Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Love(s) of My Life: Barbara

ID: Which in a round-about way brings us to Barbara Gordon- the commissioner’s daughter, and all of the naughty naughtiness that implies.

B: Barbara was a friend. I knew Jim socially, though not personally- at least not personally outside of the costume. But Barbara, Barbara made Bane look like a primate. She figured out who I was without really trying. Just one day figured it out on her way to classes.

She wanted to help me, in my crusade. She saw how tortured her father was, how the bureaucracy made it almost impossible for him to protect people the way he wanted. So I guess she also wanted to help him, too.

I turned her away. It was too dangerous a life. And she was just a happy policeman’s daughter. She wanted to help, but… she should have been out volunteering for the homeless, or working at women’s shelters, or doing that kind of thing. Not swinging from rooftops or

ID: That seems like rather flimsy logic. I mean, you already had Robin running around in tights. Were you just afraid of a strong woman back then?

B: She was strong. She took martial arts classes and mastered several different disciplines. She graduated years ahead of time, I think she had just turned nineteen. If I had been recruiting, she would have been top of the list. But I wasn’t. I hadn’t really been recruiting when I found Robin, either, truth be told.

But at least with Robin, I had been able to keep him in check, keep him off the streets long enough for me to train him, to make sure he wasn’t going to get himself killed. I think my main worry was one of quality over quantity; I worried I might not be able to keep them both trained up and safe- or at least as safe as you can make someone whose running around in a cape punching violent criminals armed with guns.

ID: So you were being paternalistic- not technically sexist.

B: You continue to astound me with how big an ass you always manage to be.

ID: It’s a gift; maybe even a superpower. Maybe I could join the League as The Gigantic Ass.

B: I’m horrified at the costume possibilities.

ID: But for all of your good intentions in trying to keep Barbara Gordon out of harm’s way, harm managed to find her anyway, in the form of the Joker.

B: He was there primarily for her father, whom he was trying to drive insane. But he shot her, through the spine.

I still wonder… if I shouldn’t have killed him for that.

ID: What?

B: For all of my moralizing, all of the things I do honestly believe about my parents, and their legacy, and their memory. I don’t know if they would want him alive. If, for a moment, they weren’t dead, and I could ask them, should I kill him to keep people, people like Barbara Gordon, and like Jason Todd, safe, I don’t know if they’d say I shouldn’t.

And Barbara… that’s one of those moments, where I don’t know. I don’t know how I got through it without murdering him.

To her credit, Barbara doesn’t waver. She hates him, don’t get me wrong. But she’s a more forgiving person than I am. Maybe that’s just because… if I’d murdered him, I think her father would have gone insane. And if I’d murdered him, the Joker would have won; her injury would have been a part of his sick triumph, rather than a tragic happenstance. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s hard to get into Barbara’s head.

ID: That’s okay. I’m more interested in how you got into her pants.

B: Careful.

ID: Sorry, it was just too perfect a segue. But you’d just joined the roller brigade.

B: Yeah. In less than the space of a year, I went from being able to bench 600 lbs., to not being able to use my legs. And I was dangerously close to becoming a hugely self-important ass; I wanted to feel sorry for myself. The thing I’d spent my life working towards was slipping through my fingers, and I felt like I’d failed, and that I couldn’t not fail, from that moment on.

And then Barbara rolls into my bedroom. She’d been researching, not just Bane, but what he’d done, the criminals he’d loosed. She was already starting to formulate a plan, contingencies for Nightwing, Robin and the new Batman.

I was hostile. Even mean. But she bullied her way through, anyway, and all the time I barely looked at her. Then she asked if I’d been outside, since the accident. And I hadn’t. She said, “Let’s go for a walk.” And before I thought about it, I glowered at her. And then I realized, well, duh, she can’t literally walk, either. And I felt suddenly very silly, and also ashamed.

But she was there because she wasn’t going to let me wallow; she’d been there, and she knew where wallowing got you, or maybe she knew how dangerous the almost desire to wallow can be.

I had a chair of my own, but I hadn’t used it. I glanced towards it, but I had no idea how to get into it without sending it flying across the room. And she noticed. She taught me how to get into my chair. And I know that sounds small, but it was the first triumph I got after being paralyzed. She got me back on my feet- or at least, out of bed.

I was happy for a second, exhilarated; it seems silly now, but for an instant things seemed possible again, and there were reasons to be hopeful. And I kissed her. And she got really red in the face, but then she brushed it off, and I realized she was more mature than I’d been giving her credit for.

And, I think she always had kind of a schoolgirl crush on me. I think that’s part of where her wanting to run around with me in tights came from. But she hadn’t really been a girl for years by that point- she was a woman, completely. Which was something I don’t think I’d paid attention to.

ID: Because she’d been in a wheelchair?

B: I don’t think so. I think I… I got used to brushing her to the side. Because she was younger than me, young enough that it kind of weirded me out.

ID: Like in the early seasons of Buffy, where she’s completely hot but it’s still skeevy for Angel to date her.

B: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

ID: Liar.

B: Anyway, it started out pretty innocuously. She took me outside. And my home is very nice, but if you want to be depressive, and shut all the curtains, it can actually be a pretty cold and unhappy place. But outside, in the sun, with birds, and a clear sky. It was a different world than the one I’d convinced myself I would be stuck in.

And I think that encapsulates what I had with Barbara. She showed me different sides of the city, different sides of being alive. She was integral to my spiritual rehabilitation.

ID: Okay, but did you have sex with that woman?

B: I’m quite capable of hurting you.

ID: I find ‘no comment’ is more succinct, but I get your point. But it ended. How, and why?

B: Barbara was good for me, emotionally. Psychologically. But physically, I still had a lot of healing to do. And I think… some of the shine had come off. I was part of a white knight fantasy of hers. Even if I hadn’t been in the chair- the fantasy equivalent of trading my white horse for a donkey cart- even ignoring that aspect, I wasn’t, I couldn’t, ever live up to who she wanted me to be, or thought I was. Nobody can.

Every relationship has that point, where your preconceptions, and assumptions, and everything else, have all been peeled away, and you’re left with who they actually are day to day. And I think we liked each other, but that didn’t mean we wanted to pursue more.

And I remember we were in the Gotham Zoo, and we stopped by the tropical birds. She had hold of my hand, and she told me, “I love you, but I don’t know that I love you like this.” And I knew exactly what she meant. I think it was something I’d been thinking about, too. But I was glad she broached the subject- I’ve been known to womanize, and I didn’t- I didn’t want what we had to just be another example of that.

We decided to take a break. I was scheduled for some intensive physical therapy, and was going to be largely unavailable anyway. We decided to spend time apart, and if we really missed what we’d had, then we could go back to it, and if not, it was a pretty clean place to leave it.

And a lot happened in the interim, I’ll admit. But when we again had some time, I had her go first. She said she’d missed me, but because she missed spending time with me, not romantically. To emphasize the point she kissed me and said, “See, nothing there, right?”

I said, “You’re right on the merits, but you shouldn’t do that. You’re still a very beautiful woman, and I’m”

She interrupted me and said, “A dog?” Which, yeah. Pretty much. And we’re still excellent friends. And I wouldn’t trade that.

ID: I know there’s a ‘but’ in there- named Shondra.

B: Right. Well, she was part of that interim. But Shondra was my trauma therapist. She was more than that- in that she had some special healing powers. She’s the only reason I can walk, today, in fact.

ID: But I don’t care about that. See, it’s the other part of your relationship with Shondra that has me asking about her.

B: Fine. But shut up, and let me tell it my way.

We’d been working together for a few weeks. She was also working with Jack Drake at the time, who had also been paralyzed.

ID: That’s the bio-dad of Tim Drake, your second adopted son.

B: Right. Jack was a neighbor. And it was through him that I met Shondra. He was making a miraculous recovery. Doctors hadn’t thought he’d ever walk again, but instead he was wiggling his toes, he could even bend his leg from the knee down- you know, just a couple seconds at a time, but it was a faster recovery than anyone expected.

So I hired Shondra. And she was a miracle worker, no question. But then she was taken, along with Jack. Kidnapped by her brother. Eventually I tracked her to England and was able to free both of them, but like with what Barbara had suggested, suddenly not having Shondra, I realized what I had lost. And it was more than just a healer. I’d started to love her.

ID: So your road to recovery was paved with the bodies of compassionate, nubile women?

B: That’s not fair.

ID: You ran right from Barbara to the arms of your physical therapist; that summation sounds kind. Have you ever wondered if you’re just clinically co-dependent?

B: I get accused of being too much of a loner, most of the time. So co-dependent? I appreciate women. Greatly. They might be the only thing in life I really enjoy in anything approaching a normal capacity.

But, too, I think there was a, I’m sure there’s a clinical term that’s escaping me, but I was vulnerable. And for the first time in I think my life I was forced to slow down. Take stock of things. And sit around. Be with and near people in less of a utility-minded fashion. In both cases, I think it might have been more about appreciating them trying to help me than love.

ID: So you think these relationships were confusing care for love?

B: I think caring for someone is a large part of love. I think it’s almost impossible to care for someone, physically, and not also feel for them emotionally. There’s just too much overlap between the two. So I don’t think it’s confusion, per se. I just think it’s easy to take people for granted, until you can’t anymore. And when you really need people, that’s when you notice who stays, who’s really there for you. And you appreciate them more.

But it’s not uncommon. Jack, as an example, married his long term care nurse, Dana, for I think similar reasons. That, and I don’t want you to succeed in stripping these relationships of their meaning. Because they were important, and are. I loved Shondra, and Barbara. They put me back together when I was broken. I will forever be in their debts for that.

ID: But I think it’s fair to ask if it was love.

B: It was, in both cases, but I think it sprung from different places. Barbara I’d known for years. I had an older brother/girl next door affection for her

ID: That combination is fairly disturbing, on account of the incest.

B: But you know what I mean. I loved her in a platonic way for half of her life. But she was there for me, in a way I don’t think anyone else could have been, when I was really down, and really vulnerable. That’s overwhelming. And I don’t think it takes anything away from what we had to say that it was temporary and situational. I loved her in part because she was there for me, and she loved me because she could be. And sometimes I think it’s too bad that it didn’t translate into a longer-term relationship, but those end, usually with acrimony. And that would have cost me one of my most important friendships.

ID: And Shondra?

B: That ended tragically. Her brother tried to use her gift, pervert it, to hurt people. She was able to stop him, but the damage he tried to make her to do to others, she absorbed it. It cost her her mind. She’s been all but catatonic since.

ID: So you rescued her, but in the doing she was turned into a shell. ‘

B: Yes.

ID: That sucks.

B: Yeah.

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