"Oh my god," a coworker yelled from down the hall. "Michael Jackson died."
Really? Michael Jackson? I thought. Huh ... Weird. Huh.
Since hearing the news I've been keeping tabs on people's responses. I expected jokes and I've seen a couple, but mostly people have been respectful and sad. A couple of DJs at KRQ, the local top-40 station, referred to him without irony as the pop musician of the century.
Me, I wasn't as overwhelmed by sentiment. What I felt, mainly, was discomfitted. And not quite able to articulate why.
But listening to Michael Jackson songs in the car, it struck me how intertwined music is with our own lives. I heard Vincent Price's cackle, and I didn't just think, Oh, that's "Thriller." I thought, I'm 13 years old, watching MTV at my grandparents' house. I heard the opening strains of "Man in the Mirror" and they transported me back to the cafeteria at Indiana University, where I carried my tray to the dinner table as his voice came through the PA.
I wasn't his biggest fan. Some of his songs I liked a lot. Others I didn't. If I were to compile a list of musicians I felt a real connection with, he wouldn't be on it.
Still, the whole thing feels weird. He was here, and now he isn't, and something is missing.