“Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” – 1999
It’s funny. The range of emotions one experiences when you lose someone you love. I’ve lost people before…folks I’ve touched and hugged in the flesh and I mourned their absence. Their departure from this world into the created a vacuum that in time, I learned to replace and fill with other elements.
I don’t think this is possible with Prince.
I know it isn’t.
Prince is irreplaceable.
I won’t blame you if you decide to log out of this post early. This may be the singularly most rambling piece I’ve written on MOM. I have no direction that I can take. I feel so adrift. LeVar Burton said on Twitter that he felt “bereft”. That’s an apt adjective for what the legions of people who Adore Prince – fans that he’s gathered over the span of nearly forty years – are feeling now. Many of us are wondering ‘”What do we do now?”
Carry on, I suppose. What else can we do?
I had to attend a church function last night. I managed to extricate myself from the sheets that had formed a cocoon around me and took a quick look in the mirror. My eyes were not red. My face was not puffy. Good. I had not yet cried, and that was good. No one at church would ask me questions about why I looked forlorn, and I wouldn’t have to answer insipid questions about why I was mourning the loss of a man who spent the majority of his career creating unsanctified songs….”the devil’s music.” But my daughter knew something was wrong. Nadjah is incredibly adept at reading people. She called me out, naturally.
“What’s wrong, Mommy? You’ve been in bed since we got home.”
“Prince died,” I replied.
I didn’t think she knew who Prince was, (I mean, I’m not a complete heathen. Now that I’m a First Lady, I don’t generally play Darling Nikki on the ride to school.) so I was surprised when she reacted with sincere shock and grief.
“I’m sorry, Mommy. So sorry.” Her face creased a little and my heart broke a little.
“You know who Prince is?”
She nodded. “He’s your favorite singer,” she said simply.
I looked at my 11 year old daughter in amazement. I had been in love with Prince since I was 3 years her junior; loved him for longer than she’s known life. I was touched that recognized and understood this special admiration I had for this man…this other wordly man. This man that so many of us were certain was immortal. Someone said that Prince hadn’t died, he had merely returned to the universe.
That made me smile.
To say that Prince has touched every aspect of my life would be an understatement. I have lipstick from the Lip Bar that I bought ONLY because it was called Purple Rain. He’s in my wardrobe. He’s in my ear buds. He’s in my writing. I have entire chapters of ‘Madness & Tea’ dedicated to what I’d hoped would become future memories of my escapades with Prince. A girl can dream, can’t she? You call them delusions, but I say that if you don’t court a little Controversy in your dreams, you’re doing it all wrong.
Can I tell you a story? It involves Prince, a stack of CDs and hell fire.
When I was in college and newly saved, the pastor preached against secularism and embracing the world…including its music. Lucifer was the cherub through whom wind passed to make music, you understand. And so it’s important to guard your ears against particular spirits who want to infiltrate and devour you! Ei! Devour me? How! So these people began to help me with the process of cleaning out my music selections.
“Should I give them away?” I asked.
“No, no!” said one particularly devout, mousy woman. “You don’t want to transfer that to someone else. THROW them away.”
So out my CDs (many of them just recently purchased) went. Oasis, Digable Planets, Biggie, Bob Marley. I threw away Bob Marley’s greatest hits y’all. But then I looked down at Purple Rain, which was the first Prince album I’d bought with my own money. These people were looking at me. I stared back at them. Prince was not going in the trash.
“Are you willing to put your soul in jeopardy over Prince?” they asked in shocked dismay.
Apparently so, because Prince ain’t going in the trash!
…And then I ushered them out of my room and my presence.
There’s another story I wanted to tell you, but I’ve decided against it. That story goes into the MOM Vault. When I heard that Prince commissioned a vault to hold music he’d created but never released, I was inspired to do the same. There are things I’ve written that will likely never be seen by the general public. Words that I experiment with just to see what I can do, rather than what everyone expects from Malaka the blogger. Prince showed me that it was okay not to share everything you possess with the world. He lived so, so free. He was limitless in his talent. Played 27 instruments. Sang with incredible range. And he was hilarious. And had the nerve to be able to ball, short as he was! If anyone showed the world what limits the human body and mind could achieve, it was Prince. He lived in the spirit. Can you feel me?
I remember when his son died. I was little more than a “baby” myself, just starting life in earnest. His passing coincided with my first semester at school, and I grieved for the possible child prodigy the world would never get to know. I was never able to find the meaning in Baby Nelson’s death. It was poetic in its cruelty.
When it was announced that Prince was coming to Atlanta, I was elated. I would have one last chance to see him again before I left for South Africa. I have only seen Prince in concert once, and I went with my good friend and photographer, Bessie Akuba. She’s the only other person whom I share a spiritual connection to the Artist on this plane. Every picture, photo interview and class she’s taken to hone her skills has been with the aim of working with Prince. I caught that vision from her and gripped it, convinced that the three of us would tour the galaxy itself. When he caught the flu and had to postpone his appearance at the Fox, I was so afraid. That he was sick enough to cancel an appearance meant that he was truly ill. This was a man who performed in the torrential rain for the Super Bowl – in heels – like it was a spring day at the Met. He’s done appearances completely blown. (It was the 80s. don’t you dare judge him!) NOTHING stops Prince.
But the flu did.
And just a few days later, he was gone. He performed his last concert here in Atlanta and then he was gone. Just…gone.
At 11 pm last night, it’d been 10 hours since I’d first heard the news about his sudden departure from this world. All day, I had been trying to work out what it was I was feeling. It wasn’t sorrow. Sure, I had teared up…I’m tearing now…but this is far beyond grief and mourning. I sat in the car a moment after the church conference and tried to work through this foreign emotion. Nothing came to me. No epiphanies. And then I put the key in the door and walked into my home.
It was in absolute disorder. The lights were on. It was stuffy. The kids had had a wild ball and no one had bothered to clean up.
And the lights were on.
That’s exactly what losing Prince felt like. Like we’ve been at this amazing jam since 1979 and we’ve been partying like it was 1999 and getting to know strangers, and loving each other through this thing called life and laughing and just having a BALL. And like it is with the funkiest, crunkest, rocking(est) parties, we didn’t notice time slipping away. ….And then on April 21st, Yaweh – that great MC out there in the ether – cut the lights on.
*NB: Please excuse all the typos in this piece. I couldn’t go back to read over it. What are your favorite Prince memories? When was your first concert? Discuss.