Another page torn from the diary of our dear Little Annie.
Trying to remember the rest of that Burt Bacharach song. It’s not important but seemed a nice way to open. In a few days time it will be a year since Michael Jackson’s passing and I’m still so bewildered by two things,
1) What happened to the last year, if had gone past any faster it be backwards.
2) Why am I still unable to hear one of his songs, or even a mention of his name without getting teary eyed.
I am perplexed. The day after we lost Michael Jackson (and I say we lost because what he didn’t give us we took), my first crush (well not my first - Bernardo from West Side Story was my first – but as that was movie love it don’t count) but anyway… , the first man I ever had those narcotic-like, distracting thoughts about, a boy from the neighbourhood, who went to school with me, was killed along with two other men in a horrendous accident when some woman with a car full of kids drove the wrong way down the throughway and hit the car he was in, head on. It was absolutely awful, so tragic and pointless that it made the news for a number of weeks. Carnage and loss. It wasn’t until a few days later when they read the names of the deceased from both cars, that I heard his last name, my head whipping around from my work to see his face on the screen. Though 30 odd years older he had the same face. I had not seen this now-grown man since I we were fourteen years old. He had not been a great love of mine. I have vague memories of a clumsy attempt at a kiss, his leather jacket, and that though he “ran with a bad crowd”, was nice. Nothing came of it, he was more knowing in the ways of the world, and besides it would have gotten my ass kicked even more than it already had been. We were from different demographics which I guess was kinda West Side Story-ish. I hid that little piece of my young heart next to my secret cigarettes in the back of my underwear drawer.
I said a prayer for him and the rest of the victims and did so every time they were mentioned which was till the press had squeezed the last ounce of despair out of the story. I felt a rock in my throat but even though this person had been very important in my adolescent brain (at least for as long as anything remains important in a teenie’s brain) I couldn’t take it at all personal. It was an phantom loss, a tragedy like this one was is always depressing and this had been more hideous than most, and though a shock, in a “what are the chances?” way. I am even, now, as I write this unable to summon up a sense memory to mourn. I mourn for his family, I mourn for the things of this world he never got to experience, I mourn our youth. This person had, whether they knew it or not, been part of a rites of passage. It was he who had been my first pre-occupation, the first thing that I remember looking to – outside myself – for an imagined happiness. You would think there would be a tear somewhere in all that.
It added more humid weight to what had turned out to be a vaguely bleak summer.
Maybe I was tearless as they had all been used for Michael Jackson. I never knew Michael, never obsessed in any which way, except for the fact I could not help but stop and listen whenever I heard that magical voice of his. A voice that, like for many of us, had grown and aged as I did. Except Michael never really aged, he just got more versatile. Sure I had cut out his heart-shaped picture out of Tiger Beat and all similar magazines, and I chose him over Donny Osmond (who even at when I was age nine I found to be milk toast), but it wasn’t until much later as an adult when I was able to fully appreciate the genius of the harmonies I had spent my youth harmonizing with.
I had been always been a passive fan – except for those few years he was lost to Disco (which I loved, but at the time I too was lost – to more sophisticated tastes and anything that came in a tiny paper wrap). I now realize what I had missed on all fronts. Like how many other billions of people I was thrilled with Thriller, it was so fresh, that record along with The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the track Herbie Hancock dropped around the same time were fresh cool air in a for the most part otherwise vapid musical landscape. I won’t list the songs of his – the ones that I couldn’t help but get hooked on over the years, but there was always a cut or three that grabbed me off each of his albums since.
Though I never read Peter Pan so had no reference of Neverland, I like that Michael loved animals. I had a dream one night that Michael and I were married and walked hand in hand in innocent bliss among giraffes, elephants, and of course Bubbles. It was a happy dream. I never really thought about Michael’s sexuality, or lack of it. There was an asexuality about him I found attractive. It was none of my business anyway. I was also never one of these ‘oh but he was such a cute kid‘ people. He was stunning in all in incarnations, and was continually re-creating himself. If he was trying to look like Diana Ross then I was trying to look like him, looking like Diana Ross. He was brave and courage is a beautiful thing. Michael had been with us for a long time – so long that it’s easy to forget that he had broken through the wall of racism, he had quite a few ‘firsts’ under his belt, no small feat. It was inevitable that the tides would turn ugly against him. It was more than the build em up knock em down mentality, some weird sense of ownership. When the allegations started I remember thinking – they’re gonna kill this man. We’re gonna kill this man. One thing Michael didn’t have was guile. It was like shooting a fish in a barrel.
His childlike trust made him the perfect punchline, and as one who finds it hard to pass up an easy punchline, I should know. When my sister (who too has now too passed on) was going through chemo, me, desperate to get a laugh out of her, made some wise-crack that she had to get better or the Make A Wish Foundation will send her to Neverland. She didn’t laugh, nor should she have, it was a cheap shot and not funny and I regret ever saying it.
And if I’m one of your supporters then just imagine your enemies.
There was nothing funny about the hounding of Michael Jackson. The next thing the media choir sang out about was how sad and lonely he seemed. Who wouldn’t be miserable when a caress from the masses turn into a uppercut to the chin?
The first time that the allegations against him were dropped, I happened to find myself a holding cell, packed to capacity in the Tombs. The news that Michael had been vindicated brought forth a huge cheer. For one minute we were all free. It was just one minute but a great minute. I don’t know if I’d have the strength to be around people at all if I had gone through such a public crucifixion. Or do as he did, more less continue working and hence putting myself in the sights of the same rifles. If something gets said often enough it becomes fact and whether that fact is true or not falls by the wayside. There was no way to come back from that and again the fact that he allowed that hit squad of a film crew into his trust once again showed his lack of guile. When he made some comment about sharing a bed with children being loving, I knew what he meant. I had no doubt that I was watching an innocent man, and I also knew I was looking at a dead man walking. From then on it was only a matter of time.
But that voice, could not be killed. I hope he had garnered some happiness in those following years. When I heard the news of his death, like most I was shocked but not surprised, only surprised at my overwhelming sadness. I am wondering if it’s due to the fact that he lived as a place to put our pleasure. If so, then his passing gives us a place to put our grief. Who knows why this loss is such a huge shared gnashing of teeth. We understand for all that was, what could have been and what we’ve lost. It’s scary times.
Things that aren’t suppose to happen are happening. And things that are suppose to be forever – gorgeous summers, crushes, sisters, brothers, children, parents, friends, skyscrapers, youth and Michael Jackson – are no longer with us. I hope they are all in bliss, in joy, and that we can take comfort in knowing to our bones that we shall all be together again in Forever-land.
If that makes me a corny broad, then screw it. It’s our Michael and I’ll cry if I can. I’ve more shame over the tears I haven’t shed than the ones I have.