today was a most challenging and trying day, teacher...in life, the same challenges come up, but it's as if this connection with you has got me really looking at my priorities... in this time i have also learned to just sit back and realize that no matter what you do and how much information you can give, people will still hold firm to certain belief systems- until they are willing to open themselves to new information and experiences.
i went to renew some books at the library. the librarian told me that margo jefferson's book written ABOUT you, even though its claim was to be ON you in relation to society- 'on michael jackson' was not renewed. 'of course' was the only response i could give. you see, i initially checked this book out from the library on- i kid you not- TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2007. i had this book in my possesion for about A YEAR AND A HALF, before anybody even thought about it. i just kept renewing and renewing the book. and now you are not physically here people aim to know more about you... why don't we honor people when they are HERE, teacher?
i told the librarian that i had been writing a book on you for two years. he proceeded to tell me that the book would be of more value now than when you were here... well... i had to hold my tongue. people are indeed entitled to their opinions, but to place a value on someone's life like that is upsetting. once again, in case you didn't hear me the first time- WHY DON'T WE VALUE PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE PHYSICALLY HERE?! as i walked out the door he wished me good luck on the book.
and all i could do was wish people luck on trying to obtain information from sources which are factually wrong (like jefferson's book). why do we need to seek out all this information, when all we need to do is just pay attention?
and why am i reading all these books you ask? that's a valid question. i don't think it's a bad thing to read this information, but it's imperative to look beyond the words in front of you, if you dig what i mean, teacher. i have just been so frustrated with everything surfacing. and of course, something else surfaced in your physical absence.
i was sitting around talking with paula, when i saw something which essentially read 'burn footage'... i said to paula, 'i've seen this before, why is this a big deal? yes, i remember vividly seeing your hair catch on fire at the shrine auditorium when i was 7 years old. the commercial which accompanied the incident frightened me deeply (and sort of secretly) because i knew what was coming. i remember the clip playing over and over in my mind: you descending down the stairs and the back of your head in flames. even the song scared me, because i knew what was coming.
it's so funny that a large portion of my childhood was fearing you, because of some association with your art; with the 'thriller' film, with 'can you feel it' and it's bombastic visuals. with 'somebody's watching me' and the pot-bellied pig walking across the hall... deep inside i was scared, and yet attracted... but this other footage which suddenly RESURFACED in your absence; i don't know what to say. i keep trying to put things in perspective, and the one word i keep coming to in describing you is 'survivor'. you have lived with a survivor's spirit for so long, moreso than people could ever know...
the footage which resurfaced was obviously an 'official' account of what happened, as the angles and film were quite professionally done. i just sat there and kept rewinding, over and over this footage, in disbelief. i wonder if this is footage you had in your possesion, as you were in control of what was filmed of you at that time. did you have a copy, as well as this source? i just kept watching it, trying to make sense of things... i saw your small frame being tackled by bodyguards, presuming you had been shot or something. i have been burned before, but not like this... my sister's hair had burned before, so she' a bit familiar with how that feels.
even with the lessened degrees of burns i've had, i still empathised with your experience, in sensing the initial shock, then the feeling of extreme pain once air hits it. when i saw what i saw my heart reached out for you, and i felt so horrible. i just had no words. i tried to explain this to paula, but i couldn't. all i know is that if she were not in the room with me i would not have watched this at all. and if i DID happen to watch this by myself i would have cried immediately. it was just so painful to watch... everything just came crashing down in a way.
i wondered how you felt when you realized this happened. i wondered if you cried all night in the hospital room, not only due to pain but due to the idea that thousands of people saw you in such a vulnerable, fragile state. and of course in all this people are now 'discovering' that you began taking pills even then. once again, this is outside stuff to me. i'm more interested in your feelings of vulnerability and mortality at that moment.
the worst part of it is after it all happened, and when the guards raise you up to take you to a safe place there is a HUGE bald spot that is unforgettable. the look of shock on your face was heartbreaking. the endorphins kicking in as a protective mechanism was so painful to watch. about a second later the endorphins wear off and you most likely feel a sharp breeze on your scalp. it was then you most likely realized you had no hair there, and were feeling a massive amount of pain, both emotionally and physically. that was hardest to watch, knowing you were in that much pain.
and it was even more painful to know you went out into the world like that, immediately, with no time to heal. you had appearances to make and performances to do. i know you loved being on stage, but it's unfair to ask someone to do that whilst in the healing process.
every day there is always something, and everyday may have its challenges... but every day is always an opportunity to learn...
your humble student,