I kept hearing his name on the train last night, on the way to an acupuncture appointment at the Chicago Women's Health Center. It was fragmented: the train was rocking and screeching, various people shouting and talking, and I was trying really hard to concentrate on what Alice Miller was saying about children and their parents. When I finally reached the clinic, I sat down with a striking, fair-skinned painted lady with blunt cut bangs and a silk rose in her ponytail, and a tossed-looking sporty woman with a tan shirt to match her butterscotch hair.
"Excuse me," I said, "do either of you know what happened to Michael Jackson?"
"He died," they answered in stunned, saddened stereo.
I remember I'd just checked into a hotel in London and turned on the TV in the summer of '97 to learn that Jimmy Stewart had died. I was always such a fan of his, with the wholesome look and the plain-spoken way. I thought he was dreamy. Later that summer, I remember sitting up in my bed sobbing like a child as I watched footage of Princess Diana's car wreck. I wasn't that into Di; but it seemed she'd been mowed down in such an artless, violent, tragic way; she'd suffered scrutiny and pain with such grace and poise. To go out like that was heartbreaking.
Michael Jackson was no head of state. But he was the first celebrity crush I ever had. The painted lady in the waiting room said she had his poster above her bed in third grade, and I remember staring at the covers of Off the Wall and Thriller for hours, dreaming of dancing together in great clothes and traveling the world. I loved him. My heart hurt for his tragic, charmed upbringing, the clawing he and his siblings had to do to get out of their past, that may not have been successful. I hated the way my white friends strung him up (quite like strange fruit; after all, despite any skin condition, at the end of the day, he's still a black man) when he was accused of sexual misconduct with children. Now my heart and my ears ache, for the world of music will never be the same.
Michael Jackson was a game changer. My sweetheart and I talked last night about artists and the legacies they leave, the movements that are borne out of their influence, and it is my assertion that everything changed as a result of Michael Jackson. He is on a very short list of artists and musicians who altered the landscape of music in a major way.
My acupuncturist told me yesterday, while burning moxa above my navel, that she was recharging my battery.
"It seems strange that I can still generate such a high level of energy, but still be in such need of a recharge. I wonder, where is it coming from?" I said.
"There's a spirit body of you too. There's a purpose, a reason you're here on the earth, and we're just taking care of your body so that your body can support the person that you're supposed to be here."
I took some great comfort in this. It seems to me Michael Jackson's body could never seem to support who he was destined to me on this planet. It just became too much for his vessel, and it gave out. But we are all fortunate to have witnessed what his spirit did inside his body with the time he had here.
Rest in peace, Michael.