The last time I heard the song was in my apartment in North Berkeley. It was a one bedroom graduate student housing place that was supposed to somehow fit my soon to be ex-husband, myself, and my sister in it. Only Michael wanted to be there. It was his student housing–he wanted to become a priest and was going to divinity school. I wanted to do a lot of things but being a preacher’s wife was not one of them.
And my sister wasn’t up to living by herself yet. She was still young and supposed to be going to community college and holding down a part-time job. But she was also let loose in the Bay Area and I knew she’d probably hate living on Holy Hill even more than I was about to.
Our friend Keith who would move in after Sarah threw in the towel a few months down the road when she found people to move in with back in San Francisco, was there that day. I was folding laundry on top of the queen size bed with the big cozy flannel duvet. We were trying to settle in, decorate, get used to the new temporary surroundings.
I was wanting to leave my husband even then. I’d made a mistake. He was nice. Too nice. To regular and boring to me no matter how smart he was and no matter how passive aggressive kind. I liked to live in my head, but these days I was living on the edge of tears. I had the radio on.
It’s impossible not to move your body when a Prince song comes on. If you don’t move your body, you’re dead inside. I started swaying to the beginning chords. I started daydreaming about open roads. About girls with berets. Being them. Wanting them. Something other than folding laundry on a bed in a tiny apartment with too many people.
My sister was in the other room and she heard the radio too. Only she stopped to turn it up louder. And then she jumped on top of the queen size bed and all at once the laundry, Keith, and I were just the audience on the side of the stage. She gyrated her hips and grinded to the music. Swung her hips. Extended her arms so wide I thought they’d fall off. We swayed. I stopped feeling like I needed to cry. I just kept swaying till the song ended and my sister jumped back off the bed, grabbed her laundry and went back to the dining room that served as her room.
That’s really the power of a Prince song. To both make you escape from your present but to also make your present amazingly beautiful and fun for a few minutes. When I was in high school I thought him too gimmicky but by the time I got to college I had a better appreciation for him. Even in high school I remember a good portion of my not suitable for school jackets and outfits were often Prince inspired.
I loved that he was short and thin and badass and non-stereotypical of just about everything. I love that he didn’t forsake his hometown for someplace perceived as better but instead made it his town. There’s just far and away so much to admire and be in awe of –the music–yes the music–but also the whole clear acceptance of this is how I am. Deal.
Another music great gone to our generation. I’m glad we grew up with him and in his power to make us move. To jump on beds. To be entirely unafraid.