25 June 2009

Human Nature

Those were long spring nights, and it seemed there was always a party under the moonlight. I thought I was in love with the girl — and she thought she was in love with me — but never at the same time, and as things turned out, we were both mistaken. And yet as we danced, she was a “P.Y.T.” — a Pretty Young Thing. The only happiness on earth, I believed, was centered in her smile and her shimmying body.

The tremulous alto that soared through the stereo loudspeakers gave voice to my feelings; the squeaking synthesizer, the thumping guitar and bouncing percussion merely echoed my pulse. His shrieks and howls were mine, uncontrollable, and it was a lucky break that his cries drowned out mine.

But the girl was no dummy. She never asked, “Why? Why?” Never needed to be told, “It’s human nature.”

No matter. So long as the album played, youth and love were ours; and now, years later, she’s still a P.Y.T. To see her smile is to hear the song again.

You have memories like these, too, and it will be easier now to think of the good times, when we think of Michael Jackson. The strangeness of his later years will seem less important. We’ll remember “I’ll Be There” and the Motown Reunion Special, and we will wonder that such a man once moonwalked among us.

Nevertheless, I can guarantee you, there will be a raft of “shocking revelations” and tell-alls for at least a couple of years to come. The horror show begins tonight. But no one will be able to explain to my satisfaction what went wrong. Some parts of “Human Nature” remain, after all, inscrutable.

So tonight, I reflect merely upon this: for a while, he made us happy — millions and millions of us, united.

A screen grab of Michael Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean,”
from the Motown 25th-Anniversary Special.
If you weren’t watching, you can’t know what happened to America that night.
It was like nothing we’d ever seen — and we’ll never see again.
(And since YouTube took down the clip, you won’t see it now.)

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