Diamond Life: Heaven Help Him, When He Falls
October 1984 | 2:30 am | Provo, Utah
Lying across a sturdy sofa, empty lobby of a dormitory, Brigham Young University.
Eyes smudged with eyeliner, highlighted hair tousled, bleached white 501s.
I’d been at The Star Palace, a refuge from the adjustment of moving out of Seattle and into Pleasantville. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” I danced. Hard.
My best friend back home was black. We frequented black clubs, listened to black music. There’s no “black” in Provo. I adapted; rather than rock steady to the Whispers, I swayed to Swing Out Sister.
In a malaise of misfit and dried sweat, I was watching Night Tracks, a late night music video show.
He’s laughing with another girl,
playing with another heart.
Placing high stakes making hearts ache.
He’s loved in seven languages.
Jewel Box life, diamond nights and ruby lights,
high in the sky.
Sight: red lips, black hair, freckled brown skin.
Sound: delicate piano, driving bass, salvific sax; creating structure to protect, wings to carry a voice soft and soaring, mysterious and familiar.
Heaven help him, when he falls.
And fall I did. No help from Heaven.
Promise: I could Aim, but I could not fire
December 1985 | 10:30 pm | Caguas, Puerto Rico
Tie pulled loose, white shirt soaked, black name badge shields my heart from emotion, experience, life. I’m leaning back in a chair, imploring the stars for answers to questions I didn’t know how to ask. Sunburned, sweating, spit upon.
Earlier, a poster for Sade’s new album “Promise” banished any preordained purpose. Breath lost, heart syncopated.
Whereas in Provo music was salvation, in Puerto Rico, sin. My compulsory companion would never allow me to buy music without reporting the indiscretion.
So I ditched him.
He walked ahead, I fell behind, turning quickly back to the store. 2 minutes, clock and heart racing. Tape acquired, I slip into the busy square. Breath.
“Where were you?” demanded Elder Waters.
“Where were you?” I rebutted. “Didn’t you see me stop to give a Book of Mormon to that muchacho?” He shrugged, we moved on.
Companion asleep, I noiselessly removed to the patio, leaned forward in a rusty folding chair, loaded the Walkman, affixed headphones, pressed play.
Is it a Crime,
that I still want you?
Sweat and tears join in streams to etch lines on dusty cheeks; I did not understand. I flipped the tape six times. Those stars, that sky, this sound. Carried away, beyond Lake Victoria.
Azul es el color
que siente adentro,
Matador no puedo
esconder mi temor
Adu, Matthewman, Hale and Denman are then hidden away, visiting only five or six times during that two years. Confidants. Confessional.
Stronger Than Pride: If you want to sleep, I’ll be quiet
February 1989 | Midnight | Provo Canyon, Utah
My ‘74 Karmann Ghia glides up Provo Canyon, full moon glowing across snow-covered hills. Living in close quarters with five returned missionaries means my only solitude are these late night flights.
I wish you could shelter me,
Shelter me now,
I need a miracle,
And I never thought I’d see the day
It will take four years to understand that I’m not just escaping close quarters, I’m seeking exile. It will take a decade to understand why. Meanwhile, my spirit sleeps as my body moves through this world.
I downshift, grip the white leather steering wheel tighter, and increase the volume on the stereo. I won’t be home tonight.
Love Deluxe: You’re going to need a bulletproof soul
November 1992 | 1:00 am | Bellevue, WA
A futon, the only furniture I own. Temporary. Transitional. She’s not supposed to be here. Risk calculated. I hesitate.
Hungry for life,
thirsty for the distant river.
I cross. Innocence was not lost here; it had been stolen years before by the trusted.
He told me sweet lies of sweet love.
Heavy with the burden of the truth.
And he spoke of his dreams
Broken by the burden of his youth
Brave journey begun. Fear. I retreat. But, safety proved the wrong path.
I know the end before
the story’s been told.
It’s not that complicated,
But you’re gonna need a bullet proof soul
Lovers Rock: Remnants of joy and disaster
September 11, 2001 | 7:00 am | Seattle, WA
Sade has a daughter, I’ve a son. 4 months old, sleeping in my arms. Towers fall. In the ashes, a resolve. A path.
I’m crying everyone’s tears,
and there inside of our private war
I died the night before.
And all of these remnants of joy and disaster
what am I supposed to do.
100 years his name. Long. Meaningful.
Wisdom his name. Love for knowledge. Look to what is. Build there.
And I can see the miracle
that keeps us from falling.
Time for hard work, unyielding journey. Parting ways. A decade lost. A freedom gained.
Soldier of Love: I’ve lost the use of my heart, but I’m still alive
Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011 | 8:00 pm | Key Arena, Seattle, WA
Row 3. Seat 18. Reunion. Renewal. Our disparate paths bring us to this place, at this time. Fellow travelers. We know nothing and everything about each other.
I’m at the borderline of my faith
I’m at the hinterland of my devotion
In the frontline of this battle of mine,
but I’m still alive.
I’m a soldier of love.
Still waiting for love to come.
Turn it all around.
Here. Now. Tomorrow.
Postscript: Meeting Sade
Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 | 2:00 am | Seattle, WA
I met her tonight. Sade put on an amazing show, and I was able to share it with some of the people who mean the most to me.
Immediately following the show, My 8-month pregnant Niece Myste and I catch a town car back into downtown. Just as we’re arriving at my building, I notice a tour bus pulling up to the Alexis Hotel. We jump out of the town car just in time to meet Sade as she exits the bus.
I was able to tell her about this essay; perhaps she’ll read it. She pronounced blessing upon Myste’s baby.
A perfect ending to the show.