In the summer of 1999, I was single, about to start my senior year, and feeling myself. I had successfully navigated life until that point without getting into too much trouble, and freedom was just a breath away. I was already enjoying some of those freedoms that very summer when fate intervened. It came in the form of a photograph held in the hands of someone as if showing me a precious jewel. It was picture of several young ladies, one of whom was the former girlfriend of the fella showing me the pic. This fool didn’t know what he was doing that day because he was stupid enough to give me her phone number!
I say I was feeling myself … but I’m not sure why. I had no game, as evidenced by the fact I just started singing the moment Sonya picked up the phone. I guess it had worked for me a few times prior, so that was not only my Ace-In-The-Hole, but it was also my only play. Sonya wasn’t impressed. In fact, according to her, that wasn't the first time she’d heard me sing, and in that first performance, she claims to have seen AND heard me … and come away thinking I was gay! (lol) Furthermore, my phone/singing game on this second, more exclusive occasion, was demonstrated to be even less impressive by her allegation that I sang a song I had written for another girl by a different name.
(I contest my wife’s account of this phone call in respect to the song I chose. I claim I sang Brian McKnight, like a respectable crooner! Read on.)
It would be another week or two before we actually met, face to face. I was riding shotgun with a friend in his old Mustang when I saw, “the girl from the photo that told me to stop singing.” I still remember what she was wearing. My friend and I must have been doing nothing important because I just hollered at him to pull over and jumped out of the car right there, ran across the street right to her and said, “Are you Sonya?” She was with a friend who lived a walk away so I offered to see them home.
Sonya was breathtaking. That photo had come close, but standing in front of her, seeing her in person, was the most exciting thing I’d ever felt. She wasn’t shy. She exuded confidence and had a wise skepticism about me from go. I was, after all, three years older than her and, at the time, that was kind of a big deal. As a matter of fact, that same afternoon we went swimming at her friend’s house. Sonya says that when I took my shirt off, she was taken back by how manly I was. She’d never seen so much chest hair! I, however, was taken back by how unbelievably beautiful she was. Years later, an artist friend of mine would go on to describe her as looking like “a Modigliani,” with her long, slender profile and classic features.
I’m not sure which of Modigliani’s masterpieces my friend was referring to that day, but I got the point. Sonya looked like art. What came after that initial encounter is a bit of an uglier, more convoluted tale of lots and lots of heartache and misery at the hands of a man who claimed to love Sonya, and Sonya’s response to that man. I’m not at all proud of how I handled things in those early years, and I don’t have a good explanation for why I did the things I’ve done. I’ve made my peace with my past, and so has my wife. What lies ahead will not be pretty, so please don’t judge too harshly.
High School Sweetheart
I graduated in the year 2000. Sonya and I had been together not quite a full year when I took a job that required to me to move 45 minutes down the road. The job kept me close to church and gave me just enough money to keep out of trouble. I had awesome roommates who later became my first real band, Y. I mowed grass during most weeks, and I was music director for a youth program. Sonya was still in school and she lived 40 minutes away, but we managed to stay together and I managed to stay faithful.
At the time, I didn’t have any long-term goals but I did have a system of accountability. My bosses and my roommates definitely helped keep me on the right track … for about a year. It all came to an end after a rather large mice infestation in my apartment and an unrelated inability on my part to keep my job. (Read—Didn’t show to work for days on end.) Without wanting to go home, I landed a room at a friend’s place and got a job in produce at his family’s grocery store. Gigs were far and few and I was barely scraping by.
Sonya would visit me on the weekends and by this point, we were about two-and-a-half years into a very serious relationship. I don’t think I played more than 2 or 3 shows while I worked at the grocery for that nine months. It wasn't until Ross Dupre called for me to open for a band of his that I was able to even think of a set list. I played every song I’d written in chronological order. Barely passable stuff, no doubt, but luckily for me, there happened to be someone in the audience that night that could open all the doors and loved what she heard. About three days later, Leah Simon called me and said she was flying me to L.A. and introducing me around town.
By the time I had landed in L.A. on January 27, 2002, a month had passed since that show. Sonya and I were broken up, again, and I was sure I was onto other things with music. I spent a week in SoCal meeting people all over town—from Lenny Waronker and Tom Walley to Gary Gersh and Jack Joseph Puig. These were, and still are, some of the biggest figures in the entire industry just welcoming us into their offices like we were old friends. Ross, Leah and I felt like everything was going to plan and were high from all the action. Ross had some friends in San Diego so with our last day in town we decided to head on down.
Leah called us early that same evening to tell us to get back to the Palisades because a certain budding guitar virtuoso was potentially gonna swing by to jam and write. We high-tailed it back up to the house only to be stood up. It wasn’t so bad, though, I thought. It had been an amazing week and I was going home the next day a changed man. A man ready to conquer the world; to be bigger than Michael Jackson!!!
I called my mom and dad to tell them all about the trip when my mom told me Sonya had called and wanted me to call her back. I hadn’t even really talked to Sonya since right after Christmas, but we had ended things amicably so I didn’t think much of it. When I called her house, her mom gave me the number of a friend Sonya was with at the time.
Here’s how the call went:
Me: (Kinda to-the-point) Hey, Sonya. What’s up?
Sonya: (Very to-the-point) I just thought you should know that I’m pregnant for your child.
Sonya: (Dial tone…)