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“Road To Nowhere” by Talking Heads

Little Creatures (1985)

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The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” -Madeleine L'Engle

Happy Birthday, Nico!

“You are probably the most annoying human being to set foot on this earth,” Nico di Angelo grumbled darkly, his face the colour of a ripened peach. Will Solace had his arms around the snarky little nugget, chin atop his dark hair and eyes bored as they walked to the Apollo cabin one after the other. Nico was supporting his boyfriend with his head, eyes scrunched up in frustration–It was almost as if he was dragging the blonde by his chin. At the same time, WIll had stuffed his hands into Nico’s front pockets after hearing that his fingers were cold, and it left them holding hands in the private comfort of his leather jacket’s secret compartments. 

“Correction–” WIll countered, eyes lidded and expressionless as they walked to the mess hall. “I am not a human being, per se, but a demigod.”

“Same difference,” Nico huffed. “And–ugh, Will, you’re much heavier than you think, you know.”

“I know,” he sighed. And even if it was such a heavy labour for Nico, he did it with–he daresay it–love. The mess hall had been filled with guests to celebrate his 91st birthday just hours ago, and it had all been a surprise. The chief proprietor was none other than William Solace, but Hazel, Reyna and Jason did a lot as well. It had filled his heart to the brim, especially when campers he wasn’t all that familiar with came up to him without fear and gave their greetings. It was like a dream come true–and it wouldn’t have happened if the annoying jerk on his back wasn’t as hardworking as he’d been. Full time in the infirmary while planning a surprise party for over 300 demigods? Not as fun as anyone hoped it to be.

They finally reached the Apollo cabin, and its usually golden sheen was dimmed by the moonlight. It was almost three in the morning, and Nico’s bones were sore. As Will promised Chiron, they had to stay behind and clean up after everyone’s mess in the hall–and even if the seven and Reyna were there to help them out, 300 demigods sure knew how to get things dirty.

“Down you go,” Nico harrumphed, setting Will down onto the porch in front of the cabin. It seemed that they were the only ones awake at this hour. He stretched out his shoulder muscles and breathed in the cool January air, happy–seriously happy–for the fifth or sixth time in his life.

“I’m… going to pass out…” Will said, flopping back-first onto the wood. “I’ve reached the peak of my tiredness.”

With that, Nico’s heart lurched. He bent down and rested his hands on his knees, curiously eyeing the exhausted boy sprawled across the golden porch. His mouth curved into a concerned line.  "Hey–Hey Will.“

"Yes, Nicholas?” he grumbled, hands heavily rubbing at his face. 

“I just–” Nico paused. He breathed in. Breathed out. “…Thank… Thank you. For everything.”

Will shot up faster than a jack in the box, his blonde head bobbing up in surprise as he regarded Nico. It just so happened that the said brunette did not yet relax from his crouch–it left the two nose to nose, eye to eye, faces only inches apart.

“You know…” Will breathed, breath tickling Nico’s cheeks. “I’d do anything for you.”

Nico gasped softly, the pink rising to his face at the sudden closeness of their proximity. With that, Will smiled with shy confidence, his previously heavy hands light as feathers as they trailed to the back of Nico’s head. They moved closer and closer, until every sense seemed to be heightened by adrenaline. Nico nipped his lip in anxiety, drawing blood.

Will’s eyes were drawn to Nico’s lips, and immediately, he backtracked a few inches. “I can’t–I can’t kiss you when you have an open wound on your lip! It might get infected! Gods, Nico, why did you have to–”

Nico turned 91 yesterday, he should’ve mustered enough courage to do this a long time ago. He took Will’s tired face in both of his hands and forced his baby blues to look into his own. 

“Suck it up, William,” he grumbled. “It’s my birthday.”

And Nico kissed him–pulling him close without letting him say another word. 

Michael Jackson and Elijah 1984 

“It was just by coincidence that I became acquainted with Michael Jackson. It was 1983 and my wife, Flora, was pregnant with our first child. Frequently, we ate at a vegetarian restaurant called, “The Golden Temple”. Generally we went during the hours between lunch and dinner. There were few other customers during that time period, but there was one other regular: Michael Jackson. 

He had recently become a vegetarian, and he was fascinated to follow the progress of a vegetarian pregnancy. When our son, Elijah, was born in June, Michael was excited to see him. Once he asked me what it was like to be a father, and he told me that that was what he wanted most of all in life: to have a child of his own to take care of. Even then, there was something poignant about this man who had not been allowed to be a normal child himself wanting to be a father.

On February 18, 1984, when Elijah was eight months old, we took him to The Golden Temple. There were no others customers except Michael and his 13-year-old friend, Emmanuel Lewis, who was known to the world as “Webster.” Michael said that he wished he had a camera because he wanted his picture taken with Elijah. My wife had a camera in her bag, but no film. Michael suggested that she could get some film at a nearby drugstore and asked if he and Emmanuel could take care of Elijah while we waited. When Flora returned, Michael suggested various poses and she snapped a number of photos of Elijah with Michael and Emmanuel. Michael asked for copies of the prints when they were developed.

Each of the photos turned out to be of interest, but there was one, of Michael holding Elijah in his arms, that stood out. Looking at it today, 25 years later, and seeing Michael’s bright look and clear smile, I can’t help but feel sad. He looked healthy, happy and untroubled. His album Thriller had caused a sensation. “Beat It” had been released only four days earlier. And ten days after that afternoon at The Golden Temple, he won eight Grammy Awards. When we next saw him at the restaurant just after his night of triumph, he was beaming, but he also seemed a bit embarrassed by his success.

I got a lot of mileage out of that photo of Michael Jackson and Elijah. Whenever I traveled, I brought with a packet of family photos. The Michael and Elijah photo was the last in the set, and when people got to it, they were usually stunned. Wherever I went, China, Russia, Burma, Tahiti, everyone recognized Michael Jackson. I have to admit that, as a journalist, I used it to put people at ease when I wanted to interview them.

Now that he is gone, I want to share that photo of Michael Jackson, from a time when he appeared to be at peace with himself and with the world. This is the way I want to remember him.”   -David Wallechinsky  (Elijah’s Father)