murder in his eyes but his voice just sounded tired.
Hayley didn't dare say a word.. she waited for him to finish. Suddenly, he dropped his nearly empty bottle on the floor and a second later he followed after it. sliding off the piano bench and hitting his head against the the keys on his way down, making a cacophonous racket.
Jack sat on the floor looking like he was about to try and get up, His eyes were unfocused, his pallor sickly. Without thinking she rushed to his side to help him, all the compassion in her heart welling up inside her. Just as she was about to kneel down and try to keep him from hurting himself more, he snapped out of his stupor and with a furious excess of energy, knocked her down pinning her to the floor with one arm. In a single movement he tore her dress up and then his belt and fly were open.