On Prince's Loss, His Gifts to the World and to Me

Prince, 1980 Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
The day Prince passed away, I listened to his music, letting it speak for me as my daughter tried to understand my tears and sadness over his loss. You see, while I might admire their work, I seldom feel a personal connection to celebrities, recognizing (after working in the film industry and hanging around musicians and famous people for much of my life) that most of us do not know them. Not really. We know what we think we know about them based on what they choose to show us. I understand; we are strangers to them.

Prince was different. While I didn't know him, he knew me. He knew me in the 80s when I was a young girl experiencing passion and heartbreak. He knew me as a woman in the 90s when I struggled to figure out who I was, feeling things people said I shouldn't, with goals and desires others said were wrong. He knew me when I wore $5.00 Payless fake-suede boots with spiked heels and a $1.00 faux-diamond necklace strapped around one booted ankle, strutting down Sunset Blvd. into a club, feeling good about myself in a way that had nothing to do with how I looked on the outside in my cheap-ass clothes.

He knew me later as a writer when I found the courage to cut myself free from what others were doing and wrote what I felt in my heart. He inspired me and countless others, usually anonymously and without credit, and he inspired me to write a story, Amaranthine Rain.
"Carnality was to Prince what photosynthesis is to plants. And in this metaphor, as befits a man famous for playing all his own instruments, he’s also the bee, pollinating pleasure." - Wesley Morris, The New York Times
No quotes, tributes, articles, pictures or music videos could do justice to the different things he represented to so many people.

"He lived." That was the best way I could explain Prince to my daughter. "He lived, and he felt, and he inspired people to find their own way and to do it passionately without giving a fuck about what anyone else thought or did. He never said these things. He showed us, and we heard his message in every song lyric he wrote and felt it in every guitar lick he played."

I wrote Amaranthine Rain the way Prince wrote lyrics, spending days finding just the right words to express poetically my feelings about infidelity, love, and death. Passion, loss, and hatred. I wrote it for a writing contest I knew I wouldn't win because my story's eroticism wasn't "in your face" enough.

sex in the rain
Photo credit - Elena Toma
So I wrote another story. In twenty minutes. A kiss-my-ass story more in line with what I knew would be accepted. And I felt guilty about it. About betraying myself. So I sent both stories. Of course, the other story I'd written won. The obvious story. The funny, fake story. The one without an ounce of heart.

"The judging was blind," one of the judges told me later. "We had no idea you'd written both stories until we'd decided on the ranking of prizes, and we agonized over the choice to ignore a work so many of us felt was the first-prize winner. In the end, we gave Weather Girl the prize because we felt it represented what erotica readers expected of us. But we loved Amaranthine Rain. We argued and debated, and I left the judging feeling shitty that the world wasn't ready for erotica like this and wouldn't see your words. I'm so sorry."

Photo credit - Nikki Moore
I wasn't sorry. His words affirmed what I'd already figured out on my  own; my writing had worth. I had worth, no matter what others thought. Even if I was the only one who could see it between the lines. Even if my work never found an audience. Even if people thought I was weird, or different. Even if my brother-in-law was ashamed and my in-laws and mother ignored my efforts. I had to keep writing. And never, ever write something again just to conform to what others expected, desired, or validated. I have a feeling Prince would have understood that.
"Thunder drowns out what the lightning sees." - Prince (from Raspberry Beret)
So I kept writing, and over the years, short-fiction collections of my work have been published by three publishers. My writing has appeared in magazines, anthologies, collections, and in five novels. I write under this name and others. Inspired by Prince, in so many ways, I often help artists and writers without expecting anything in return.

And I never thanked him. Never reached out even if I knew I probably wouldn't hear back from such a famously reclusive and private star. I never gave him credit for helping me to become me, for showing me that as flawed as I am, as different as I am, I have value just as I am. To me. To anyone who reads something I write and feels something, anything.

He inspired me, but nothing reflects Prince's influence more than Amaranthine Rain, a short story (and later the title of a collection of my stories) that would never have existed if not for his influence.
AMARANTHINE - Resembling the amaranth flower. Purple in color. Unfading, undying.
So Amaranthine Rain was really called Purple Rain, in Prince's honor. Like he so often did, I never spoke of it. And, to my knowledge, no one ever made the connection, though the story and title are filled with references to the color purple, rain, and Prince-like themes.

Prince at Coachella 2008
I'm certain he hears us now, thanking him as our hearts are awash in purple grief that feels like oceans of violets in bloom within our spirits as we relive his genius through his music and our memories of him.

READ Amaranthine Rain

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