I was getting my teeth cleaned when Prince died. I can’t be certain of that fact, but by the time I made it back from the outer suburbs of St. Louis to the bookstore and heard the news, enough time had passed that it was conceivable that I was discussing TMJ treatments with the new dental hygienist when he last took a breath.
Or maybe his passing happened earlier in the morning, just before sunrise, when I woke up one of many times wrestling with my cpap machine and rolled over, eyes closed but thoughts circling around and around the Trans Town Hall meeting last night, dissecting the countless ways I could have been cooler, younger, handsomer, smarter talking to the crowd of activists- each exquisite in their vulnerability and power.
Or maybe he had already died as I walked from my truck to the church for the meeting in the rain, first putting on a baseball cap, then taking it off and carrying the umbrella, then wondering if the baseball cap would have made me look less predictable, less depressed, less…just less. Maybe he had already left the world then.
I don’t remember the first time I heard Little Red Corvette. My musical taste at the time skewed toward Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. It would have been a few years later, watching Purple Rain on a jumpy video cassette tape on a VCR I rented from the rental place across from the IGA, that I got it- the complicated sex muscling itself through the ruffled collar, purple suit and cape of hair pinned with sheer will into a pose of androgynous masculinity.
Prince was always surrounded by mist, attitude, music and sex in my imagination. When I sit in my basement bookstore office and reconcile bills, he crafts moody lyrics in a studio somewhere. When I vacuum dog hair off the couch, he parts the curtain on an impromptu concert somewhere unfathomably cool.
So when, in the middle of a discussion about staff management, someone comes up to me and says “Prince is dead,” I don’t believe them. It’s impossible that the person who changed his name to a symbol could do something as ordinary as die.
And yet here we are. The world is short a little magic now. We’re left with a little less swagger. A little less sex. A little less… just less.