1Before There Was Darkness
There wasn't much that had the ability to reach out and permeate Jim's soul, but the tone of a saxophone, caressed by the capable hands of a musician who knew exactly how to milk every haunting timbre out of the instrument, was one thing that could. The silky smoothness of certain notes, the brashness and rasp of others, emitted with just the right emphasis, could touch that place so deep within him. Walking alone on the rain soaked pavement, with the subdued echoes of a city preparing for sleep passing him by, that sound held him firmly in its grasp. He ordered Hank to stop and turned to face the source of the music.
He knew it was late; his first invitation for a boy's night out with Marty and Tom, and, considering the tensions of the past few days with Karen, and at home, he thought he deserved this one. Though he had apparently pressed all the wrong buttons and pushed her to the brink of exasperation, he knew Christie would still be worried. He hadn't ventured out on his own like this in months, fifteen to be exact.
But, he couldn't bring himself to tear away from the loneliness of the music resonating from somewhere on the other side of the street. Moon River seemed, to him, an odd choice for a solitary sax; he had only heard the song done on the sax once before; then, it had been more subtle, the notes warmer, jazzier, not like this; this was moving, forlorn, a perfect coupling of instrument and artist. Whoever this was, he was an artist; he knew exactly how to wrench every ounce of sadness from that sax.
To Jim, that was the beauty of music – you didn't have to be able to see anything to be able to feel it or to appreciate it. God, he loved music, all kinds of music; he always had. When he was growing up, he would lie in bed, with his eyes closed, and just let the music envelope him in the darkness. It was distracting, providing him with a much-needed diversion from the harshness of the streets of Red Hook or the angry invasions of his drunken father. Even now, at the end of a long day or after a particularly gruesome crime, he could still escape and lose himself in that soothing world with just the turn of a dial and the sound of smooth jazz calming his soul.
The basketball game, projected on the big screen at the bar, had been lost in translation; when you couldn't see what was happening on the screen in front of you, there was really nothing to cheer for – you didn't know who had the ball or what was happening until the crowd reacted. Not like baseball – that you could listen to on the radio and understand exactly what was going on – and he still did, on occasion. But, basketball was different; if he was being truthful, the whole vibe of the bar this evening had been different and he found himself, perhaps for the first time in his life, no longer comfortable in that environment.
Not necessarily because of the blindness, although there was no doubt that it had certainly added to the level of discomfort; more so because he was, again, at a bar and it was, again, a boy's night out. It had been on one such occasion that he met Anne Donnelly, a fellow police officer, and the woman who now stood firmly planted between him and marital fidelity. If it hadn't been for a few too many beers, or a few too many laughs and a definite breach of his better judgment, his marriage might still be standing on solid ground and his newly found insecurities wouldn't have had anywhere to take root.
But, before the events of the past year, before he had been so sharply rocketed back to earth and this new reality, he had been a player with absolutely nothing to prove. Not when there was someone like Christie already waiting for him at home.
It's ironic – it had taken a bullet to make him realize that he was one of the lucky ones; he had the beautiful wife, the beautiful home and a job he loved, a job that really, at least in his own mind, defined who he was. That bullet had changed everything. He had had to fight like hell to get it all back again. A year of recovery and rehab and a nasty, public struggle with the NYPD and he was finally back on the job. Though they had urged him to stay in-house, in a support role, and another minor struggle had ensued, he was, once again, partnered up and, it appeared, finally on his way to finding a zone of contentment with that.
His marriage, on the other hand, was not yet at that point. A year after that bullet, the one thing that had been such a constant in his life, in spite of his prior transgressions, was still on shaky ground. Plain and simple, he had cheated on his wife and he didn't know how or if he was ever going to be able to mend that broken fence.
God love her. She had stayed by his side, 24/7, through the worst of all of it, through the nights of delirium, the days of self-pity, even the darkest times when all he really wanted to do was die, to let himself just slowly and mercifully slip forever into the void that had transcended his being. She wouldn't let him go; she wouldn't let him quit. She was the one thing he could cling to during those days of hell; the steady, soothing voice that somehow managed to keep him sane and focused and believing again that his life was still worth living; that he was worth every ounce of effort it was going to take.
Thankfully, in his mind, he could still picture her; her stunning gray blue eyes, the quickness of her perfect smile, the way her nose wrinkled just so when she laughed at one of his stupid jokes. It had been so easy to lose himself in those eyes, eyes that he would never have an opportunity to gaze into again. He had always been able to read her mood by what was reflected there, the warmth of the gray or the steeliness of the blue; that was now gone to him forever too.
As much as he hated to admit it, he was scared; scared that she would leave, scared that he might actually find himself relegated to a life without her. That was his biggest fear. Having to face the possibility that she would tire of him, grow weary of having to live this new life. God knows there were days when he couldn't fathom how much more he could take, how he was going to be able to force himself to get up in the morning and keep moving. He had often wondered if he felt like this, how was she coping with the sudden turn of events? If she didn't find him so easy to live with before, what must it be like for her now?
When he had finally come back to life, and spent days railing against the abyss that seemed to be holding him down and suffocating him, she was right there, always right there. He didn't know at the time that she was already acutely aware of what he had done, of where he had been on all those nights when he was just going out with the boys. Yet, even after all of that, after the hardships of the last year, after being forced to make adjustments she couldn't possibly have been prepared for, here she was; still by his side. As much as he wanted to believe it was because of her love for him, her ability to forgive him, her belief in her own marriage vows, the nagging little voice at the back of his consciousness had, on more than one occasion, convinced him that it was more out of pity.
Standing here, alone on the street, still entranced by the sounds emanating from that sax, he was reminded of what it had been like before all of this, before there was an Anne, or a bullet, or any of this uncertainty. He was reminded of what it was like when life was normal, what life had been before there was darkness.