When I lie awake in my boudoir I think of u dear
There was a time. Before U.
But she can’t remember when
Of course there was music,
An incoherent mesh of pop,
Rafi and Bob Marley.
And Michael. He was there too.
But she doesn’t remember that anymore.
She searches for the defining moment
For the first time she saw U.
But she can’t remember. Not anymore
Maybe now she feels cheated
– because everyone needs a first time.
What she remembers: There was music. A kind of souful rock sound that made her suspicious. Was it White or Black? Or both? At school: her hue meant a handful of identically hued friends. Boys of her colour – too afraid to take her hand. Girls of her hue – thought her a little weird. His hue encapsulated everything she believed about her colour: it was beautiful. It was desirable. It was sexy.
At home – there was a book. Gold letters. White with Joy. And, others – novels, stories – that she swallowed whole. Curious, she watched people; strangers, friends – trying to understand. Because at home, there was silence. And shame: Love fetishized without sex.
But then, there was that movie – U were The Kid: all Attitude, Voice. (SexyMotherFucker). Funny too (You’re cute and Ur music’s thumping).
U were – the messenger – the instigator.
And she was dancing, to the sounds of your voice
– but more than anything: She was listening.
Tell me how you want to be done…
She had to know U. To put a finger and trace back – see what was there before she found U. There was, of course, the bikini, trench coat and that expression: both defiant yet soft.
I knew from the start,
That I loved you with all my heart
U were singing about her.
It was personal
But was it that falsetto – that made her think U were singing
When U said you wanted to be her girlfriend – she almost died.
Words: from her heart – to Ur mouth.
And the women. There were so many: Dorothy, Nikki, Anastatia, Vanessa (Bet), Cynthia (Rose). Violet too. Others unnamed. She wanted to know them. Let’s be honest – she wanted to be them. More than that – she wanted to know what it felt to be sung to. To feel understood: To be a fully formed female.
Sex: Scarlet and without shame. Love as a river turning to an ocean. With celebration. With love. Grinding, riding, lying on top: It was there, coursing through each note, each syllable – whether U sang about God, love or loss. It was there, in being alive.
And God. U took her to the brink and then to heaven in a single breath.
U had Come.
Let Me Show U I’m a talented boy
And she could only follow
She listened alone. Communing with U. She knew every lyric, every sigh. Even when her lips were still – somewhere inside, her body resonated with each word. Smiling at ripples of humour that pirouetted through each song.
She knew U.
Until she didn’t.
Until U disappeared and reinvented Urself. When U emerged – showing off Ur new plumage – all she could do was stop and stare. Take it in, digest and fall in love again. Good or bad, it didn’t matter. She was loyal and prepared to be surprised.
There was pride and protection. The litmus test. Friends, lovers: If it wasn’t Purple – she might just walk away. A boyfriend thought U weird. A best friend just didn’t get U. Relationships’ done. She should have known.
Holding someone is truly believing there’s joy in repetition.
Then there was a moment: Ur creativity and shifts became uncomprehending. She was changing too. Somewhere, she had to let go a little.
Suddenly U seemed a long time ago.
But U were still the same – ebbing and flowing. Changing and reinventing. Only now – it was her turn. To shape-shift from girl-to-woman-to-mother. To take the charge you brought between her legs and set her free.
Sometimes though, she still needed U.
To take her back. And forward. For advice, for someone who could unpick the emotions that wrestled inside her. Sometimes she came back to just to Dance.
The Dance moved inside U – even when U stood still.
I guess, U still had the look and she still had an ache in my heart that needed words.
The only love there is – is the love we make.
Then there was a call. Something over baby bath water (no pants this time). A drop of water on her fingertip – falling into space.
It wasn’t. Couldn’t be. The Truth.
This is what the silence looks like
Then a cry. It wasn’t her daughter’s.
And U were gone. She held U for a moment in her hand, she didn’t realize.
U were mine.
U were sorta my best friend.
U were never mine.
U belonged to all of us and that was ok.
In the place U have left, there is an echo.
Of the love we made – when U were around
And in the silence,
when she listens carefully
She feels the ripples of love
travelling through space and time.
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Screenwriter, playwright and prose writer: Sharmila’s work is often a transgressive meditation on love, sex and the diasporic experience.
Sharmila has had two short films produced: Oysters (2016) and Girl Like You (2015). She was also part of the Film London-Cinestan Microschool (2016) where she developed her feature Heart of the City.
Her plays include: The Husbands (2014), Born Again/Purnajanam, (Jan 2012) and well as 10 Women (with Bethan Dear, 2014). Shortlisted for the Asian New Writer award (2009 and 2012), Sharmila’s short stories have been published. She is currently working on her novel Seven Mirror. She lives in London with her husband, children and cat Tashi. www.sharmilathewriter.com
The Morning Papers is a collection of pieces about Prince. In April, Music lost a singer and musician, but we writers also lost a poet. Whether it was his characters, or his line by line precision and intimacy; Prince was every bit the alchemist of words as well as music. In this space writers were invited to talk about the artist, in whatever context they desired. Curated by Sharmila Chauhan.