A year ago, I tried to convince a stranger that, yes, magic does indeed exist. I wasn’t talking about David Blaine, Criss Angel, or street magic—no. I meant the magic in creativity, in manifesting things at will, in . . . in . . . aggh! I was so frustrated that I couldn’t explain it to her, but then I realized that she would never just believe, wouldn’t even attempt to understand it. It made me so sad for her, to be missing out on the beauty in the world around her.
I say this because in the wake of Michael Jackson’s passing, I’ve seen too many people comment on their indifference toward it. Now, it’s not the indifference that bothers me—it’s the failure to comprehend the grief others are feeling on a mass, worldwide level. “How can you miss something you never had?” read one dispatch on Twitter. I jokingly told my friend to respond back with: “Forget it—you won’t understand because you’re dead inside.” What could it be in a human that doesn’t recognize, or can so easily dismiss, clear and announced magic incarnate? Even if there is something in you, your soul, your fiber, that is impervious to it—how can you deny its existence if it affects the rest of the world on a deeply profound level? To feel something as basic as thanks and compassion for receiving a touch of magic from the universe, grieving over the loss of its creator . . . to not understand the void people felt, to just not get it.
I cried, man. I cried HARD. I cry just remembering the feeling of reading the first online headlines, of waking my boyfriend to tell him the developing news. I cried harder because I saw his own tears well up. Then I Tweeted, re-Tweeted . . . felt the energy and outpouring of love from others. It helped to be a part of a real-time community at that moment—it truly did.
When his death was officially announced, we stared at the TV in awe. We each got up and wandered out of the room to cry alone, then wandered back in to have a shoulder. Back and forth with that for a bit. My mom called, and, at first, I couldn’t even speak. My mom is 72, so there’s a definite generational gap, but she expressed how much she had grown up WITH us, grown up with us loving him. She sounded heartbroken.
I didn’t want to watch what started almost immediately afterward on the news: the talk of controversy in his life, in his finances, regarding his estate. Hell, no. It was disparaging and indecent. Turn the damn TV off. All that made sense was to avoid ruining the magic. To turn the music on. To dance and celebrate the gift we’d been given. To feel every note, every signature ad lib, every musical breakdown and crescendo, every line. To recall the memory that corresponded with each moment, and, oh, there were so many. Weakly smiling and shouting things like, “But remember when he broke out that new walk? Maaaan!”
I made a playlist, opened the windows, lit a candle, and just zoned out. I wished I was at the Apollo and contemplated throwing an impromptu house party. No. I just wanted to dance. I spun like a whirling dervish to a blasting sound system. I wondered why I was the only one in Bed-Stuy blaring Mike out the windows. I cried while I was dancing—I remembered every moment I had with every song. I loved the suggestions of gatherings that started to spring up. The memories hanging in the air, thick. I could dance in it, breathe it in, unable to pinpoint the physicality, but recognizing its existence.
I believe in magic, so much that I rely on it to live. I know that I’m capable of creating it, but I bow in the presence of those who are way more powerful than I. I’m lucky and blessed to have been one of the millions who received Michael’s magical, awesome, immortal presents/presence.
I also believe in the fragility of the human soul. I think there’s only so much battering and shielding (that contrast is so interesting) it can take. I think there is always a place in us that escapes and flies freely, even if you, yourself, are prevented from doing so.
I’m not going to speculate on any of the controversy, the darkness—we all have, all of us. I can’t judge anyone, and I won’t. I can only say that magic is the most important, the most real, the most unifying tool I’ve ever known. I’ve watched people all over the world react, seen them dance in celebration, emulate in flattery and remembrance, struggle to express their gratitude and love for the . . . ahhh, dammit . . . everything he was to us: our brother, our first boyfriend, our little prince transformed into a king. The force unstoppable and perfect, with every imperfection. The immortal beloved forever.
I remember clinging to the Thriller cover (after making out with it, of course) and feeling comfort, feeling love, like the scent you’d get from a T-shirt your lover had left behind. No, I never met Michael Jackson. No, never even got close. But if he wasn’t the most brilliant sliver of magic alive, I don’t know what is or ever will be.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 1, 2009