Yes, Michael Jackson Died

Dear Carlita F,

I’d been toying with writing about MJ, but kept circling round to other things. Since you brought him up, though, I will say this: Michael Jackson’s death put me in mind of his acquittal for child molestation charges all those years ago, which we heard over the loudspeakers while shopping for your wedding dress at a Beauty Supply store in the South, the trip that led to the wig-buying which led to the trip to a casino in Philadelphia which led to the dawning of our letterly selves. On that day the store went silent. Everyone stopped, listened, and the entire warehouse burst into shouts and applause when it was announced that he had been found Not Guilty.

That was June 14, 2005. Remember how grateful we felt to have been there at that pertickular moment, even though our own investments lay a little to the left, so to speak? We weren’t really co-celebrants; we were something else—spectators, I guess, more interested in the environs than the event.

On the occasion of Michael Jackson’s death I felt a repeat of that disconnect. I happened to have just—minutes earlier—passed a major exam, the shadow of which I’ve lived under for the last several months. As friends grew sad around me  I kept thinking about Captain Eo, whom I loved, and of how I used to say Michael Jackson when compelled to fill in the “Secret Crush” category in the Slam Books of my friends.

And beyond the clinical sadness I felt when I watched that documentary on his life; the sadness of something beautiful gone rotten, that’s really all I have. I was surprised by the magnitude of response, by people’s teariness and investment and felt a little embarrassed, the way you do when a family member dies and you don’t feel anything.

The day after his death some people came over to my house to sing songs, among them Billie Jean and The Man in the Mirror. Opposite ends of the song spectrum; as split as poor Michael himself.

And you?




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