Friday, October 21, 2011

The Love of My Life

ID: Okay, I think the title of this one is going to be unintentionally more salacious than even I want- especially in light of the Harvey revelation last week- but I'll start out by saying you cheated. Um, no, not on you, Harv- though I wonder what his policy on two-timing would be...

No, when we started talking about the loves of your life, you cheated. Right out of the gate. And I want our audience to know that I poked, prodded- strictly platonically, of course- and cajoled, caroused, and I'll check my thesaurus later for some more words like that, but I did what I could to get a, if you'll pardon the pun, straighter answer out of you. But no, the love of your life, you said, was your adopted son, Dick.

B: You never said it had to be a romantic love.

ID: I think it was implied. But whatever. So you outsmarted me, kinda. You still spilled most of the more sensitive beans I was hoping for along the way, even if you never put all your money on Black Canary. So that's the important thing.

And besides, it opened up a new avenue for discussion. So tell us about Dick- big D, not, you know, the other kind I'm reasonably sure you're fond of.

B: Good lord. When I met Dick, I was alone. The support net, Alfred, Leslie, my uncle Phil, the people who saw me through my childhood, had become an emotional liability. I was fighting for my life, every night, and during the day, well, I avoided the people who kept me sane after my parents died.

That changed that night. Dick was a child gymnast. I watched his parents perform. But something went wrong, and they fell to their deaths, as Dick watched from the eaves. At first it was tragic, and then I saw him, and I saw him fall to his knees, tears streaming down his expressionless face. It was like looking at myself fifteen years earlier. It broke my heart, seeing it happen to someone else; it was worse than having it happen to me, because that level of horror numbs you, you lose all sense of time and place, just drift along on the pain. But watching second-hand, but knowing how hollowing an experience it was, without the numbness…

But even with that, I noticed something. It hadn't been a normal equipment failure; it hadn't even been made to look like one. The ropes on his parent's trapeze had been sliced to the point where they broke clean away the moment the Grayson's weight was on it. This was a message- and a murder.

I spent the better part of the night talking to Dick. The police ended up having to interview everyone- though no one really told them anything. It was hard for me; I wanted to put on my costume, find the people responsible, and hurt them. But it was so much more important for me to stay there, and make awkward conversation with a boy who kept bursting into tears every few minutes, largely unprovoked. And I think, I think it was the first time in several years where I hugged someone; don't get me wrong, I get hugged all the time, but it was the first time I really hugged back, where I wanted the person to know I was there for them, not just physically present, but emotionally available to them.

And it broke my heart again when the police took him away. Because I think he was starting to get comfortable with me, to find some semblance of a footing- but he’d gone a full fifteen minutes without crying, talking about hot chocolate and playing in the snow- and then he was taken away from that, and put in the back of a squad car, it tore the wound clear open again.

Dick didn't have any relatives in the area. At the time, Dr. Thompkins, Leslie, was running a child welfare shelter as an addition to her clinic, and I called her and made arrangements for her to be there receive Dick; otherwise he would have had to stay the night at the police station.

And I made sure I arrived just after they left. Leslie was surprised to see me, though, “Not that surprised.” I gave money to the shelter, and sometimes volunteered there, but I always gave them advanced notice, and came when they needed me- not in the middle of the night. Dick was sleeping; she'd given him something to help him sleep.

She'd talked to him for a few moments, and it sounded like he didn't even know any of his family. His parents' careers, as traveling performers, had alienated any relations who might have otherwise taken him in. So I asked to take him home. It wasn't procedure, or protocol. At a minimum, there were hoops I was supposed to go through.

But Leslie was one of the people who had raised me when my parents died. So she knew that any examination of my eligibility wasn't going to turn up any skeletons. Still, she wanted to make sure we did what was right for Dick.

I said, “Leslie, you know me. Better than anyone, I know what he's going through.” She told me maybe I wasn't done dealing with my parent's death, that commiserating might be good for me, but was it the best thing for him? But she didn’t try to prevent me from taking him, and ultimately, I think she just wanted me to ponder the question. The foster system can be brutal even under the best of circumstances, but then?

She fudged some paperwork, and Alfred drove us home. Leslie sent us with a few changes of clothes for him.

He woke up in his new bed. I think it helped, him being in a new situation. It was a distraction. He didn't have to sit curled up on a cot crying; instead he was wandering around the Manor, or the grounds; he cried, too, but I gave him excuses to do something besides that.

He found the cave within a week; I guess he must have moonlighted with a magician or something, because he had to pick several locks to get there. I found him exercising on the cave's equipment. I wanted to scold him, especially since he was doing quite dangerous things, but the way he moved- he was so at home in the air that he flew- it was a joy to watch. I understood why people flocked to see him, and his parents, understood the weightless joy of his movements.

Then he fell. And I wasn’t nearly the gymnast he was, but I knew he hadn’t fallen because of any mistake; he was crying even before he hit the mat. That’s when I went to him. And I thought about playing the heavy- I was in costume, after all- but he barely even looked up at me. And I saw in that moment that the thing he loved most in the world- with the likely exception of his parents- had turned into something that reminded him only of tragedy. He was a Flying Grayson, but the bastards who killed his parents had clipped his wings.

I knelt down, and put my hand on his head. “I lost my parents, too.” He latched onto me, so fast and so strong that he knocked the air from of my lungs. He spent a long time crying. When he stopped, he looked up at me, and smiled at my clothes.

“We wore costumes, too,” he said. He took my hand, and we went up into the manor and had hot chocolate. It was kind of strange, drinking hot chocolate in costume, but it seemed to make him happier. When he was asleep, I set to work finding his parent’s killers. I found them easily. I hurt them. Badly.

I might have killed them with my hands, but I thought back to Dick, sitting in my dad’s old wingback chair, sipping hot cocoa. I knew already I wanted him to live with me, to grow up there. And I couldn’t go back to his home with blood on my hands. I mean, technically, there was a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not what I meant.

I was still young, then. This was before I tried to confront Joe Chill years later. This was more visceral, and raw. My rage was still enough that I might have killed those men accidentally. But I didn’t. And I shudder to think of the path that would have set me on.

Dick saved my life. And not just the one time. By being my son, sometimes just by needing me, he made me come back from that precipice.

I think that's why I can look past the thing that Harvey was. Because I know, without people like my son in my life, that could have been me. I dressed up like a goddamned bat. My grasp on reality was always pretty tenuous. But Dick gave me a reason- no, he made it a necessity- for me to come back from the brink. Every night.

My parent’s death, it changed me. And that’s why Dick is stronger than I am, because losing his parents didn’t change him. He was sad, and he grieved for them, but he never forgot how to live, either. How to be happy. How to find things to be joyful about. He brought optimism back into my world- when I let him.

And that was something I needed. Something the people who got me through my tragedy couldn’t give, maybe because they’d seen me, and seen things, at their darkest, maybe they’d lost their faith as I had, too. Or maybe in my mind they were just tainted by their association with my tragedy. Maybe they couldn’t be that for me because I wouldn’t let them.

But you know, I don’t want to infantilize Dick too much, either. Because he didn’t stay a child. He grew up, and he grew into a man I’m happy to call my friend. He’s forged a life of his own. He's gone to school. He served as one of Gotham's finest. And now that I’m retiring, he's taken over aspects of my companies, and someday, he's going to fully control them. I trust him to do that. And I don't trust easy. He's earned that trust- that respect- sometimes grudgingly. But I couldn't be prouder of him, or have more faith in him. I trust him to carry on the good work I’ve done, through my company, through my charities. And nothing could be more important than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment