I am so sad about Prince. Everyone has a Prince memory, right? Here’s mine, belatedly though it may be: in late 2009, some awesome Madison friends of mine bought me a registration to Wiscon. We’d been talking about hanging out there for ages, and I was so excited — A. and I had just moved to Texas and I was feeling a bit lonely. Wiscon and my friends sounded like a therapeutic blast. I bought plane tickets and reserved a rental car. And then the phone rang. (Not immediately, you understand.) My mom said, “Well, we got the test results back and I have stage 4 breast cancer.”
(Here ensued a conversation that went roughly:
me: wait, you had tests? When? What tests?
Mom: oh, you know. Mammograms.
me: Yes, but wait, cancer?
me: what the hell is going on?
My parents aren’t super secretive, but they really held out on this one. As usual, they were worried about worrying us (the kids) until they knew definitively what was up. As usual, this putting-off of information made me/us even more worried and scared. Argh.)
Her surgery, a double mastectomy, was scheduled for the end of May. I contacted my pals and we transferred my con registration to someone else. To avoid flight change fees, I flew into Madison at around midnight, got my rental car, and drove to Minneapolis to stay with A. and his brother before we headed up north to my parents’ house.
The drive was only about four to five hours. It felt like a dream. My rental was an intrepid or an impala, some kind of boat-like sedan, and drove so smoothly it fairly sailed through the night. Hardly any road noise, just the hum of the engine. I saw a few cars, but mostly the road was deserted. No deer, no cattle out for a late night munch, nothing but empty roads, empty fields, and dark houses.
I’d forgotten to unpack my MP3 player cord, so I had the radio for entertainment, and one CD:
This is when “If I Was Your Girlfriend” became one of my favorite songs. I don’t know as though it’s that great of a Prince song, it’s probably not high up on most BEST OF PRINCE’S PRINCE lists. But as I sailed along, listening to Prince coo about how he’d help her pick out her clothes, I thought, I cannot think of another man on the planet who’d write this song, who’d not only consider this perspective but sing it to the WORLD. Is it a fantasy about being close to his lover in a different (forbidden) way? Is it a genderswitch fantasy? Is it just straight fantasy? Can I think about this stuff when my mom is under the knife? Does it matter?
And then I got to Minneapolis and went to sleep, and A. and I woke up the next morning and went to be with my mom in the hospital, where she was tiny and yet as pushy and independent as ever in her hospital gown with freaking drains stuck into her chest, draining out, I guess, all the excess gunk from surgery. Chemo and radiation were still only vaguely foreboding shadows on the near horizon. But having that clear night drive helped me be an adult in my mom’s hospital room, no matter how much I wanted to cry and hug her, and let her get me something from the hospital kitchen. (Seriously. You cannot shut this woman down. She could be on her deathbed and she’d be dragging herself to the refrigerator, saying, “You sure you’re not hungry? I could make some soup, we’ve got some leftover chicken, it would only take a minute…”) The flight didn’t do it, but the drive — and the Prince — did.
Damn it, Prince, I miss you. Take care, wherever you are, and thanks.