I woke wanting to listen to Aretha. No big surprise there, though I haven’t been listening to my queen lately; it’s still too painful. What I really wanted to hear was new music by her, but this is no small feat when you’ve been obsessed with a now-deceased singer since you were a child.
It was a desire sparked by seeing Malcolm X at BAM last Saturday. It’d been so swampy that weekend, and R and I had been casting about for something to do that would diffuse the intense awkwardness of feeling like strangers after having been lovers for years and then not speaking for years after that. So it wasn’t just the prospect of seeing the Spike Lee biopic on a big screen that had dragged us three neighborhoods from our own as temperatures climbed into the 100s. We’d had to balance the prospect of sitting in pools of our drying sweat against the promise of a hefty distraction, and the latter had won.
The joint was packed, and not just because of that AC. Everyone in attendance was agog over the choreography and catharsis and craftsmanship and charisma and certitude. This was a 3.5-hour film, yet there was none of that BS chatter and smartphone-checking you find these days at a public screening. In the last 10 minutes, the late, great Ossie Davis delivered his eulogy for Malcolm over a montage of the diaspora of his influence, and all around me people sat silent except for the occasional nose-honking.
Over the credits sailed an Aretha recording I’d never heard before: “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”
Until the last credit R and I sat still. At the beginning of the film he’d reached for my hand and I’d been stiff, like a child afraid to disappoint a needy elder. Always sensitive to rejection, he’d dropped it after a bit and I’d forced myself not to soothe his ruffled feathers by reaching back. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t initiate any physical contact I didn’t desire. He’d done that enough for us both. Continue Reading →