I don’t remember when portable CD players came out, but I know the one my aunt got me for Christmas was the first to arrive in my house. This would have been fifth grade, 1999. Believe was the only disc I had to feed it until my birthday in March.
The disc itself matched the cover art: steel blue, brushed to look like rain. Now I imagine this was to reflect its somber position as Cher’s eulogy to the recently departed Sonny (never mind her upbeat declarations regarding life after love), but then I just thought it was pretty. Pretty like the ink in my silver gel pen, the one I used to write my full name on the booklet cover. I’d been concerned—and Lord knows why—someone would take it, then, it seems, hopeful they’d find me and give it back. Or perhaps they wouldn’t, and my lettering would haunt them every time they went to play “Strong Enough.” Instead my name haunted me for years, and, yes, now, almost two decades later, with the embarrassment that comes with having tried to claim a piece of Cher as my own. The embarrassment of a family surprised to have a young gay as their own while doing things like buying him diva soundtracks and talking about how he’ll love shopping at Structure—now Express for Men—when he gets to college. Real talk: I didn’t, but I would now if I could afford more than their socks. I’m stereotyping—forgive me—but these were the societal clues I’d been working with. Who wouldn’t let Cher help him figure things out if she could? Who wouldn’t belt “All or Nothing” in the kitchen, imagining the man he wanted to commit or get out of the way, when he was home alone? At least, when he thought he was home alone?
If this were a monologue I’d write “[heavy sigh].” I don’t know where the CD is now. Last year my mother cleaned out my childhood bedroom and shipped a giant box full of yearbooks, mementos, and CDs to my apartment half a country away. The cardboard collapsed under the weight mid-transport, and all that survived the trip were a couple yearbooks and a handful of cracked CDs, delivered in a plastic bin with a regretful note from the postman. Believe, missing. It’s fine; she’d already shown me how to move on after a loss, and I’ve got her greatest hits on my iPhone.