“Clark! This is what we lived for.” My band mate Billy’s voice could be heard somewhere behind
A heavy drumbeat.
A Solo lead guitar plucking it’s strings.
A keyboard’s chords synchronized the melody together with other instruments.
Voice of a thousand was like a voice from the heavens.
Singing together with the anthem of our soul.
Spread my arms to embrace this moment.
Give thanks to the love they have given.
This stage is our home. This scene is our destiny.
Even I would lose my voice, I’ll shout forever the music of this world.
Nobody could ever steal this from me. Because I am Clark, the man of dreams.
The scene’s just…
Until the darkness covers my sight.
It's all just a dream.
Slowly, my sight came back and I saw the darkness of my bedroom. I figured out, it was just a dream, but it felt real: a temporary entertainment at night where I wished I was living.
I grabbed my phone and checked the time with one eye open. It was 6:00 a.m., yawned widely and rubbed my eyes. Headed to the kitchen, picked up the electric kettle and poured water from the faucet to prepare my coffee. Wiped off the fog-covered glass of the window to see what the weather was like. A small amount of snow was falling, it was the first snow of the year, it usually didn't snow in mid-November. I looked towards the sky and watched it slowly falling.
Once breakfast was ready, I set the chair beside the window to see the view outside as I munched on my toast and sipped coffee. This had been my routine since I lost my day job a few months ago. I had been working in an antique shop nearby for nearly three years, when the owner and his wife who both turned seventy-two, decided to retire and close the store for good, after forty years in business. I loved my job there, the owners were supportive and let me work flexibly whenever I had a band event. But I also understood the situation and their limited capacity to continue. I had no choice but to proceed with looking for a new job. The problem was, I hadn’t yet found a job that suited my desired schedule, as I also prioritized the rock band gigs that I was part of during the weekends. The band was one step closer to what I dreamed of, living through music, standing on a large stage and singing in front of thousands.
I took another sip of my coffee as I released a deep breath, remembered my dream last night. “Is what I truly want destined to remain a dream or will it come true?” Being negative rather than building confidence.
I reviewed my savings through the bank application on my phone, computing and estimating my remaining savings. It would last only two to three months to pay my rent, bills, food and other costs. Even the earnings from my gigs, barely covered the transport and food of each night’s playing. Aware more than ever of the onerous duties of being an adult, living just for the dream is not as easy.
"Clark?" The doorbell rang and someone called my name from outside the door. The person knocked and the doorbell rang again.
I walked to the door to check who it was; my mom, Lucy.
"Hi, mom, what made you come so early this morning? Come in.” I said.
She was in a hurry to get inside. "Did you see outside? It's snowing." She spoke while taking off her boots.
"Yeah, I saw it from the window.” I answered, while heading back to the kitchen.
"I left home early before going to the office because I have something important to tell you." She spoke loudly so I could hear from the other room.
"Come to the kitchen, mom."
"Coffee smells good.” She slipped off her jacket. “Were you having breakfast?"
I nodded and lifted an empty coffee mug. "Want some?"
She responded immediately. "Oh yes, please."
As I prepared more coffee, she pulled up a chair and sat beside the table. I took another look at my mom and noticed how she looked absolutely like me, from her rounded eyes to the curves of her diamond shape face to her smart, pointed nose. Of course there were differences too. She had long, straight, brown hair while mine was short and slightly wavy, she had smooth, white skin that I missed out on. The genes I got from my dad were the flesh color of my skin and my tall, buff build.
Soft steam rose from the blended coffee. I poured it into the mug and slid it across to her.
"So are you going to tell me why you came so early?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, dear, I wanted to tell this in person rather than calling you. You might want to consider this because it would be a great opportunity and experience for you." She smiled." Do you still remember your uncle in Japan? Uncle Hideo?"
"Yes, of course, he's the best uncle I know. What about Uncle Hideo?" Why was she asking me such an obvious question?
"He called just last night and asked how we were doing. First, I told him about my current position at the office and how I'm doing well. I mentioned your situation of being unemployed, and he said if you're interested, he might be able to help you get a job in Tokyo. He needs a new employee to work in one of his businesses." A job in Japan sounded interesting, but I still wanted to hear the whole story. So I kept listening to her.
"You know that your uncle owns several businesses in Tokyo. He’s expanding into the international market. He already interviewed several people to be part of that project, and he said he could give you a slot if you decide to work for him. He's currently looking for people who speak both English and Japanese, and you’re good at both.”
"He was telling me more about…hmmm." She moved her hands around like she was trying to recall words.
"I can't remember most of the difficult terms he referred to, but it was something related to music production for commercials and more. I told Hideo that I'm grateful for his support to my son, but I didn't want to decide on your behalf, that’s why I’d ask you. What do you say about this offer from your uncle?" She gave me a wide-eyed smile and added, “If you ask me, I think you should try it. You're still young, and you would learn some new things." She lifted the cup and took a sip of coffee.
I kept silent for a while. There were more questions than answers in my mind, but to be honest, it wasn't a bad offer. Except it would take me away from my developing band. I wished the offer was for here in New York. It would be perfect if it was here and not in the opposite side of the world, so that I would be able to do both. I tried to come up with a reasonable answer so she wouldn't force me, that’s why I said to her, "I'll let you know once I've decided."
"Don't worry, take your time.” she responded, with a soft smile. "Think about it, dear. I know you have some things you wanted to do here in New York and if you decide to stay here and do them, he will understand and respect your decision.
Just let me know whenever you’ve decided." She took another sip from the cup.
We had a little catch-up talk, and it was time for her to leave for the office. I hugged her goodbye at the door and headed back to the kitchen to clean up the cups and plates. Then, I lay back on the comfy old sofa in the living room, resting my head while scrolling through my phone to see childhood pictures from the time we were still living in Japan. I stopped my finger to look closely at a picture, in one frame, there’s me, dad, mom and uncle Hideo. It was taken on my first day of school in grade one. I had this weird mushroom haircut with an innocent look, which makes us laugh whenever me and my mom talk about it. Such a great life back then, but it was a short three years, as both of my parents decided to migrate to New York.
I stared for a minute, like traveling back to that time. Rested my phone close to my heart, and reminisced about the scenes from the past. Dad died when I was fourteen due to a massive heart failure. All of a sudden hell on the ground, squeezing his chest, and he suffering from pain. My mom was in panic and quickly called the ambulance, but everything happened like snap of a finger. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
At dad's funeral, everybody was devastated, but my uncle cried more than anybody else. He was my dad's younger brother and only sibling. The loss of his brother was like the loss of his life. I observed my uncle, ‘so this is what happens when someone dies?’ With no experience of death in our family, everything was new. I could not catch up with the questions and confusion in my brain. Negative thoughts added to our emotional sadness.
During those moments my uncle sat beside me on the bench while I cried. When I looked at him, his eyes were redder than mine and his eye bags were dark, as if he hadn’t been able to sleep well. He put his hand on my knee and said:
"Clark, in a situation like this, adjusting to the upcoming days will be tough, because it will not be the same as it was before. There will be times you’ll feel it's impossible to live without your dad. But remember this always .” he added gently, his voice trembling to stop his tears.
"Your dad gave you a great life. To repay him, live a life with no regret. Just don't be deceived by negative thoughts and emotions. The more you feel it's impossible, the stronger you should become. Trust yourself and believe in what you can do. What determines your life is based on your actions and decisions. Don’t hold back; be the man to accept challenges. Always calm yourself, find ways that you think are good, develop good wisdom and stretch your limitations."
I tried to understand what he meant by that. I was still young then, but as I grew up, those precious words he told me helped me a lot.
After the loss of my dad, my uncle initiated financial support for several years for us. That was a huge help, especially as we were trying to lift our family out of poverty, which reduced the stress over rent, food and daily expenses.
It wasn’t a glamorous start, but as we crawled through the difficulties, life started to become better. Mom was able to focus on her job as a sales manager, then she even got promoted after a few years. The help from my uncle allowed us to save more for the future. That's why my mom was able to send me to college and help me out with my education.
I used my sleeves to wipe away tears, I realized that I hadn’t moved on and might never move on from this sadness. Even now I still missed dad and got emotional from time to time. Looked around for something that could change my mood. Saw a paper bag lying on top of the computer table, a gift of a vinyl record from the antique shop where I used to work. Last week they gave me the remaining stock as they knew I collected records. Browsing at them one by one, a colorful cover in hippie style caught my attention. I wondered what kind of music it was, as I could not judge it by the cover. I unwrapped the plastic cover and set the record on the player, placing the pin carefully while the record slowly spun — a piece of good chill music, perfect for my morning.
I went back to checking the phone, opening the calendar, double checking the call time for the weekend gig because there were sometimes little changes to the schedule. The small bar called Zeal's was where our regular live gigs took place every Friday and Saturday. Sometimes we had different gigs that we performed in other places, but those were scheduled on Sundays, giving priority to Zeal’s, as that was the first place we had a regular gig as a band. The boss, Thomas Freeman, loved us and gave us a platform to perform our music. That was why we were returning the favor, we respected him so much for his support for our band.
Life would be easier if I didn’t prioritize life, following my dreams. It wouldn’t be a problem to find a job, but I just could not let go of my passion, as I’d worked so hard to get to this point. I’d come from an underground band that nobody knew or cared to listen to. Together with Billy, my best friend since high school, we’d built the band called B.P.C from scratch, aiming to become successful musicians. We’d accepted free gigs just for a chance to perform on stage, me on guitar and vocals, Billy on drums. We were just a two-man band with amateur skills. But our dedication drove us forward, never giving up. It took four years to find compatible band mates and another four years to establish regular gigs during weekends. We’d built a small audience of fifty to eighty people who visited our live performances every week to support our band. It may have been a small number to other people, but it was a breakthrough for us to be recognized. We hoped this might open doors to bigger and better things. If our supporters loved our songs, surely there would be other willing audiences out there.
I took my notebook and began to add to the continuation of the composition I’ve been writing. The temperature outside was getting warmer as rays of sun touched the window pane, reflecting the light into my small living room. It was a short, snowfall. Tapping the tip of the pen on the blank space of the paper was like sending morse code. Humming the words, while intensely digging the right words for the tune from my brain. Writing a good song had never been easy; it’s like sticking your hand into a box full of jigsaw puzzle pieces and searching for the missing pieces. You have to find the right lyrics then fit them into the right place, piece by piece to create the picture and the message you want — one that speaks to the hearts of the people.
But there are times I couldn’t help doubting myself, especially when things didn’t go the way I expected. What’s running through my mind would be more like, are we doing it right? Are we on the right track? Am I now creating good music to attract an audience? Just a bunch of different questions. I would over-think instead, which was one of my bad habits. It didn’t add anything good, just made me feel weak. Billy told me once that over-thinking resulted in a lack of trust in the things you do, and I agreed with him. I was impatient when I could not see results, and that was what pressured me on those days.
Whenever I’m on the cliff of discouragement, I keep reminding myself, what my end goal for creating music is? It’s always to move the listeners’ hearts. I wanted to use it for meaningful things. Hoping that the message of our songs would reach them in their sweet spot and that they would love what we did. Maybe if a person needed encouragement and hope, we could give encouragement through the music we created. If a person was happy, we could make them happier through the music. Whatever the situation, I hoped we could deliver something that makes them feel better.
I had already discovered that more exposure was necessary to reach the right audience. In this huge world, it’s impossible that I was the only one who would like the songs I created. There’s always a specific song for a specific person. I needed to keep on searching for that right listener — try to play my songs for the public and share my music through different platforms. I’ll grab any small chance that might become a turning point. I was currently in the process of working harder, creating more wisely, and producing good music ethics. There was no definite measurement of how hard I should work. I’ve got to push the boundaries as much as I can and not stop until I could see no more glimpses of possibility. When I shared this vision with my band mates, I was glad it matched the same perspective as my fellow musicians. That’s why, even though everyone had different jobs, they still made time to play together. But the road toward that success was blurred and undefined. There was still a lot to consider as we established our band. That was why I needed to take things one at a time. Nothing to rush, just create what was necessary.
While trying to focus on finishing the composition, my concentration was distracted by the topic discussed by mom and me. I dropped the pen as I paused what I was doing and leaned back on the sofa, staring at the ceiling. It was like I was standing in the middle of a split lane, confused about which path would be the best to take. The hard part was that both of them were good.
I could not come up with a great answer. Perhaps it was best to consult Billy. He knew more about me and might have good thoughts to clear my doubt. I checked the time. It was 8:30 a.m., Billy was probably on his way to work already. About to type a message, but I sensed the topic was important. I dialed his number and he answered straight away.
“Hey, Clark, what’s up?”
“Just want to ask when you’re free this week."
"Hmmm, maybe tomorrow? Why?"
"I want to consult you about something if you have some spare time."
“Are you ok? Is something wrong?”
“I’m fine, it’s just that I want to share something my mom told me. I might gain something, some of your wisdom perhaps to make a decision after discussing it with you.”
"Yeah, sure buddy. I leave my office around six, we could have dinner together somewhere and talk about it. Sorry, but I have to cut this call short. The meeting’s gonna start. Message you later."
“Yeah, sure. Thanks.”
I hung up, knowing I’d made better decision after talking to Billy.