How to a Rock and Roll Love Affair

In the wake of his death, a worldwide collective eulogizing has happened as people process Prince’s sudden death. Everyone, it seems has a Prince story. Growing up in Minnesota, Prince and his music was woven into the fabric of my upbringing but up until my mid-twenties, was never more to me than a great dance tune or my high school graduation soundtrack in 1999.

In 2004 I accompanied my close friend Danielle to Prince’s concert in Minneapolis. It was a free ticket and she was arguably the biggest Prince fan I’d ever met. Even though I wasn’t initially excited about the show, by the time it ended I knew that concert was one of the best, if not the best, I’d ever see in my life.

Prince didn’t reappear in my life again until ten years later, as I navigated my first months post-divorce having recently returned from Hawaii, graduate school and a miserable marriage. Undoubtedly, admittedly--I was a little lost personally, professionally and emotionally and attempting to put the pieces of my life back together. I was trying to date again, and never very successful at the game even prior to my marriage, I found myself on and went on a few disheartening dates before I logged on one day in late September to shut my account down.

There I found a message from “P” whose profile photo looked like an album cover and whose message immediately yanked me in. I messaged him back with my number and shut my account down. A week later I met P at the bar of the Buffalo Wild Wings in the Mall of America. He was charming as hell, strangely good looking and I was lucky I had some semblance of integrity and sensibility because it took every ounce of willpower not to follow him back to his hotel room later that night.

P was a musician, in town to play with Prince and clearly looking for a good time. And I was looking to forget a thing or two after a three year marriage and six year relationship that yielded little more than serious emotional baggage. Thus began my rock and roll love affair with a guy who, over the course of the next two years would use me as much as I used him. He wasn’t a good guy, in many regards, and despite knowing better I allowed myself to move quickly towards groupie status with him and the rest of guys in Prince’s band. One guy in particular, “N” stood out against the rest. N would chat with me while P was playing the room or flirting with waitresses or taking a bubble bath, and I found myself a little bummed that I was technically with P because N was definitely more my style.

Laying with P one night in bed, I asked him about his life in New York. I was constantly asking about his life in NYC—it was maybe the most attractive thing about him—the fact that he lived in a city I’d always loved and always wanted to be in. In a moment of rare transparency, he revealed to me that he made the decision to move and really pursue his music after a  bad divorce had left him wandering and looking to change his life.

The next morning I recounted the story to my best friend as was our tradition after my nights with P. My story ended and she paused briefly then said, “And why aren’t you in New York?” I stood in the middle of my living room of the condo I shared, in a city where the most interesting place was a Pizza Luce, and her question took the air out of my lungs. I didn’t have an answer for her. At least not a good one. In a moment of stupidity, bravery and what-the-fuck-do-I-have-to-lose, I made the decision to move to New York.

Six months later I stood in my apartment of Sunnyside, Queens and opened the door for P. It was to be the last time we were together and it was okay. When he left the next morning I hugged him and said goodbye, knowing it was the last time I’d ever see him, at least like this.

Six months after that, I was on 8th Avenue in Hells Kitchen when I walked past a tall guy wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar and I thought, I know him. As I continued along the block it hit me—that was N. Of Prince’s band, and long conversations while waiting for P. I took out my phone and texted P. Within minutes I had N’s contact information.

A short time later I was sitting across from him thinking, It was all for this. I was smitten. And I was pretty sure he was too until he disappeared after a weekend away together. I was devastated—heartbroken in a way I didn’t expect to feel so soon after my divorce. For an entire year I wondered what happened, what I did wrong, where it went wrong, and why something that felt like it was so right had disappeared so quickly and unexpectedly.

I’d hear Prince songs, it seemed, all the time. In the bodega, on the radio in cabs home and see mentions of Prince everywhere--though in retrospect maybe I was just looking for him. But to me, for that time, Prince represented hope—that N would reappear, that everything would fall into place, that I'd be okay.  And then N came back. One year later. After two weeks of fast and furious falling AGAIN, it became clear that N and I weren’t on the same page. Maybe I was a glorified groupie, maybe he was hard up and I was easy, maybe I’ll never know exactly why he did what he did. But this time I was different. Stronger. Not willing to be a weekend lover anymore. 

Not long after N, I heard a Prince song in my bodega and instead of thinking of P or N, I thought of Danielle—the friend I’d gone to the concert with ten years earlier. I hadn’t spoken with her in years but had the sudden urge to reconnect. I sent off an email but never heard back. As I googled her later to see if I could find her on social media, I stumbled across an article from years earlier. And under that, her obituary. Dead at 34. I sat on the edge of my sofa, fighting back tears, in total disbelief at the news. 

Like the rest of the world, I felt the same way upon hearing about Prince’s death. It was hard to believe and felt deeply personal. That’s the beautiful thing about music. Everyone gets to have their own relationship to it. There’s no right or wrong way to connect to an artist and their work.

My favorite song is one few people are familiar with and was released a week after I met P. “Rock and Roll Love Affair” was my anthem for my time with P, my move to New York, my time with N and finally, coping with the loss of a friend. Now I listen to it and think about my connection to the man from Minnesota that so many loved and the impact Prince had on my life.

His music was deeply embedded in a friendship with a woman who taught me hard lessons, furthered me artistically, and then was gone too soon. His music was the soundtrack to a rock and roll love affair that pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the city of my dreams. His music was a second rock and roll love affair that taught me about the pursuit of love, the effects of losing it, how to mend a terribly broken heart and come out stronger than before.

For years I heard Prince songs as a harbinger for meaning in my life, but at some point his songs became more than hopeful "signs" that my life would get better and showed me it already was.

And for that, I thank him.

She believed in fairy tales and princes

He believed the voices coming from his stereo

He believed in rock and roll

She left her past and those lilly white fences

And headed out to hollywood in search of her soul

But she had to pay the toll (yes she did)

They were bound to find each other

He needed proof, she needed a brother

That's when stars collide

When there's space for what you want

And your heart is open wide

Wait a minute

He gave up women for the stripes of the road

And learned the meaning of grace

That's when his cup overflowed

And she said: "hello"

He said "my faith keeps me from willin'

But you know that I'm able

And if there's some room

I'd like to sit at your table"

She said "it's tight, but I think I can fit you in"

This kind of love don't come from a prayer

Ain't talking rebound, born of despair

Yellow sun rising on their bodies in bed

Two people in love, with nothing but the road ahead

She believed in fairy tales and princes

He believed in jazz, rhythm and blues

And this thing called soul

He believed in rock and roll

Hear me

She wanted to see her name appear on the big screen

He just wanted to hear her scream his name

Can you scream my name? Do you know what I mean?

This kind of love don't come from a prayer

Ain't talking rebound, born of despair

Yellow sun rising on their bodies in bed

Two people in love with nothing but the road ahead

Rock, rock, love affair