A rude awakening on a cold December morning.
There are a ton of things in history that are left out. The people in charge of recording events sometimes leave certain details out. In the records of World War II, a lot of the actions of the Nazi army were not discovered until years later: The Nazis themselves deleted a whole bunch of records in order to hide out some hideous actions and try to clean up their reputations at least a bit. There are also a lot of hidden stories regarding the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and John Lennon. John Lennon…
I remember him so clearly. It was such a shame. Someone I had come to know so closely in the past and was now dead. When I woke that morning, my daughter came running in, newspaper in her hand, as she had done every morning since she had learned how to walk. She was already fourteen, and happy to be around, despite the fact that she never knew her father. She jumped happily on my bed, waving the paper in her hand, a lovely smile on her face, that face that was just so identical to her father’s, a man I had not seen in ages. –Good morning, mom! - She slumped herself down on my bed. –Here’s the paper! – But as she unrolled it, her face fell.
Oh, no, mom…- I saw a tear fall from her eye. I had never told her about her origins, but she was a fan of John’s without me telling her anything.
Mom… This can’t be real…-
Her saddened excitement brought me back to life. – What? What’s the matter? - I rubbed my left eye as I leaned on an elbow, waking up. Already sobbing, my daughter dropped the newspaper at my side, and hid her face as she fell to her knees. –It can’t be true… It can’t be true…-
I picked up the paper and read the front page. I read it once… Twice… Three times. And no matter how many times I read it, it seemed like I hadn’t seen it a single time. Such was my shock:
FORMER BEATLE JOHN LENNON SHOT DEAD OUTSIDE APARTMENT BUILDING.
-Oh, no…- I began to cry as I woke up to that sad reality. –No!! It can’t be!!!- I sat up on the bed. – Jamie, turn on the TV!
My daughter obliged, and we both sat on my bed, watching the news coverage of John’s terrible demise. Jamie sobbed quietly while the tears in my eyes seemed to have a life of their own, welling up and running down my cheeks. With each tear, a memory. A memory of a friend, a confident, a martyr. The thought of a witty comment or a warm kiss flooded my body and froze my blood. Oddly enough, more than thinking of him, I thought of the others. John was always too good for this world anyway. He deserved a better place, even if being shot in the back by a lunatic seemed cruel and ludicrous. But for the shock of the whole event, it seemed I could only think about the other three boys. George, my sweet little Georgie, with his boyish pranks and happy smile, who held John in awe as some sort of divine inspiration; Richie, who was always looking to cheer things up for the lot of them by playing the fool, especially when things got really ugly. But if there was anyone I was doubly concerned for, it was Paul. I knew, first hand what his feelings for John were; He wasn’t especially fond of public demonstrations, but one thing I knew for sure: Whatever he did, rotten or not, was because he loved John. To this day, I am convinced that no one and I mean no one, suffered and ached over John’s death more than James Paul McCartney.
It was a fact. My friend, Johnny Beatle, the Doctor O’Boogie, was gone for good.
The following day the papers accused Paul of being cold hearted, as his only comment regarding the shooting was: "It’s all a drag, man." Most people believed he had meant that he was sick of the whole John-is-dead business; But I knew Paul well enough to say that John’s death in itself was a drag. And it WAS! What else could he have said? All I had to do was close my eyes to figure out what Paul’s move would be; he would find out about the news, be very, very silent for a few hours. He would then try his best to avoid the press while the initial shock wore, make a statement to the press explaining his odd behavior, try to avoid thinking about it as he plunged into the studio with his old reliable guitar. And finally, realizing his best friend was gone forever, no chance to make up or square it up, he would collapse into a pool of tears in the arms of his beloved Linda. He would then proceed to write poems and songs about his late buddy, his childhood chum, his soulmate, and his brother, John Lennon.
I particularly felt for Paul; I could almost feel his angst as the days passed. But Jamie immediately began to speak her mind. Unlike her father, Jamie had been born with a mean streak on her back, a chip on her shoulder, a lack of tact and diplomacy that sometimes made me doubt of her parental heritage: Basically she was too much like me. Had she not been born with that face, I would have been convinced that she had been conceived through some sort of osmosis; but her face sported every feature of her father.
- Ha, I always knew Paul was the bastard Beatle. - She moaned with an angry frown. –Pretty face my ass. He may be cute, but I always knew he never cared about his friends. Selfish arrogant little…
- Jamie, stop. – I looked at her with piercing eyes. –Don’t say that. How do you know he is not actually aching?
- Mom, this is Paul McCartney. – She sneered. –He may be a good musician and all, but let’s face it: He was in it for the money. He never really liked John, anyway…
- That is NOT true! - I exploded. Jaime looked at me, somewhat shocked to see me react in such a way over someone I didn’t know… Or at least someone she didn’t know I had known so well. I sighed, regaining control. –Look, honey. - I tried to smile. – I was there during the beatlemania days. You could see there was no better and closer friend to John Lennon than Paul McCartney. He loved him, Jamie; that much I know.
- To tell you the truth…- Jamie, being who she was, deliberately began to push my buttons. – I would have preferred if Paul had been shot.
At that moment, I burst into a fit, scaring the hell out of my daughter.
- DON’T EVER, EVER SAY THAT, JAMIE HUNTER! EVER, YOU HEAR? - I shook her by the shoulders. – You have no idea! You just haven’t a clue! - Seeing the shock in the eyes of my teenage daughter, I sighed, counted to ten, and running my hands through my hair, paced from one side of the room to the other. The bemused look on her face, that pout and frown… It was almost like being face to face with her father. Like him, she bore no tears despite being hurt by my behavior. She would wait… wait until she was alone to belt out and cuss my name to hell for having shouted at her.
Just then, my son Mike ran into the room. He was twelve, but had only inherited the dark hair and white skin of his father.
- Ok, what the hell is happening, here?
- Watch your mouth, kid! – Jamie shouted at him.
- Piss off...
- The both of you, stop it!!!
Regaining my cool, I sat down with them. I felt the tears sting my eyes. Jamie stared straight at me, her jaw set, and her brown eyes, stained with hazel and gray lines, burned through my skin as she bit her tongue, waiting for an explanation for my terrible conduct, while Mike just wanted to hear the next part of the quarrel. With a sigh, I reached back for my purse. –I have to show you two something. – I fidgeted nervously through my belongings. Finally, I pulled out a small, black leather wallet, where I kept bits of paper with phone numbers, name cards and what not. Hoping they were still there, I looked through all the tidbits for three photographs, taken during my early years. Jaime looked on, with that same pout, only now she looked more confused than angry. Finally, I found them. They were old and faded. One was in black and white, and it looked almost like a dried up desert ground, with cracks all over it. It was a photograph of John, Paul, Brian Epstein, Jane Asher and myself, sitting on a couch as John and I made stupid faces to the camera. Staring at it after such a long time of not pulling it out of my wallet brought a little giggle as I handed it over to Jaime. Silently, she took it in her hand, and her eyes widened. –M… Mom… Is this you??? - She looked up to me as she waited for an answer. I smiled as I rubbed the back of my neck.
- Yes, that’s me…- I sighed.
Her face distorted into three big round O’s, Jamie’s breathing seemed to go faster. –Good God, mom!! These are John and Paul, no less!!- She looked up at me.
Mike pulled her hand and stared into the picture. –Mom, you used to hang with The Beatles?? – He laughed. – Cool!!!
- You met them? You never told me you had met them!- She paused. –Who’s the girl?
- Jane…- I sighed, trying my best not to remember a strong and ugly feeling of guilt. –Paul’s first girlfriend… and once a great friend of mine. - I smiled, not daring to make eye contact with my own child. – There’s more…
I showed them the next picture. It was a great photograph of the entire unholy quartet, the Fab Four, holding me up in the air, my feet held by John, George taking my knees, Paul my waist and Richie holding me by the shoulders. In the photograph, Jaime was already visible as a small tot, looking up at me. She was barely one or two years old.
Her shock grew. –I… Is this me?????- She screamed. –I don’t remember any of this!!
- No, you were too young… - I laughed. –We all fell out of touch a couple months after this pic was taken.
- Shit, I wasn’t born yet!!- Mike moaned.
- I swear, Michael, you cuss one more time, I’ll hit you over the head…- Jamie gritted her teeth, and then looked up at me. –You were friends with the Beatles and we never heard of it?
I began to feel nervous. The time had finally come after fourteen years. I sighed as I looked down. –Yes, I was. I was very, very close to them. But I never told you because…
- Because? - She stretched her neck forward to me.
- It was a topic best left alone, sweetheart.
- Whoa…- Mike gasped. –This sounds heavy…
Jamie frowned again. –Why? Why would you hide that from us? I thought you had said we could tell each other anything…- She seemed suddenly saddened. –You said we were all you had, remember? You told me that since dad died, you…
- Jaime, your father did not die…- I looked down.
The shocked silence there created an atmosphere so dense it would have been easily cut with cotton candy. Even Mike gave me an evil stare. –What? - Jamie finally spoke.
- Our dad didn’t die? - Mike sneered.
I bit my lower lip. –He was never dead, guys. – I finally looked up at them. –He’s still alive… But he thinks you and I are dead Jamie…- I turned to Mike. –He didn’t even know I was going to have you, Mike…
Jamie gulped so loudly, it would have been audible for miles.
- Then…- She spoke as tears welled in her eyes. –We have a dad? - She looked down. –What’s his name? Where is he?
I pressed my lips hard against each other as I gained courage to hand them over the third and final photograph. With a trembling hand, Jamie took it, almost afraid to look.
- That’s him…- I leaned my face on my hand. –That’s your father.
My daughter’s lower lip trembled as the tears ran down her perfectly fine featured, pale oval face. –No… No it can’t be…- She stood up and bolted to her room, dropping the photograph on the floor. –IT CAN’T BE!!!!-
I burst into tears as I heard her bedroom door slamming shut. Mike stared at the photo on the floor for a few seconds, and finally gasped. –Whoa… trippy!!- He looked up at me and smiled. –Too cool!! – And he ran to his room, playing the music I had so hard avoided to let into my heart.
Gently, I picked up the photograph, and stared at it. It had been such a long, long time since I had seen it. Even though I had kept it, I hadn’t had the courage to look at it in years, fearing the pain and suffering this picture was now causing. Not just to my child, but to myself… And also, the memory of what may have been his personal pain upon believing his woman and child had been killed in a disastrous car wreck. I remembered reading the papers, seeing the photographs of him in angst as he left the morgue.
I had been too happy when I heard he had redone his life. I knew he had gone back with Jane for a while, gotten married to an American girl and had a whole bunch of kids. I had been thrilled to hear about his success after the ominous break-up of his beloved band and I was glad to turn up the volume whenever one of his songs was on the air. But deep inside, I longed for him. Someone I would never have, ever see again… Someone I had loved so intensely, and from whom circumstances forced me to be apart.
Gently, I touched the face in the photograph with the tip of my finger as I wept. –I still love you… -I whispered as I put it back in the black leather wallet. Even though it was faded, the contours of both our faces were clearer in my memory than on the image. Even the feeling of his lips gently pressing against my cheek was fresh if I closed my eyes. – Oh, God, Paul… I still love you…
I had to wait until I was well composed to face Jamie and Mike. I had heard her open her bedroom door, a door that faced the garden and the canal. It took guts to open up the door and follow her steps. I found her sitting by the pond, throwing crumbs of bread for both fish and ducks. Even though the day was beautiful, there was a lingering scent of sadness: First, John’s death; and now, this terrible confrontation. I knew the truth had to come out sometime, although I had hoped for it to never, ever leak out.
I approached her and quietly sat next to her. Both of us had stopped crying, but she welcomed me with a stony silence that could have frozen hell over.
After a while, I reached out into the plastic bag and grabbed a few breadcrumbs to toss into the water.
- You lied to us…- She muttered, looking straight ahead. –All this time, we’ve had a father… And you never told us.
- I’m sorry… - I managed to mumble. I knew I had a lot of explaining to do.
She turned to look at me. –Why, mom? All my life, I have seen all the other kids at school getting picked up by their dads and me with this somber face every time someone asked me where my father was… All I could say was, ‘Oh, he was killed in a motorcycle accident before I was born.’ But it was all a lie. Why, mom? Why?
Mike appeared suddenly and sat next to me. –Yeah, I’d like to know that too! I mean, it’s way cool, but I would have liked to have the name as well, you know!- He smiled.
- Shut up, Michael…- Jamie sneered.
I sighed and looked at the ducks as they pecked at the water, looking for the crumbs. –Because I had to…- I looked at them. –It was one of those situations where you have no choice but to do what you want to do the least…
Jamie seemed attent. –What are you talking about?
- Protection. –I pulled out a packet of cigarettes.
- Protection? – Mike turned his body to me. –Protection from what? Was he abusive?
- Oh, no! - I turned to him almost in tears of dismissal. –Paul? No, he was…- I sighed and could not avoid smiling a little. –As a man to have at your side and as a father? He was everything any girl would dream of…- I looked up at the ducks, still smiling. –I had never met anyone so caring and warm…
- Then, what happened? – Jamie’s eyes widened.
I looked at her and once again saw Paul reflected all over her. -It’s a long story, sweetheart. – I sighed as I put a hand on her shoulder. –I’ll tell you now, but you have to promise me to NEVER tell anyone, especially not him…
- But why???- Mike sneered.
- Because… - I took him by the shoulders and looked straight into his eyes. –It was the only way to keep him and you from danger, ok? I don’t know what happened to John…- I cringed. –Or why…. But the last thing in the world I would want would be for you two OR Paul to be in danger… Please, can you keep it under a lid, guys?
Gulping loudly, she nodded. –Ok, I promise.
- I’m game. –Mike shrugged.
I felt the tears well in my eyes again, as I stroke Jamie’s hair. The three of us suddenly embraced, as I continuously apologized to them for having lied for such a long time, as my hand went up and down Jamie’s long and almost black thick hair. She was, as I said before, Paul’s spitting image, while Mike sported the same shade of paleness and the thick, black hair. We stood up, and we sat on the small wooden swing bench, still staring at the ducks.
I finally got to light up a cigarette. I knew Jamie had been smoking on and off, like most teenage girls, without her mother knowing. I could tell simply by the way she looked at the packet of cigarettes in my hand. I smiled at her wryly. – You have been smoking, haven’t you, Jamie?
She seemed shocked. –What makes you say that?
- I’ve been a teenager, too…- I smiled. –Now, have you or haven’t you? - When she bit her lower lip I couldn’t help laughing a bit. – I’m not going to be mad at you! Now tell me, have you been smoking, or not?
- Yeah, she has! - Mike shouted. –I saw her in school!!
- Be quiet Mike! - Jamie sighed. –Yes I have… After school, with Pete and Marie…- I giggled at the thought of my daughter hiding in the bathroom, stealing puffs during lunchtimes with her friends. It reminded me too much of my own teenage times. Except my mother kept me locked in a closet for six hours when she found out.
With a smile, I spoke to her. –Well, I’d rather you do it in front of me than to have you sneak around like a delinquent youth. Here… -I offered her a cig. –Would you like one?
She smiled at me, apparently surprised. –Are you serious?
- Yeah, I’m serious! - I lit it up as she took it into her mouth. –I just hope you quit later on, after you’ve tried it for a bit. Believe me, it’s hardly worth your health… It’ll make your teeth yellow, you know…
Mike cringed. – Eww! Yellow teeth!
Jamie grabbed my hand. –I’m sorry I was such a brat, mom… I was just…
-I know, sweets, I know… - I hugged her again. –Shocked.
She laughed as she pulled away from me. – All this time, I had seen my face in the mirror, and the thought had not come to me a single time…Now that I think of it, I do look like him a whole lot, don’t I? - She began to do an impression of a scouse Paul McCartney that was eerie to behold, as the similitude was uncanny. – Kum ‘ead, luv! Give us a hug, then, hey? - She suddenly stopped and seemed serious. – Then my name is McCartney, isn’t it? Jamie McCartney…
- No…- I began. –You are now Jamie Hunter, and you…- But you were born Mary Michelle McCartney. - I turned to Mike. – You were always Michael Hunter, but you are a McCartney all the same.
She seemed shocked. –Mary Michelle…McCartney? That’s three M’s!
- That’s right. –I smiled. –The song Michelle? That was for you, sweetie. The day you were born, he wrote that. He used to call you Triple..
She stared at me quietly for a while, and grinned. –I had a dream of that once… I had no clue why… Someone was calling me Triple…
- Shit, mom! I didn’t even get a song for me!!
Jamie smacked Mike on the head. –Your mouth needs a bag of alum, Mike!
After a long silence, Jamie looked up at me.
- So does he know we exist?
- He knew you existed… - I exhaled smoke. –He believes you and I died in an accident. A bad accident. Not even dental records were left to prove out identity. He was given our jewelry to identify us…- I looked down, fighting more tears. –Poor Paul… It must have been hell for him. It was hell…- I swallowed hard.
- That’s really not too nice…- Mike looked down at the grass.
Jamie seemed sad. – Why are we dead?
I put my arm around her. - You wanna hear the story, sweetie? It’s long….
Mike looked at me with an ironic stare. –No, ma! We’ll let it pass! After all it’s so totally uneventful… OF COURSE WE WANNA HEAR!!
His sarcasm often reminded me of George, especially when he was around the other three guys. George always had a witty remark to make about everything. Witty, and very often sarcastic. John, on the other hand, had a sense of humor that could hurt one and thrill the other. His puns and jokes were often meant to hurt an individual in order to amuse the other, that other being himself most of the times; Or Paul. One of John’s greatest prides was his capability of breaking through Paul’s diplomatic mask of immunity and making him laugh like a madman over just about anything… Or making him cry, for that matter. It was always hard to see past Paul’s pretty face, as he was always well concealed behind a sweet smile and the almost patronizing behavior of the band’s father, looking after three unbearable children. George, the quiet little one always had to watch out for. John, the little badass brat with a slingshot for a tongue. And Ringo, the irreparably hyperactive little clown, who seemed to glue them all together. Paul was, in contrast, always looking after the band’s image, constantly worried of what both media and fans thought of his beloved Beatles. Most of the times, John saw this as a rather stiff behavior, and would manage to make Paul bend over with laughter from time to time with his irreverent lingo. I knew from personal experience that it was unavoidable to laugh like a loon whenever John as much as opened his mouth. Sometimes he didn’t even mean to be funny, but the way he spoke would bring people to tears with laugher. The man was so horribly obnoxious he grew on you… like a wart, Georgie would say. Once on you, it’s hard to get rid of it, but either way, it’s a part of you and your body. And painful as it is to have a wart removed, the death of such a man was a hard blow for everyone. I had never fully agreed with George’s description, although I had to admit there was a lot of veracity to it. But I knew deep inside, that no one would feel this blow, not even his new wife, Yoko… Not his fans, or friends... No one would be as crushed and devastated as Paul McCartney.
- Ok, then…- I smiled at my son and daughter as they leaned on my shoulders. – You two better not fall asleep on me… It was a Sunday night, February 1964….
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