The Man in the Mirror
It is sad and strange, and though it feels a little odd, I wanted to put up a sort of Harriet "open thread" about it here just in case anyone wants to vent over the weekend. Myself, I've felt mostly numb about the whole thing, mainly, I think, because the King of Pop had been dead for me twenty years or so, ever since I was eight years old.
Then--summer of '87--I had the Thriller poster up in my room, the weird plastic "Beat It" doll, the records, stickers on my school folders . . . I was a fan. No, seriously. I was a fan. Not quite a lunatic fan, but an eight-year old pop music fan, which is quite enough already, don't you think?
Yes, well, case in point: I decided that summer that I wanted to get my haircut EXACTLY like Michael's. I told my mom on the way to the barber (Okay, actually, a confession here: it was not the barber. It was the salon. Michael Jackson had made it okay to be feminine, marvelous and not-so tough, right? So I 'll admit now to the world that I went with my mom to the salon to get my haircut when I was eight. Think of that what you will.). My mom seemed to take the news in stride.
"Okay," she said.
Okay?! Holy shit!
I sat in stunned silence. I could suddenly picture it so clearly. That strange, curly, flingable wetness, how would I exist with such amazing glamour on my head? At school! At baseball practice! Out in the streets of Iowa!
It would be the best.
I strode into the salon and told the lady straight away what was happening. "Exactly like Michael Jackson's hair," I said, pointing at my head. She looked over at my mom who just sat there, casually flipping through a magazine. The lady shrugged, spun me around to face the center of the room and--I couldn't believe it--began cutting my hair!
She snipped, brushed, combed and spruced and the whole while I had the magic of "P.Y.T." coursing through my little eight year old veins. I'm sure my eyes looked crazed. Could this really be happening? Michael Jackson's hair! On my head!
A little whisk of the brush at the back of my neck, and then the lady spun me around to face the mirror. It was like Christmas on a roller coaster with a million puppies. I felt a huge anticipatory smile--all teeth and mania--spread across my face as I came into focus in the mirror, and there, above my little face smiling all crazy, was, yes, the exact same bowl-cut I always got.
R.I.P. Michael Jackson.
Travis Nichols is the author of two books of poetry: Iowa (2010, Letter Machine Editions) and See Me Improving (2010); and he is the author of two novels: Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder (2012) and The More You Ignore Me (2013). He has contributed to The Believer, Paste, The...