A Week With Janet Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope’

"To give this man a copy of her CD is to give him a look into the most private period of her life."
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Janet Jackson Velvet Rope

Author’s Note: This is a work of fiction. The only thing real about this story is the music.

The first thing you notice is the red. The red background, the red-haired woman in front of it. She’s handing out flyers on campus, a fundraiser for HIV/AIDS awareness.

A man walks past her, his attention briefly broken by the song playing in the background. He asks her about the source of his distraction. “Janet Jackson, 'Got 'til It's Gone,'” she replies.

He then asks her for a copy of the CD and she asks for a signature and five dollars in return. He smiles and promises to give it back to her next week.

To give this man a copy of her CD is to give him a copy of her diary. She remembers the first time she saw Janet. It was on her best friend’s TV screen. Both of their parents dancing the night away, adult supervision nowhere to be found. The two teens flipped through channels after hours, looking for something to warrant this trespass of boundaries.

There she was, red hair tied in exquisite knots. Her svelte figure mesmerizing the camera.

There they were, black bodies like her own, twirling on the dancefloor. A celebration of freedom and rebellion. Love in the time of apartheid.

The album wouldn’t come out for another month and she was the first in line. The early morning cold grinding her teeth. That or an overwhelming rush of caffeine and excitement.

She leaves the record store with her soundtrack for the next two years. It read her mind, heard her cries, told her that she wasn’t alone. To give this man a copy of her CD is to give him a look into the most private period of her life.

Minutes elapsed into hours which turned into days and soon back into seconds before their next encounter. She’s at the front door, ticking names off the list when she sees him again. Her heart skips to the beat of a dorm room.

He smiles and gives her back her diary, expressing deep gratitude for sharing it with him. He also gives her a CD of his own but with a set of instructions: “tell the DJ to play track three.”

As the two make their way into the building, ideas of a possible romance tiptoe across their minds. Their shared aural experience more intimate than any number of dates.

The red-haired woman goes to the DJ and passes him the CD. He duly complies with her request.

The beat drops. First some hi-hats and then a sampled scream. Janet’s voice sneaking in-between the drums. Familiar lyrics adopting a different tone, the beauty of a remix.

“Together Again” fills the room and her hips move in response. The bearer of this gift comes close to her. 

The velvet rope between them slowly coming down.

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