Lisa Romeo writes all kinds of nonfiction, works as a freelance manuscript editor, and teaches memoir and personal essay at Rutgers University and privately online. She has been published in venues ranging from the New York Times and O-The Oprah Magazine, to obscure literary journals, and popular themed essay collections. She lives in New Jersey. Email her at LisaRomeoWrites@gmail.com.
First, a confession: I’m one of those. You know, the ones who discovered you after you died.
Once, you walked right past me on a hotel patio in Bermuda. I could have touched you. I noticed you of course. “Oh my God, it’s Michael Jackson!” I said to my husband, but it was early in our marriage, we were besotted still and went back to our rum swizzles.
You and I, we were the same age, but at the time—and even before that, really all the time, since I first heard you back in fifth grade—you were always distant, not part of any world I lived in. You were singing, performing, writing, declaiming the music, the energy, the questions, and demands of my generation—I understand that now as I did not then—but I hardly heard a word, barely noticed a note.
Oh, I knew the music, your music, was there, that you were there, but it all seemed to have nothing to do with me. I sang along, deciphered words, but I was white, a virtual only child, sheltered, and had a rich father; you were black, edgy, rich with siblings, and cool. You, talented and smooth; me, klutzy and nearly tone deaf.
Even later, I was too busy all along to consider what you, or any artist for that matter, really meant. I was involved with my own life, my problems, joys, trials—horses, college, career, loneliness, love, babies, dark days, creativity expressed, and mostly stifled.
Then, last June, I realized that you and the music had everything to do with me. (more…)