This is a piece written about the book Trumpet by Jackie Kay. The book was about the death of a fictitious jazz player called Joss Moody. He had a wife and an adopted son. It is revealed that Joss was secretly a woman who lived as a man. The story is set after the death of Joss- his wife had known his secret but his son hadn't until Moody's secret was revealed after his death. I wrote this for my coursework, in point of view of Joss, just as he's about to die. Enjoy.
I know exactly what will happen. I don't like the inevitability of this, but what can I say? I've lived a good life, had some fun times, frightening times, moments that border on bizarre. And now I'm reaching the end of my song.
I stare vapidly up at the ceiling, my eyes idly following the lines of the paintwork. I can hear and feel Millie, my Millie, bustling around the room, fluffing up my pillows, mopping my brow, generally doing all she can to ensure that I'm comfortable as possible.
Inevitability. The word is suddenly all I can think, a big dirty smear on my waiting silence. When people are about to die, as I am now, they hear funereal death knells, or the tinkle of a seraph's harp. Not me. I'm faced with this silence, the waiting. I miss the music. I don't know what awaits me- who does? All I know is that looking back now I lived a life without regrets.
Music. If someone, a clicking reporter or someone who knew the secret I'd carried all these years asked "Why? Why did you do this? Dress up, talk differently. Why? "I would simply regard them with the good grace of someone who's made a difficult decision in life, learned to live with it and I would say "Music." There is more to it than that, but I think it's an apt summary. My decision to hang up little Josie and introduce Joss to the world was not one I took lightly. There is no way that the girl and the musician could co-exist peacefully. They are two different people and yet they are me.
One of my earliest memories is one of me holding my mother's hand comfortably as we walked along. I was born with music in my blood. Hop-scotching on the street, dancing to an internal beat, clapping young rhythms singing and scatting. My name changed, the places I frequent, the people I meet, everything changes but not my love of music. When I die, Josephine and Joss will die but my music will not. For even if one single person in the world buys a record, plays it, dances to it, then a part of me is still alive. I like the thought of having left this imprint on the world.
I knew the challenges I would face being a female trumpet player. The critical reviews, the thin grins of reporters as they document my struggle. Everything that I have done, every lie I've told, even to my own son, was to protect my secret. I sincerely hope that this secret remains just that-a secret. If someone discovered the truth, either before or after my death, I honestly don't ken how Colman and Millie would cope. I took the lie willingly-they had to live with it.
I said I had no regrets? Well, they say hindsight is twenty-twenty vision and I suppose the only thing I truly rue is my treatment of my son. I did not tell him the truth because I couldn't allow the secret to become a revelation. And I suppose I feared that he would think badly of me. Colman was always rambunctious, hot-headed. As a wean, he was always greeting. Shouting. Running Millie ragged. I tried to be as good a father as my father was to me. I would tell Colman that where you came from isn't important-it's where you are now that matters. I told him that biological family aren't always your real family. I told him that you are who you want, by combining cultures or create a new one and never give up. I said this as I wanted to fill him with courage because the truth is, I was too weak. I was a trumpet player, and a good one at that, but I was never a social pioneer. A visionary, a radical free-thinker. I idolised people like Martin Luther King, people who went through hell to make society be more accepting. Perhaps I could have made a difference-Josephine Moore- jazz genius. But my passion for music, a passion that burned as deeply as love, was not inclined to struggle through bigots and chauvinists. The papers could have painted me as a hopeless attention-seeker, or a girl trying to join the big boy's band. Would they have respected my effort? Applauded? I guess I'll never know.
I could have told the world my story but I couldn't have faced the accusing eyes, the smirking-behind-sleeves. People would be intrigued by the practicalities of my concealment, the costume, not the character beneath. But I think there is more to someone than clothes or voice. There are thoughts, feelings. I put Josephine in a man's suit, cut her hair and lowered her voice, threw a clever title at her-Joss Moody. But no one saw Josephine-in-drag; they saw what I wanted them to see. A trumpet player. Do the ends justify the means? My talent, the music I offered to the world-does that forgive me my chicanery? I expect this is my way of deathbed repentance.
I never claimed to be honest- I'm not saying I condone a lifetime lie. I just hope my music lives on, and Colman, Millie my mother and the old band continue living on, peacefully. My family. They'll miss me, as I would miss them if the situation was reversed, but they'll cope and move on. I want them to. Life is an amazing thing; you can be whoever you want to be as long as you have the courage to go through with it. I am living proof of that. I am different cultures, the result of people I've met, troubles I've faced and the life I led. I am Scottish and I am African, I am a father and a friend, a husband, a musician. I am Josephine and I am Joss.
My eyes close and I begin slipping away. My last thought is: Perhaps I was a visionary after all.