I am 9 years old and watching Labyrinth for the 900th time with my sister. We have taken to recording ourselves singing “You Remind Me of the Babe” on our Sony tape deck. You can hear my parents carrying on in the background but we don’t care. We have watched this movie so many times we can speak it all by heart. It’s dark for a kid’s movie, and the antagonist remains unclear. Yes, the Goblin King steals the baby, which I guess makes him the bad guy, but even at 9 I want to both be Sarah and be with Jareth and this is confusing and exciting. It is a feeling that can not be explained or contained and there’s something about David Bowie that makes these unexplainable things feel possible. My love for him and the movie never becomes nostalgic, it never reminds me of being young, because it stays steady. My crush on Bowie will only grow over the next 21 years because stars only fall from Earth so many times in a lifetime and we were so lucky to notice when he did.
Years later, I will read Neon Angels and when Cherie Curie describes wanting to be David Bowie it will make more sense to me than anything else I will read that year. Don’t we all want to be the thin white duke? Why would any of us want to be anything else?
I am 21 years old and in Charlie’s bar in Capitol Hill, Seattle. This is where the poets hang out after readings and I have my eye on a tall drink of water but he seems wary of my advances. I take my change to the jukebox and put on Heart’s “Magic Man” and Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”. We flirt, if you can even call it that, through the first song but when I hear the doo-doos thump in, before Bowie even starts singing “You got your mother in a whirl”, I’m up on my feet. When I can’t convince the boy to dance with me, I dance alone, eventually ending up on the table adjacent to us. It’s not a sexy dance, but one of invincibility. I am no longer even worried about this boy, I am a rebel spirit and I am 21 and I am living across the country from where I grew up and I am channeling all of that. I’m not dancing for boys, only for Bowie. Bowie was powerful and he gave us that power in his songs. He let us have that. He gave us gifts of stardust, and in return we loved him. But it never seemed like enough. How do you make those scales ever feel fair when someone keeps handing you magic and all you have to return that with is all your heart? After the song, with me standing on the table like a warrior, sweaty and smiling, the boy helped me down and offered to walk me home. We have been married for 14 years.
What else can be said? I looked for him every time I was in New Paltz. I saw him in concert and he filled the arena with his voice. I kissed boys while Ziggy Stardust played in the room. I cried while driving and screaming the words to “Heroes”. We marched in protests while listening to “I’m Afraid of Americans”. When I saw that he was trending today I was confused because it was his birthday Saturday. That seems poetic, doesn’t it, to die the day after you were born (69 years after even, like the Cancer star sign), but I suppose we should have expected nothing less from the man who sold the world. I’m just so grateful he let us all stay on it while he was here too so that we could share the same air as him all this time. It will be harder to breathe today now that he stepped through the door and floated in a most peculiar way. The stars really do look very different today; they will shine brighter up there, but we have certainly lost some light down here.
RIP David Bowie. And thank you.