I'm a writer. There has always been something cathartic in telling a story. So in the midst of incredible sadness I am sharing my story with you.
My partner says that she went to the movies with a friend one day to see whatever show happened to be playing and ended up seeing Purple Rain, a movie that changed her forever. From that moment on she was obsessed--still is--and thanks Prince for much of the joy she's had in her life.
My path was not as direct. He had to touch my life three times before I listened.
Thank you for a funky time, call me up...
On my way to high school driving the first of two cars given to me by my father, the song I Wanna Be Your Lover came on. The music was okay, but the lyrics made my head spin. Chock full of double entendres (I wanna be the only one to make you come...running), I couldn't get it out of my head for days. But trying to balance my perfectionist compulsion with wanting to fit in with my peers had turned high school into a three year long hurricane for me. I had a hard enough time holding on to my shit--I couldn't add one more thing to my burden.
Somebody please tell me what the hell is wrong
The second time I became aware of Prince was when Purple Rain came out. I was newly married and in an unfamiliar place with no friends. I don't have memory of going to or being in the theater (my memory often fails me when it comes to very emotional moments), but I remember buying a beta max copy of the movie as soon as it came out. I coveted that fat short rectangular box (I still have it), but for reasons I can't explain, I never watched it.
The third time, as they say, was the charm.
In my darkest hour, you can be my bliss
I took a job two hours away from my home and my husband and lived with my mother. I had a great time. I loved my job, had some adventures with my mom (like driving 45 minutes to buy a pizza that boasted cheese UNDER the sauce, not over it), and spent time with my sister and brother and their families. Moreover, every other weekend I honeymooned with my husband. Life moved along pretty smoothly.
Except at night. I started having nightmares. At first they came infrequently, and I barely remembered them. As time went on they grew more frequent and more horrifying. Eventually I had bad dreams every night. There seemed to be two themes--black roses and elevators. Black rose dreams woke me up crying. Elevator dreams were worse.
I know now that I was reliving sexual abuse I'd experienced as a child. I was in the same room, largely unchanged--the purple walls I'd begged for, music and academic awards (evidence of my hyper-vigilent perfection), and the bed. The bed.
Any time I was alone with my thoughts I thought about dying. What death would feel like. All the years of my nephews and nieces lives that I'd miss. Pieces of my nightmares started to come to me during the day. I searched continually for distractions, trying to save myself. One day I saw an ad in the newspaper about an upcoming Prince concert. I remembered his movie and that song, and how they made me feel. I really wanted to go, but not alone. My sister told me her husband was a big fan (her, not so much) and that he'd probably go with me if I had my heart set. He did.
Do you want him, or do you want me?
We had tickets in the Nosebleed Section because we'd gotten them so late, but it didn't matter. The entire arena was filled by the presence of the little, ethereally beautiful man on the stage. I was captivated--couldn't take my eyes off of him. But the music transformed me. He sang of love and sensuality and peace and God and sex. His voice resonated, reverberated throughout my body. I sometimes make a joke, saying if he'd asked me that night for all of my worldly possessions I would have given them to him. But it was the truth.
The next day I went to every record store I could find and bought every tape Prince had ever released. I drove around for hours listening to his music. He didn't become "the soundtrack of my life". He became my reason to keep living.
I want to jump for joy and thank him I'm not alone
I'd gotten a bigger and better job and moved back with my husband. While stalking a record store (my new hobby), I came across Prince's official fan magazine, Controversy. Not only was it heaven on the page with big, color, never before seen pictures of him, but it had a pen pal section. Suddenly, I wasn't alone. I'd found my tribe--men and women who experienced Prince the way I did. Miraculously, the first person I connected with became my partner. I like to say Prince gave her to me.
Can't begin to understand how I feel about you, everything I want to do I can't do without you
My life is filled with good friends who I connect with over songs and youtube clips, through marriages and divorce, through children and grandchildren, over the mountains that life put in front of our best efforts and under the bridges that we've fallen from. When we're happy, we listen to his music and watch his movies. When we're sad, we do the same. Since his passing, we cling to each other and assure ourselves we'll get through this, and that we'll find joy again.
I've seen Prince in concert over one hundred times. I have every song he's released, and sometimes multiple versions thereof. My partner and I celebrate his milestones--birthdays, awards, performances. Our annual Super Bowl parties celebrate his 2007 award-winning appearance. Many of our milestones are commemorated with concerts that hold special meaning. There is not one room in our home in which he's not evident, either in fact or by influence. (We're still trying to figure out how to put the Shower Poster in the bathroom.)
My friends and I are asking questions of ourselves and each other. Where do we go from here? Who will we be, if not Prince Fans? How will it feel to not look forward to his next album, the next concert, the next TV appearance?
The only answer is that his music is a part of us. It's in our cells and are the songs in the background of everything. Our experiences with him and because of him live on.
- Getting his autograph in NYC and almost fainting because we thought he'd levitated, a tiny angel dressed in white.
- Nearly being "rear-ended" by him in MPLS because he was driving too fast and we were going too slow.
- Hearing gunshot and fearing for our lives as we left Glam Slam, his former club.
- Flying to England for concerts and spending a sleepless night at the only after show I've attended.
- Going to his store in MPLS so many times the manager told his staff "Play whatever videos they want to see".
- Grieving with him, from a distance, when he lost his child.
- Meeting our pen pals. (LOVE YOU ALL)
- Standing outside at 2am in line for a show, with some of the craziest and friendliest people we've ever met.
Never say the words "They're gone"
The world is off its axis. I already miss him. My heart aches, and in quiet moments it's hard to breathe. I'm not ready to watch all of the tributes. I can't even listen to his songs without overwhelming sadness. But I'm ready, finally, to say a few things to him.
I am ever grateful for the beautiful ways you've touched (saved) my life and for all of the people that are in it because of you. I'm thankful for your music which fuels my soul.
There was no way you could have known, but it was always love. I've been blessed to have shared the planet with you.
I wish you heaven.