Forty-Something Years in Ninaland

The Patient Sikh: Part Three—Sonny



This is an excerpt from a novel. If you would like to read the passages that lead up to this, please visit: The Patient Sikh: Part One, and The Patient Sikh: Part Two–The Wonder Years.


He was on the phone with Yasmine and wondered why he was so attracted to her, even though she was the kind of girl who needed commitment from a guy, he could tell by her sophisticated sentences. He knew the language of love but he wasn’t ready to speak it. Did she want him?

“I was going to try out for The Music Man, but I can’t sing to save my life,” Yasmine proclaimed on the telephone.

“I would try out but I can’t act,” he said in a chalky voice. He was annoyed he had to clear his throat three times. “Shit I’m late,” he snarled at her, and they said their goodbyes.

Sonny stared in silence at his blue guitar. Sometimes he thought his soul was in the strings of that guitar, in the invisible chords. He felt it as he sang: “Let it be, Let it be…” to himself. He stopped. He didn’t like what he heard. His voice wasn’t working, it seemed to be broken.  He was late for rehearsal and he was wasting time. As the lead singer, Sonny needed some quick tea to perk up his throat.” Ahhh,” he sang to himself. He used to think throat exercises were for losers, until his throat starting getting a bit scratchy, probably from the pot he smoked every now and then.

His band was playing in a fancy hotel Friday night and he thought about asking Yasmine to come watch him, but he wasn’t ready for that kind of intimacy. He would be singing all covers at a reunion at the Marriot. He’d been known to make women cry with the songs he had chosen, they wanted sentimental. If she came alone she would be putty in his hands and then cling on to him. He didn’t want to risk his independence for a girl. She was after all, just a girl.

What is singing anyways, he thought as he drove like a maniac to Mike’s garage. It’s kinda like yelling, a little like talking in tune. Music to him was like sex without the mess, it had rythum and pleasure. Music was all that mattered to him. He could do the Engineering thing. He thought math was much like music, it all made a certain sense to him.  But if he could do what he really wanted with his life, he would sing, make music, and make love to beautiful women.

It was a little-known fact that Sonny couldn’t read music, it was something he was ashamed of but he refused to learn. He thought the institutionalization of music was for those who didn’t really feel it.

He could duplicate a tune when he heard one. He could make up a harmony and a melody and all the rest of it. Yasmine had once said, “Your voice is intelligent, I don’t even know what that means. But your voice tells me things.” Those were the kind of sentences that he loved, and why he liked her. He had a few ‘groupies’ he called them. He assumed Yasmine was one of them, a girl that was into him because he sang like a rock star.

No one knew he secretly wanted to make it big, go solo, lose the band and branch out. He could do it; he knew it. It was writing the songs he had trouble with, not the music, but the words. Cliché is the only way to describe it. He couldn’t get it right. Couldn’t say the right thing, at the right time, whether it was in a song or in a room with other people.

Yasmine had offered to help him write songs, she had written quite a bit of poetry. He thought about that for a moment, he wondered if they would end up kissing while writing a song, he wondered where they would end up. Would he serenade her?

He got to Mike’s house and stared at all four of the guys in the garage. It was so White, you know, all of it. This music they were making was made for White people. He wanted the music to have some kind of eclectic international flare. He wanted more funk. He wasn’t a punk, but he was more alternative than his band.

Joey played the drums and Sonny saw him cranking out some wild tune. Sonny stood there on the driveway with his tea. Sonny spent his younger years in Ireland, but he immediately got rid of his Irish accent when he moved to the States. He thought about where he learned to sing, it was in the pubs with his dad. They would sing ridiculous tunes and his dad would drink the night away.

Sonny never drank for that reason and he stared at his green tea. He left Ireland for good, left his family for good, and came as an exchange student at a local high school before he got into Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on a scholarship. He loved Detroit. How he managed to find all these White people to build a band with was beyond him since he lived in a predominantly Black city. Most of his Indian and Sikh friends went to U of M.

Sonny was a Sikh but didn’t wear a turban. His father wore a turban and Sonny always did anything he could to not be like his father. He came to America, took off his turban and cut off all his hair. Why? Because he could. He couldn’t stand up to his dad in his presence, but now he was on his own. He was his own man.


He knocked on Yasmine’s door in her dorm room, girls, no women were all around the hallway. He saw a pretty blond woman with golden streaks in her hair and an even hotter black woman wearing spiral curls laughing at the end of the hall. He knew he was in the right place. He would have sung to them if he could, if it was socially acceptable to just break out into song at the drop of a hat for no reason at all. He thought women only liked him for his singing.

Yasmine opened the door and she stood there with her hair straightened, he thought she had curly hair. He had to admit she looked good with her black jeans and purple top, she smelled sweet like honey and vanilla. There was something about her, something he didn’t understand, she was like a mystery with a catch that no one but her knew. “Hi,” she said in a sort of a high pitched voice. Her voice wasn’t really that sexy, he thought.

“Hey there,” he said and smiled and looked her up and down. His eyes rested on her chest. She had a decent set of breasts. But he didn’t know, there was something missing with her. She wasn’t the woman he dreamed of. She wasn’t hot the way some of his other ‘groupies’ were She didn’t wear mini-skirts and halter tops. He thought of them as his ‘girls.’

He walked into her small dorm room with a pink comforter on a bunk bed to the left and two wooden desks to the right. He remembered why he came to Yasmine’s door to begin with: she was cool to talk to. She made him laugh, she laughed at his jokes. She was pretty. Would he do her? Yeah, but he assumed she was a good girl, a virgin. He didn’t know if he wanted to break her in.

Besides, he had many wild oats to sow. Relationships were for guys who could only get one woman. Yasmine was a ‘relationship’ kinda girl. The kind of woman who wanted flowers on her birthday and kisses in the rain. He wanted all that too, later. Right, then he wanted to have a good time. She didn’t seem like that kinda ‘fun’ girl.

“Mona is going to meet us at Java Hut.” Mona, he thought. She was hot. She was sexy. Everyone wanted a taste of Mona. There was something about her attitude, the way her ass and tits moved. He and Mona had a good vibe. He knew, though, that she wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. Sonny didn’t even know if Mona was impressed with his singing.

“Alright, you ready?” he asked and looked into Yasmine’s eyes. He noticed a hint of excitement in his gut. He liked her; but didn’t think he should like her.

“Yeah, let’s go!” she chimed in her girly voice. He looked at her average sized lips as she spoke. She was wearing lipstick with a purplish hue. It looked pretty good on her, he wondered if she put it on for him. He imagined kissing her and getting the lipstick all over his face.

He knew one thing about her voice that seemed to only have one note. She probably couldn’t sing to save her life. He dreamed of a woman he could do a duet with. A woman who knew music as well as he did, with a beautiful voice. Someone he could sing with for the rest of his life.

They walked and talked, through the campus. He loved the campus and couldn’t believe how amazing it was, the multi-colored trees in the fall and the grassy scenery gave him chills. It all reminded him of Ireland. “Where are you guys playing next?” Yasmine asked.

“Oh we gotta gig at a high school reunion at the Marriot,” he said, still stunned by the ivy on the old brick buildings. “We will be doing all covers.” He didn’t mind singing other people’s songs, he was good at it in fact. He could make them original, make them his own, while still maintaining the integrity of the song.

There she was: Mona. She was sipping what looked like a cappuccino. She had thinner red lips, but they were still just right. She smiled a half smile when she saw them. A piece of her naturally straight hair fell from her forehead over her left eye. Damn that woman really did do something to him.

“We’re late,” Mona seemed to hum in a deep voice. He imagined that he could teach her how to sing with that voice. She looked him up and down, his jeans and corduroy shirt seemed inadequate to him from her perspective. Most of all, he wanted to go back to the boys and tell them he saw Mona, he talked to Mona.

All three of them walked towards the restaurant, he walked in the middle of both of them and felt like a stud. Two hot women were at his side. They reached Cottage Inn and saw their gang, all four of them, standing in line. “Heeey!” Tina yelled towards him. She was definitely a groupie. He liked her because she was short but had the confidence of a tall woman. She wore her hair in a bun that day and he thought about untwisting that bun.

They all said their hellos and sat at a booth by the winding staircase. Purple, green, blue, was all around him. Pretty girls, a few guys he thought were OK cool, but no competition for him. Life was good. It made up for the fact that he didn’t know if his dad was dead or alive. It made up for the fact that his mother asked him to come back to Ireland. She needed him to be the man of the house.

He couldn’t do that. He had songs to sing.


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