When I read that Michael Jackson’s album ‘Thriller’ was forty years old, I decided to listen to it on my phone. With the first beats my legs started to move automatically, my hips swivelled, and my arms waved through the air.
Dancing in front of our window in Barcelona I didn’t see the Peruvian restaurant or the hotel with its round windows on the corner of our street; what I saw was the wide avenue where we used to live in Mexico City when the album came out. I had bought the LP straight away and put in on our stereo system every day so I could dance to it by myself, exactly like I was doing now, except I didn’t wear earphones back then.
I saw the Roxy Ice cream parlor on Avenida Mazatlan where they sold ice-cream with flavors of Mexican fruits. Guanábana, chico zapote, mamey. I saw the city gardener in his blue overall and the domestic help with her crisp apron walk hand in hand on the tree lined middle path, and I saw the old Indian woman from whom I used to buy the avocados she displayed spread on her black rebozo shawl.
I moved with the dry drumbeat of ‘Billie Jean’ while I shrieked and sighed along with Michael.
Just as then, I had become one with the music. Forty years vanished, as if they had been the slightest of breezes, barely perceptible.
But the spell broke abruptly when I heard: “You’re fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller. Ow!” At the time I didn’t know yet that I had been infected with HIV, but there was a killer inside of me. I could not have suspected that several years later I would have to leave Avenida Mazatlan for good to look for medical treatment abroad.
Was my desire to be back in that moment of not knowing so overpowering that it swept away those forty years?
Perhaps we feel nostalgic when we hear music from the past, not so much because we want to relive those moments but because we hanker for the innocence of those days when we had no idea what awaited us. Or perhaps it’s a sadness for the passing of time. Hearing the music we listened to when we were so much younger makes us realise how ephemeral everything is, including our own lives.
There may not be much to hold onto in the greater scheme of things, but I can still listen to Michael Jackson sing ‘Beat It’. And that is enough for now.