It’s cold outside, unusual for this time of year in New Orleans, when, in pre-pandemic years, we would be in the thick of Second Line and festival season. Everything is blooming and the birds have turned up the volume on their riotous sweet song. This morning I woke up with the faint memory of instructive dreams from some maternal goddess figure that was a cross between an intergalactic broadcast AI and the Diamonds from Steven Universe. She was telling me that I have the knowledge inside my body, the memory, of skin contact with other humans. That is an aching and needed message that keeps surfacing these days, when I wake up and go to bed touch starved, longing for the body warmth and affection that I was lucky to have before we went into shelter in place. It feels significant that it has returned to snuggle weather in this context of drastically reduced snuggle time. I have to remember that my body holds that experience, that each one of my skin cells has memory, that the inside of my nose forever recalls the smells of my most beloveds.
My heart thrums heavily these days. I have to remind myself constantly that I am ok. I am not sick. My child is not sick. Our people are, for the most part, ok. We are home, staying safe and fed and relatively well of mind and spirit too. “Nothing terrible is happening to my body in this moment. I am ok. Breathe.” I can breathe. I tell myself, thankful for Jacqueline Woodson’s words to build on in my meditation… “Every breath is a gift. Every breath is a thing with feathers. I am ok. And I am thankful.” Repeat, repeat, repeat. My heart thrums with the grief: of the loss of precious humans, of our ways of joy and celebration in the midst of that grief (as is the culture of this city) of other’s suffering. I have to remind myself, empath that I have often been, that this feeling is not mine. The suffering is not mine. I am here to witness, not perish, aside the ones who are suffering. And when I can, fight for them, demand justice, improved conditions. I fight, in movement and community, to interrupt, upend, transform, destroy the systems of oppression that are hurting and killing them and by extension, us. My heart thrums heavy, but strong. My heart still beats.
I don’t mean to be maudlin about any of this stuff, but the judgmental part of my brain thinks it borders on the silly or glib to turn now to the subject of missing Prince. But we are coming up on the anniversary of the Purple One’s death and it has been a recurring theme for me. In the midst of hard times, many of us turn to music. Forever aspiring DJ that I am, I like to dig into the metaphorical crates for medicine and Prince has always, always, always delivered. I made a commitment at the end of last year/early 2020 to reduce my reliance on superlatives, to stop comparing things so much and creating competitions where none exist or are needed. That is one of the ways capitalism gets me to do its dirty work. Picking a favorite color, author, season. It’s part of the binary thinking that I think we are ripe to leave behind as the pandemic pushes us to experience heartbreak, outrage, relief, terror, pleasure and connection all at the same time. We are in an expansive, emergent moment, and if I get to choose, I want the plurality of good stuff. I need an abundance of pleasures and consolations to fuel the fight and forward motion required by this time. I don’t need to claim him as a favorite to honor the immense love and gratitude I/we owe this gender-thrashing royal otherworldly being. I feel like Prince was a gift that helped us survive so much, from the Reagan years and AIDS, all the way up to #BlackLivesMatter, so many horrors that our communities have endured. I have been hearing snippets of Prince songs in my auditory periphery for weeks, wondering how he would respond if he were still with us today. What poignant, funny, outrageous, just on the edge of weird for the mainstream, artistic comment he would sprinkle down from the paisley throne? The night that he died, I went to a concert of Thao and the Get Down, Stay Down. I drew tiny purple glitter tears on strangers’ faces with my eyeliner and locked myself in a bathroom at an afterparty to cry when a Whitney Houston song came on. If this is maudlin, then that’s me. I miss Prince and I am thankful for all the music we’ve been blessed with to remember and continue to endure.
Today, I get out bed, cloaking myself in the remembering of lovers’ touch, the muscle memory of a spring 19 years ago, when I held my naked newborn on my bare chest most mornings, of my mother’s hands stroking my hair, resting on my shoulders. “Lo bailado, nadie te lo puede quitar,” she tells me sometimes. And the touches, the sweetness, the snuggles are stored in my body. Nadie me los puede quitar. I have those touch memories forever. The scents that are such strong reminders are always ready at the recall. These Prince songs, especially this album, remind me of how long we have been, gloriously, glamorously (and very unglamorously) surviving, fighting, grieving, mourning, organizing, dancing and healing along side each other, close enough to touch. Close enough to soon soon soon, dry one another’s tears, just like he did with Christopher Tracy.