I found out on Facebook, and didn’t believe it was true. I immediately started doing searches online to make sure I was right.
The news started to spread. My phone began to light up with texts: my brother, my cousin, my best friend, my boyfriend’s daughter, a woman I haven’t seen in years, my ex-sister-in-law, my second-oldest friend. Everyone wanted to let me know, or see if I knew, and to share their exclamation points of shock. My dad – not a terribly sentimental person – emailed to say he was very sorry to hear about the passing of Prince. “He was fucking awesome,” he wrote.
I avoided a call from a close friend because I knew why she was calling, and I am not someone who can talk about news like this within the first several hours, or days, of hearing it.
My ex husband texted me. We say hello in social settings but aren’t what one would call ‘friends’. He used a sad/tears emoticon and mentioned the time we’d seen a late-night Prince concert at the Fillmore. It was so kind of him to text me, to acknowledge my deep love of Prince and to revisit a shared experience; it was like a gift.
I had a phone interview scheduled for the afternoon. When the journalist called me I asked “how are you?” and he said, “I’m…okay. How about you?” and I said “Yeah, I’m…also…okay.” We both knew why. We took some time before starting the interview to talk about Prince and music. I apologized in advance for not being as enthusiastic as I may have otherwise been. He said he completely understood.
My boyfriend called and after we talked for a few minutes he noticed the lack of energy in my voice, and asked what was wrong. “Prince died today,” I told him. He hadn’t heard the news. He was shocked – he was so young! – and after a pause he asked, “are you crying?” like it was maybe odd to be crying after just delivering the news that Prince had died. I said I wasn’t because admitting I was would make it worse. I said “I’m very sad.” He said “yeah, well, I know you guys were friends and all….” It’s okay that he doesn’t get me in every possible way; however, I did instinctively take a second to seriously question the long-term sustainability of our relationship.
I had to stop looking at Facebook because it was just post after post about Prince, and every one made me tear up again. Old friends from camp, college and past jobs sent messages saying I was the first person they’d thought of when they heard the news. An old boyfriend shared memories of me singing Pink Cashmere at Karaoke. The oddest people came out of the woodwork to say hey, and how was I doing? I wondered how people could possibly be listening to his music and watching his videos when he wasn’t alive any more, in this moment, and didn’t that just tear them apart? How could they stand all the crying?
I went to watch my son’s track meet. Everything seemed normal there and I wondered how life just kept buzzing, kids wrestling around and laughing, parents cheering, coaches smiling in their uptight, grim way. I heard my name from across the field and saw a woman I know and like. She was walking toward me with purpose and when she got to me she wrapped me in her arms and said “I’m so sorry for your loss.” I took in her hug and thanked her, but I wasn’t sure how I deserved it. I told her about all the texts and how people were acting like someone in my family had passed away, laughing uncomfortably a little with a sad shrug, unsure what to say. She nodded, hugged me again, and told me she’d been thinking about me all day. “Just as much as I’ve been thinking about him. That’s the truth.”
When the kids and I settled in at home my daughter curled into the couch with her book, and my son asked to use the computer. He said “oh hey mom! Did you see Google?” They’d changed their logo to rain coming down over the word Google, all in purple. My son started to sing, “Purple Rain, Purple Rain…”.
On the day Prince died, I couldn’t understand how people were smiling and able to listen to his music.
On the morning of the next day, I collected every Prince CD I had and, after shuffling through them, put on the first album I’d ever purchased. With the first chords of the first song, I felt so happy, and sad, and I smiled, and let the tears well up while I sang along. And I laughed at all the old lyrics I’d laughed to all those years ago, amazed again at the small, velvety subtle jokes Prince put into his songs. I remembered listening to this album alone in my old apartment, learning all the words, listening to the well-mastered sounds of sex, blushing at him crooning about parts of the female body I hadn’t yet explored of my own.
On the day Prince died, I balked with something close to offense at the idea that I would ever be able to falsetto my way through Pink Cashmere again. I walked through the day wondering who I would be, how I could really function like a normal person in a world without Prince in it, and I’m admitting that here though I know it might seem dramatic or silly to some, because it is the truth for me. I don’t claim to know his music better or to love him more deeply than anyone else; what his music did for me throughout all of the times in my life I’ve needed it the most does make me feel his loss with heartache, as though someone in my family has died.
On the day after Prince died, I proved myself wrong, and got through Pink Cashmere. I did it just as terribly as always, complete with air guitar, and air violins, and my fake deep baritone and my wobbly falsetto. And I knew there would never be a world without Prince in it.