I’m an immigrant. It’s been 19 years that I came to this country and there has not been one second or instance that made me regret coming here.
I learned English from Michael Jackson. I always loved his music. I was 13 when I first heard him singing on the radio. It was “The Lady In My Life” that the radio played one afternoon. I remember it very well. I was sick lying in bed and I don’t believe there was anything much that mattered to me or has caught my attention in those days. Nothing has mattered to me for a long time now. I was actually imaging what my funeral will be like. I was not to live long so I was told … unless a miracle happened.
A few months before a family tragedy struck our otherwise happy and balanced family. Suicide, alcoholism, domestic violence … never thought any of these would ever set foot in my perfect world. But life did show itself with all of its ugliness. That’s when it started my lifelong battle with anorexia and crippling depression. I was living in a country in Eastern Europe (still under Communist regime) where nobody knew how to handle my problems. Yelling “What’s wrong with you? Just eat already or you’ll die” was all my family could offer to me and then occasionally I got some medical attention, getting hooked up to IV at hospitals to get some nutrients while doctors were shaking their heads saying “stupid kid just won’t eat. never heard nothing like this.”
I didn’t think anything was in my future other than that one day I would just not wake up, I was lingering in bed pretending to still care about homework my classmastes dutifully dropped off for me every day. They didn’t know what to do with me either. I used to be the posterchild of happiness, songs never ceased my lips and I was a fierce dancer. Suddenly, I was down to a size that was barely equal to a first grader’s weight, I had no energy to speak up let alone sing and I could barely lift up my arms.
That’s when I heard “There’ll be no darkness tonight, Lady our love will shine. Just put your trust in my heart and meet me in Paradise.” I thought it was an angel’s voice. It was actually Michael singing on the radio. I did not understand a word what he was singing about but that voice and the melody really perked me up. One of my classmates was visiting and she said, “oh, this is Michael Jackson. He is American. He is the most popular singer right now with that awesome album, ‘Thriller.’ You want to hear the whole album?”
I did. And she brought me a casette tape the next day. I listened to that tape over and over and I have to tell you, songs like “Billie Jean” or “Thriller” or “P.Y.T” or “Wanna Be Starting Something” made it really hard to stay in bed. I suddenly felt like the sun was shining and life was not so gloomy after all. I wanted to dance to the music and when I felt dizzy I started eating. My mom never said anything but happily started putting more and more food before me.
That’s how it started … my lifelong “love affair” with “my” Michael. I started collecting all his songs (I had no idea that he was a child star long before “Thriller.” Because I wanted to sing along with him, I collected all the lyrics from the back of the albums and I grabbed a dictionary and started writing each and every word down, memorizing them and saying them just like I heard Michael said them in his songs. To this day, I can literally associate any English word I hear to any of his songs and sing the lyrics.