I distinctly remember the moment I fell in love with her. I was ten years old, sitting in our living room floor, watching The Bodyguard late one night with my daddy. I remember begging him to stay and watch it with me because I’d heard it was a little scary. (In hindsight I realize what an amazing father he was. But I digress.)
I was instantly mesmerized, and I obsessed over that movie (like I tend to do with everything) until I knew every word, every note, every move. No, I didn’t want to marry Whitney – I wanted to be Whitney. I was my own Queen of the Night, dammit.
But none of the other little boys in Winnfield seemed as connected to her as I was. Nobody else talked incessantly about her outfits, her hair, or how sexy she made the “f word” sound. Growing up in that little town, I often felt isolated and that nobody else was like me. But then I’d go home at night and re-watch my new favorite movie, and I’d just get lost – and forget about not fitting in. I knew Whitney was different, too. I’d never before seen a black girl as the main character. I’d never heard a voice like that before. I’d never seen a white man kiss a black woman. And I loved it.
My love affair continued throughout high school, and I jammed to her Greatest Hits on a daily basis. I’m still kicking myself for leaving one of those CDs in my Physics book. When everybody else was discovering love and all the feelings that teenagers experience, I had Whitney. She was my escape from the sadness that haunted me every hour of every day.
And then there were the rough years – for me and Whitney. The cracks began to shatter the perfect images that we both tried so hard to show. We both faced some pretty bad demons, and neither of us fought them in healthy ways.
Well, yesterday, Whitney stopped fighting her demons. And I don’t care what her cause of death was – that doesn’t matter. What matters is the legacy she left behind. What matters is how many lives she changed. What matters is that she made a little boy feel okay with being different.
This morning I begged another man to watch The Bodyguard with me. No, I wasn’t scared of the movie anymore. I was scared of facing the fact that Whitney was dead. I was scared of seeing her back in her prime – before things got bad. I was scared to recognize that not everybody gets the happy ending.
I know what it’s like to live life with a storm brewing inside you – a storm that never goes away and is only briefly dulled with destructive vices. And I know that Whitney’s sea has finally been calmed, and her eventual peace gives me comfort.
I will always love you, Whitney Houston.