I was on a hot, crowded bus, riding 25 minutes to my destination.

From my seat in the middle of the bus, I heard the black woman on the phone behind me say in a somewhat hushed, but totally ignorant voice, "You said Michael Jackson died?" Not in the way you'd imagine hearing someone digest the news that the biggest celebrity you've known since Biggie just died, but in a casual, matter-of-fact tone that made you think she didn't WANT to fall for the prank, but couldn't help but take a nibble.

MARTA busThen a strange thing happened. She went silent while listening to the other person talk for about 3 minutes. Only the occasional, "uh-huh… uh-huh…"

Upon hearing that, the first thing that crossed my mind was all the random other people named Michael Jackson I've seen or heard of and felt sorry for. I figured hey, if one of them died, it was probably because of the stress of not being THE Michael Jackson. Irony wins again, because apparently being Michael Jackson IS the ultimate stress. You thought you were broke? Try being $400 million in debt with nothing but a mangled Freddy Krueger face and an empty shell of a black man to show for it.

Finally, her conversation ended, with not much more from her end. But then the rumor started to take hold.

"Michael Jackson died?"

"Did she say… Michael Jackson…"


It was happening. The last thing you want to do on a MARTA bus in Atlanta is start a rumor that the most famous black person alive died. Several other black people around me were clamoring at the possibility this could be true. I say "clamoring" because Michael Jackson is black peoples' more accepted version of OJ Simpson: he may have done some bad shit, but he also did some really cool shit and he got away with the bad shit—so while they'd love to embrace him completely, there's a always a bit of hesitancy that just leaves any news of him to "let's make some ambiguously excited chatter about the fella."

So the obvious thing happened next: everyone pulled out their phones and started calling their best friend—the one person they can trust to relay urgent celebrity news.

Michael JacksonThe first report came from the guy right behind me who hung up the phone and then replied directly to the "did he really die" question from me and six surrounding people: "He stopped breathing, but they took him to the hospital."

Absolutely the worst confirmation I've ever heard. This guy was obviously in desperate need of a new best friend. He stopped breathing, BUT they took him to the hospital?? Normally when you stop breathing, it only takes a handful of minutes before death can be confirmed—either you start back or not. I doubt this guy's best friend was standing over Michael Jackson's in-limbo body on the phone waiting for MJ to remove one of the 8-year-olds' cocks from his mouth. I couldn't help but think, did they rush Michael Jackson's dead body to the hospital? What for? It don't matter if you're black or white, if you're fresh out of air, you're shit out of luck.

Eventually, a couple of white people confirmed the rumor so I knew it was true. You see, white people have no emotional involvement in Michael Jackson, even though he tried to join our team. White people are addicted to three things Michael Jackson: Beat It, Billie Jean, and trying to imagine whether they could actually picture Michael Jackson stroking pre-pubescent penises for pleasure. And believe me, white people will go all out, painting gross, vivid pictures of the last one in their mind, struggling to come to the truth. Point being, white people would never spread rumors about Michael Jackson's death because to envision Michael Jackson dead is to accept that we will never hear him finally confess to everything that went on inside Neverhand, Onlymouth Ranch.

So today, I have but one thing to say to you Michael Jackson: Beat It and Billie Jean will never make up for the fact that I will never know for sure.

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