Leo is 15. The Yamada-Kim family has accepted him as their child. Mrs. Yamada, dressed in an elegant black dress, and Mrs. Kim, wearing a fashionable rainbow of silk, are there to greet him. The introductions have been made. Things feel awkward.
“Leo? Is there anything you want to ask?” the facilitator asks gently.
“Yeah.” The boy pauses. “Why is it Yamada-Kim, not Kim-Yamada or something else?”
The two women look at each other, and share a smile full of secrets. “I proposed to her first,” says the Japanese woman, Mrs. Yamada. Mrs. Kim doesn’t expand on that, but her face is glowing with the memory of it.
Leo learns that his two mothers share a deep and abiding love of all music. The Pucketts, devout Enochians, didn’t let him listen to music except on Sundays, and then it was all choral stuff. The Delacruzes thought art was visual; California’s rich musical tradition was merely something heard outside the studio window. The Lancasters and Washingtons and Carsons used music as a soundtrack for their lives. The Dorseys loved country-western, the callus of the soul, a music for people who’d lived far longer and far more than Leo had at that age. But the Yamada-Kims are the first family where music for its own sake is a thing.
Leo couldn’t get into visual art when he was Leon Delacruz. Painting was too abstract, too splotchy, too haphazard. It didn’t resonate. But music! Now that he’s introduced to it, asked (but not forced) to just sit down and listen to it - scratchy old vinyl records, live violin practice from his mothers, painstakingly mastered mixes from master musicians like Led Zeppelin, bombastic guitar solos, airy flutes, melodic trance from Indians and Assyrians and Brits - he appreciates art. He can sense the notes. He can feel the rhythm. 4/4 time, 140 bpm, 432 Hz, it all has a math behind it. Electronic dance music in particular feels like a pyramid, powers of 2 stacking on each other, repeating, building a ziggurat skyward toward mathematical ecstacy.
That’s when the Yamada-Kims introduce him to their song, the one they asked to be played at their wedding, the song that means romance to them. It’s not some classic composition, preserved down the centuries by acolytes and music lovers. It’s Alanis Morissette’s “You Owe Me Nothing In Return”.
You can speak of anger and doubts, your fears and freak-outs and I’ll hold it. You can share your so-called shame filled accounts of times in your life and I won’t judge it.
“I’m leaving too, Leo. It’s not because I hate you. It’s because I love you too much to see you destroy yourself over us. Think about yourself for a change.”
You can ask for space for yourself and only yourself and I’ll grant it. You can ask for freedom as well, or time to travel and you’ll have it.
“I’m going to Japan. There’s a monk I want to meet there. I just need some time away… Thank you for understanding.”
You can ask to live by yourself or love someone else and I’ll support it. You can ask for anything you want, anything at all and I’ll understand it.
“What would you do if I went off and became a solo hero?” “I’d support you.” “If I fell in love with some handsome superhero?” “I’d support you.”
I bet you’re wondering when the next payback shoe will eventually drop. I bet you’re wondering when my conditional police will force you to cough up. I bet you’re wondering how far you have now danced your way back into debt.
“Are… are things okay with us?” “Things are okay with us. I’m just worried. A lot has happened.” “I feel like I caused some of it.” “Being at the center of it doesn’t make you the cause. I don’t think you did anything wrong here, Pneuma.”
“This is work. I want you to know I appreciate it.” “I’m fully committed to doing this.”
You can express your deepest of truths even if it means I’ll lose you and I’ll hear it.
“I’m… not ready for this, Leo. I’m having doubts about doing the merge.”
You can fall into the abyss on the way to your bliss and I’ll empathize with. You can say that you’ll have to skip town to chase your passion and I’ll hear it.
“I haven’t left yet.” “I hit Send by accident. I was uh…” “You were saying what’s in your heart. Thank you. I’ll see you soon. I promise.”
The airport rescue. Just… all of it.
You can even hit rock bottom, have a mid-life crisis and I’ll hold it.
That moment, driving away from the airport with Otto, when Pneuma finally transformed again, enclosing Leo, moving as he moved, joining with him. Combination like that is a closeness nobody else can really understand. It’s a hug, a sharing, a trust that defies explanation.
That moment at the press conference, when Leo saw her face, as Concord told her the aura he saw. The tears that wanted to come and weren’t allowed just yet. Not peace, not yet, but relief, for both of them.
And there are no strings attached.
You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give. You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have. I give you thanks for receiving, it’s my privilege, and you owe me nothing in return.
This is the only kind of love as I understand it that there really is.
author: Bill G.