I fell in love with him all at once. Devoured him. Gobbled him up. Like you do a meal you’ve been waiting for all day from that one restaurant you never get tired of. I’d heard him before that day. I’d listened outside my brothers’ rooms as a child. Back then, he was the guy singing “Sexy Motherfu#ker” and making my cheeks hot beneath the wallpapered ceiling of my childhood home in Queens. The day I fell in love, I was in a plaid uniform, tugging at my navy tights and sitting in the back of my mother’s Oldsmobile. I’d borrowed my brother’s CD player. The Hits was in it, B sides. It had all of the greats from Little Red Corvette to Let’s Go Crazy to If I Was Your Girlfriend to Purple Rain to Pink Cashmere. I was swaying, smiling, blushing and bopping. Teleported out of my box braids and morning traffic and transported in the melody. The electricity that pulsated from every lyric, every drum beat, every harmony consoled me. Wrapped me in otherness and released my spirit into the wild. He was a man of five foot nothing, fluid and ambiguous, unapologetic and free. A black man. In heels and eye liner. He was undefinable and because of that defined so much. Who I wanted to be. How I wanted to live. Things I wanted to feel.
The news blasted through me like a hollow point bullet today. Shattering everything it passed and leaving me breathless. I was so shocked, in fact, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was silly to feel so deeply, right? To care so much. To shed so many tears for a man I never shared eye contact with or a meal or a private joke. With a man who never knew my name. The thing is, I knew his music. His art. Art that was creative and inspired, true and raw. It was never contrived or manufactured or compromised. I may not have been a part of his life but his art was an inextricable part of mine. In his art I was fine, “filthy cute,” "soft and..." sexy. Longing for life altering “just can’t stop writing songs about you,” “love is too weak to define” kind of love. Had me feeling star-bound, “might not know it now.” And when I grew up, gazing into my husband’s eyes, I “wondered what they’d look like on a newborn child.” The words. The music. The liberation. It was all there. Decades of my life. To a beautiful beat. I would have broken if I hadn't shed tears. There will never be another like him and because of that his life, his art, and his music was an immeasurable, unquantifiable, melodious, funky, rhythmic, emotive, eternal gift to this world.
I am grateful I got to share in his stardust and exist during the ride.
Thank you for leaving the music. Rest in greatness, Prince Rogers Nelson.