One Friday afternoon, 2024
It was a sticky , sweltering afternoon in July. I lay motionless on the wicker two-seater that now served as my sofa, since my husband had sold all of our furniture, dishes and cutlery to fund some crack pipe project, like saving disadvantaged gnomes in the inner city.
It was so hot that I was afraid to think, lest the power and movement of my brain waves cause me to spontaneously combust internally. Still fearful that any sudden movement would elevate my core temperature, I slowly raised a paper cup of lemonade to my lips, pondering my life as it was.
The kids were all gone: Nadjah was pursuing her modeling career, Aya had run off to France to become a painter, Stone was probably crushing some poor kid on a football field somewhere, and Liya was practicing her shtick for Mad TV. Everyone had something to do…but me. Suddenly, the phone rang, interrupting me in the middle of the thoughts I was trying not to think. It was Akuba Sheen(!). Despite the years that had passed, she and I had maintained a solid friendship; a sisterhood if you will. Our bond was a shared rabid, aggressive, visceral love and adoration for Prince.
“Malaka. It’s time.” She hung up the phone without another word.
Oh my God! It’s time! I thought.
I didn’t have time to think anything else. From that moment on, I was working on instinct. I grabbed the bag that had been sitting by the front door for the last 12 years, packed in anticipation of this very moment. I hoped into my car and sped as fast as I could to Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I parked in the weekly lot and ran at break neck speed towards the terminal…but which terminal?
Oh mercy! I thought. I don’t know where I’m going!! Is it terminal South? North? What do I do??
I darted back and forth between two ends of the airport for about 40 minutes, knowing that I would have to find the appropriate ticket counter, and soon. One of them had a reservation for me, but which? I sat in the Atrium of the airport, about to give up. Airport security had been watching my every flighty move. As I lowered my uncombed afro’d head into my hands, I heard a voice call out to me.
It was Akuba Sheen(!)!
“This way! We’re flying Delta.”
Delta? Those rat bastards? Ugh. But today, it didn’t matter. For Prince, I was storm the very gates of Hell itself, and it was for Prince that I was at the airport.
You see, 13 years ago, Akuba Sheen(!) began honing her photography and documentary skills, with the sole aim of becoming so amazing and renown at her craft that Prince and the NPG would come calling. And when they did – as they had done that day - we would be ready to do whatever he needed.
We embraced each other tightly, dazed and and confused by our fortune. A single tear fell down my cheek. Finally, I broke the silence.
“Are you ready?” I asked.
“Am I? To Paisley Park we go!”
We spent the 2 hour ride in silence, each of us engrossed in rock/R&B/country/futurist Prince tunes that were loaded on our respective mePods. (iPods were sooo 2 decades ago.) We looked at each other only occasionally, grinning like school girls who had successfully snuck off campus. When we landed in Minnesota, we were greeted by an old friend.
“Prometheus!” I exclaimed. I threw my arms around the unicorns neck. I had not seen him since that fateful day in 2011 when Shelby J came to visit.
He ordered us to hop onto his back and within minutes we were at the Mecca of Music: Paisley Park. (By the by, if you ever have the chance to ride a unicorn, I humbly suggest you do. It’s really a very comfortable ride.) He dropped us off at the massive oak entrance leading into the compound.
Akuba Sheen(!) pulled out her camera and I got my notepad out to scribble down my observations. It was everything that I had dreamed of, down to the tile mosaics of the Symbol on the walls and floor. There were 15 doors in the lobby of the Park. Which were we supposed to go into? Which held Prince, our Cracker Jack prize at the end of this little adventure? As the oak door swung shut behind us, a hairless bronze skinned woman – hairless save for the single massive dread-lock sprouting from the front of her forehead – beckoned us silently towards a low door with a copper frog hanging on the front. Odd – but whatever! There, behind the miniature door, sat a miniature man in a silvery track suit.
“Prince,” we whispered breathlessly.
He twirled his wrist and held up his hand, imploring us for silence. We didn’t dare breathe. When he did speak, he asked us to sit on the floor opposite him. He was puffing on a Hookah.
“But I thought – ” he cut me off, as if sensing my thoughts.
“I don’t smoke,” he said smiling benevolently. “It spoils the wind pipe. I’m inhaling steam, which loosens up the chords.
Wanting to get down to business, Akuba spoke first.
“We’re here to shoot a documentary -” she began.
Again, he twirled his wrist, which was suddenly adorned with a lace handkerchief. Amazing.
“I know why you’re here,” said Prince. “And pretty soon, you’ll know why you’re here too.”
We both drew a sharp breath. Were we going to be asked to bathe in the Waters? Perhaps to draw graffiti on the bridge? So many questions…
“Prince I -”
“Shhhhhh…,” he whispered. “Close your eyes, and just listen.”
So Prince, Akuba Sheen(!) and I sat like that – for 2 hours – not speaking – only listening to the sound of our own breathing and his fake smoke machine bubbling in the background.
“Did you feel that?” Prince asked.”Did you feel the power of that”
“Good. Now you know what to do.” He spread his arms like a tiny pterodactyl, flapped them once and disappeared into a thick mist.
“Wow,” said Akuba Sheen(!)
“Wow,” I replied.
Wow…I still don’t know what the heck we were supposed to do.