Future loading dock workers and retail cashiers
"Going to art school seems like such a dumb idea now."
Was barely a month before when Johnny found himself muttering to himself, "I can never let that happen to me." Cliff Swayles had knocked up his girlfriend, and in 1950's England he had no choice but to marry. Her father lined up a job for Cliff in his factory and everyone dutifully did the Right Thing. Johnny wouldn't be seeing Cliff at art school anymore.
"Time to grow up, it is. Put away childish dreams. Got me a little one I'm gonna have to feed. No more late nights or weekend jam sessions at the club with ya, Johnny. I know you understand, don't ya? Sorry 'bout that, mate."
Why is it everyone always apologizes when doing the Right Thing? Cliff could have skipped out, been labeled a scoundrel for life and been forever the object of idle gossip in his hometown. Oh, the hell he'd have to hear every time he faced his mother! Society's smugness still reigned supreme in the compressed world of the 1950's. Rare was the soul who could fight the current of condemnation.
Johnny listened to Cliff's confession as he would have a guilty sentence of life in prison. The cold chill creeping up his spine made him want to eat a bullet. Hell's army had a new recruit. Cliff was moving on - just as Frankie, Roscoe and even wild ass Omar had moved on, to jobs or women or just plain giving up. Julian had moved on too but not of his own volition - he was doing 3 years the hard way in the dank, grey prison in Eastham. Was that to be Johnny's fate too if he did not "move on"?
Johnny didn't know what he wanted yet. He dabbled in all the arts: writing, painting, music, sculpture. No, Johnny only knew what he didn't want. "Death before work!" he'd rally out to whatever cohorts present, praying they'd follow his lonely path. To be unformed in a world that gives no time and demands instant answers is to be in as delicate position as a butterfly on an iceberg; one is far, far from home.
At times, Johnny's life seemed mythic even to himself, moments of magic when he wrote a silly poem or dreamed a silly dream. As a lark he'd written "Dreamer" as his occupation on the official school form. But was he, in fact, an idiot's idiot? A clown's contempt? A fool's sucker? He was so smartly proud of himself at the time. But with defection after defection...
Cliff's confession knocked the wind out of his stomach and Johnny had simply resigned himself that if he died, he died. Nothing can be done. Luckily, some recurring magical moments had revived him, giving CPR to his spirits, his life hanging by a thread. He'd met a new mate in art school and Johnny loved him dearly. His new mate Stu seemed just as committed to the open life as Johnny was. But Stu had something Johnny could only dream of: official acclaim.
Stu was so loved by the instructors at the art school he was allowed to do his paintings at home - or wherever the hell he wanted. Stu was already halfway home to finding a home. Johnny only went to art school because he had nowhere else to go, his direction unknown. How could he explain the pressures? He couldn't help but feel that to continue on his path was to be mocked all throughout history, even as an unknown. Who has feelings like this but a delusional freak?
It had always been a yin/yang thing. In school, his teachers - the ones he hated anyway - wrote scorching reviews of him and his behavior. Those voices drove him, he knew they were wrong. Sometimes it's enough just know what's wrong to guide you to the promised land. Johnny at times succumbed to the voices but more times soared above them. But today, today might be the final straw.
His girl was pregnant.
Of course he'd marry her. It's not like he didn't have feelings for the girl but how to raise a kid when you don't even know who the hell you are? He'd be a bastard to him, an absent father - just like Johnny's was. Johnny was faced with becoming everything he hated. Yes, he'd do the Right Thing of a suburban white boy in middle class England. But then he'd run.
His band got a gig in Hamburg, across the channel in Germany. As a group they were unruly, unprofessional, not yet sure enough of themselves to commit any more of their lives than they already had. No one knew how alone Johnny was on that stage, taking out his fears on his nightclub audience, cursing them as "fucking Nazis" while he played. His music, his life, his art - they were all one in the same. The only direction in his life he knew had to obey was the immediate order of the German club owner: "Make show! Make show!"
Johnny's band mates - and he recruited the non-musical Stu as to not feel so alone - also shared Johnny's fears and "Make show" they did, tearing up the joint with savage riffs in brutally long sets fueled by alcohol and "greenies". Channeling massive energies into their music, they drew deeper and tighter as a band without realizing it. Excitement, terror, madness, dreams nightly shaped their lives. They might die, but they weren't dead yet! Always, always, just one step ahead of the mocking laughter that would never stop.
Too cool for school?
After the marriage ceremony, it was almost like leading a double life. Johnny had the life he "ought" but his true life called out to him in undeniable urgency. Funnily enough, he and his band were treated as conquering heroes on their return from Germany. But what had they conquered? Certainly not their fears and doubts - just a bunch of raunchy Germans krauts. Oh sure, they did feel something new on stage, but that and a quarter would get them a cup of coffee.
Still, the music did suit him, his mentality and lifestyle needs. He figured as long as it kept him alive he'd stick with it. And if it didn't? Who knows, maybe he'd run off to sea like his father. Only Johnny would make his fortune in a faraway land and come back a king. He knew he'd make a fortune, even if he never did. More than anything he wanted love to be real. He'd bet his life on it - and as one by one others dropped off to take the road more traveled only destiny could answer Johnny's questions.
[Johnny's band, the Beatles, continued their zigzag rise to the top, living the unlived dreams of millions. In the end, he proved the dead lives of "practical realists" to be delusional and futureless, to be mocked and branded by history's scorn. There is no choice but to chase one's dreams. Everything else but a mirage in the desert.]