I was sitting at my computer the other morning when the ticker read that Prince had died. The absurdity of the visceral reaction that followed has me digging deep again. Don’t get me wrong, I mean, who didn’t like Prince? He was one hell of a musician. And I mean, what they call a “musical genius.” And partying in the 90s had everything to do with the man,; he became a legend way before his time. He was played in every club or bar we travelled, and many a New Year’s Eve was spent dancing to Party like it’s 1999. And that brings us to the task at hand: making sense of the deep, empty abyss I fell into at the news of Prince’s demise.
It was shocking. It took me a minute to truly grasp the severity of the news. I went into the kitchen and tuned into WXPN, a local Philly station that is pretty much my favorite – you can leave Philadelphia, but it never leaves you. My brother is in the business. He led a band Huffamoose, a Philadelphia sensation in the late 90’s and early 2000s. WXPN hosted his concerts, gave him great airplay and often interviewed him or the band on air, truly giving them a big break. It was a heady time for him, and I become almost homicidal when I watch the likes of Pitbull, or some other pop sensation succeed with not even a morsel of his talent. But, alas, I digress.
I listened as Helen Leicht spoke of his death, in a hauntingly sad tribute to a man the world admired. And then it happened. The next song was Purple Rain. I bawled like a child, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was inconsolable. My husband came home from work, and kissed me on the forehead with an “Oh, honey……”look on his face. I knew if I didn’t understand my grief, well, he sure wouldn’t. If I were to guess at a number, I would say Dwain listens to me about 13% of the time….and even then he gets this dazed over look on his face, as if to say, “How the hell do you women get through a day on this planet?”
Dwain left to go mow the lawn. I remained in the kitchen with Helen, screaming the words to the songs, and feeling more despondent by the moment. And then it hit me. When I was in my twenties, I dated a series of losers, to the point that my brother called me an “idiot magnet.” One of the biggest jerks was a guy named Jack. I met him at the Guillifti’s bar, I with friends and he the server. That red hair got me every time back then. And, let’s be honest, he seemed like a bad boy, so hell, I was all in.
We dated for an entire Summer. One weekend we drove down to the beach, and stayed in a house my friends and I had been renting in Avalon, New Jersey. The weekend was a disaster. He was an ugly drunk, and when he passed out at 3 in the afternoon one day, I headed for the beach: with a Prince cassette in my Walkman, a Miller Lite in my hand and a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas, I cried every step of the way. Because it was raining that weekend, we had spent the better part of the day at a bar in Stone Harbor. On the drive back to the house, he said, “Can I ask you a question? Could you get anorexia again?” If Jack had stabbed me in my heart he couldn’t have done more damage. Earlier that day I had confided in him that I suffered from bulimia, anorexia and depression for over 10 years. I was just coming into my own again, making friends with the enemy (my curves) and starting to regain my bearings. What was he saying? He was telling me that I was too curvy for him, and that if I wouldn’t mind falling into a disease that almost took my life the first time, well, shucks, that would be great.
As I arrived at the beach, the fog and mist were thick. Purple Rain in my headphones, I cried. I raged. And then I did something I had pushed down deep, (so deep that I had completely blocked it out of my mind.) I took off my clothes and walked into the ocean, hoping to drown in the process. I had been drinking heavily that day, and Jack’s words burned in my ears, and in my broken heart. I had never felt worthy, never enough-another story for another day. If I was fat, I didn’t want to live. As I waded into the waves, the words of Prince brought me back to my surroundings. I knew he understood the pain I was going through. He understood because he had felt that same pain at some point in his life, you could hear it in the way he sang the song. I snapped out of my despair. I sobered up before it was too late. Why the hell would I want to put up with this moron?
And as I headed back to pack my bags to leave, I couldn’t help but thank him. Prince saved my life that day. And every hero deserves to be grieved.