Tear of Dragon
Komodo Jones Bio It is morning and cold, December 1986. Komodo Jones is seven. He wakes up to the new and early light of California filtering through the windows of his father's bus, where he's just slept for the first time. The seat where he lies is cold and vinyl, ripped open to expose the springs and yellow stuffing underneath. His blanket has fallen to the floor. He stares at the ceiling of the bus, where someone has scribbled Do You Realize You're Dead, and he shivers. He can hear his father snoring from the front of the bus-a man he can barely remember, and who has just won custody from his mother because she works too much. The bus looks like it's been transplanted from a junkyard-seven different colors and plastic replacing three of the windows. He sits up. His back aches from the seat. Surrounding the bus are the Christmas trees his father has brought from Montana, the parking lot of a run-down grocery store, and bums who line the side of a building in the distance. Across the street vendors are already setting up for a swap meet. This will be his home for a month, until the last of the trees is sold. No running water, no bathroom, no stove, barely any heat. At the end of that month the bus will move to a campground where half the permanent residents live in tents. And this will be his life. When Komodo asks about his mother, the answers will be short and curt, and he will come to believe some of the things his father says, though almost none of them are true, and though every insult is directed not only at his mother but at Komodo himself. When he asks about his grandparents, who are Indonesian royalty and who live in a palace, his father will inform him that his mother is a liar, that all of the 200 million people who live in Indonesia are related, and that he is nothing more than a mutt. Komodo's heart will reject this, but for a while, in his head, he will believe. As the years pass, this lie will inform his life. He will excel in school despite this, earning straight A's, rave reviews in a traveling youth theater, and admiration from his teachers. But under the surface, the lie will grow. He will see the gangs infesting his school and neighborhood, and he will believe in the lie. He will see the respect they earn through violence, where a certain kind of truth resides, and he will see the mix of bravado and silence they demand, and he will long because his heart knows the truth, for that same kind of respect, which his father will never be capable of giving. Along the way, Komodo will discover music. It will fill his heart with that other kind of truth, the truth of history-his mother danced in front of kings and emperors-and it will fill some of his longing, merging the honesty of the streets, where brutality reigns supreme, with the poetry inside his heart. Another morning. This time he's a freshman, and this time he will not wait around for his father to wake up. Instead, he'll skip school. He'll get in a car with his friend and they'll drive to an apartment complex where all the trees are dead, their branches rotting as they wait to fall to the ground. They'll knock on a door and wait, looking around at their decrepit surroundings, which by now seem wholly natural, until a man answers the door, invites them inside, and sells them drugs for the first time. That night they will ride in a car with two men who are not in high school, who have already been in prison, who carry guns, and Komodo will look at them in the front of the car, feeling the buzz of the marijuana, the air coming in the windows, cool and calm, and he will know that his life has just changed directions. He is different than the men he's with, but it will not matter to him then, not because of the drugs, but because of the longing. Later, when he's arrested for what they do that night, he will remember the feeling in his stomach, the way the men looked out the windows of the car as though the rest of the world belonged to them, and he will know that some of it belongs to him, and he will not let himself be afraid to take it. His first night in Juvenile Detention: he's smarter than every kid there, and sees the walls and the bunks and he sees through them, to the things they can teach you about being a criminal. When he leaves, he knows that he'll only get worse. And he does. He spends the next few years in and out of juvenile detention centers, piling up convictions. He fills the void in his heart with anger. And then he turns eighteen. Shortly after, he's charged with his first adult felony and kicked out of school. His life is as bleak as it's ever been. His future, so bright when he was a boy, seems like a wasteland. His probation officer tells him he'll be lucky if he amounts to a white-collar criminal. The bitterness inside is palpable, and he thinks he might be ready for a change. He finds a retreat in music, gets his GED, begins to think about college. He's smart enough for anything-it's just a matter of escaping himself. And then his past comes calling in the form of a knock on the door, an offer he tries to pass up. But the anger and the bitterness are still there, locked inside with the longing, and in the end he relents, falls back into his old life. It's partly desire, partly arrogance, partly need, but all parts betray him, and he ends up back in court, this time facing prison. Once again, music provides an escape. He falls deeply into his talent this time, completing an album while he awaits sentencing. And this time the music leads him back in time, through centuries of kings and dignity and respect, to his own heart. What he unlocks there pours out into his songs, and he finds that he no longer needs what crime has been providing. In court, the judge sees it too, and comes off the bench to shake his hand, and offers him probation. This seems like a miracle, and it's a miracle he will not waste. He releases his album regionally, and the people eat it up like they've been starving for this kind of truth, which has been inside him all along. He travels to Indonesia, where he climbs a mountain to visit the tomb of his grandfather, the dust inside the holy hallways settled for years, and he knows that his life has come full-circle, and that he'll never again doubt his purpose. In the coming years he'll find love, he'll find fatherhood, and he'll find that your past does not so easily set you free. But he'll have learned to persevere, and he'll drown it all in music, a gold his ancestors hid inside his heart.