“I have to get back to work,” he said, grabbing his girl’s ass as he gave her a kiss. “Have a good shoot.”
“Don’t forget the Gordon Ramsey dinner party tonight,” she said, with arms wrapped around his neck in the chili winter air of Central Park.
“Oh, that’s right. I’ll have to send a car for you.”
“A car?” She asked with a pout. “We’re not going together?”
“Ashley,” he said pulling the faux-fur jacket and blanket that covered her tight, “if you want to go to Aspen next week, I have to get the winery sold.”
“I hate showing up separately. And I’m not happy that you’re selling that place.”
“We still have the smaller vineyard and that one’s all mine,” he said patronizingly. “If my family wants to sell this one, so be it. I’m happy to get rid of the power struggle.”
“I suppose I can live with that. I’m definitely not a fan of the toll all of this has taken on you. I’ll wait for you in the car tonight so we can walk in together. Please don’t be late.”
“Am I ever?” He gave her a wink to which she responded with a dazzling smile that showed exactly why she was such a successful model.
He had everything. The gorgeous girl, the ivy-league education, old-money, new-money, success and social standing both in family circles and built on his own merit. The world was at his fingertips. His career in investments and the family trade of wine was flashy and exciting, and the personal relationships he was surrounded by were based on respect, success and support. His life was a well-oiled machine.
And he was miserable.
This was what he had always been told he should want but he didn’t. He had been bread and groomed to be the perfect man, and he appreciated what he had, but this was someone else’s happiness. Where was his?
“Hello, Mother,” he said with a kiss on her cheek.
“Hello darling,” she responded as she took his arm to walk down the stairs of her affluent stoop.
“You look wonderful,” he said in acknowledgement of the formal blue gown she had adorned with a luxurious necklace.
“Thank you, honey. You look handsome, as always. You were a dapper dresser even as a little boy,” she said as she straightened his collar before getting into the limo. “So, tell me about Aspen.”
“It was great. It always is.” Once they were seated and on their way, his mood took a more serious cue. “Mom – I’d like to talk to you about something very important to me.”
“Then get to it, my darling.” She crossed her hands in a sign that he had her full attention.
“I’m not content and would like your approval to start a new venture.”
“And by new venture, what is it that you mean?” She shifted in her seat.
“I need more depth in my life. Something that really impacts others on a basic level,” he said with passion. “It seems that nothing I do matters when it comes to real needs. I want to give back. Feel that I’m worth something.”
“Oh?” She wasn’t sure how she was going to take this.
Finally after an uncomfortable moment in which he had no idea what to expect, she clasped her hands together and smiled while taking a deep breath.
“I think that’s wonderful! All our family has ever done is give money. It would be fantastic to have a face to go with it. Have you ever thought about politics? What a turn that would be! I’d love to show my support, darling. Anything I can do.”
“That’s not exactly what I had in mind,” he started before being cut off.
“That’s OK. We’ll figure it all out later. Now tell me about Aspen! I haven’t been able to make it out this season and I’m just aching to go.”
The small-talk continued all the way to Carnegie Hall and to their seats.
“I broke up with Ashley,” he said, cutting her off from a talk that had turned to family business.
“What?” She exclaimed in shock.
“Actually, she left me.”
“What happened,” his mother asked, sternly facing him. “She’s a wonderful girl who comes from a wonderful family. I thought you two would get married.”
“She couldn’t accept the changes I’m about to make in my life.”
“What changes?” His mother asked with anything but the approval she had been so quick to offer just a few moments before.
“I’m joining up with a nonprofit to help in-need countries be self-sufficient.”
“Well, I can see the worries about why this could get in the way of existing business, but it could work to our benefit. I don’t see what that would make her break up with you?”
“I’m stepping down from the family business.”
“Yes, Mother. And I’m moving to Central America to personally be involved. I want to know the people we are trying to help. And there won’t be any spinning of this for family gain.”
“This is ridiculous,” she said turning forward and staring straight ahead.
“What about all of the support you were offering just a few minutes ago? Where did that go?”
“That was before I knew you were planning on leaving your family out to dry and giving up everything you have to go live in the dirt.”
“Yes, it will be rough, but I’ll make sure my responsibilities are covered. You know me well enough to know I’d never leave you without making sure everything is taken care of here. Maybe it’s finally time to implement our talks about bringing someone in from outside of the family.”
“What! I can’t believe I’m hearing this!”
“This life has never made me happy, Mother. Do you care about that? I’ve tried to make it work because I’ve always been told how amazing it is, and I do want to take care of the family, but I can’t do this anymore. I’m miserable. I will continue to do what I can for the family business, but I can’t let it consume me anymore. I’ve got to change before it kills me.”
His mother sat in silence and continued to look straight ahead as he stared at her. They didn’t say another word until after they had made it to their seats in the Opera house and the lights had begun to dim.
“It will break my heart every day if you turn away from me,” he said with heaviness in his voice, “but it won’t stop me. I’ve tried everything I can think of to find a way around it, but I have to do this.”
“I’d never turn my back on you,” she said turning to him. “I just don’t understand this. I may not agree with it, but I still love you.”
“I love you too, Mom.”
It was the last time he saw her for a year.
Photo by Robin Gilmartin
Just as “home” started to feel like a distant memory, his mother showed up to the compound he was building with the locals in Guatemala. A school and center had been built to help them become self-sufficient with growing their own food and making items that could be sold for profit.
“Mom,” he said, covered in sweat and dirt while standing there frozen in the middle of the field he was working on.
“Hello, Bryson,” she said, fighting the urge to look away from his shocked expression. “I saw the documentary that was done on your work to get funding for this place.”
“You did?” He was conflicted about how to react.
“Was it really true?”
“What do you mean?”
“It looked like…there seemed to be so much struggle. Bureaucratic nonsense and so many things constantly going wrong.” When he didn’t respond, she continued. “Quite a bit of money you have had to raise on your own and so many people shooting you down along the way. It made me realize what the family has been doing to you…what I did to you. We never meant to heart you, but now I can see that we must have…” with that, her stoic nature broke and tears formed in her eyes. “And the people that live here…they seem so wonderful. I never knew…”
“Mom,” he said breaking out of his daze to go to her, “it’s OK. Of course it hurt, but I understood where you were coming from. This was a big risk and I did give up most of what others spend their life trying to build.” He lifted her chin, careful not to touch her too much with his dirty hands. “If I saw someone else do the same thing, I probably would have thought they were off their nut. But it’s different when you’re the one with the need inside of you. I had to do it. I would have eventually stopped breathing if I didn’t.”
“I know that now,” she said, leaning into his embrace. “We all do. That video got the whole family talking. We’ve been looking at ourselves and what we’ve done. We’ll not going to stop our lives, but it did get us to take a look in the mirror.”
“Mom,” he whispered, “you’re getting all dirty.”
“I don’t care. It feels good. I don’t remember the last time I got my hands dirty. Not in this way, at least.”
He didn’t remember his mother ever hugging him so tightly. They hugged so long, he forgot anything but the feeling of her love.
“Well then,” she said pulling back abruptly to compose herself. “The family pulled together and wanted to help…”
“I don’t want any of the family’s help,” he said, cutting her off defensively.
“Calm down Bryson,” she said with an uncharacteristically warm smile as she handed over a check. “Everyone’s signed a confidentiality agreement that states our family will in no way be linked to anything we do for this cause. I made sure of it. After seeing the documentary and talking,” she said feeling ashamed, “everyone was already on board anyway. We’re not a bad family. We just get caught up.”
“Mom,” he said laughing as he put his hands on her shoulders, “it’s OK. Stop being so hard on yourself. Sheesh! I love you, and this is amazing. I knew you’d come through, eventually. You’re just too amazing not to.”
She smiled and pinched his cheek.
“If you don’t mind,” he said as he looked to those waiting impatiently, “I’m going to tell the kids they can come meet you. They’ve barely been able to hold themselves back over there,” he said gesturing to the edge off the field, “and now I think they’re worried about you.”
“Oh my,” she said with a laugh. “Come on kids,” she said waving them over.
“Anda, bromea,” he said waving the kids over when he saw them inching forward apprehensively. “¡Está bien!”
Bryson watched his mother as she got on her knees and hugged the children. In that moment, it was the first time that he had finally found himself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’ve always known who I am. I write, I love the arts, I love people and I love travel. I’m passionate and need to fight for what I believe in. I never had a problem knowing who I am. My battle has been fighting the outside forces that would tell me I am wrong.
There’s only so long we can run from ourselves before surrendering and that’s where I am now. I’ve given into who I am and what I love. That is what you see here.