I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain
I don’t remember much about Memphis.
I was ten. I’d just been uprooted from my childhood home. My semi-charmed life of latchkey afternoons and ice cream weekends with my grandmother were about to become memories fading fast like stationary images in a rear-view mirror.
In March my mother had remarried a military man. And in April we crammed our few possessions into the back of an old Datsun 280-z. I was in the backseat wedged between stuffed animals, Encyclopedia Brown books, and all of my cassettes and albums that I couldn’t bear to give away.
I said a tearful goodbye to Jacksonville, Florida and then took a vow of silence for the rest of the trip. I sat like a sardine squashed in that back seat for over thirteen hours. I refused to eat or drink or talk. I shot daggers into the back of my mother’s head; I wouldn’t even look at him.
I listened to old tapes in my Sony Walkman cassette player. But I couldn’t tell you who. I just listened. And I stared. At her. Out the window. At cars going by. At the constant rain. At the musical boxes of therapy wedged under my legs.
We pulled into Memphis in the dead of night. At two a.m. it looked just like any other city. Any other night. Any other motel parking lot with a purple neon flashing vacancy sign. Another suitcase in another hall.
“Come on, Christy,” Mom said.
“No, I’ll sleep in the car,” I said.
“No you will not. GET. OUT. NOW,” she growled.
I knew better than to push my mother when she spoke in short clipped words. I knew what was next. She used to do this ear pull and pinch thing that can still make me wince.
“Fine. I have to pee anyway,” I said.
I contorted my body like a pretzel and extracted myself from the backseat.
I shuffled around the wet parking lot while he got us a room. I brooded and sulked as only a ten-year old girl used to always getting her own way can, occasionally looking at my mom to see if she was watching me. She wasn’t. I glared at the asphalt and saw something shiny on the ground several yards away. It was in stark contrast to the slick black asphalt, a white rectangle on the ground between two parked cars.
“Come on, Christy.”
But I ignored her and walked closer to the pavement mystery.
I reached down and picked it up. It was a white cassette tape. It’s white plastic siding was scratched, and the black text was rubbed off in spots, but it looked to be mostly intact.
I brought it closer, curious as a cat, and read the wording on the tape. Somewhere mournful birds cried in the distance. My stomach trembled inside.
“Christy…,” Mom called.
“Coming!” I said. And smiled. It was my first real smile in weeks.
“What’d you find?”
“Oh nothing. Just a tape,” I said, refusing to share my excitement.
“Well come on. It’s starting to rain again. Let’s go in,” Mom said.
“I know. But I like the rain. It feels good. Refreshing. It feels like starting over.”
“Come here,” she said, with her arms open wide. “Come give me a hug.”
“Mom…..,” but I walked into her embrace and let her arms enfold me.
“Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing. It’ll be okay, Christy. I still love you. He loves you too, you know. You’re still my little girl. You’ll always be my little girl. It’s all going to be okay…”
And I began to cry.
It rained harder.
The raindrops glistened like violets through the neon lights of the motel sign behind us.
“Shhhhhhh… Don’t cry.” She ran her hands through my hair, and wiped away my tears with her fingers. Then she moved her hands down my torso, gently tickling my sides.
“Mom! Stop! That tickles!” I said, giggling, despite my sorrow and pain.
But she didn’t stop. She kept tickling me. And tickling me. Delighting in a sound she hadn’t heard from me in a very long time.
And I laughed.
In the purple rain.
Purple rain, purple rain.
in the purple rain.
“We love you very very much. Good night.” ~ Prince, timestamp 13:26
(This video gets removed frequently, but I’ll try to keep updating. Just in case, a moving rendition by Etta James is included below.)
Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night