An Awfully Big Adventure

Michael Jackson in the Afterlife


Michael Jackson died in June 2009 from high levels of drugs in his body, including the powerful anaesthetic Propofol, more commonly used on hospital patients before surgery.


I first thought, when I heard the news, how did anyone ever get to be so lonely? And yet, at the same time, the centre of so much attention, as he moved among us, sometimes so fluently, so far inside and outside his own body, using his feet to communicate with us, about the miracle of light, and time, it seemed like he’d flown in from another universe, and landed in such a way that his feet were yet to hit the ground. He visited earth, and never quite connected. This lack of connection was endlessly fascinating, whether represented persuasively through the moves and demands of a sensational entertainer born to amaze, with a voice that soared Godhow- high, as clean as if cut with a diamond, or through how his trapped, unstable mortal energy was ruthlessly processed and packaged as pure pleasuring product, or made grotesquely explicit through the alarming ways that his skin turned to paper, his flesh started to leak and his eyelids turned to dust.

Sometimes he moved so nervously, so awkwardly, so damned tentatively, it seemed like he was not human, or at least had once been human, and then became something else, or he was slowly, painfully becoming human, transforming from something alien and removed. Sometimes, as he moved among us, on the way from one sort of peculiar ceremony to another, with a frantically rigid look on his face, it could make you feel sad and confused, he seemed so brave and tragic, it appeared he didn’t actually know what to do with his feet, or his hands, or the thoughts, agitated shreds of sensation, that must have been ganging up on him inside his head. His eyes were black holes swallowing, rather than reflecting, light.

By the end of his life he looked like this exotic being from another universe who had once soared among us, possessing a dancing body that could change shape in sudden midflight, and then a famous scarred body that changed shape for vain, sick reasons, a pitiful, trapped creature that had finally landed, and met the earth, not with an elegant, cushioned softness, but with a horrible, catastrophic wallop. He crash-landed on to earth, and his body, mind, sanity, vision and memory splintered, and he moved among us like an extravagantly deformed casualty that was both banal and mystifying.We couldn’t bear to look at him, this ‘it’ containing so much devastated promise and so much visible oddness and sadness, and we couldn’t take our eyes off him.