Sometimes, Morris Day hated himself.
Maybe hate was too strong a term, but even if it was, he looked great doing it. He saw to that. He did the pompadour, curls just so, and trimmed his mustache with a pair of those tiny sewing scissors his mother always had around the house. The blades looked like a crane's beak and shone like gold, and they were curved just enough to make the perfect trim. He dressed impeccably and spent most of the money he made with the band on clothes because image, he knew, was everything.
Most days he owned the streets around First Avenue. He walked them like it was his God-given right and really it was: he was the king of the neighborhood. Women? All he had to do was snap his fingers and they came running. And when he got tired of them, Jerome took care of things. Jerome took care of everything.
Performing with The Time was basically, for all intents and purposes, fucking the audience from the stage. Every dance move was a deep groin thrust, every wiggle of his hips a suggestion, every move in syncopated time to the drumbeat its own intense little sexual moment, and the ladies loved it. The gentlemen in the audience loved it too, because it got their ladies all wound up. They could thank him later, when they hurried themselves out of the club filled with desire. That's what music was all about: he never had any doubt that it was a capital-s Show and that he was the supreme showman of Minneapolis, and that after every concert, when those hot spicy girls dragged those nasty little boys of theirs back home to bump and grind, it was his face on their minds and his name falling off their cherry-stained lips.
"Sorry, baby," he told one of the sweet young things hanging onto him after his show, "but I ain't..." He nodded to Jerome.
"Got the time," Jerome finished, and Morris laughed that laugh that ran up and down in a crescendo. When the ladies were feeling generous they told him the laugh was beautiful, but once a lady who was angry with him said he sounded like a hyena in heat. He liked that and for a while after dressed only in animal prints. No, nothing could touch Morris Day.
But sometimes, he hated himself. He hated himself the night he knew The Kid's dad shot himself but after the set breezed by The Kid's dressing room with a giddy how's the family? It got a great laugh from the entourage, but in the moment their laughter seemed canned and insincere. If someone had said that to him, under the same or similar circumstances, he would have had their asses kicked. He might even have broken his cardinal rule and done the ass-kicking all by himself. The truth of the matter was that he didn't hate The Kid, he only hated his music because it was so much better than his own. Try as he might to convince himself otherwise, he couldn't and it was undeniable. It's just that The Kid had attitude and that had always been Morris Day's purview, his domain. People came to First Avenue to see him strut his stuff (and excellent stuff it was), not to watch The Kid play out his frustrations and personal life on-stage. Keep that shit to himself, that would've been the right thing to do but no, he had to drag every motherfucker at the club down with him.
"People want entertainment," he told Jerome the day Benton showed up with his white coat in tow, fresh from the cleaner's. Jerome was good. They'd known each other forever, almost best friends, and where he didn't always want to get his hands dirty, Jerome didn't mind.
"That they do, Morris." Jerome was always so amenable, always so willing to agree. Felt a little bit like ass-kissing instead of ass-kicking, but it was always better to be embraced than beaten up or down, and he'd take it from Jerome. The man always had whatever was needed; he could anticipate everything that might be wanted or required. Always carried a comb, always knew where to find a mirror, always looked dapper but not too dapper. Good enough to be seen with but not fancy enough to steal the spotlight: that was the way Morris liked things. Jerome knew, he knew how to act and what to do.
"And we give them entertainment."
"And long past showtime, too." Morris slicked back his hair, motioned for a mirror—he was perfect, of course, as usual—and nodded. "And we'll keep doing it, too. I've been pondering the concept of a girl group, Jerome. Your thoughts on that?"
Jerome had the right answer. "My thoughts say whatever you touch turns to gold, Morris. Just like Midas."
That was what he liked to hear and he realized through his emphatic nod that when Jerome was around, he didn't dislike himself nearly as much.
But when he was alone—when he wasn't Morris Day of The Time, but just Morris who'd grown up in Minneapolis, just Morris who lived in his own place that he liked to keep more or less tidy, just Morris who wasn't on call or on tap or on stage—he'd find himself humming Let's Go Crazy and instead of making a joke out of it, he marveled at the melody and the chord progression and the way The Kid made those damn guitar strings on the break sing like he was channeling Hendrix on speed. And when he found himself seriously considering how talented The Kid was, he started believing his own brand of techno p-funk was maybe a little bit overrated, a little bit tired. It scared him because he knew if he didn't believe in himself, no one else would believe in him either. And then he'd start to wonder about what he was, who he'd become, what the future had in store. Everyone wanted to be a big star, everyone. Why not Morris Day?
And so he'd make sure his home was just so (a man never knew when he might be bringing the lady of his dreams back to his den of iniquity) and that his clothes were just so and that his hair was just so, and he'd look in the mirror, be delighted at what he saw, and call Jerome to say he was ready to go. And Jerome would always be there right away, dressed impeccably but not with scene-stealing flash, and Morris Day of The Time would step out into the streets of Minneapolis ready to kill with a suggestion and a smile and a song, a dash of flash, a flash of cash, and all the self-confidence in the world. It worked.
True, he might have hated himself from time to time, but at least he always looked great while he did it.