Prince Rogers Nelson, that purple-loving pint-sized bundle of musical virtuosity, died today. As with the rest of the world I mourn his passing. His music was the soundtrack to my first year of college. My college friend, Amy, and I would sit in my room at our small Southern liberal arts women’s college listening to his albums over and over and over – dancing and singing and feeling ever so naughty (have you ever READ some of his lyrics? Sex. Sex. Sex.) Together, she and I must have seen his movie Purple Rain about 20 times in the theatre. Amy even had her hair cut in that curly asymmetrical style he rocked in the movie. I practically lived in a black cape, like the one his love interest in the film wore. For two girls who felt out-of-place in that small Southern town, he gave us some weird sort of strength. Well, at least for me there was a reason for the strength he gave me.
You see, a few weeks before I left for college and met Amy, Prince indirectly saved my life.
As I have written before, in my senior year of high school I was in a terrible, horrible, emotionally abusive relationship. He kept me under his thumb by making threats as to what he would do to himself if I ever left. And because of some odd sense of responsibility for his well-being, I put up with it all and I stayed. I felt so small. So helpless. So powerless. But, that’s how those kinds of relationships work, isn’t it? There is always one with all the power and one with none.
But, despite all the emotional turmoil he put me through on a daily basis, he hadn’t hit me. That’s what I told myself on a daily basis to justify his behavior. It could be worse. He could have hit me.
In late July 1984, just a few short weeks before I was to leave for college, Purple Rain hit the theaters. Opening weekend, the abusive jerk and I went to see it (I had to pay because, well, I had to pay for everything because the idiot couldn’t hold a job, but I digress). He didn’t want to go, but I somehow convinced him, and as long as I was paying, he grudgingly agreed. I loved the movie. Oh, sure, the acting isn’t the best. And the story is weak. But, the music. THE MUSIC! Amazing. BTW – the abusive jerk hated it. Quelle suprise.
About half way through the movie, there is a scene when “The Kid” (Prince himself) slaps his girlfriend, Apollonia, to the ground.
A shock ran through me. I had an epiphany. Right there, in the middle of the movie, I turned to my abuser and said, “If you ever hit me, even once, I will leave you. I promise I will.” Of course, he said he wouldn’t. And a small part of me wanted to believe him. Really. I did.
It wasn’t long – a week maybe – until he backhanded me, sent me backwards into a bathtub where I whacked the back of my head, and passed out for a moment. When my vision cleared, I climbed out of the tub, gathered my things, and walked out the door. Never to look back again.
You see, I made a promise – to myself and to him – that I would never let that happen. So, I left.
Even now, thirty-two years later, I am positive that if I had not made that promise and if I had not walked out, I probably would have died in that relationship.
I am still not sure what gave me the courage to look at my abuser in the middle of that movie and draw my line in the sand, but I did.
Maybe I was caught up in the music.
So, thank you, Prince. Thank you for the music. Thank you for the memories. But, most of all, thank you for saving my life.
Rest in peace, our sweet Prince. See you in that world of never ending happiness – the after world.