“Are you there God? It’s me, Caden.” He was alone in his dressing room about to head out on stage for the last show of his tour. He had performed in over thirty sold-out shows in a little over a month. With little time in between shows, he’d made appearances on morning shows and had done radio promotions. He had managed the month before to perform at three award shows and finish a few songs with other artists. It had been a busy few months and practically no downtime. Despite the screaming audience waiting for him, all he wanted was peace and quiet. He called out to God as he sat in muffled silence. “God, I know I should be happy with my life, but I just can’t seem to find any rest,” he said softly. His plea would go unanswered for now as he was called to the stage. A quick prayer with his team and dancers, then the music began to play.
Caden Shaw had just finished the last song in his set. The light show as he held the last note sent the crowd into a frenzy he had come to adore. He pulled his phone from his pocket and opened his camera app. He took a picture of himself among thousands of fans who were as tired as he was. They sang along with him for the last two hours. They knew every word and he was always amazed. The words meant as much to the fans as they did to him when he wrote them. Writing and making music was one thing, but he felt like he came alive when he performed. The shy kid from Louisiana disappeared and a tiger took his place on stage.
Women, on the other hand, were a different story. He had never been shy or choosy. Maybe that was the problem. It had been hard for him to keep his eyes off her during the entire show. Their eyes met a few times and he liked what he saw. He nodded to his security guard and that was all it took to know he would see her later. He had developed a certain type and he was never disappointed. He looked forward to seeing what she had to offer.
After the show, he spent time signing autographs and taking pictures with the premium concert goers. His security team escorted him back to his dressing room and when he entered she was sitting on the couch. He knew she had a name and he would get it later. For now, he took her hand and brought her to him. He held her close and told her she was beautiful. That was no lie. She wore the smallest, thinnest black dress he had ever seen. It hugged every curve he wanted to touch. He made the same decision after every show and in every city. The women were the only difference. His team knew to leave him alone for the first hour after his shows. It was his time. A little something to remember each place by. At this point, he honestly didn’t even remember what city he had just performed in and it really didn’t matter anymore. It wasn’t home. He asked if she wanted to be there with him and she answered with a kiss. He led her to the shower and together they washed off the night.
Amid the crush of fans, he smiled and waved one last time before allowing the dark window to go up. His head quickly went to the headrest and he let out a sigh. The chauffeur made his way through the crowd and left the noise behind. As they pulled away from the venue, Caden was one step closer to some much-needed downtime. There was no alone time just yet. His security, manager, and personal assistant were all riding and vying for his attention. He still had a few meetings and decisions to make. But home was at least on the horizon.
He listened to everyone talk about what he needed to do next, he found himself drifting off briefly only to be awakened by someone asking, “Caden, are you listening?” He wanted to not pretend he was asleep and really be asleep. But he knew if he spent some time now allowing everyone to have a piece of him, he just might find some peace later. Hopefully.
He would get to fly home to Louisiana in a few days. Until then, he would go back to Los Angeles to settle some business. It was nearing midnight when they returned to the hotel and Caden had a few minutes alone. He stood on his balcony and looked out over the city. He always went live on social media after a show. His fans had come to expect it no matter the hour. He did not want to disappoint. He allowed them to see the view from his balcony overlooking the city as he spoke. “This tour has been everything I’ve ever imagined,” he began. “The crowds, the music, and the women,” he continued with a chuckle. This country boy couldn’t have ever dreamed of a life like this and I owe it to each and every one of you. Thank y'all for believing in me and supporting me. I love y'all. Until I return,” his voice trailed off and he ended the livestream with the view. In every direction, there were lights and noise. Most people loved the city. Lights, action, oceanviews, and celebrities were exciting when he first arrived. But he had come to no longer enjoy it. People tend to think of his life as glamorous and something to envy and in many ways, it is just that. He could pretty much get anything he wanted most people would consider him lucky. There was nothing he could think of or request that he likely couldn’t have. Yet with all he had, he still felt like something was missing.
Caden could smell the ocean as soon as he stepped into the light. The only noise was a gentle breeze coming off the Pacific as it made its way around the houses on his street. He entered the house as the driver placed his luggage just inside the entryway. The house smelled of his favorite meal being prepared by his Aunt Tricia who always came over when he had been out of town for an extended period. She made the best homemade gumbo. The scents wafted through the air and beckoned him toward the kitchen. He found her standing at the stove with a pot that nearly took up half the cooktop and was wider than her small frame. She was thin, five foot seven, and loved to cook. Her small arms were stirring in the pot with what looked like a paddle. “Welcome home!” she said as she turned to him. She enveloped him in a hug only a southerner could give. He was twice her size yet she seemed to smother him in love.
When he first got signed to a big label and headed to Los Angeles, his mom told her sister Tricia to make sure you keep him close. He was glad she had. She was as close to home as he could get when he was so far away. Whenever he was home, they made a habit of having Sunday dinner together just like his family did back home. No matter what he had going on with work, Aunt Tricia was always there. He knew he could count on her. She wanted nothing more than what was best for him. Even when he didn’t know what that was. She fixed him a steaming bowl of gumbo with a mountain of jasmine rice and they sat down at the kitchen counter. They held hands as she prayed over their meal. The first spoonful was a meld of flavors he savored as he closed his eyes and tried to identify every spice. “You have no idea how much I have missed real, home-cooked food,” Caden began. “I’m not saying I didn’t have good food in all these places I visited, but there is nothing. I do mean nothing like food cooked by someone who loves you!” Aunt Tricia laughed and took the loving compliment.
By the time his spoon hit the bottom of his second serving, he had told his aunt about the places he’d visited and some of the tour craziness. He definitely couldn’t give her all the details of life on the road. She would lay holy hands on him for sure! He always brought her
back something from his travels. When he traveled abroad the first time, she went with him. Having her around was like being with his mom. Sometimes when his mom came out to visit and those two got together, his house smelled like it did when he was a child. Cakes made with butter and tons of sugar. He would have more soul food than all the restaurants in Atlanta. It was made with just the right amount of everything and filled his home away from home with love. He enjoyed every minute of it.
“When you text and said you’d be home in a few days, I headed to the fresh seafood market and got the best I could find,” Aunt Tricia said. “You had most of the other ingredients from my last shopping trip and since you never cook it was an easy choice.” Caden was grateful and so was his belly! “What do you have planned before you head south?” Aunt Tricia asked. Caden walked his bowl to the sink and filled it with water. He explained his plans to meet with his lawyer to sign some contracts and make sure everyone was paid on time. He also had an appointment tomorrow with his management firm to discuss some new opportunities. “I will use tonight to unpack, wash, and repack before leaving,” he continued. “I love that your mom made you promise to do your own laundry when possible to keep you humble,” she said with a laugh. He laughed too because it had worked. “I’m rich and world-famous and wash my own clothes,” he chuckled. Aunt Tricia patted him on the back and put their bowls into the dishwasher. “And you do it so well,” she teased. He said goodnight and gave her a kiss on the cheek as she headed to the guest room. “I’ll leave you to it,” she said as she headed toward the back of the house.
After loading the clothes into the washing machine, Caden headed out to the patio. He pushed back the glass doors and let in the last of the sunlight as he stepped outside. White-capped waves were washing over the sand gently and he sat on the edge of the pool with his bare feet on the steps as he watched the ocean. He pulled out his phone and used the panoramic view to capture the sunset. “Perfect!” he thought. The orange, yellow, blue, red, and a hint of purple were spectacular to behold. No matter where he was in the world watching the sunset never got old or went unappreciated. He had enjoyed many sunsets growing up. He was always fascinated with the colors the sun left behind. Every day was different. No two sunsets were the exact same. Even when he was on the road and spending late nights making bad choices, he always found time to sneak away and catch the sunset. Whether he was in L.A. or Louisiana, tonight was no different. His phone was filled with pictures of sunsets from all over the world. When he first started writing songs, he was always inspired by the sun and anything in nature. He would take pictures with an old camera his mom gave him. He took a picture before the sun disappeared and called home. He admired his new picture while he listened to the phone ring then leaned back as he stared at the sky above. His mom’s voice was as warm as the Louisiana evening sun in early spring.
He told his mom about his travels and she listened intently. Just as he did with his Aunt Tricia, he left out some of the on-the-road antics and hit the highlights instead. But his mom was always intuitive and eventually insisted on seeing her baby son’s face. They turned their phone call into FaceTime and he knew he would no longer be able to hide the deep dissatisfaction that was starting to grow inside. “I can always tell there’s something going on with you when I see your eyes,” she began. “You are skilled at hiding things, but your eyes tell it all,” she continued. He knew she was right. Even when he was little they gave him away when he had lied easily and said he finished his homework, knowing good and well he hadn’t even started! He breathed in all that surrounded him and slowly let out his troubles.