World on Fire

“If I had known we’d be shooting a music video, I would have shaved my legs!”

I stood laughing in the middle of DJ Rob’s room for the first time in four months, staring at all his new toys. A Go-Pro. A drone. Professional studio lighting. A backdrop in every room of his house. Dozens of costumes draped over the back of the couch. Rob had been BUSY.

“It’s okay!” Rob beamed. “You’re gonna be AWESOME.”

Except I was NOT gonna be awesome. No, I was probably gonna hate every inch of this footage. Nothing makes me cringe more than watching myself on video. I never even linked to the band’s first music video because all my lobbying efforts to have most of the footage of myself edited out had largely proven unsuccessful.

“There you go yet again,” I grinned, “Always believing in me when I have zero faith in myself.”

Rob frowned in frustration. “And I don’t understand why you DON’T,” he shot back.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why DJ Rob is high on the list of my favorite humans on this planet.

It was good to see Rob again after so long, but nevertheless, this was a part of my life I hadn’t missed: putting my heart and soul on the line for public inspection. All the massive insecurity that comes with that. Rob played the song I had written, the one we recorded together, my first single, and I sheepishly confessed I hadn’t listened to it in months.

When quarantine stripped away the parties, the concerts, the endless parade of pretty distractions, I realized how empty my life actually was. It was an unsettling revelation. Some people adopted pets, some learned to grow plants, but I threw myself into the few people around me who remained. I found myself enjoying this silent new world. Finally, a world created for introverts! It felt cozy, secret, intimate. I dove in deeply.

But the sun-dappled magic of April and May gave way to all the fire and fury of June, and the sudden re-emergence to reality made me feel like a fish ripped from water and jerked without warning into the suffocating air.

All across America, black men can’t breathe. And so, black and white, every nation, tribe and tongue joined together, risking their lives to remove the boot from their backs, knowing that a boot on one of us is a boot on all of us. In every corner of our nation, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances have taken up a battle cry against tyranny and injustice. I am a lover, not a fighter, but here, in this place and time, if we are to be lovers, we must also be fighters. There is no other way.

We are only two weeks into June, but against this backdrop, I have already learned two harsh truths: love is a gift we all squander, and people don’t listen to what you have to say more than they do when you’re walking away.

Or when you’re lighting a match and setting everything on fire. No one pays attention better than when shit gets drastic, and that is our undoing. If heartfelt whispers in the dark would not go unheeded, no one would have to shout, light a match, break a window, break a heart.

For me — and much to DJ Rob’s dismay — quarantine had not been a time of creation but one of cultivation. But the reopening is here. The re-emergence has been just as much of a shock as the sudden submergence. My fields lie empty; the harvest is gone. The world is on fire, and it is LOUD again.

SO LOUD.

The same degree to which I lamented the passing of my old life is the same degree to which I no longer want it to return. Everything changed, and I mourned when it happened, but now it feels like everything is back to the same. And for that, I mourn again.

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