I remember Thriller to be the first MJ song that I lent an ear to. And I loved it. My mother kept scaring me that I wouldn't be able to sit through the video. It was the early 2000's. I was either 6 or 7. These were the good days - when families spent time together, we traveled frequently and everything was perfect where it was.
Then, dad bought a computer for me when I was 10 in 2005. To get everything started my uncle got a CD of All-Time MJ hits. I remember dancing around to Billie Jean, They Don’t Care about Us, You Rock My World, Black or White, Smooth Criminal, Jam, Heal the World, Tabloid Junkie and Blood on the Dance floor. I wasn't old enough to understand the lyrics hence his message but, boy, I loved his voice. His music was unique. I remember concluding that he was a league apart from other musicians. But just how much accurate I was in making that judgment had yet to dawn on me.
I remember seeing a lot of his photos in the newspapers. Luckily no tabloids reached my home so I was a safe distance away from all the garbage printed about him. The youngest I had seen him was from Billie Jean and the oldest from You Rock My World. But I didn't compare his photographs at all. I thought he was cute whatever way he was. I didn't divide his lifetime into different "eras." I never thought he was weird. I didn't deem his appearance as impossible. The most I ever thought about his face was "how could he possibly pick his nose?" But when I concluded he must have used ear buds, it was case closed.
Maybe it was the innocence I possessed being a child. When the simplest definitions and answers seem the best ones. Or my lack of interest in the development of popular culture. I never wondered about Michael Jackson: The Caricature brought by the media. All I knew was Michael Jackson: The Singer and Dancer.
Come 2005, come the dreadful trial. I was 10 years old, too preoccupied with school and friends and dolls and family to understand that my future idol's world had just crashed upon his head. I was unaware. I now remember seeing a lot of his photos in a handsome suit that I used to cut out from the newspapers. But I never read any of the wildly exaggerated stories and filthy lies written next to them. My image of him was still the same. He was the King of Pop to me. Just a favorite singer. Since I didn't really listen to any other songs, I grew up with only his voice and dance moves.
In 2008, I read a snippet in the corner of a newspaper that the King of Pop had turned 50 like some of his contemporaries. That he was going celebrate it quietly with his children and have a little cake.
That was the first time I got to know that he too had a family. I had never wondered about his personal life. Not because I thought he was weird or uninteresting but because I was just too preoccupied. And because I respect privacy in general. I did not know that he was hounded everywhere he went. That he was probably the most famous man on earth. I did not know of his horrible childhood, his troubled adolescence, his marriages, his friends, his children, his fans, his knowledge of just about everything or why he wore a mask. I did not know that he was a sensitive soul. I never really took out time to get a chance to discover him.
It was the morning of 25th June in Pakistan. I was in the beautiful city of Islamabad in my Grandma's homes' basement. It was around 12 or 1 in the morning. I was curled up on the sofa reading Eclipse - no wonder I hate the book so much that I want to burn it. Now, my elder sister turned the TV on. She casually flipped through the channels. Suddenly, she yelled out loud.
"Michael Jackson is dead!"
I lowered my book. And sure as sure can be, that's what the strip at the bottom of CNN read like. I sat up straighter unable to understand why the death of someone I was relatively indifferent to, was having such an effect on me. Everybody came downstairs and for the rest of the day we all sat glued as if we had lost a family member. The headlines flashed again and again. His face was plastered across all the channels. It was everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Fucking everywhere. Every broadcast was halted and it was him everywhere. And I sat through it in a kind of daze that is still unexplainable to me.
After a whole day of the word "death" attached with this man, something in me gave way to tears. I hate letting people see me weak, vulnerable or at my worse. So I rushed upstairs to the second floor and locked myself in the bathroom. Everybody was still watching TV. That's when the tears came. Quite freely, too. I cried like a child. I cast aside all emotional barriers and wept. Quite literally, wept. Only when the tears refused to come out anymore, did I wipe my face and waited for the red blotches to go away before I went down again.
The news was still everywhere. And it was still a huge blow. I saw people of all ages, genders, races, faces, colors and whatnot cry at the loss of their idol. It didn't matter who you were, he had touched every life on this planet. This effect he held blew me away. It was as if the heavens had decided that I was going to love this man.
Next, I started reading up on him. I made friends with his fans. I listened to more of him. I tried to understand him. Slowly, I started grasping the facts about him. And I kept falling deeper and deeper into love with him. Now I am a proud, certified fan. And it still surprises me, how I have yet to know more about him. It’s like an unquenchable thirst. I just can’t get enough of him.
But he isn't here. And that bites away at my heart. The fact that I can't tell him face-to-face about how much I love him frustrates me. But what I do know is that he is at a better place. And for the time being, that is enough for me.
I love you, Michael. If only you knew.