We couldn't ignore the squeals that were beginning to ring out from the crowd, or the popping flashbulbs.
In 1992, my husband and I returned to Bermuda, where we'd honeymooned four years before. Each morning, I headed for a small stable where, because I had 15 years as a horse owner, the manager let me ride on my own.
Two American boys arrived every morning for lessons, escorted by their grandfather, a 60-ish gentleman who spoke slowly and politely. We chatted amiably about everyday things. He was from Texas, he said, and his name was Ross.
Early one evening, Frank and I sipped rum swizzles at the quiet patio bar of the Hamilton Princess, in the shadow of a large cruise ship, watching smaller crafts drift in and out of the harbor. The sun was setting, and even then, I think, I knew we'd remember the time--still besotted enough with each other that our hands were clasped, our legs touching.
Suddenly, a lightning-fast red-striped cigarette boat screamed into the harbor. A small buzz arose, as sea-smart folks pointed to the status-y boat, known for its speed, price tag, and splashy lines.
Who could be on board? A rich Bermudian? A visiting celebrity?
The boat dramatically docked at the hotel's small landing, and a clutch of people moved toward it, blocking our view. We were only mildly curious, but we couldn't ignore the squeals that were beginning to ring out from the crowd, or the popping flashbulbs.
Who is it?
The crowd was now moving in our direction, as burly, sunglass-wearing, smooth-stepping men cleared a path. As the entourage reached us, Frank and I finally stood up and found ourselves nearly face to face with--well, the nice older gentleman from the stable.
He caught my eye, waved, and said, "Hello, Lisa! How are you?"
I didn't answer H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire and independent candidate for president, which I suppose was rude. But I was simply, suddenly speechless, mesmerized by Perot's companion. This blinding bolt from the stratosphere was not exactly walking, but gliding alongside--a much younger man with longish curly black hair, wearing black pants, a red shirt, and a black hat, the sun bouncing off his silver belt buckle.
Michael Jackson seemed to realize that Perot had greeted me by name, and for one brief instant the King of Pop caught my eye, tossed a wide, dazzlingly radiant smile in my direction, nodded, and touched the tip of his fedora.
I was still standing, but felt knocked off my feet.
We flew home early the next morning. On June 25, 2009, when the news of Jackson's death broke, everywhere were photos of him in that iconic red shirt and black fedora. They could have been taken anytime, but to me the image is always from a sun-kissed afternoon in Bermuda, and the way he made me feel.