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Chapter 21 - "Pressure"

I walked into Q's office, bottled water in hand, to find Martin Scorsese and Richard Price. Q and I had been discussing the concept for the short film to Bad but couldn't really decide on one. We were open to as many ideas as possible but couldn't exactly get one down.

"Michael, as I was telling Q and Richard, we need do to something different from what you have done before and I think a dramatic piece would be more fitting," Martin looked at me. I nodded as I sat down. It's amazing to me how we couldn't figure out a story for this short film, but I needed one desperately. "Bad"has to have a short film. It has to tell a story. I wasn't going to allow it not to. "I hired my friend, Richard here and he thinks he may have something for you." I turned my attention to Richard.

"Now, Michael," Richard started. "A little birdie told me we had to make you a video to show the brothers you're 'down,' ya know, like one of the homies." I choked on my water, laughing. "What?" Richard looked around. "Did I say something wrong?"

"He's fine," Q rolled his eyes.

I cleared my throat, "who told you that?"

"I can't reveal my sources, but that's what someone told me," Richard laughed.

I laughed, shaking my head. It was probably Frank, "any idea why they would have said that?" I wasn't laughing at the idea, more so the fact that Richard said "brother" and "homie." It cracked me up.

"Well, Michael," Q interrupted, "it goes without saying that some black folk feel like you don't make music for us anymore."

I scoffed, "what?"

"Seriously, Michael," he looked at me. "Black people are into rap and hip-hop now. Thriller was great, you and I both know that, but with that album, your audience became broader. Before Thriller you were appealing to mostly black audiences. Thriller brought you people of every race and ethnicity."

"So, what? Black people don't think I'm black anymore? Or that I don't make 'black' music anymore?"

"Well, that along with all the crazy stories you keep putting out..." Q shrugged. I'm not going to lie, it kind of bothered me to hear him say that. My own people feel like I've abandoned them? In what way?

"What? Am I supposed to start rapping and hip-hopping everywhere?" I laughed.

"No, Michael," Q shook his head. "It's not as simple as you think."

"I'm black, Quincy. How am I supposed to show them I'm still black? The only reason my skin is getting lighter is that I have a skin disease. Other than that, I'm still that little black boy that came out of Gary, Indiana. How much blacker can I get?"

"Michael, you left Gary when you were how old? You pretty much grew up to be a rich black kid. You have no idea about the real black experience."

"And what's the 'real' black experience, Q? I've experienced racism too. I've been pulled over by cops. I was born in the ghetto. My ancestors were slaves. Tell me, what 'black experience' am I missing out on? And why do all of those things have to define the 'black experience?' Black people have many different experiences. Not just those. And what about Thriller wasn't black?" I looked around at everyone.

"Michael, your parents struggled in the beginning and even when you were young, they struggled. After you were put on, you've never had to struggle a day in your life," Q reminded me.

"But why does the black experience have to include struggle? I don't get that. That only makes us look like people who don't know how to navigate this world and that's bogus."

"Michael, we know that's not the overall black experience, but when it comes to black Americans, we all know struggle too well. Trust me, to most black Americans, despite your complexion, you're far removed from the black experience. As I said, you've never experienced struggle a day in your life."

I shook my head, "I just don't understand why the black American experience has to be struggle. That just sounds so negative to us as a people. Shayla's family didn't have to struggle. Is she far removed from the black experience as well?"

"Not as far removed as you," he looked at me.

"So, Shayla is blacker than me is what you're saying?" I laughed.

"Guys, guys, guys," Richard interrupted. "Jewish people had to struggle too. After the Holocaust, you think life was easy?" He looked around at us. "I mean, the Holocaust was just as bad as slavery, if not worse!" Q and I looked at each other. "Everyone has struggled before," Richard waved off the idea. "But listen, my friend wrote an article about this kid, Edmund Perry," he pulled out a magazine and handed it to us. "Seventeen-year-old black kid goes to this prep school, he tries to rob this white guy, turns out to be a plain clothed cop and the cop shoots the kid." I looked over the article, reading its contents and studying Edmunds photo. He was so young... Poor guy. He didn't deserve to die. I'm so sick and tired of hearing stories like this. It breaks my heart to hear the cop killed him. He could have just locked him up, but no. He just had to kill him.

Q looked at the article with me, "That's a sad story, Richard, but how do you want us to incorporate this into a short film? You want Michael to get killed in the film too?"

"No, no, no," Richard shook his head. "I'll figure out something, trust me. I'm just saying. I look at this story and I think of how this guy goes to a prep school and it's like with as many positive influences as he had around him, why on earth would he try to mug someone? Sounds kind of like peer pressure, don't you think?"

I nodded, "pressure."

"Huh?" Martin asked me.

"Pressure," I looked up at him. "Pressure. That's what we're going to call it, 'Pressure.'" Everyone nodded in agreement. "Write it, Richard. See what you can do and get back with us, okay?" I asked him.

"Yeah," he nodded, excitedly. "Sure thing, Michael."

"You're going to work with him on it too, aren't you, Martin?"

"You think I'm not?" Martin laughed.

"Okay, good," I nodded. "'Pressure,' I like that. You're going to incorporate the song, 'Bad,' right?"

"Of course! What would 'Pressure' be without, 'Bad?'" Martin asked me.

"Just checking," I laughed. "Well, guys, I've got to get going. I've got a date with Diana Ross herself."

"Um, Michael," Q cleared this throat. "When are you going back home to your wife?"

Waving off the thought, "I'm not going home yet. I've got entirely too much on my plate right now."

"Are you at least going to call her?" He looked at me as if I was crazy.

"I don't have time! You see how much we've been doing in the studio. When do I ever have time to call?"

"You've got time to call Diana and arrange a date with her!"

"Q, I've got everything under control. Trust me. I'm going to see Shayla soon. It's not like I'm cheating on her or anything. I just need a break."

"You told me Bill said Mariah isn't even there anymore. She was the reason you left in the first place. Why haven't you gone back when you know she's not there?"

"Q," I laughed. "I've gotten everything taken care of. You worry about your wife and your household and I'll worry about mine. I got this."

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