Tragedy Can Inspire

Dear Joe,

If you're reading this then my feelings were right and something has happened to me and that something is that I'm dead ... Joe, I have a job for you, and only you. There is someone I need you to take care of for me."

That was the letter that changed Joe's life. The letter that asked him to take care of someone else instead of being taken care of. And without realizing it, what started as a favour to a lost treasured friend became the biggest gift he would ever receive. And sometimes, tragedy can inspire.

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4. Possessions

Joe sat in the quiet room for what seemed like hours but he really honestly didn’t know how long it had been.  He couldn’t bring himself to move or touch any of the items that surrounded him.  Craig had been someone who always treasured each of his few possessions and it seemed like such an invasion for Joe to disturb them from their set place.  Even in just looking at each of them from where he now sat in the chair he had sunk his body in to, ghosts of  conversations and memories flooded his mind, each one a piece of simplicity he didn’t want to lose because it meant he would be starting the process of losing Craig.

Finally, he pushed himself out of the corner chair and moved over to the short dresser that sat against the wall.  There was a random pile of loose change, a closed up cell phone, an old watch and various folded up pieces of lined paper.  Joe started by taking  the lined papers and unfolded each of them one at a time, sitting on the bed to read them after smoothing them out over his knee.  They were song lyrics, bits and pieces of unfinished pieces that Joe had never heard before.  He wondered why Craig had never shown them to him.  He had generally wanted to share his musings with Joe, bounce his ideas off of his younger friend.  But not these, these he had kept private.  It was a piece of the puzzle of a man he thought he had known.  He started reading the first one.

Who's going to save you
When the stars fall from your sky
And who's going to pull you in
When the tide gets too high
Who's going to hold you
When you turn out the lights
I won't lie I wish that I
Could be your superman tonight

Joe knew that all songs that Craig had written were based on personal experience.  He had said it was because the audience could tell if the singer had no connection to the song and that it wouldn't catch them in the heart.  He wondered who this particular song was about.  What girl did he want to save?  Joe had heard of few dates and never a girlfriend.  He moved to the next crinkled piece of paper and read it, his curiosity growing at the words as his eyes took them in.

There are days when she's a whisper 
Nights when she's a scream 
A reason to wake up in the morning 
To close your eyes and dream 
She'll curse you like a sailor 
She'll wound you with her eyes 
She always makes it better 
But she won't apologize 
I know everything about her but don't know her at all

At the bottom of the sheet, Joe noticed a single angrily scrawled word.  Melissa.  He figured that this song was about her and he wondered if the first one had been about her as well.  Who was this woman and what relationship was she to Craig?  He found himself wanting to meet the mystery woman, Craig's description making her sound very intriguing.

He looked at the last piece of paper and read the words.  The words were scrawled quickly and messily, not like Craig’s normally neat handwriting.  They were also darker than what Joe was used to seeing him write, his songs usually ones to uplift those who listened to them. 

Always thought I’d die young
In these hands I held the gun
But it's too late for dying
Now there's nothing worth hiding
I've lost love lived with shame
I was humbled by my fall from grace
On the steps of decision
It's revenge or forgiveness

Joe read the harsh lyrics again, not able to place the darkness of them with his happy, easy-going friend.  He noticed the second time that there was a date written on the sheet.  The date was only a week old and beside it was written ‘I’m sorry’ in a softer tone of writing.  What was Craig seemingly so desperate sorry for?  The words spoke of someone immersing themselves in the shame of their actions, of being on the verge of a decision that was so drastic either way.  He saw marks on the sheet that looked like they had been left by tears, the pen ink smeared in spots by them.  They had to be Craig’s.  What was his friend dealing with that he hadn’t told him?  He hadn’t seemed any to different to Joe, still lavishing attention on Frankie and putting one hundred percent of his energy into every rehearsal with the band.

Joe folded the papers back up and put them in his jacket pocket, wondering if he could expand on the songs and finish them for Craig.  he had never considered himself a strong writer, having only finished a few songs over the years but he owed it to his friend.  To at least try to finish what he had started.

After safely tucking away the papers, Joe stood back up and moved back to the dresser, deciding just what he wanted to look at next.  Joe took the watch off of the dresser.  It was yet another possession that Craig had treasured along with the old guitar.  He couldn’t wear it because the aged strap was broken and he hadn’t had it fixed.  When Joe had offered to take it to be fixed, he had told Joe that if it was meant to work, it wouldn't have broken.  It was an old Timex with a battered leather strap.  As he flipped it over, he saw an old inscription on the back, the edges smoothed by time.  ‘To C, From M.  Merry Xmas’.  That had to be Melissa again, the mystery girl from the lyrics.  He put the watch in the pocket with the sheets.

He then took the cell phone and flipped it open.  It still had a remaining bit of battery power which wasn’t surprising since Craig barely used it.  Joe had insisted he buy it when they had started the tour and he had only done so to shut the technology addicted Joe up.  The phone was silver and sleek, not like anything he would have normally owned.  Feeling slightly like he was snooping but his curious side telling him he was doing it to see if he could find someone to contact and let them know what had happened, he went through the contacts section of the phone and saw a few names, all of them band members.  None of them had the same last name as Craig and none of them were named Melissa.  When he moved to recent calls, he saw that the phone had only been used a handful of times since he had gotten it.  The last call had been to someplace called Alba, Texas.  He wondered how far it was and why Craig had called there.  He was tempted to call the number but stopped himself and the phone joined the papers and watch in his pocket.

He now opened the top drawer of the dresser and saw clothing hastily thrown in.  He had taken Craig’s suitcase from the closet and it was laying open on the bed.  He took the clothes out of the drawer and placed them in the suitcase, showing the same reverence he had for them as he had the other objects.  He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with them but he would decide that later.  He did the same with the second drawer and the third.  As he emptied the drawers, he remembered how he used to bother Craig about his style of ripped t-shirts and faded jeans.  Craig hadn’t wanted to hear it, telling Joe that there could only be one fashion plate between the two of them and Joe had already claimed that title.  It seemed so ridiculous now.

After the clothes had been emptied from the drawers, he moved to the guitar on the bed.  He ached to play it, test the lyrics he had just read and maybe add his own to them. His fingers plucked random strings and the notes echoed loudly through the room.  Too loudly.  He pulled his fingers away and closed the lid, putting the case beside the suitcase at the door.  He looked around the room then, trying to see if there was anything he had missed.  He didn’t see anything obvious but he decided to check the closet.  He didn’t want to miss anything.  He walked around the bed and slid the flimsy closet door open.  There were a few more shirts and a couple pairs of pants on the hangers and Joe put them in the suitcase with the other clothes.  He went back to close the door when he noticed a box tucked into the corner, buried behind one of the extra pillows all of the hotels provided.

Joe pulled it down and sat on the bed, putting the box on his lap.  It was an old shoe box, obviously loved and opened often.  There were no markings on it to tell him what was in it.  Should he open it?  He knew somehow that by opening it, he would be introduced to a part of Craig had kept from Joe for his own reasons.  Maybe the one that had written those so unlike him lyrics. 

He made his decision quickly.  He would only open the box.  Once he knew what was inside of it, he would know if he should go any farther or not.

He lifted the battered top and put it on the bed beside him.  He looked in the box and saw dozens of envelopes, some obviously newer then the others judging by their colour and the neat numbers written in Craig’s handwriting in each corner.  There was no address on them.  Only a name.  Melissa.  Again Melissa.

Joe flipped through the letters and counted them.  There were sixty in total.  Each of them numbered and each only saying the name.  Who was this woman?  She obviously was a huge part of Craig’s past and seemingly present and yet he hadn’t mentioned her to Joe at all.

At the end of the stack, he noticed two without a number in the corner.  When he pulled them from the bottom, the first envelope was marked with the word Pictures.  As it wasn’t sealed like the numbered ones, he opened the flap and pulled out the faded pictures inside.  Pictures were something Joe understood and Craig knew it.  He had taken pictures of everything he possibly could and kept them all.  These pictures were of Craig in younger days.  The same smile was on the face but the eyes were troubled, like they had seen too much in too little time.  Also in the pictures was a pretty young brunette.  They obviously knew each other well judging by the numerous hugs they had shared on paper.  This had to be the elusive Melissa.

On the second envelope, he was surprised to see his name.  Again, there was nothing else on the envelope.  The envelope looked new though so Joe guessed it was a recent addition to the box.  He was about to open it when he heard a soft knock on the door.

Joe returned the letter to the box and replaced the top.  He stood up and went to the door, opening it to find Kevin on the other side.

“Hey, Joe.  You okay?  You’ve been in here awhile.”  His eyes were filled with concern.

Joe shrugged as he moved back to let Kevin in.  “Yeah, I got everything packed up.  If you want to take the suitcase, I can take the other stuff.”

Kevin nodded agreement and moved into the room.  He grabbed the suitcase and wheeled it into the hallway.  “I think we should be going.  The press already have wind of everything and so they’ll be here soon.  I really don't want to deal with them today.”  Kevin looked anxiously at the elevator, wanting to avoid the messiness as much as possible.

Joe grabbed the guitar case and tucked the box under his arm, following his brother into the hall.

“Everybody else is downstairs already.  We were just waiting for you," Kevin said as he made his way down the hall ahead of Joe, the small suitcase trailing behind him.

Joe took one last look in the room and ignored that pain again.  The pain of his friend's life being reduced to so few belongings, the pain that Craig had no one to miss him except those in the Jonas extended family and the pain that Joe was about to shut the door on him just when there were so many questions to answer.  It seemed wrong and disloyal in every part of his being.  But he had no choice.

“I’m ready,” he said, without meaning it at all.

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