I read online that Spike Lee was having people over because Prince had died. I found my way over and there were a bunch of people standing around, slowly closing the street like an artery plaquing. People had cameras, there were trucks with satellites on them, and one big light. I had kind of thought we would get to go inside some place. I had wondered if people would stand around and not dance, which would be awful. I stood next to a parked car, took out my book, and angled it to read it by streetlight while I waited for something to happen. Cars stopped trying to come through.
People in New York City, God bless them, will stand around waiting for something to happen almost indefinitely, they will wait in lines that to other people would appear not only offensive but hopeless, there are likely people in many locations in New York City all waiting together for something to happen they have forgotten what it was, but they are waiting and touching their cell phones tap tap like they might be setting their phasers to stun, before they had cell phones they had newspapers and baggies of carrot sticks.
On the platform a woman starting talking loudly, “I’m on the G train platform, and they are harassing me.” The boys were black and the woman was white. The boys ran along down the platform. “Oh, get over it!” one yelled, she said, “They threw something at me!” One of the boys said, “It was just an oatmeal cookie.”
I didn’t know whether to look at the woman sympathetically, or follow the kids and tell them to stop acting the fool, or not on the subway platform, that makes people especially, come on, older white ladies, nervous. They could have been from my school, but I didn’t know them.
The opposite story the next morning, while I stood at the restaurant window waiting for coffee, a woman walking by screeched with surprise, I looked over, everyone in the restaurant looked over, and she said, “It’s okay, my sister just got engaged!”
A kid said, “I hate Jews,” and I spent the rest of the hour drawing cartoons explaining that there were so many kinds of Jewish people he couldn’t possibly hate them all. “But they’re such bad drivers!” he said.
A kid said, “We used to do work, miss, but we don’t have to, here, it doesn’t matter, we still pass. They don’t care about us, they just need the graduation rate high enough they get to keep their jobs.”
“Nothing’s gonna change if you don’t do something!” one kid yelled at another, their yelling argument prevented me from showing the documentary on environmental issues, and I was frustrated, I had to breathe deep before the next class came in, they could have had a better discussion and they are so loud. They watched it the next day instead.
A kid said, “I want a panda. I feel like pandas never take any damage.”
“What are the three kinds of Jewish people we discussed yesterday?” I asked the next morning. Hasidic (curls on happy face), orthodox (the little hat on happy face), reform (just a happy face).
I stood by the parked car until music came on. People cheered and danced.
I wasn’t sure it should all be so joyful, either, when music came on, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today/Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today,” it felt great to be in Brooklyn at with Brooklyn royalty, he presiding from top of the stoop next to his space, to hear Prince all Biblical, he and I share this eschatological interest: “We could all die any day.”
I hated that there were so many cell phones, up and photographing us all, is it impossible to be anywhere now, I took two photos, and then my phone was dead anyway, so I didn’t have to even wonder if I should be somewhere else. I would have taken one more, of Mr. Lee dancing a little.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, we could all die any day.
To dance, as much as you can with your bags and your stuff and the room you have between everyone else, to not wonder too hard what is this, dancing and yelling because someone is dead, and the work was great, it made people happy and feel bigger, people leave what they leave, they leave something. Everyone was beautifully behaved except four kids who push/ran through us and the crowd reprimanded them gently.
A little kid on top of a car, leaning this way and that. A lady had an umbrella with images of Prince all around. “Open it!” someone said, someone who didn’t get a photo.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today,” the version of the song looped again, “Parties weren’t meant to last,” they did not play my favorite, “We will see a plague and a river of blood, there will be a new city with the streets of gold, young so educated they never grow old.”
Today I asked a few students about who died, and one of them said, “I thought it was, you know, Prince,” their classmate by that name. “Oh, God, no,” I said.
“Spike Lee had a street party,” I said, “Who’s Spike Lee?” a kid said.
“Oh, my God,” I said, but another kid answered, thank God, so I didn’t have to.