Chapter 4 – Au revoir New York

The year was 1932, the clinic was filled with men sick with some unknown cause. Some of them were struggling with breathing, while many had lost their ability to hear and were having minor seizures. Almost everyone looked invited by death.

Their below poverty line status brought them to this free treatment camp at the end of Monte Rosa Street in western Alabama. These men, for the most part, were illiterate sharecroppers and all they knew about the disease was “it was a mild fever with some allergic reactions.” That’s what Dr. AM have been telling them.

Dr. Anne Marie was their primary care physician. She promised their families that it’s just a start and they will improve in time. “The medicines are working” she would be heard saying to the relatives. Something was unique about this patients, their color, they were all black men.

15 years later, a file was lying on the desk of special agent Bo Scottsdale. Her chirpy self got a roadblock in the tongue when she saw “a file” on her desk. Files never got her good news, and they always signaled to a spark of life about to go dark. She hated this job but she was protecting the country, and under the name of the motherland, she was ready to fight any evil that came in the way.

Bo Scottsdale was Active 56’s best assassin. She was trained for this job right from her teenage. Bo was a special child, she was a great fighter and had a presence of mind beyond imagination. She could single-handedly take down four giant men without any weapon. She was approached by Active 56 at 14 years. Her mother convinced her that it was her best chance to do something for the nation, a kind of opportunity not everyone gets. It paid well, she got to go places for work, and she had some of the best work colleagues.

The only drawback; it was a secret agency funded by government to maintain peace. The aim of Active 56 was to create a balance in the world. They would eliminate any kind of threat without creating panic and chaos. Their Intel came from CIA.  The institution had 56 world’s best assassins, and within no time, it was evident that Bo was the best they had. She could handle dangerous operation seamlessly and gracefully. No trace of anything left behind.

A doctor in her mid-sixties named Anne Marie had a target on her back. Bo was ordered to take her down with the claims of Doctor being a traitor and the reason for the death of 399 black men in 1932. As Bo read the file, she slowly unearthed her history.

Dr. Anne Marie was a renowned doctor of her time, and in 1932 she took part in a covert operation financed by some international drug company to study the effect of their drug on Syphilis. All the participating black men were never told they had syphilis. In fact, they were not even told about any kind of study. Those people came from such poverty that most of them had never seen a doctor before. They could only visit Dr. Anne Marie because it was a free medical camp. Their families had high hopes of curing them, but they all died the slow and sad death. The data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis—which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. “As I see it,” one of the doctors involved explained, “we have no further interest in these patients until they die.

Bo saw the attached pictures of dead men, and she felt sorry for them. Some of them were so young that Bo could imagine their alternative life where they had a beautiful family of their own and were living happily. She felt a pit in her stomach for all the anger she had just developed for the doctor.

“People like her are cancer to this society, ” she thought to herself, and she prepared on taking her next target down.

The doctor had been hiding since 15 long years after a whistleblower unearthed her covert operation but now no one could save her from Bo.

Natasha was done with her work by 5:30 pm and decided to head home and start her private investigation with Chloe. She was determined to know all about herself. She took the taxi to work every day, and Chloe would drop her back.

“What should we call ourselves? NC Private Investigators” Chloe laughed

“Shhhhh…..just be fast. I want to get everything before Pa enters this house.”

“Yes my Nancy Drew, I will fast, super-fast.”

Natasha was little confused about the whole situation, but she needed to find out about herself, especially when Pa was so strict about keeping things away from her. They went to the storage, pulled out every bag and started to open them one by one. Old clothes, newspaper cuttings of disaster around the world and some old dusty novels. Nothing of particular significance.

“Dude, you are like the first chic I know without any family pictures popped out from anywhere”.

Their house might have been decorated with best paintings from artists around the world, but there wasn’t a single family picture.

“Honeybunch, this is taking us nowhere” Chloe had that grin on her face

“Tell me what? You have that face again.”

“errr..well nothing just a thought.”

“What thought?”

“Do you…ummm…can you…I mean…”

“Say it, Chloe.”

“Can you trust Pa? I feel he is hiding some bomb there.”

She looked around one more time, just to be sure. She couldn’t find a thing. She took an intake of breath, trying to think straight. Her instincts aligned with Chloe but her heart said differently. She trusted Pa too much, but she had seen him being strange all the time; having those secret conversations in whispers, talking to some strange men every Tuesday, going quiet when she entered the room, and a lot of such small little things that were pointing towards Pa being dishonest with her.

“Oooooh look what I found, your medal.”

“My medal; lemme see.”

“oopsy whoops sorry doesn’t belong to you. Whose Scottsdale? Your mom?”

“My mom? My mom was Erin Landberg, and she was ….”

“She was? What? “

“Chloe I don’t remember my mom, ” and she started sobbing. A large arm circled around her waist as Chloe hugged her trying to comfort her. For next few minutes, she was lost in her own world, oblivious to the sound of the door knob opening.

 

Chapter 3 – Au revoir New York

She had an incredible time with Alex, and she promised to answer his call if he does call. She wanted to go to his place later that night, but she had to be home, in time, for her meds. Pa was very strict about it. Every night Pa made her the dose of medicine that kept her stable. Pa said if she skips them, she will start forgetting herself. She was already too sad, not able to remember her life completely before the accident. She could not take the chance of forgetting whatever is left of her life in her memories.

“How long do I have to take this awful medicines Pa, I am tired of it.”

“Just four years my Darling and then you are free, you can go back to your apartment, and Pa won’t bother you.”

“You don’t bother me Pa, I love you,” and she hugged him tightly.

She could see Tuileries gardens all around her. It was a beautiful site. The place looked more like a station as if it was built on a historic station and not was an art gallery. The paintings around were all dated 1848 to 1914. The gate had a sign that read “Musée d’Orsay”

“Hi honey” A man confronted her from behind holding her tight in his arms. She could feel his strong masculine hands round her waist. He gave her a peck on the cheek and asked if she liked the place. A little girl came running to her. She looked just like her; anyone could tell she looked like her. The same face and the same mole above her lip.

“Here’s come my princess” And the man lifted her up.

“Mommy, this place is so beautiful” she exclaimed, and that’s when her phone started buzzing at full intensity.

Natasha had her eyes wide open. The Alarm next to her bed was buzzing at full intensity. She had to reach the library by 8 am, and it was 7 am already. She had a text from her working partner Chloe that she was going to be an hour late and that made Natasha panic as now Natasha would have to be on time to open the library. Normally Chloe handled that part well. She was an early bird, always on time and Natasha was relieved as it was fine if she was 5-10 min late on a regular basis. She had a quick shower, and she headed to the mirror to put on her make-up. As she glanced herself, she couldn’t help thinking about the little girl from her dream. She gently touched her mole remembering how the small girl looked exactly like her.

That day at the library she was scanning through all the books on Past lives, and psychic connections. When Chloe came, Natasha had a book titled “know your past” in her hands.

“You reading that?” Chloe asked

“Yes, just curious about the title.”

“Seriously? You believe in rebirth and all that shit?”

“I cannot say I do, but I like to keep my mind open, whoever wrote it had something to say, so I am just scanning.”

“Your old man giving you a hard time?” Chloe was not sure why would Natasha pick that book while she normally was found reading ancient history and magnificent architectures around the world.

“He is trying his best to take care of me, but I want out, I am done living with him.”

“Are you still on those funny shots?”

“They are my meds, Chloe; Pa says I am going to forget everything if I don’t take them.”

“Can he make me something to forget my reality?” Chloe laughed

“Sure, why not” Natasha chuckled

“Anything to forget David and his annoying self.”

David was Chloe’s younger brother and most of his life he was found high on drugs. He caught that awful habit from his school. Chloe and David were orphans living with their old aunt, and she was very old and sick for most of the time. Chloe loved David, he was the only thing she had of their parents, but his habits were making her life difficult.

It was one snowy evening when Cloe returned home from work and Aunt Sheila informed her that David was nowhere to be seen. He usually returns from school by Afternoon, except for Wednesdays and Fridays when he had his soccer practice. It was a Tuesday, and when David was not back till 7:30 PM, Chloe called his friend Mike. According to Mike, David never showed up at school that day. She was worried, panicking mostly and went to the police station only to find that they already had a male with a similar description in their custody.

David had to be admitted to a rehab where they found out about his drug abuse which had been going on for a few months now and last night, David had OD’d a drug that made him unconscious in the streets where police found him and took him to the hospital. While in the Rehab, David hated the place and Chloe tried to be encouraging and motivating every time she got a chance to be on the call with him. David had to earn the call privileged with his behavior, and he missed Chloe.

The scariest thing in Chloe’s life was that phone call from Jordan Shepherd’s Correction House.

“We think David just tried to cut his wrist,” they told her on the phone. Chloe was at the library where she busted into tears and ran towards where he resided. She had made sure that David would never do that again, she decorated his entire cell room with their pictures; from when they were young, to their birthday parties, and to their happy picnics.

“This is what you will miss if you try that damn thing again,” she told him, and David got it loud and clear. He served his remaining time with good behavior and was soon home with Chloe. David was too ashamed to be back in school. Chloe tried hard convincing him about it but he just never wanted to be back there. Chloe decided to give me some space and let him decide on when he wanted to be back. Cloe was tired, she laughed a lot, but deep down she was sad and tired. She shared this part of her life with Natasha who often showed her a lot of compassion.

Natasha sniffled through the pages of the book reading all about “can someone remember their past life? She was sure that something was happening. All her dreams, people she saw, they all indicated something.

“Do you mind me asking what exactly brought you to this book.”

“I am not sure you would get it. It’s not normal I know, but it’s very strange.”

“Well I believe in fairytales, I have hopes of someone coming on a white stallion for me so I am sure you can give me a try” Chloe chuckled.

“Ok let me show you something” Natasha turned her chair facing her computer and typed the words “Musée d’Orsay” on her computer screen. The google search results brought them to the website of Musée d’Orsay; the art gallery in Paris. The pictures suggested that the place was built on a historic railways station and also it had Tuileries gardens around it.

“I have never been to Paris, never, I came with this name from my dream last night. I saw this place with this gardens and ….everything! You know it’s scary” She was scared a bit while trying to explain Chloe with her hands.

“Are you sure you have never been to Paris? Maybe you did as a child and you went to this place? You said you don’t remember much about your past life, so maybe you did go here and you just don’t remember it?” Cloe made sense. Natasha decided not to ask Pa this time but to search her own house. She wanted to know everything about the life she had forgotten.

Chapter 2 – Au revoir New York

She worked for a library around the corner. She was the bookkeeper, and she loved her job. She met a lot of strange, interesting, funny, and witty people on their way to read something. Not a single familiar face in two years. The strangest part was that she had forgotten all about her life before the accident. She could remember things in bits and pieces; things that felt more like imaginations from stories Pa told her.

She used to sit for hours trying and remembering Meghan. She didn’t even know which hospital Meghan was admitted to. Pa never allowed any information flow towards her. Meghan was more like a ghost to her. She had some friends; like just a handful of them that she met in these two years. She would often hang out at PB’s bar; often alone and then once in a while would just bump into some random guy to escape her boring reality.

She remembers the exact time when those strange dreams started. It was right after some loud music, strokes of paint brush and bathroom sex. It was pretty intense. She was a beautiful woman standing tall at 5’8 with big blue eyes and slim figure. She had a mole right above her lip, and that made her smile the best in the world. It was not hard for Natasha to please guys, she was natural.

His name was Alex Lennox, and he was known for his paintings, sculptures, and prints and was represented by numerous galleries internationally.

He had just finished working on a painting and was headed out to meet his girlfriend, Riley. He often stayed so immersed and busy in work that Riley often complained about his disappearance and that day he decided to surprise her by taking her for dinner at 65 E. 55th St., the most expensive restaurant in New York know for its Scandinavian cuisine.  Much to his own surprise, he found Riley in bed with someone else. Riley totally forgot about that hidden key under the carpet that Alex used to sneak in and surprise her.

With a hard face, he stormed out of Riley’s Apartment, not to mention even few bitter words from Riley on how he never had time for her and he she wanted to break-up since a month now. He saw PB’s around the corner and decided to swallow his grief with some whiskey on the rocks. While he had his glass, gulping his sorrow, controlling his anger towards Riley; he saw Natasha in another corner looking equally sad. She was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. She was staring at her Martini glass while listening to “Let her go” in the background. Alex could see questions all around her face.

He signaled the waiter to send her another glass with a cherry on the top. When the server reached her, she was surprised

“I am fine, plus I never ordered this”

“It’s from hay gentleman across the table mam.”

Natasha looked at Alex in the corner, winking at her. She approached him boldly with the new glass and gave it back to him.

“Well, I am not interested.”

“It’s ok; I just felt you needed one more.”

“What makes you say that?”

“You see, we have some similarities.”

“And what is that?”

“We are equally sad” Natasha laughed a little and sat on his table. They started talking about New York, and he was telling her all about his work nd how Riley ditched him.

“I fell sad for Riley; painters are my best bet” Natasha liked him.

He charmed her with his jokes and his paint brush, and when he started telling his tale, Natasha got immersed in it. He had a Picasso charm to himself. Being an average looking guy with torn jeans and a blue shirt with some permanent color stains on his hands, he was nowhere in Natasha’s league, but something in him evoked her. He even offered to paint Natasha

“You are a muse material,” he told her. I need to paint you to throw you out of my head

“I accept the offer, ” and it soon followed with kisses at first and some hot romance on the dirty bathroom floors later.

While making out with him, Natasha went blur again

Je me faux pas Vivre sans toi 

 

The words were echoing in her ears. And then the loud music was back again.

 

Au revoir New York

Hello everyone, Are you all wondering what this title all about? Thats the name of my new book or story (If i finish it) So while I have had a long writer’s block, I have decided to overcome it by writing a story I have in mind in chapters. I will post a chapter here every now and then, and I would love to get you feedbacks. So I am waiting for you all to read it 🙂 – xoxo

 

There was the golden sky with the sun setting on the horizon as its golden rays spread across the water like a blanket. He touched face delicately and kissed her on the cheek while she kept staring at the horizon

“This is beautiful.”

“Just like you” He replied

And she woke up, looked around zombified for a second. The surroundings looked alien while she was still immersed in her dream state. Slowly everything started making sense. It was her room, the pink walls and her favorite dolly box lying in one corner. She looked at the painting across the bed; a beautiful waterfall and she stared at it for a brief moment. Painting always attracted her; she loved them for the thought of looking at some real place on the earth painted by someone.

“Natasha” she heard her father knocking on her door. She was still in her bed, the sheets were crumbled, and the bottle of water on the side had been tossed off to the corner of the bed. The mirror on the side caught her attention. She could see her shorts and a pink star wars t-shirt thrown on the floor. She remembered wearing them the last night she went to bed. She looked at herself in the mirror, and it was a pink satin nightdress.

“Really? When did I bloody change?” She was frustrated. She had been having the same dream again and again for some time now. She had been waking up with a strong urge of knowing the man from her dream and that urge was getting stronger every time she woke up.

“Tu es belle” the words keeping ringing in her ears. She could hear them loud and clear.

“Natasha, are you up?” she heard her father knock one more time.

“Yes pa, come in.”

Her face looked tired though she had just woke up. She had that look of frustration in her eyes.

“What does “Tu es belle” mean Pa,” She asked her father who looked at her from the corner of his eyes.

“Are you ok?” He asked

“I think so.”

“Where did you hear that?” He asked curiously

“I don’t know; I just picked it in my sleep.”

He gave her a look of concern and then ask her if she was taking her medication properly. A year ago, Natasha had a bad accident. She was out for the concert and it was 1 Am when she was returning home with Meghan in her beetle when someone hit them from behind, and the car was completely overturned. Her father had to get her a new car, and since then Meghan was in a comma. Natasha was never allowed to visit her. Doctors had advised against it as it would have caused a traumatic effect on Natasha. Though she was walking, she had a traumatic brain injury. Till the day she could not remember how they crashed or who was it that crashed their car. She woke up in the hospital with her Pa overlooking her face. She could not remember anything and all she knew about that night were the stories that her Pa told her.

Mr. Masters, Natasha’s father checked the bottle of the medicine lying on the counter next to her. It was half empty; meaning she was indeed taking her medicines.

Things were fine for two years after the accident and Natasha had been staying with her dad, recovering under his care. She had spoken to him a lot about moving back to her apartment which had been locked from past two years, but Mr. Masters was always reluctant about it. It was six months back that this flashes of a man had started in her dream. Mr. Masters called it an illusion of Natasha’s mind.

“You are watching too many movies” he would tease her often, but Natasha always felt a strong connection to the man in her dreams.

To be continued…

 

“You guys don’t know how lucky you are.”

This is an excerpt from the book Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in his Final Days, by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard with Tanner Colby, to be published by HarperCollins India.

Jackson

He always used to say to us, “You guys don’t know how lucky you are.” Or, “You guys don’t know how good you have it.” In the beginning, we’d hear him say that and we’d think, Huh? You’re Michael Jackson. But over time we saw what he was talking about.

We were driving outside Middleburg one day, and the kids saw a playground. They got real excited. They wanted to go play, and they begged their daddy to stop the car and come play with them. We said we didn’t think it was secure; there were a few kids and parents in the area, and we didn’t have masks for the kids and someone might snap a picture. Mr Jackson told us to go ahead. He said he’d wait in the car so his kids could play and no one would recognize them. So we took the children and they went and ran and played in the park. Mr Jackson stayed in the backseat, watching them from inside the car.

Bill: When you’re a father and you see that? When you think about having to watch your kids from behind tinted windows while they go and play with strangers? I wouldn’t trade what I have with my daughter for that. I wouldn’t have switched places with him for all the money in the world.

Javon: We were Michael Jackson’s personal security team. We’re supposed to be these big, macho bruisers, right? Just be tough. Don’t show your emotions and this and that, but it was hard sometimes. It was hard not to feel the pain he was going through. If I never knew him, and I heard somebody on the radio saying that Michael Jackson was complaining about how he couldn’t go to a playground with his kids, I probably wouldn’t care. I’d probably think he just needed to get over himself. But it was different seeing it firsthand and knowing what he was talking about.

It would always be the littlest things, too, that you’d notice about his life. We were in DC one day and we had some time to kill between appointments, so he asked us to drive him around to look at the city. We went out to Georgetown and wound up stopped at a red light in front of this bar, this Irish pub type of place. It was happy hour, everybody getting off work. Mr Jackson was watching the people going in and out of the bar, and he said, “One day, I’m gonna walk into one of these places and sit down and say, ‘Bartender, give me a beer!’ One day, I’m just gonna do it. I’m just gonna walk in and do it.”

He said it the same way a twelve-year-old kid would talk about growing up to be an astronaut. Like it was this impossible dream and someday he was going to get there. After he said it, Bill and I were like, “It’s no problem, sir. We’ll grab a beer with you. No reason you can’t. Your money says ‘In God We Trust’ just like everybody else’s. You want to loosen up, let’s go. We’ve got your back.”

We were encouraging him. But he was too scared to go in. He said, “Those people in there won’t let me.”

Bill: He didn’t trust strangers. Whenever he got caught in a crowd, he’d be real frantic and nervous. We were at a shopping mall in Virginia one afternoon. Javon had gone to get the car. I was waiting with Mr Jackson by the exit with mall security. Somebody had recognized him and a small crowd had formed. He was signing a few autographs, waving to folks. It was a friendly situation, not a mob or anything. As Javon pulled up and opened the door for Mr Jackson, this guy from the back of the crowd yelled out, “Fuckin’ child molester!”

I heard it, plain as day. I looked at Javon; he’d heard it too. We were just praying that Mr Jackson had missed it. But after we got in the car and drove for a bit, he leaned forward and said, “Guys, did you hear somebody say something back there?”

“No, sir,” I said. “I didn’t hear anything. You hear anything, Javon?”

Javon shook his head. “No, sir.”

Mr Jackson said, “I thought I heard someone say something very mean. I could have sworn. You guys aren’t lying to me, are you?”

“No, sir.”

We didn’t want to lie to him, but we knew what would happen if we confirmed it. Hearing someone call him a child molester? That would completely shut him down. He’d close the door and vanish into his room for at least a week, and we didn’t want that to happen.

We drove on with nobody saying anything for the next ten, fifteen minutes, and then out of the backseat he said, “I would never hurt a child. I would slit my wrists before I ever did anything to hurt a child.”

For me, I never believed any of that about him. As a lifelong fan of the Jackson 5 and of him, I just didn’t believe it. Growing up, I related to that family. His siblings, his father, were very similar to what my family was. They just seemed like the typical black family that was making it out of the ghetto, which is what we were all trying to do back then. I think a lot of black families felt that way about the Jackson’s. We identified with them.

That started to change a little after Thriller. You still loved Michael, but he was on a level now where you couldn’t identify with him as much. You started to see him doing all these things. Odd things. He’s hanging out with Webster. He’s hanging out with Brooke Shields. Dude’s got a monkey. You knew that he was different, but I never thought he was different in a way that he would do anything to hurt a child. I never believed it the first time. I didn’t believe it the second time. But by the time that second accusation and the trial came about? It didn’t matter what you believed anymore. In the court of public opinion, it was already decided. He was looked upon as a freak, a weirdo.

Javon: If you were an up-and-coming comedian and you needed some easy material, you just mentioned Mr Jackson’s name and little kids and you’d get the first five rows to laugh, for sure. People didn’t realize just how sensitive he was about that sort of thing.

Growing up in South Central, I would have laughed at those jokes same as everyone. I wasn’t part of that same generation as Bill, where people had more reverence for the Jacksons. I was more of the hip-hop generation. We loved Mr Jackson’s music, but we only knew him as this eccentric rock star. You loved his songs, but you’d laugh right along when it came to his personal life. But now? When I heard stand-up comedians joking about the boss, it wasn’t funny anymore. It made me angry. It was like hearing someone passing jokes about your friend or your mom.

Bill: Javon was quick to get angry, quick to want to lash out. We caught a clip of Katt Williams making fun of Mr Jackson one time, and Javon started yelling at the TV. He said, “If I ever see Katt Williams, I’m gonna slap the taste out his mouth for talking shit about the boss.” And that day at the mall in Virginia, when the guy yelled out “child molester”? The second it happened, Javon was in my ear on the two-way radio. “I can see the guy who said it. I see him. You want me to take him out?”

I had to say, “No, Javon.”

He was serious. And it was frustrating. That perception of him that people had was something beyond our control. It’s like with Friend and Flower [women Jackson had relationships with]. With anybody else, if you heard stories about a guy sneaking into hotels with hot European models, you wouldn’t even ask what that was about. But because it’s Michael Jackson, people still want to believe it’s something weird. But that’s not what I saw. What I saw was that beneath all the eccentric behavior, there was a regular guy desperate to get out and be a regular guy. Once you were around him on a personal level, you realized that all those rumors and allegations, it just wasn’t possible. As a father, if I ever thought he’d done anything harmful to a child, I’d have kicked his ass myself.

Javon: Your perspective changed completely once you knew him up close. It was the same with his relationship with his own kids. The question we always get is, “Blanket looks more like him than Prince and Paris. Do you think they’re all his?” And when we first started working there, we’d ask ourselves a lot of the same questions. “What’s the deal? Are those really his kids?” But once you spent time with them, and you saw the way he was with them, you just stopped thinking about it. Those were his kids. He was their father. They were a family, end of story.

Bill: Every day, all over the world, couples use surrogate mothers, donor eggs, frozen embryos. People go to all different lengths to have families, and nobody questions the legitimacy of those families. Nobody points a finger at those families and says, “Those aren’t really your kids.” But with Michael Jackson, people questioned his right even to be a parent. But from everything I saw, they were a better, more loving family than a lot of families I’ve seen. There’s really nothing else to say.

On one of the weekends that we took the kids to DC, we decided to stay overnight at the Four Seasons rather than drive back out to Middleburg. Mr Jackson called me and said the kids wanted to go in the pool. So I contacted management and they agreed to close the pool for a couple hours so that Mr Jackson could use it. Following protocol, we did a sweep to make sure the area was secure. There were three hotel security cameras around the pool. We went through and made sure all of them were unplugged and disconnected. Then we escorted Mr Jackson and the little ones from their room and led them down a back staircase. The kids had their bathing suits, flip-flops, and flotation devices. Grace was with us too.

We got to the pool. Prince and Paris jumped right in; they knew how to swim. Blanket was waiting for Grace to blow up his floaties so he could get in too. While the kids swam, Mr Jackson was walking around. He was singing, lost in a tune in his head. There was something about him that seemed a little odd. He seemed a little more excited than normal, a little more upbeat. He started out singing low, just humming a little bit. Then he was tapping out a little percussion and singing louder. I looked at Javon. Javon looked at me. We figured he was in his comfort zone and doing his thing. I left to make a pass through the locker room and the exercise room, just to make sure they were still empty and no one had accidentally walked in.

Javon: Everything was fine until all of a sudden Mr Jackson looked up and saw one of these security cameras. He completely lost his mind. He started yelling. “I told you guys about this! I fucking told you!” It was like something in him snapped. He ran over to this camera and he jumped up and grabbed it and started yanking on it, like he was trying to tear the thing down.

Bill: I heard Grace screaming, “Bill! Bill!” and I came running around the corner. Mr Jackson was literally halfway up the wall, hanging off this camera, jerking it and pulling on it. I ran over toward him, yelling, “Mr Jackson! It’s disconnected! It’s not on! It doesn’t work!”

“I don’t care! I don’t care!”

He’d torn the bracket loose and this camera was only hanging by a few wires, and he jumped up one more time and gave it one more snatch and he just ripped the whole thing right out of the wall. Just ripped it out with his bare hands and then took it and hurled it down and smashed it on the floor. He was yelling at it, screaming, “I hate you! I hate you!

I ran over to him. He looked up at me. His eyes were bloodshot red. There was blood on his hands, deep lacerations in his fingers from where these metal wires had cut into him. He started screaming at me. “You guys have to watch for this! You guys have to take care of this! These are my children! I don’t want people taking pictures of my children!”

I tried explaining again about the camera being off. Nothing I said mattered. It really freaked me out, the way he was acting. My immediate thought was that maybe he was on something. His demeanor was very different from anything I had ever seen before. This was new to me, and kind of scary.

Javon: Everybody got quiet and shut up. We were speechless. We didn’t know what to do, how to respond, how to handle it. He eventually calmed down and decided to stay at the pool. Bill went and brought the first-aid kit down to get some gauze and peroxide and a Band-Aid for his hand. The hotel ended up charging him eight thousand dollars for the camera.

We felt bad at times like that. We actually felt bad a lot of the time. Because it was our job to protect him, but we couldn’t protect him from the things that had already happened, the things that had already hurt him.

Bill: There was this one night he called me while we were in Virginia. Earlier in the evening, he’d asked me to bring him a bottle of wine. I’d brought it up to his room, and that was pretty much the last thing I did for him before I turned in. Then, around three in the morning, my phone rang. It was Mr Jackson’s room number on the caller ID. I answered it, thinking there might be some kind of emergency. He said, “Bill, are you asleep? I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“I’m fine, sir. Is everything okay?”

He said he was just calling to talk, so we talked. About his kids, about Raymone. He said, “Sometimes I just get sick of it.”

“What’s that, sir?”

“All of it,” he said. He sounded like he was trying not to cry, like he was choking back tears. “Why can’t people just leave me alone? I’m not a circus act. I’m not an animal at the zoo. I just want to be left alone. Why can’t people understand that?”

It wasn’t really a back and forth kind of conversation. He spoke. I listened. A lot of the things he was saying, I didn’t really have responses to. I’d never dealt with most of the things he was dealing with, so I wasn’t going to sit there on the phone and pretend that I could relate to him on that level. And I knew he wasn’t really calling me to get my thoughts and opinions on any of it. He was calling to vent.

“I just want my kids to have a better life than me,” he said. “I never want them to go through what I had to go through. How would you guys feel if your kids asked you for something and you had to send someone out to get it? I appreciate what you guys do for my kids, but I’m their father. I should be the one doing those things, but I can’t just get in the car and go. There are so many things I can’t do for them because those people out there won’t let me. You have no idea how that feels. You really don’t. I just wanna live my life with my kids.”

I said, “I understand, sir. You deserve that.”

I can still remember standing there in my room, looking at myself in the mirror and not really believing that this was happening, that I was listening to Michael Jackson unburden himself to me on the phone. It was hard for me to hold back my emotions. It was a good thing we were on the phone, otherwise he’d have seen his security having a weak moment.

I was just feeling the weight of everything he was going through. By that point, guarding him had become my life. I wasn’t in Virginia because I wanted to be in Virginia. I was there because he was there. If he wanted to go to Maryland tomorrow, we’d go to Maryland tomorrow. I went where he went. His reality had become my reality. And I can’t say that it was a pleasant ride, his life. It was not fun. We had fun moments, but it was not fun. It was not joyful. There was a lot of turmoil, a lot of tug of war. The constant anxiety. Never knowing whom to trust.

The fact that he was calling his security guard at three in the morning says a lot about it. If he was calling me, then he really had no one else to call. Javon and I felt that, too: the isolation. He and I could at least talk to each other, share our frustrations. But we couldn’t talk to our families, to our friends. We had to make excuses about why we weren’t getting paid. Everything had to be locked up, kept secret. You carry that stuff around inside you and it just eats at you. So when he was talking about how he was sick of it, I understood where he was coming from. I’d only been living like this for seven, eight months, and it was already wearing me down. He’d been doing it since he was ten years old.

We talked a little while longer. He kept apologizing for having called. He said, “I don’t mean to bother you with this, Bill. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay, sir.” “Thank you. I’m going to go to sleep now. Good night.”

Source: http://www.yahooindia.com

A Bride for all seasons (mail order bride collection delivers shocking information)

“I have less than a year to live”
Lightheaded Luna turned and sat heavily on the bedside besides Sean. “Less than a year?”
“Yes and that is why i have been searching for a wife who will be good to my children, you responded to my second letter and i had clearly written there”
“One page was blotted with ink” Luna interjected
Nodding, Sean said “that page said that any women i married needed to be willing, within a few months, to raise my boys and nurture them alone”
“Because you will be gone” Luna kept staring at him

PS: This is a scene from the above mentioned book, a very touching scene!!

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Sonali and Life in Bangladesh

My very good friend Kruti, as you may remember from my post a couple of days ago, has allowed me the opportunity to guest post on her fine blog here. As regular readers know, Kruti has taken a break for a few days and tasked me with the job of keeping you entertained until she gets back.

Again, in my last post, I made mention that I used to live in the neighbouring country to Kruti’s India. Until very recently I was living in Bangladesh with my wife and two children. We had six wonderful, wonderful years there and it has been the most heart-wrenching decision of our lives to leave.

Living in Bangladesh

You don’t find too many Brits living in either India or Bangladesh.  The main reason, I think,  is that India and Bangladesh are, for most of the year, insanely hot! This is especially true for Bangladesh – the world’s biggest delta – where  so much water and silt from the Himalayas is deposited there (indeed the country wouldn’t exist at all without all that silt) that the humidity for half the year is through the roof!

For us weak and weedy white guys it’s far too much!

Despite this, my family and I loved the heat (well…I loved it and my wife tolerated it!) and loved the people of Bangladesh all the more. We first visited in 2006 and instantly felt a kindred spirit with the people so much that we returned to live permanently in 2008. I was a teacher before I became a writer and worked at a local English Medium school (which is how I met Ria – more on her in a minute) and my wife ran the Rehab centre at a hospital NGO called LAMB. LAMB was a wonderful place to live and work and was a haven of peace and love not just for us but for all who visited there. Not surprisingly, I took a lot of photographs – which is how Sonali came to be born.

Sonali

Sonali blurb front coverSonali is my first published book though I have a long-awaited novel just waiting for my publisher to organise themselves to produce it! Sonali is a photo-memoir book made up of pictures taken during my final year in Bangladesh. Most are from the region around LAMB  in the northwest of the country though some stretch down as far as Rangamati in the southeast.

I wanted to emphasize the beautiful ‘golden’ nature of the land (‘Sonali’ means ‘golden’ in Bengali) and did this by taking colour out of the photos. My point was that the true ‘golden’ quality of the people can be seen even without the golden sun beating down. I added a few effects here or there to highlight certain parts of the photos – such as the yellow turmeric colour of a bubbling curry or the ancient ‘other worldliness’ of a tribal people dancing but otherwise the pictures present ‘sonar bangla’ without the need for colour at all.

I’m no photographer (!) but I was pleased with what I’d managed and still feel proud of the pictures I produced. So far the book has been highly praised by purchasers around the world and I’m pleased that it has contributed towards raising thousands of dollars for a very special cause.

Ria

This is Ria and I:

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Ria is a girl I first taught at LAMB  when she was just 11. I’ve watched her grow up into an intelligent, loving and beautiful young lady. After completing her O level exams with me she moved to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh aged just 16 to begin her A levels. Moving away from all your family and friends at such a young age is not easy but Ria coped wonderfully to pass her three A levels well. Her A level in Business Studies she had to teach herself because the school in Dhaka couldn’t provide a teacher. Education in Bangladesh is not good on the whole and this is not an unusual situation.

Ria did so well that she was given an unconditional offer from the University of Lancaster here in the UK to study Business Studies as a degree. This is where my wife and I became involved because we live near that university and could offer Ria a home to live in and people to speak Bengali with!

To do this though, we have had to raise thousands of dollars/British pounds just to produce the first year fees. Now we’re working on the second year fees too. All the profit from sales of Sonali are going to the fund to help Ria get a good education in a country where the degree counts. Her hope is to return to Bangladesh and improve working conditions for women over there. You may recall the Rana Plaza disaster last year which killed over one thousand women. The conditions for garment-working girls in Bangladesh is not good – made worse by the greed shown by clothing outlets in the West. Ria wants to see women valued more, treated better and respected in the business world as equals to men. I couldn’t agree more!

You can help Ria by donating direct to her charity fund site.

Alternatively, you can help both of us by buying a copy of Sonali! It’s available both as E-book pdf and as a softcover version. If you buy a book please do leave a review at the bookshop, on my website and/or at Goodreads. This will help encourage others to take a look too.

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