Jay didn’t really intend to draw so much attention.
He was just bored.
“I know your eyes in the morning sun…..”
He sings, unable to stop himself from smiling when the small crowd gathered around him coo and sigh. Most likely they know the song and even if they don’t, it’s hard to resist swaying to the melody or clapping along to the beat Jay makes against his guitar in between plucking the strings.
“I feel you touch me in the pouring rain.”
Everyone around him is enjoying, wearing fond smiles and holding phones, the cameras pointed at him. He’s aware he’s being recorded and watched; he doesn’t mind though. It’s just funny to him that this started with him trying to stave off his boredom while he waited for Aunt Nisha.
His ride into the city had arrived ahead of schedule and The Burrow had been easier to find than his aunt had warned him, even with the bag and guitar he was lugging with him. He was a bit hesitant to wait inside when he wasn’t buying anything, even when the staff insisted upon hearing who he was.
“Your aunt talks about you all the time,” the barista had said, smiling at him. He even pointed out the table Auntie always sat at and he recognizes that corner of the quaint coffee shop. It was almost always the background to the pictures she sends.
“You can wait there for a while. Nisha usually comes in with Rhoda in about an hour or two.”
Jay sat on a two-seater leather couch, placed in a very cozy corner. Waiting made his mind wander to his aunt, sweet, stubborn Auntie Nisha who would not follow her brother’s (Jay’s father’s) demands for her to leave the city and stay with them. Family arguments usually spawned tension among its members but growing up, his father’s and auntie’s squabbles were great entertainment for him.
His father would insist upon something, concerned for her and she would reply with a witty remark or brush him off altogether. She always insisted she can take care of herself, that her “bratty, baby brother” had enough problems himself to fuss over her. She’d turn to Jay, watching the exchange and take him out for ice cream to avoid any further confrontation. That, or she’d ask him to play piano or his guitar for her.
A smile forming on his lips, he had pulled out his guitar from its hard case, recalling all the songs that Auntie said were her favorites that he could play. Often they were love songs from the 70’s and 80’s, ones he never forgot and started playing on that couch.
A few songs later and people were gathering to listen. A few more people later and the barista noticed he was attracting customers. The two microphones (one for him and the other for his guitar) and speaker were set up soon after that. Jay didn’t mind, he just enjoyed playing.
“Oh this is wonderful.” Jay heard a woman in the crowd croon while he finishes the song. He’s only barely able to pick out her voice among the crowd and out of the corner of his eyes, he spots her, standing next to a younger man who most likely be her son.
She is an elderly woman, surely older than Aunt Nisha, but with a similar air about her. She is wrinkled and lined but not by stress or worries; those are smile lines and crow’s feet on the corner of her eyes. Her eyes still hold a shine to them, one that’s prominent as she listens to him play.
Her son seems nothing like her.
He is definitely her son, they look to much alike to negate the fact, but instead of swaying and smiling like her he scowls. His foot taps against the pavement repeatedly; he keeps checking his watch, his phone. From the way he’s dressed, Jay deduces he’s a business man.
“Okay, song’s done. We should go.” He says to his mother, glancing at exit door. When his mother doesn’t reply or move, he taps her on the shoulder.
“Mom. Let’s go.”
The elderly woman smiles, patient in contrast to him. “Oh just one more.” she insists. “I want to ask if he takes requests. We rarely go out together like this anymore.” She pats his hand on her shoulder but. It does nothing to placate him.
“You know what? No.” He snatches his hand away, scowling.
“This is why I don’t take you out anymore!” He gestures, drawing the attention of other in the crowd. Jay was about to finish tuning. Seeing this, the man heaves a rough sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“You always do this.” He begins slowly. He’s trying not to cause anymore of a scene than he has but it’s hard to ignore. Even Jay has stopped what he’s doing, he’s not looking directly at them because he doesn’t want to be one of those people feeding off of others’ drama. Still, Jay listens, and watches. Out of the corner of his eye to see how the mother is faring.
“We have somewhere to be but you insist on doing so many unnecessary things, making unnecessary requests. You always waste so much time and now you want to waste money when you don’t even know if the boy charges or even plays for-“
“I do actually.”
Jay looks up at them, giving the elderly woman a kind smile, the kind he would give Auntie Nisha when she asked him to play for her. He completely ignores her son, who’s glaring at him now.
“I do take requests,” he says, standing up and going over to them, guitar still in hand.
“So sweet of you, dear.” The mother smiles back up at him. She doesn’t seem the least bit disturbed by her son’s outburst or by the sympathetic stares sent her way. She’s oblivious to it all as she gestures for Jay to lean down to hear her whisper her request.
He knows it.
Unable to contain his grin of anticipation, Jay goes back to the couch, quickly tuning his guitar back to standard. He leans in to speak into the mic.
“We have a request. A first an last one.” He adds the last part quickly, knowing more people would come up at him asking for their song after this.
Their collective groan of disappointment gets buried under the first chord he plays, and the words that follow.
“Close your eyes, have no fear,
the monster’s gone he’s on the run
and your mommy’s here”
He looks over to the mother with a smile as he sings. But soon his eyes slide shut without meaning to.
“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.”
Mothers and fathers around him smile. They melt into each other, holding their children both young and a little older closer. It’s likely plenty of people haven’t heard the song or those words before but they didn’t need to, to feel them.
“Out on the ocean, sailing away.”
Jay sings, but somewhere in the back of his mind he hears the mother’s voice again. She is still smiling at her son, even then.
“Do you remember?” She asks.
“Your father’s voice was horrible but he played the guitar even better than this boy and I sang. You asked for it every night, every time you felt scared or even just sad.”
“I…do,” the son says, so quietly Jay barely hears him. “I remember”
“Before you cross the street, take my hand
Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
The mother hums contentedly along with Jay singing.
“You were so little,” she says, pride colouring her voice. “And look at you now.”
The son said nothing. Neither of them did for the rest of the song.
“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy
Darling, darling, darling, son.”
Jay sees tears in some eyes, happiness and warmth in more. He looks over to the mother and her son. His eyes are shining, lips heavy with many things he wants to say.
“We can go now,” she says, taking his hand once again. This time he’s too stunned to say anything; he doesn’t pull away.
“We don’t want to miss your first job interview after all.”
The son just nods.
They walk out together and Jay watches until their figures blurred in the distance.
Beautiful Boy – John Lennon. Cover, By Micaelah Dawn