A short story to mark the day…
Sometimes I feel them now, the millions, licking at my heart. I am the god-king of their pagan sacristy, the one they worship to soothe their own pain, boredom, loneliness. Their prayers are vague and ill-defined, and if you asked them, they might deny wanting anything at all; yet they come, wanting to taste me. Singing my own songs to me, dancing my dance, they come; gazing into my mirrored lenses, they come. With flashbulbs and tears, with professions of love, with ancient gestures of praise and great wails, they come. I shelter myself with acres and magical beasts, with the innocence of children and of mothers; yet they come.
And how can I resist them? Every god needs devotees, craves their touch as a boy his father’s love. I never learned how to be just a man. I am the sacrifice they bite at with their small, human teeth. With their love, they are eating me alive, hollowing me out, and I say yes. Come; oh dance, oh come, yes.
Devoured, I will live forever on their lips.
How pale the moon looked, from below. But here, up close, it is dark and pocked, shadowed, purplish brown like a bruised cheekbone. I am walking all its surfaces while I wait. Down there they are teasing my body and stories apart, dissecting me under glass, under scalpel, under spotlights. It is all familiar; nothing’s changed except that now, I am the space between the out-breath and the in-breath. I have chosen not to inhale again.
I am waiting to be buried, so that I can fly.
God is opening the gate with one pearl-gloved hand, and angels sing like happy rainbow children, I’ll Be There. I see Mahalia and Eartha and my grandfathers, two old men leaning into each other like melody and harmony. If I had known death was only music, I would not have dreaded it so much. Do we each create the heaven we need? Still, despite the sequins and sweetmeats, the cloud-dolphins, the wings, I know already I will be restless here. I want to sink to my knees and beg, I want to say I didn’t mean it, that last great mistake. I don’t want to live forever as this porcelain boy. Let me go back, o god, let me touch the brown soil, let me try one more time to be a man.
Thanks to Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts) for the “assignment.”
Life/Limbo/Death: A Michael Jackson Story by Minal Hajratwala is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. You may quote from or re-post this work with attribution and a link back to this web page; please click on the icon above for full copyright and url information.